Common Challenges Transcriptionists Face and How to Handle Them: Part One

Sep 24, 2018

With transcription, just like with any job, you'll be faced with challenges from time to time. This post is the first in a two-part series dealing with some of the most common challenges transcriptionists face.

Poor audio quality is certainly one of the hardest challenges in the transcription field! Because it's such a frustrating issue, I thought it deserved its very own post. Keep reading for some ways you can tackle this problem and keep your sanity. :-)

1.) Communicate with your clients

A key point to remember before even starting your file is to communicate with your clients. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: communication with your clients is essential to your job. Let them know upfront that there may be many words or phrases you won’t be able to decipher. And -- SUPER important -- let them know you have higher rates for difficult audio and/or ESL speakers. This will help to make it worth your while! Just make sure they're aware of your prices before you begin.

2.) Don’t panic

Before you start questioning your career choice, don’t panic! Sometimes starting can be the hardest part of any task, especially if you're overwhelmed, so take a deep breath and dig in. Keep in mind that, as you type, your ears will get used to the audio quality and the speakers. You might be surprised by how much you can pick up during a second (or third) listen of the file. Just remember that as you go and keep typing. It's a feeling of victory when you can finally figure out that word or phrase. Our ears are amazingly trainable!

3.) Experiment with the audio

Most transcription software has the capability of speeding up or slowing down the file, so make sure you know how to use that feature. Sometimes just slowing the audio down a little bit can help you with a difficult word or phrase. Another trick, although less common, is speeding up the audio if it’s just a word or phrase you can’t hear. If it’s muffled audio you’re dealing with, try pulling your headphones away from your ears slightly as you play the file. This may help you hear the muffled words or phrases a little better.

4.) Use different types of transcription software

It’s a good idea to have a few types of transcription software in your arsenal because sometimes what sounds awful in one might sound better in another. Different software has different features, so experiment with the special audio processes to reduce background noise or optimize the audio. Using another type of software doesn’t always work, but it’s at least worth a shot. Sometimes it can result in a win, which is always a good thing!

5.) Take a break

With this particular challenge transcriptionists face, it’s a good idea to just take a break after a while. Working on files like this can be tiring. Go outside and get some fresh air, have a cup of coffee, do something enjoyable for several minutes (or more if you can afford to), and take your mind off work. Once you’ve done that, you can come back refreshed and ready to tackle your file again. You might be amazed at what you can hear after a break.

6.) Join social media groups for transcriptionists

It can also be a good idea to join social media groups specifically for transcriptionists. If you let them know what the problem is, the subject matter, and what the word or phrase sounds like, they may be able to offer suggestions. Often, fellow transcriptionists will come to your aid since they understand the struggle, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. And if nothing else, they will lend a sympathetic ear if you just need to vent!

Our Take

Difficult audio is a frustrating issue in the transcription field, and while these tips aren’t foolproof, they are definitely worth a try. Remember, persistence and diligence are important traits for a transcriptionist to have. Showing your client that you possess these traits by soldiering on when the going gets rough will make a lasting impression on them. Check out Part Two for more common challenges transcriptionists face!

Your Turn

Have you had to deal with poor audio, heavy accents, or ESL speakers? What are some ways that you powered through? I would love to hear them in the comments!

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