Transcription Must Haves

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Growing up I knew I was going to be a teacher. Somewhere in high school that veered off to audio recording, which landed me learning about video as well. My first studio job had many aspects to it – one of the smallest was closed captioning for locations around Disney World.

It could have been my love of late night AIM chats or maybe the typing classes I chose to take in middle school, but once I figured out the basics of closed captioning, I found myself enjoying it. [After getting over how archaic the program was.]

From there, I became the one who “liked to type” and all the footage started coming my way. 13+ years later and I’m happy to say I still enjoy it – the long term and one off projects.

When work [“reality show transcription”] comes up, there are usually two types of reactions:
1. I didn’t know that was a thing. Tell me more.
2. How do I do that?

My answers:
1. I listen to people say the most bizarre things and I type every.single.word.
2. You have to just get started because I don’t have that answer.

What I can help with are the tools that I use for all my transcription projects – the hours and hours…and days and days of footage.


Before anything you must have at least some computer knowledge. Beyond having a functioning computer, you should to know how to:
-work with different audio files
-save documents
-email clients


Typing speed/words per minute can play into projects if the deadline is quick or if you’re not making enough money on a job due to the typing slowly. The only people that ask me how fast I type are not clients.

Even if your WPM is higher than average, if your accuracy isn’t good, it’s going to slow down the process so much. And of course, you can not type in txt msg shrtnd wrds. That’s not how this works.

Knowledge of the language you’re transcribing is huge as well. As does knowing the difference between there, their, and they’re.

Typing is obviously very important to be able to transcribe – I mean, that is what we’re doing after all – but that being said, there’s a much bigger picture and making sure you’re trusted plays into that.


Talk to people with respect. If they give you push back on a quote or deadline, be polite about it. Not all jobs work out. One of the best parts of working for yourself is knowing that you get to allow your clients to become repeat clients. Or if you chose to do so, never work with someone again. However, there’s absolutely no reason to be rude, even if you may never see the other person/company face to face.


Time management definitely becomes a big factor, especially when multiple projects roll in at once. You need to have the organization and schedule that is flexible enough to accommodate your work and life. There’s plenty of times when my life schedule goes out the door and I realize just how many days I’ve been in my office.

If you’re not able to listen to things over and over [and over] again, then this may not be a good thing to do. There’s sometimes my emotions can get the best of me while transcribing, I try to sprinkle as much patience in there as I can.

Some projects I work on can be funny, but I’ve definitely transcribed far more things with sensitive information – ranging from people reliving violence to cops talking about their cases to divorce proceedings.

Thankfully I transcribe so many different things that most of it doesn’t stay with me for long. There’s some things that are always floating around in my head though.


Do you need all of these things to transcribe? Absolutely not.

This is what I keep around to help me get the job done.

  • Audio/video playback program – My go to is typically Express Scribe. It provides a way to set up another playback controller [see next tool]
  • Foot pedal – Keeping your hands on the keyboard is the main goal here, so using a pedal to control playback can be very helpful once you get use to it, along with a hand pedal
  • Headphones – The amount of headphones I’ve been through is way too many to count. This is all about comfort and being understand to clearly understand what someone is saying. The Bose Sound Sport In Ear headphones have been so great – audio is clear and they actually stay in my ears! The storage case helps keep the cord from getting tangled
  • Yellow tinted glasses have been an eye saver! On normal days I spend far too long staring at electronics, so the days I’m typing all day yellow tints stay on my face. They help with eye strain and keep headaches away and you don’t need a prescription to get these type of lens
  • Keyboard and mouse – Working keys and mouse buttons will definitely do the job, but making it less stressful on your wrists can make a huge difference. I use an ergonomic keyboard, which took some time to get use to, however now I love it. As for my mouse, it’s practically one large trackball and keeps me from needing to chase it around my desk
  • Miscellaneous items include wrist supports, a comfortable chair, and a notepad close by

In need of a transcriber? Send me an email.