Transcription Writing: How To Get Started As A Transcriptionist

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Looking for a flexible, work-from-home opportunity that lets you turn downtime into income? Transcription writing could be your ticket to a lucrative side gig or even a full-time career.

Whether you’re listening to legal proceedings or media interviews, your role is to capture spoken words and turn them into readable text. The best part? You can do it on your own schedule from the comfort of your home.

Read on to learn how you can break into the field of transcription writing and start earning!

What Is Transcription Writing?

Transcript writing is the process of converting spoken words into written text. This practice is essential in sectors such as legal, medical, media, and academia. It’s used to transcribe interviews, speeches, or other kinds of audio recordings.

What You Need: Must-Have Skills & Technology For Transcriptionists

To get started as a transcriptionist, you’ll need a few foundational skills and basic pieces of technology. As you progress, it may be worth investing in other types of hardware or software to make the transcription process easier.

Basic skills all transcriptionists need:

  • For transcriptionists, excellent typing skills are a must. 60 words per minute is a good typing speed to aim for, with at least 95% accuracy. Some transcriptionists can type at speeds of up to 100 wpm, though accuracy tends to be more important than speed—the more accurate you are, the less time you’ll spend editing.
  • Transcriptionists must have a solid grasp of grammar and spelling conventions. Brush up on your understanding of punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, and correct usage of homonyms.
  • Particularly in the legal industry, sticking to specific formatting conventions is crucial. Legal transcripts must often comply with set styles and standards, from line numbering to specific header and footer information. If you familiarize yourself with these standards, you may be able to land high-paying transcription jobs.

Essential tools all transcriptionists need:

  • Transcription software can make the process more efficient. It offers features like automatic timestamping and easy audio control.
  • A foot pedal is a must-have. For professional transcriptionists, a foot pedal is an invaluable tool that significantly boosts productivity. It allows you to pause, rewind, and fast forward through the audio file without taking your hands off the keyboard.
  • You need a high-quality headset. Clear audio is crucial for creating accurate transcriptions, and quality audio equipment can make the transcription process easier.
  • Get a word processing software. Familiarity with Microsoft Word or Google Docs, including their editing and formatting features, is essential for success in transcription.
  • Make sure your internet is speedy. A stable internet connection is necessary for downloading audio files, conducting research, and sending completed transcriptions to clients.

Learn How To Write A Transcript Step-by-Step (7 Steps)

So you’ve got your tools, and you’ve set up your workstation. Your first transcription project can feel overwhelming, but the process becomes almost second nature once you get the hang of it.

Ready to dive in? Here’s a step-by-step guide on producing a high-quality transcript, from setup to submission.

Step #1 – Read the client’s instructions.

Before you begin, make sure you carefully read any instructions given to you by the client. For example, they may indicate a transcription type, such as edited, verbatim, or intelligent verbatim (more on the difference between each of these later).

They may also offer specific formatting guidelines or request that you include or exclude elements like speaker names or timestamps. If you’re new to the business, create a list of client specifications so that you have them on file for the next time—your client will appreciate this!

Step #2 – Set yourself up for success.

Get ready to transcribe by setting up your work area in a quiet, distraction-free space. Ensure you have everything you need to begin, including any additional information from the client or required reference materials.

Check that all of your equipment works properly before you begin to avoid running into any technical troubles in the middle of your workflow. Some transcriptionists like to set timers before diving in to remind themselves to take breaks during long stretches of work.

Step #3 – Transcribe the audio.

Open up a new page in a word processor with easy-to-use editing and formatting tools, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Consider using professional transcription templates to make your work look and feel polished.

To transcribe, listen to the audio and type what you hear, pausing frequently to catch up and ensure accuracy. This is where a foot pedal can come in handy, as it allows you to pause, rewind, or fast-forward the audio without taking your hands off the keyboard.

Some transcriptionists use specialized transcription software that integrates with word processors for an even smoother experience.

Step #4 – Do a round of proofreading (or more).

After completing the initial draft of the transcript, it’s time to go back through with a fine-tooth comb to ensure quality and accuracy.

