No matter what business your clients are in, poorly produced documents waste time, money and energy and can destroy companies’ ability to be productive. Documentation can make or break the introduction of new procedures. Badly written documents put the user ‘off’ and make integration of the new system more difficult. Specialization in this kind of work is required.

Digital transcription is a major part of many Virtual Assistants workload. It requires excellent word processing abilities plus a good ear. It comes with hours of practise.

Most dictation for transcription is in digital format. A transcriptionist receives the digital files and then returns the files to the client when complete. For a faster and more complete the transcription of a dictation, there are a few basic tips to make it easier. Proper preparation before beginning a dictation ensures that the job is correct the first time. Sending a client a document transcribed correctly the first time gives a good impression on the client and ensure more work in the future.

Advice for Clients on digital transcription

1. Setting up a proper workspace while transcribing dictation for a client is the most important thing you can do for yourself while working. Sitting almost motionless, while typing for hours, puts a strain on your body and causes repetitive motion injuries. Choose an office chair that supports your back and is adjustable for a comfortable leg height. You want your feet placed flat on the floor. Check that your keyboard sits comfortably at a height where your arms are bent at an angle approximately 90 degrees from your body, and your wrists do not lie on the keyboard while typing.


2. Transcription uses specialized equipment. A foot pedal is the most important piece of equipment for a transcriptionist. Although not always required, it is essential to decrease the time spend rewinding small sections of the dictation. The less time your fingers are off the keyboard, the more money you make. Noise-canceling headphones make hearing the dictation easier by removing outside noise. Purchasing an ergonomic keyboard is optional, but also increases typing speed while protecting your hands and wrists from injury. Some clients may still use tapes played back in a dictation machine, but most use digital files.


3. Specific computer applications are created for transcribing digital files depending on the type of dictation required: legal, medical or general. The word processing software used is Microsoft Word, but legal transcribers may need WordPerfect as an industry standard for word processing. Medical and legal transcriptionists need a specialized dictionary installed to check the spelling on words the general dictionary marks incorrect. Using auto correction software and creating macros in Word is the excellent way to increase speed while dictating. Shortening the keystrokes required to complete a word or phrase commonly used means less time spent in rewinding the recording.


4. Following very closely the client’s instructions is crucial in completing a transcription job correctly and promptly. A transcriptionist should an expert in spelling and grammar. He must proofreads carefully the dictation before submitting a completed job. A transcriber should know if the client prefers verbatim transcription or if the dictation needs the grammar of the speakers edited and exclude unimportant information. If a client provides a template or special software, this should be clarified. Understanding the clients’ precise needs before beginning a dictation prevents errors in the assigned task.



Here are some of the Audio Recording and Transcription Tips for virtual transcriptionists:

Recording Dos’

1. A good, clear recording results in accurate and fast transcription. Less transcription time = less cost.

2. Use a recorder that will support one or more external microphones

3. Use an external microphone. (Most built-in microphones are of poor quality with limited control over volume levels. A microphone will pick up sound from the nearest source, which, in the case of built-in  microphones, is the recording equipment itself)

4. Use a ‘Conference Mixer’ when using more than one microphone when recording group discussions, focus groups, etc.

5. Place the microphone near the interviewee/speaker

6. Remind the interviewee/speaker to speak clearly into the microphone

7. Turn off the ‘voice activation’ feature on your recorder, if present

8. Make a test recording

9. Ask each speaker to introduce him/herself clearly

10. Moderate the interview/meeting by allowing only one person to speak at a time

11. Do set the speed control to fast. Recording at slow speed reduces recording quality and adds ‘hiss’


Recording Don’ts

1. Don’t be tempted to use a hand-held/personal recorder/dictation device

2. Don’t use micro or mini cassettes, if at all possible (they are designed for use as a’ personal’ dictationdevice only)

3. Don’t record at slow speed

4. Never record in a noisy environment: (The human ear filters out extraneous and unwanted noise, the microphone does not; it will record everything indiscriminately)

•don’t rustle paper near the microphone

•don’t use glasses, bottles, coffee/tea cups and saucers near the microphone

•don’t place the microphone near air conditioning units, overhead projectors, laptops, open windows (traffic noise), a noisy corridor or even the recorder itself.

5. Don’t assume because you are recording ‘digitally’, good recording conditions (above) don’t  apply. ‘Digital’ does not mean that extraneous noise is filtered, or that an external microphone is not required.


Transcription Time Ratio to 1 hour Recording

The professional industry standard allows ONE hour to transcribe 15 minutes of clearly recorded speech. Therefore, it takes a MINIMUM of 4 hours and can take as much as 6 or 8 hours to transcribe a documentdepending on the quality of the recording. However, transcription can take much longer for focus groups,meetings, seminars and conferences with multiple participants – perhaps as much as 10 hours for one hour of recorded tape or a bad quality, unclear recording (See ‘Dos’ above).



Mini-discs: Mini-disc recorders produce a very good quality recording (if used with an external microphone), but manufacturers haven’t issued a transcription kit for mini-discs – yet! Therefore, mini-discs need to be rerecorded onto either digital audio files or standard tapes before transcribed in the normal way. Most transcribers can offer this conversion service for clients.