What is transcription? What does a transcriber do?

22 Jun

One of the jobs I really enjoy – and which can really free up your time if you outsource it – is transcription.

Basically, transcription involves listening to a recording of something and typing the contents up into a document, which is then returned to the client, giving them a written record of what’s on the recording. Typically, this will be an interview – which might be something a journalist has undertaken with someone they’re writing about, or part of a study, where a researcher has interviewed subjects and needs to record their responses.  It can take absolutely ages to type out a recording like this – much longer than you think it will, particularly if you don’t type very fast!

When I learnt to audio-type, it was all done with tapes and a special pedal you pressed to play and rewind the recording.  These days, although you can still get the pedals, it can all be done with MP3s, some special software (I use some provided free by NCH) and the function keys on the keyboard take the place of the pedals.  You can even speed up or slow down the playback.

The time it takes to transcribe a recording depends on several factors:
– the speed at which the people are talking
– the number of people talking
– the clarity of the recording (background noise, phone interview … )
– the clarity of the speaking voices (accents, speaking English as a second language, mumbling … )

If you’ve got lots of interviews to transcribe or need to have a dictation, a lecture, a radio programme or a presentation turned into text, it’s worth contacting a professional transcriber like me to do it for you.

Pricing for transcription is here.

Related posts on the Libro blog: Learn why humans are better at transcription than machines, find out how to develop a career in transcription, and learn about the tools of the trade.

Want to learn more? Read my book: A Quick Guide to Transcription as a Career – buy from Amazon UK or visit the book’s web page for worldwide links and news.


Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Skillset, Transcription, What Do I Do?


Tags: ,

42 responses to “What is transcription? What does a transcriber do?

  1. transcribe

    August 18, 2011 at 7:41 am

    The transcripts serve as an imperative tool for the researchers. They can be utilized for further analysis and future research. Transcribers are a part of this process called transcription.


  2. flora

    January 20, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    hy, thank you so much for the information just saw a the word transcriber and wondered what it, its really interesting. are there any online paying sites for transcription that you could recommend. thank you in advance


    • Liz at Libro

      January 20, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Flora. I would advise having a look through all of the resources I’ve got on transcription before you go looking for jobs in it, as it’s quite a specalised and demanding role. Then have a read about how I look for freelance work – see the indexes and resource guides in the right-hand margin of this website (or read my book on the topic!). Best of luck if you decide to go into it – it can be very interesting work!


  3. Trish

    January 9, 2016 at 3:26 am

    Hello, thank you for your great articles! I am just getting started in the industry and wondered practically, do you find it more efficient to do all the typing then come back and spell check, punctuate and add times and names or do you do this as you go? Thanks again, Trish


    • Liz Dexter

      January 10, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      Hello Trish, I do the timing and punctuation, names, etc. (with shortcuts for those) and looking up stuff as I go along, then I run a spellcheck, put the interviewer’s questions into italics, etc., at the end. Hope that helps!


  4. George

    August 31, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I am a Kenyan citizen aged 40 years.I would like to persue a career as a transcriber.My greatest strengh is the ability to listen and undrestand varios ascents.kindly i meed your help


    • Liz Dexter

      August 31, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Thank you for your comment, George. Unfortunately, my website seems to have been referenced on a Kenyan web page about transcribing – I’m in the UK and don’t employ anyone, the only thing I can suggest is to read my posts on transcription but apply them to your own environment with regards to levels of pay and the university and business infrastructure.


  5. Wany

    December 10, 2016 at 10:09 am

    I want to know further about copy editing (typing) such as courts cases between judges, witness, plaintiff, & defendant due to recorder
    .. If u like to share the sample, im glad..


    • Liz Dexter

      December 10, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Dear Wany, thank you for your comment. Transcription and copy-editing are two different things, but I wonder if you mean copy-typing (where you type out a written manuscript). I’m afraid I don’t write about legal transcription here (which is what court transcription is) as it’s a specialised type of transcription that you have to have special training for. But if you Google “legal transcription training” you should find some resources.


  6. Ben Allen

    February 13, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    I appreciate the information on what transcription is and what a transcriber can do. I had no idea that transcribing can be so intricate. I always thought that it was just a simple job that really anyone could do. I would imagine that transcribing for official things takes some sort of certification from an agency so they know that what you are transcribing is the right thing.


    • Liz Dexter

      February 14, 2017 at 5:36 am

      Most offical things come under a) legal, b) medical, in which case you take courses that certify you able to handle those special areas, or c) governmental etc. in which case you would be either employed directly by the organisation following their checks and tests or through an agency which has been employed by the organisation after a tendering process which includes details of the steps they will take to ensure transcribers’ accuracy, etc. For this, and indeed for a great deal of the commercial work I do, you would be required to sign a contract including an NDA clause and information on how accurate your work will be, and take a test. Hope that helps, and glad I’m able to get across the complex nature of the work!


  7. Selera Alexander

    August 16, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Used to do the pedaling years ago for transcription with tapes. Would like to practice at home how it’s done today with mp3. However, I don’t want to go to school for a long time. Would like to refresh using new equipment for self improvement and hobby. I am an active senior and always doing a few hours of study at home on computer after taking a brief test at the site to certify. If this is something you can be of assistance with please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thank you.


    • Liz Dexter

      August 17, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      If you take a look at this post and the others linked to it, that should give you a nice lot of information. You certainly don’t need any new equipment and there’s a free version of the software I use / it isn’t hugely expensive to buy if you want to use it professionally. I hope this helps and good luck!


  8. Nasia fatumah

    July 12, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Am so happy that I have gotten to know about this, yes this is good thank you


  9. Paschale Hannah

    July 13, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    In my experience business meeting transcription takes more time than transcribing an interview as meeting involves more number of speakers and the background noise also comparatively higher. This article is simple and clear. Thanks for your good article.


  10. Sajeev

    August 10, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Yes I will listen further. Thanks.



I love hearing from my readers - do please leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: