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Gear Up! The Tools You Need to Get Started as a Transcriber

Transcription work is not new. In fact, it has been around for centuries. It’s older than you and me. Scribes from the bygone era transcribed ancient languages, scripts, and hieroglyphics onto stone tablets as a way to document and preserve history and culture.

Fast forward to today, transcribers are the modern-day scribes who work diligently to convert audio files into written form. Instead of using stylus and stone tablets, transcribers of today use tools and equipment to help them work faster and more efficiently.

With the shift to online ways of doing things, work at home jobs have never been more integral in keeping the work processes operational.

Demand for transcription service has skyrocketed over the years. Freelancers found opportunities to work from home as transcribers. Those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic shifted to online jobs like data entry, social media management, content writing, and transcription.

Starting a transcription requires minimal investment. You do not need high-end machines or high-end tools. Even the most basic setup can work. After all, it’s your ears, fingers, and brain that would do most of the job.

The frequently asked question we receive is: What do I need to start transcribing?

For those interested in starting a career in transcription, this article is for you.

It’s time to Gear Up!

Equipment for Transcription

1. Computer (PC)

The most basic thing you need to get started in transcription is a PC. It can be a desktop or a laptop. In terms of specifications, try to get a computer than can handle multiple tasks and can support apps and software that you will need. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or top of the line PC; a mid-range line will do.

2. Keyboard

As you will be typing a lot for hours on end, it’s important to have a keyboard that would not cause you to develop pain on your wrist, fingers, or back. Ergonomic keyboards are highly recommended because they help you position your body in a relaxed manner. They are designed to reduce strain on the hands, wrists, and arms because you are in a natural position that is conducive to typing.

If ergonomic keyboards are a little expensive for you, you can check out standard keyboards. They come in many shapes and sizes. Test out a few of them and get those that will force your arms and wrist to fall into a natural position when typing. This will help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and stress injuries.

3. Headset or Earphone

If there’s one thing you’d want to invest in, it has to be headphones for transcription. There are so many headsets and earphones to choose from. Wired headphones can be a little annoying because the cord can get in the way of your typing. On the other hand, wireless headphones can be expensive and require charging every so often. Plus, they may not as reliable as the wired ones.

Some say earphones are not as good as headsets or headphones. But you know what? It all depends on your preference. Some people find earphones more comfortable because there’s no added weight on the head.

The important thing to consider is the quality of the sound. When you listen to audio files, you must be able to hear spoken words with clarity. What you use for listening to music is not ideal for transcription.

There are transcription headsets that are specifically designed for transcription in that they will block out exterior noises so that you can hear the words clearly.

Ultimately, the best headset for transcription has great sound quality, durable, and comfortable to use for a prolonged period of time.

4. Optional: Foot Pedal

A foot pedal for transcription is used to control the audio playback. It’s typically used in medical transcription so that you can control the speed of the dictation. The purpose of this is that your fingers can focus on typing. You don’t have to push keyboard shortcuts to rewind and forward the audio file. Your foot will control the playback.

Software for Transcription

1. Word Processor

Unless the client requires you to use their own transcription platform, the default software to use is Microsoft Word. Whether you use Windows or Mac, you can have access to Microsoft Word.

2. Transcription Software

Transcription software enables you to transcribe audio or video files through the software. There are many free and paid software that you can use. What’s great about transcription software is that they have features that allow you to control the speed of the audio or video file. It also automatically creates timestamps using keyboard shortcuts.

Two of the transcription and subtitling software that we use are Express Scribe and Aegisub. Express Scribe is not free but there's a trial version that you can use for 14 days. That's plenty of time to test the software and decide if you want to purchase the license. Aegisub, on the other hand, is an open-source subtitling software so it’s free to use.

3. Special Cases: Proprietary Software

Sometimes, clients will allow you to access their proprietary software. In this case, you have to learn how to use the system and get used to the keys and their functions.

Environment for Transcription

The ideal setting for transcription work is a quiet place without any distractions. Make sure that the room you work in does not have television or radio on so that you won’t get distracted. Noise from outside can be distracting which can affect your productivity. Make sure you have a place where you can do your transcription work in peace. Have a schedule that works for you.


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