How To Be a Successful Transcriptionist: Tips & Tools

  • AlphaSights
  • Nov 17, 2020
Life & Careers

AlphaSights’ transcription operation, also known as AlphaScribes, is an integral part of our success in serving as a leading industry research platform. AlphaSights connects top decision-makers with the expert insights they need to drive progress. AlphaScribes’ mission is to deliver high-quality transcripts that maximize our clients’ interactions with industry experts. As an AlphaScribes member, you’d be part of a diverse team of high-performing transcriptionists who quickly and accurately transcribe the important information our clients need to make key business decisions every day. 

Although many AlphaScribes team members have a natural ear for the profession, below we highlight several transcription tools and equipment that are essential to your workstation and continued success as a transcriptionist.  

Transcription Software

Professional transcription software is incredibly helpful in improving a transcriptionist’s efficiency. Most transcription software will allow the user to easily upload multiple formats of audio and/or video files, manipulate the audio by adjusting the speed, and set up a foot pedal or hotkeys to easily fast forward, rewind, pause, and play the file.

AlphaScribes transcriptionists most commonly use Express Scribe or the FTW Transcriber.  Both have their advantages: 

  • • Express Scribe can be downloaded to a Windows-based or Mac computer and supports audio and video playback.
  • • FTW has superior audio quality and timecoding (but is not compatible with Mac).  

Both offer a free version, so you can download and try out both to see which one you prefer. 

Of course, there are other professional transcription software out there. FTR (For The Record) tends to be more prevalent in the legal transcription world. InqScribe is another commonly-used transcription software that allows the user to type directly into the platform while listening to audio, add timestamps, and then copy and paste the transcript into another word processor such as MS Word. However, this type of program is not compatible with AlphaSights’ transcript template. 

Foot Pedal

Some transcriptionists use hotkeys set-up on their keyboard to quickly manipulate the audio (for example: F1 = pause, F2 = play, F3 = rewind, F4 = fast forward, etc.) whereas others prefer to set up a foot pedal. A foot pedal connects to your computer and audio player, usually via USB cord, and allows the user to easily pause, play, rewind, etc. with the touch of their foot on a different area of the pedal. Incorporating the use of a foot pedal is an easy way for transcriptionists to increase their speed and accuracy. 

A foot pedal is beneficial because it frees up the user’s hands to continue typing, thereby allowing them to move more quickly through the file. Since most transcriptionists are paid per audio hour and not per human hour, it makes sense to improve one’s productivity as much as possible. 

Using a foot pedal can also improve a transcriptionist’s accuracy because it takes just a few seconds to rewind the audio if there’s a word or phrase that’s hard to understand. Upon first listen, a word may be unclear or difficult to distinguish due to background noise, accents, or slurred words. By listening to difficult sections of audio two or more times and thinking about the word in context, a transcriptionist can usually decipher what was said.

A commonly-used foot pedal in the transcription industry is the Infinity foot pedal. This pedal is compatible with Express Scribe and nearly all other programs and takes a matter of minutes to set up. When plugged in, it automatically syncs with most transcription softwares.    

Infinity Foot Pedal

Headset

While recordings’ audio quality has vastly improved over the last few years, transcriptionists can still run into challenges with hearing and understanding certain audio files. Factors like the microphone placed too far from the speaker, background noise from construction or people talking, strong accents, and poor recordings from phones or faulty equipment can be frustrating when a transcriptionist is trying to produce quality work. 

Using a headset can help a transcriptionist pick up on words that a computer’s audio player may not, because the sound is directed more closely to the user’s ear and good headsets produce better sound output. Be sure to look for a headset that emphasizes high and mid range sound, since this will help pick up on voices. Not all headsets or earbuds are created equal; some inexpensive headsets can be far superior to the expensive ones.

Things to consider when choosing a headset:

  • • Earbuds vs. over-the-ear headsets. This comes down to preference and comfort. 
  • • Balanced sound (not too bassy, not too tinny). Headsets designed for studio recording and music production may offer a good sound balance.
  • • Comfort. Transcriptionists often wear headsets for hours at a time — an uncomfortable pair may lead to headaches and ear pain.
  • • Cord vs. no cord. A cord can increase the reliability of the headset and reduce the connection dropping, but it can also be a nuisance if in the way.
  • • Noise cancellation. Some headsets offer a feature to cut out background noise. This helps if you work in a loud setting, like with children around or in a city where there’s outside noise.
  • • Affordability. This is a personal preference and a transcriptionist should choose a model that falls in their price range. More expensive does not always mean better — do your research to ensure you choose a headset that’s right for you.

Some of AlphaScribes team members use the following headsets: Jabra, Klipsch, Panasonic ErgoFit in-ear earbuds, Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Over Headphones, Audio-Technica ATH-M20x studio-quality headphones, Logitech H340 Headset, Realme Buds 2. 

Panasonic ErgoFit in-ear earbuds
Realme Buds 2

Text Expanders

Text expanders are a lifesaver when it comes to transcribing. Instead of typing entire words, users can create their own dictionary of text expanders according to their specific needs. These are usually one to three-letter words that represent a full, potentially complicated word. For example, a business transcriptionist might use text expanders for words such as “high-growth model”, “corporation”, or “debt consolidation”. Instead of typing “debt consolidation” frequently in a transcript, they could set up a text expander of “dbc”. Now, whenever the user types “dbc”, “debt consolidation” will automatically populate. This helps significantly to reduce the time it takes to transcribe and ensures that long, complicated terminology is transcribed consistently and accurately.

Users with Microsoft Word can take advantage of the built-in autocorrect function to create their text expander database. Simply open the autocorrect dictionary and type in your preferred acronym or simplified text and what it should expand to (ie. the complete word and/or phrase). It takes time to get used to typing in shorthand, but it’s worth the effort in the long run. 

Downloadable programs such as Asutype and InstantText are designed to integrate into your operating system and work within different platforms, like Microsoft Word and your internet browser. These are paid software and work extremely well for streamlining all typing activities. While most text expanders work within MS Word, they may not all be compatible with every document template.

Workstation

Since most transcriptionists work from home, the importance of a workstation that’s fully equipped and separate from louder, more distracting spaces of your home is crucial. Similar to the tools mentioned above, personal preferences play a big role in determining your workstation set-up. However, two key components to consider are your comfort and productivity. You want to ensure that you can be as productive as possible over a continuous period of time without feeling excessive physical or mental strain. 

For inspiration, below are some photos of AlphaScribes team members’ workstations:

Please visit AlphaSights Careers for more information on the requirements and application for the transcriptionist role.