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As business owners, trainers and mentors, we have been asked by Luke Tierney at Nomad Playground what are transcription companies looking for when they take on transcribers? Here’s what we’ve learned over our combined 30 years’ personal experience in the industry.

What are they really looking for?

The transcription companies that Sonya and I worked for over the years, before striking out on our own, were a combination of start-ups and large, well-established companies. All of them, including ourselves at Top Team Transcripts, are looking for the same things in transcribers: the ability to meet deadlines; the ability to understand and follow instructions; and the ability to prepare accurate transcripts.

Anyone running a transcription company is juggling many balls at the same time, regardless of size. They are marketing to find new clients, managing existing clients, dealing with all the admin of running a business, looking for new typists, managing availability of typists, allocating work, editing work and returning it back to the clients. It’s quite a balancing act between taking on new clients and having sufficient transcribers who are able to do the work quickly and efficiently without too much editing. We need transcribers to grow.

There are many different types of work available that transcription companies receive from their clients: simple, single voice audio recorded in an office; interviews for research, HR, or fraud investigations recorded onsite or over the telephone; focus groups; and finally, the pinnacle of transcription work, verbatim files, where every sound is captured.

Editing the returned files is a big, big thing for any transcription business. As subcontractors, we were expected to edit and spell/grammar check our transcripts prior to return, and as business owners we expect our transcribers to edit and spell/grammar check their own transcripts prior to returning them to us. This is a crucial thing you must do if you want to be a successful transcriber. All transcription companies have an editing team that edits every single transcript before the transcript is returned to the client. Editing costs are paid out of the margins made by the transcription company on the transcription job. The higher the editing costs, the lower the profit margin. Transcriptionists who return transcripts that constantly require extensive editing do not stay on the books for long.

Training is also a cost that is paid out of the profit margin. As a general rule, transcription companies do not have the time or resources to expend on training teams of transcribers. They need people who understand what they are doing and are ready to hit the ground running. So while transcription companies put all new transcribers onto an initial probationary training period, training from the company will be very minimal, and usually entails being provided with a style guide and rudimentary feedback on your initial few transcripts. You will very quickly be cut from their team if you aren’t making the grade.

The good news is that once you make it through the probationary period, you will have a job that offers ultimate flexibility. You will be able to set the hours you work and work from anywhere you can get enough of an internet connection to download audio files, and upload transcripts. Transcription is a career that works for: students; travellers; those looking to work from home; ex-pats; or carers. You can stick with being a subcontractor, or start to find your own clients and build your own business, the possibilities are endless.

What skills do you need?

Transcription companies usually recruit via their websites and will have a recruitment link located on one of their web pages. You will be required to provide information on experience and complete a transcription test. Sometimes this is a two-stage process, and you won’t make it to the transcription test if the company feels you do not have enough experience listed. If you do make it to the transcription test, the transcript you prepare will be thoroughly edited, and you will then hear whether you have been successful or not.

To be successful in applying you need to have the necessary training, typing skills and know the tricks of the trade and what tools you do and don’t need.

To give a helping hand to those wishing to enter the industry, Sonya and I have created an online transcription course that will give you every single tool you need to easily attain work as a transcriber, work from anywhere in the world you wish, at times that suit you. We are offering a 50% discount voucher on our Beginners course to all the Nomads at Nomad Playground who would like to take the first steps on their transcription journey and sign up to our online transcription course.

For more information on transcription company application processes, and what you can expect, or if you are interested in mentoring with Sonya and I, and joining our happy little team of nomad transcribers, find out more at our website,

Or if you are interested in learning more about the industry in general, and talking to other transcribers, come join us at our virtual “water cooler,” Transcription Central, on Facebook, to ask any questions or just say hi. Hope to see you there!

Claire Hone and Sonya Rawlings