How long does transcription take?

17 Nov
How long does transcription take?

As a busy professional transcriber, I get a large number of queries from potential clients. They often want to know how long it will take for a transcriber to do their tape, how quickly a transcriber works. So, how long does transcription take? I’ll share a few details to make it easier for people to understand the parameters.

How long does it take to transcribe a tape?

I did a quick poll among other transcribers I know, and the answer does vary, but on average, it takes 30 minutes to transcribe 10 minutes of tape. So if you have an hour-long tape, it will take me around 3 hours to transcribe it (if you try it yourself, and you’re not a professional transcriber, it’s likely to take a lot longer. If it doesn’t, consider a career change!).

What factors affect how long it takes for a tape to be transcribed?

There are various factors that will make the tape take a longer (or shorter) time to transcribe.

It takes less time to transcribe an audio file if …

  • The speakers speak really slowly and clearly
  • It’s an interview and I’m asked to only take notes on what the interviewer says

It takes more time to transcribe an audio file if …

  • There are more than two speakers
  • The speakers have strong accents
  • The tape quality is bad (muffled / quiet / picking up the background noise too much)
  • The speakers are speaking really quickly
  • There are a lot of technical terms or other details which I need to look up
  • I’ve been asked to use a complicated template or put in more than the standard number of time stamps

That’s why I and other transcribers tend to charge extra for additional speakers, extra time stamps and ‘difficult’ tapes

How long does it REALLY take a transcriber to type out an audio file?

What people sometimes forget – both transcribers when quoting for work and clients when asking for quotations, is the need for rest. Typing for hours at a time can be quite brutal on the hands / shoulders / back / ears / eyes. Transcribers need to take breaks. There’s also the time for checking at the end – listening right through or at least running a spell check.

So an hour-long tape is not likely to take me exactly 3 hours; I’d say more like 3.5 to 4 hours. I try not to type for more than 7 hours a day, and I prefer not to do it late at night (though I do do it early in the morning instead).

Your transcriber might also have other projects which need to be completed before they can start yours.

All of these factors mean that you shouldn’t be surprised if you ask about an hour-long tape and find out it will take a day or 24 hours to return to you. I’m sure my fellow-transcribers like to be flexible, as I do, but there are limits to human endurance!

Hopefully this article has clarified the amount of time it might take your transcriber to transcribe your tape. Typing speed is one thing, transcription speed is another, and remember that your transcriber is human (that’s why they’re good at what they do) and needs to look after themselves.

If you’ve found this article useful, please do comment below – I always love to hear from my readers! There are sharing buttons there, too, so you can share this on whatever social media platforms you use. Thank you!

Other useful articles on this blog

How do you start a career in transcription? – are you suited for it?

The professional transcriber – the technology you need

10 top tips for transcribers – what every new transcriber needs to know

Why do you need human transcribers, anyway? – I explain why!

Keyboards, ergonomics and RSI – the risks and keeping safe

Transcribing multiple voices – hints to make it easier

Why do transcribers charge by the audio minute? – explains it all

My book, Quick Guide to your Career in Transcription is available in print and online


Posted by on November 17, 2016 in Business, Transcription, Word


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