I had an interesting chat with a public speaker recently. She is planning to get some typed transcriptions done of a series of teleseminars and had been told at a public speakers’ networking event about cheap transcriptionists to get the work done. So, although I do a lot of work for her, and she knows I have a whole team behind me, she won’t be bringing this particular job to us.
I was horrified that she didn’t even ask for advise first before making her decision and she told me she knew I would be. Transcription (audio and digital) is specialised work and unless you’re familiar with it, you can run into all sorts of trouble. For starters, one hour of recording does not equal one hour of typing – no matter what anyone might say or think (See When Is An Hour Not An Hour?). Unless the speaker is speaking as slowly as the typist types, but we all know that’s not the reality. Wikipedia suggests that the speed of speech can be between 150-175 wpm for a book on tape and that conversations between two people can often be 200wpm or higher. The majority of typists type less than 100wpm so there is the need to constantly pause the recording, catch up with the typing, sometimes rewind to catch a phrase or a word that wasn’t clear, and then get going again. After the recording is typed it then needs to be read through, often with the recording playing again, to ensure it’s all been captured, and then after that properly formatted and tidied up. So, as you can see, it’s not a simple job of just typing for one hour and the job’s done. And I know with the teleseminars, because there are usually two people (an interviewer and interviewee) involved, it means that it is in conversation mode (200wpm) and not ‘presentation’ mode which is usually a slower speed of speech.
One of the rates I viewed earlier today, after the speaker referred me to a site she’d been told about, indicated a charge of $40 per audio hour. One hour of recording can take between 3-6 hours to type. That means the transcriptionist is charging between $13.33 and $6.66 per typed hour for the work they’re producing. If they can literally type word for word at the speed of the recording then they must be a very fast typist, and if that’s the case, they are grossly undervaluing what they do. But I fear it might actually mean that the work being done is very basic, not formatted and the client is going to get what she’s paid for. A non-professional job that has probably taken the transcriptionist some time to do for little return. I guess that means I will still get some of the work – I’ll be tidying up the job and formatting it for the speaker’s use! KMT