Last week, I used a transcription service for the first time, and I have to tell you: it has changed my life. 

I was sitting, procrastinating, like all good writers do, beginning projects I knew I’d never finish and surfing Facebook for inspiration, when I had this sudden moment of Becca-What-Are-You-Doing-You-Have-So-Much-To-Do. 

When we procrastinate, it’s not usually coming from a place of laziness or lack of motivation, but actually, feeling overwhelmed—having so much to do that it seems utterly pointless to even begin anything. Sometimes, we spend more time planning ways to do something more easily or in a more organised manner than it would actually take to just do the damn thing itself. 

With that in mind, I realised that this lack of concentration and feeling of having too much on my plate wasn’t really rooted in wanting to scroll through my Instagram feed yet again. No, it was the five hours of unedited, un-transcribed interviews sitting on my phone, or approximately 15 articles worth of content. 

I love doing interviews. It’s one of the best parts of my job—speaking with people who really know they’re stuff, talking about what they’re passionate about, telling you their story and how they got where they are today. Actually talking to a person, face to face is when you get the most interesting stories.

However, one of the major downside of doing the interview in person: the transcribing. I always joke to whoever I’m interviewing that I’m recording because I can’t write that fast, which is true—not just the first time I listen to it, but the second, the third… a 30-minute interview will probably take me one to two hours to transcribe, if I’m super concentrated. And then there’s the editing, and the formatting, and uploading… Doing one, it’s ok. When you’ve got a backlog? It becomes a bit much.

transcription, blog, writing tips, writer hacks
Me, doing other things and not transcribing my interviews because I discovered transcription services | Credit: Rebecca Cairns

I know that it’s worth it, in the end, but it didn’t feel that way when I was looking at five hours of audio, which I’m guessing is probably not even the most that some freelancers and staff writers out there have had sat on their desk. Anyway, five hours might as well have been fifty for how impossible it felt to get those audio files into a workable state. 

I’ve thought about using a transcription service before, and scrapped the idea every time I look at the price of it. However, a freelancer friend had recently shared a service she said was cheap, quick and effective: It costs US$0.10 per minute of audio, and reverts your file back in 5-10 minutes. They offered a free trial, so I figured I’d give it a bash. 

It immediately told me that transcriptions would possibly not work if the speakers were in a noisy environment, had strong accents, or weren’t sitting close to the mic. Given that I mostly record on my phone, in cafes and restaurants with people from around the world whose first language is often not English, I had my doubts that this would work. But I gave it a go. 

In the time it’s taken my to write this post, I have transcribed all 292 minutes of audio into workable transcripts. I can hardly believe I just wrote that sentence. Sure, there were a few of imperfections in the finished product—which were easily fixable as Temi highlighted the words it tripped up on or were unclear, and the transcript is timestamped so you can check any specific parts. Given the price and turnaround time, I’ll take the imperfections.

Sitting there with my finished audio transcripts, I felt as if I were crawling out of a dark, deep hole to look at the rising sun for the first time in year. Ok, slight exaggeration, but seriously—with that done and dusted I quit all my procrastination tabs and settled down to actual work. I’ve fired through more in three hours than the three days before. They say a tidy house is a tidy mind, and I’m going to say that in this day and age, that also goes for your desktop, your inbox, and your phone (audio) notes.

If there are any full-time, part-time, in-house, freelance, whatever, writers out there who are wondering if transcription services are worth it—a thousand times yes. I’ve only tried Temi. I’ll be using them again. And again. And again… 

PS: Not an ad, folks! Just a very passionate recommendation—they do a free trial if you want to give them a bash and see for yourself. 

3 thoughts on “Work Less Write More, or, Transcription Services To The Rescue”

  1. Simply wanna comment on few general things, The website design and style is perfect, the subject matter is really superb :D.

  2. Aw, this was a really good post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

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