Start by listening to the recording once again while following along with your text, paying close attention to any discrepancies. This is also the time to correct typos and fill in any gaps where you may have missed words or phrases. You should also fix any spelling or grammar mistakes.

Be on the lookout for misspelled proper nouns and punctuation errors in particular. This level of detail elevates your work’s quality and often sets professional transcriptionists apart from amateurs.

Step #5 – Spend some time on formatting.

If you didn’t format before or during the transcription process, now is the time to take care of it.

Ensure that you follow any style guides or templates provided by the client or the industry you’re working in. This could include specific ways of presenting dialogue, headers, footers, page numbers, or any other unique formatting elements.

If you’re new to transcription, you’ll probably have some questions about formatting details as you go alone. When this happens, rely on your own good judgment or refer to some examples of good transcription formatting.

Basic formatting elements in transcriptions often include:


Timestamps allow transcribers and readers to easily navigate the audio or video content. When you’re reviewing a transcript and need to listen to a specific section of the recording, timestamps make it quick and efficient to locate that precise moment.

The typical range is every 30 seconds to 2 minutes, but longer intervals may be appropriate for less dynamic content.

This is particularly valuable in interviews, legal proceedings, or any content where the chronological order of information is crucial. The frequency of timestamps can vary depending on the nature of the content and client preferences.

Speaker Identification

Clear speaker identification eliminates confusion for readers. If the speakers are introduced in the recording or client brief, use their names. If speaker names are not given, generic identifiers like “Speaker 1” or “Interviewer” can be used to differentiate speakers effectively.


Margins play an important role in the visual formatting of transcriptions because they ensure that the transcript is visually appealing and easy to read. Margins may also be used for annotations or comments by transcribers or editors.

The margins can be adjusted to meet specific formatting preferences depending on client requirements. Some clients may have particular guidelines regarding margin widths.

Step #6 – Perform a final quality review.

The final review is your last opportunity to catch any lingering errors or omissions before sending the transcript to the client. Read through the entire document slowly, paying close attention to spelling, grammar, and formatting.

Don’t solely rely on automated spelling and grammar checks, as they can miss context-specific errors.

Before hitting “send,” it’s a good idea to cross-reference the transcript with the client’s instructions to ensure you’ve met their specifications. It may also be a good idea to ask someone else to review your work and catch mistakes you might have overlooked.

Step #7 – Submit to your client.

Once you’re satisfied that the transcript meets quality and client requirements, prepare it for submission. Make sure to save it in the file format requested by the client, whether that’s a Word document, PDF, or another type. Double-check any accompanying materials or metadata that need to be included.

Then, send it to the client through the agreed-upon method, whether that’s via email, a client portal, or another platform. Keep a copy for your records and await any feedback or final approvals from the client.

Pro-tip: If your client requires a .docx but you don’t have Microsoft Word, you can save any document from a word processor as a .docx file by choosing the “Save As” option and selecting the “.docx” format from the dropdown menu.

Who Hires Transcriptionists?

Transcriptionists find opportunities in a wide array of sectors. If you already have a background in one of the below fields, you may be well-poised to start work as a transcriptionist.

If not, however, it may be worth choosing one of the below industries to specialize in, as this can make you more competitive and potentially increase your earning potential.

Legal Services

In the legal world, transcriptionists play an indispensable role in accurately documenting various types of verbal exchanges and proceedings. This can include transcribing court hearings, sworn depositions, and legal interviews.

Given the sensitive and high-stakes nature of these types of documents, it’s crucial for transcriptionists working in this field to have a strong understanding of legal terminology and confidentiality requirements.

Some legal transcriptionists may even wind up specializing in stenography to capture real-time court proceedings—a high-paying skill with high demand.

Medical Services

Medical transcriptionists are responsible for converting audio recordings of healthcare professionals into written documents.

These could be anything from diagnostic reports and referral letters to patient histories and physician’s consultation notes. Medical transcription requires a specialized set of skills, including familiarity with medical terminology, procedures, and commonly used abbreviations.

Given that these documents can be critical to patient care, accuracy is crucial. Medical transcription may be a good option for those with prior experience in healthcare.

Business & Finance

In the corporate world, transcript writing is used to document a variety of business activities. This can range from transcribing internal meetings and brainstorming sessions to converting quarterly earnings calls and investor meetings into text format.

