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The top 5 skills you need to become a pro-transcriber

Table of ContentsUpdated Aug 24, 2017

Thinking of becoming a freelance transcriber?

After all, how hard can it be right? Download an audio file. Listen to it on the go. Settle down and type out what you hear in a word processor. Simple right?

Well, not really.

Becoming a pro transcriptionist requires some work. Good transcripts pop. The conversations fizz and flow. Accurate transcriptions glow and show.

If you want to be a part of this amazing industry, here are the 5 top skills you’ll need. Well, other than basic computer software and hardware troubleshooting skills.

1. Above average command of English language

You’ll need to produce coherent work. This is a top priority.

So it is imperative to consider proper use of punctuation, syntax and flow — grammar rules apply big time.

For example, you can’t have long sentences that have no periods or commas — even when you can’t seem to detect any clear pauses in the speech. You’ll need to use your own understanding to add punctuation marks such as semi colons (for further explanations) and hyphens (such as in daughter-in-law).

Learn to distinguish between homophones, as in stationery vs. stationary or fiscal vs. physical.

Also, always proofread your transcripts before submission to deliver truly professional and charming transcriptionist services.

Do you need to pay attention to detail? Yes, in gallons too.

Transcriptionists are tasked with the responsible duty to jot down real life issues that are captured on record. Be sure not to distort the message, overall presentation and the trust of your client.

You’ll therefore want to:

  • Give your transcript/word document an appropriate file name
  • Take down errors (clients usually require 98% and above accuracy)
  • Ensure the final draft mirrors your client’s requirements
  • Ask him/her any questions you might have before submitting the final transcript. For example, do they want the transcript ridden of “uhs” and “uumms”, and other filler words? Mark any inaudible portions and let the client know about them

2. Listening skills

A keen and proactive listener makes a great transcriptionist.

This is why most clients prefer human transcriptionist over transcription software. The pro transcriber will:

  • Decipher different speakers
  • Make out conversations amidst high-pitched background noises
  • Figure out overlapping speech
  • Comprehend slang
  • Flash out unnecessary content such as “umms” and “ahhs”, and so on (unless it’s a full verbatim transcript)

Invest in a good quality pair of headphones to ease hearing. Employ transcription software suites such as Express Scribe and Inqscribe to slow, pause, play, speed and rewind your audios.

3. Comprehension skills

To craft powerful transcripts you’ll need to grasp what you hear. Proactively seek to understand context—what the speakers are talking about. When you can predict what was about to be said, you can decipher an unclear word or phrase.

You’ll encounter any topic this side of the Milky Way.

It could be a journalist interviewing a rising star athlete, one of those sizzling T.D Jakes sermons, a kindergarten teaching job interview, a Vimeo clip on how to bathe your cat when she least wants to, a TED power talk on the Law of Attraction, a multiple-speaker video online course on freelance transcription, anything really.

Unearth what your client or audio is all about. Check out their website or social media pages, for example.

Another tip to help in your comprehension is going over your transcript one more time. Any words that were amiss will most likely be understood.

I find that this hack powers my overall work quality, speed and accuracy levels too.

4. Research skills

Some of the files you will receive are highly specialized or biased towards specific niches.

For example, a transcription project from a bio-technician will demand you research the dictated terminology and expression in text. The same applies to financial report dictations that spill lots of business-talk.

Tip: Learn how to use quotation marks, “and” and “or” in the search bar.

Also, let’s say you are given a file to transcribe about an Internet Marketing Challenge from a podcast session involving three guest speakers.

You’ll be smart to research who these speakers are. Start by requesting a detailed briefing from the client. You’ll be damned if you mix up the speaker labels.

5. Typing Skills

You’ve downloaded, listened, comprehended, researched and know your stuff by now. Spoiling to bang that keyboard?

Wait, there is more.

You aren’t really typing if you are simply tapping the keys. Picture this…

The average transcription rate per audio hour starts out at $20 (for hiring transcription companies such as TranscribeMe, and medium Upwork and PPH gigs).

However, I am willing and able to work from $60 per audio hour. Direct clients and a good number of Upwork clients appreciate this (and beyond) for quality work and decent turnaround times.

The industry standard transcription speed is 1 audio hour typed in up to 4 hours. At that speed you’d be earning an hourly rate of $12/hour—could be higher or lower depending on who you work for too.

If you are shooting for a $1000 monthly income, how would that be working out for you?

That’s right.

The faster and more accurate you type, the better income and overall freedom you’ll experience.

The ideal transcriptionist speed starts at 60 words per minute (WPM), but you can begin at 40 WPM and practice further with dedication and zest.

How to improve your typing speed and accuracy real fast

Here are some apps/websites that will help you rocket your touch typing skills:

  • 10FastFingers
  • Mavis Beacon

These tools will help you figure your typing speed, accuracy and slip-ups with stunning detail.

And with practice, just 15-20 minutes daily, will tickle your digits to improve how you cradle and jiggle those keyboard keys—the main area you need to improve to shoot up your typing speed.


I use Word’s Autocorrect feature to punch more content in less time. Just figure what keywords and phrases you repeatedly use and create keyboard shortcuts for those.

Tap these shortcuts to fully type out the coded words. If you can save a bunch of keystrokes here and there, it’ll add up significantly.


To earn over $1000 a month through transcription, you’ll need to transcribe with fervor, color, and zing.

Transcription is a great way to make money online and an awesome way for you to learn new things, every day.

Hone and apply these 5 skills to become a pro transcriptionist. I have seen these work for me on many occasions before.

Do you have any other methods on how to excel as a transcriber? Let’s chat more in the comments.

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Written by Sheeroh Kiarie

Contributor at

Sheeroh Murega Kiarie is a freelance transcriber who’s been freelancing for the past five years. She also blogs at When she’s not transcribing or blogging, you’ll find her reading a book by Wilbur Smith or enjoying a movie.

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  1. Kay Shanley says:

    Great article. Where can I find out about transcription work?

    1. Thanks Kay. You can check Amazon for eBooks on the same. A great guide is by one Lisa Mills.

      There are lots of helpful articles on transcription, on many WAHM blogs.

  2. Nice read.I would like you to mentor and train me.Is it possible?

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Eddah. I don’t train on the same but I try to mentor as much as I can.

  3. Hi Sheeroh

    I really want to get into transcribing, this article is an eye opener. Be blessed immensely and keep up the good job

    1. Thank you Caroline. Read up as much as you can on the topic. That will help lots too.