Here, a good understanding of business terminology and finance jargon can be extremely helpful. The transcription might also be used for legal purposes, so accuracy and attention to detail are paramount.

Media & Entertainment

In media and entertainment, transcriptionists may transcribe interviews for journalists, convert scripts for TV or film into written formats, or provide captions and subtitles for video content. The roles can be varied and may require a fast turnaround, especially for news-related content.

Academic & Research

Universities, research institutions, and individual scholars often use academic transcription services. Given the intellectual nature of this work, transcription writers will need a firm grasp of academic jargon and familiarity with citation styles.

Transcript writers in this field may find themselves working on a range of materials, from recorded lectures and academic interviews to oral histories and conference proceedings.

Will AI Take The Place Of Transcriptionists?

If you’re worried AI will slide into the picture and take your job if you become a transcriptionist, then don’t be! While some sectors have turned to AI transcription, human transcriptionists are still in high demand in industries where accuracy and formatting matter most.

So, it’s still a high-leverage skill to learn, even with advances in speech-to-text technologies. While transcription writing can be a practical and well-paid career on its own, it can also be a great way to earn supplemental income.

Transcription writing offers flexibility in terms of work environment and schedule, making it an appealing option for those looking for remote or freelance opportunities.

Different Types of Transcriptions

If you’re looking to begin work as a transcriptionist, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of transcription.

Verbatim Transcription

Verbatim transcription is the most detailed and comprehensive type of transcription. In verbatim transcriptions, every spoken word is transcribed, regardless of its nature.

This includes not only spoken words but also non-verbal sounds such as laughter, pauses, coughs, stammers, and filler words like “um,” “uh,” and “like.”

Verbatim transcripts are valuable when the context of conversations or interviews is essential. Researchers and professionals may need to analyze not just the content but also the nuances of speech.

However, verbatim transcriptions can be lengthy and may include repetitive or irrelevant information, making them less readable for general purposes.

Edited Transcription

Edited transcription involves the removal of filler words, non-verbal sounds, and other elements that are not crucial for comprehension or context. Removing distractions like filler words can enhance the clarity of the conversation, making it easier for readers to follow the main points and ideas.

Edited transcriptions strike a balance between accuracy and readability. They are often used in content for public consumption, such as podcasts, presentations, or educational materials.

Intelligent Transcription

Intelligent transcription, also known as semi-verbatim transcription, captures the essence of what’s being said while not strictly adhering to capturing every single word or non-verbal sound.

Intelligent transcription prioritizes a natural flow of conversation. It aims to convey the speaker’s intended message without the distractions of filler words or minor interruptions.

Transcriptionists using intelligent transcription should have a good understanding of the topic and context. They can omit irrelevant details and focus on the substance of the conversation.

Tips for Landing Your First Gig Writing Transcriptions

Breaking into the transcription field can be both exciting and challenging, especially if you’re looking to land your first gig. While your skill set is a crucial factor, knowing how to present yourself and where to look for opportunities can make all the difference.

  • Training: Some online courses offer training in transcription writing. These courses can teach you the basics and make you more marketable to prospective clients. If it’s been a while since you transcribed, consider brushing up on your skills.
  • Portfolio: Create a portfolio that includes sample transcriptions in various formats. If you haven’t done transcription work before, you can create transcriptions from freely available audio or video clips related to the industry you’re interested in.
  • Networking: Use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential clients and other transcriptionists.
  • Certification: Though not mandatory, a certification can make you more appealing to potential clients.
  • Apply: Look for jobs on freelance websites, job boards, or companies that specialize in transcription services.

Get Started With Transcription Writing Today

Taking the first steps towards a career or side gig as a transcription writer doesn’t have to be daunting—with the right skills, equipment, and know-how, you can start earning money while offering a valuable service to your clients.

For those looking for a work-from-home career as a transcriptionist, SpeakWrite may be worth considering. We are a fully human transcription service offering clients fast, accurate, cost-effective transcription and translation.

So, whether you’re new to the transcription world or looking to take your skills to the next level, apply today to join our team of transcription professionals.

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