Transcription and Typing - the Difference

Business owners are turning to outsourcing of typing and dictation work and reaping the benefits of having virtual secretaries operating in all time zones.  They benefit from not paying overheads, are not responsible for any leave pay, sick pay, medical and pension fund contributions.  They do not have to provide equipment, electricity, tea or coffee or pay for private telephone calls and e-mails.  Outsourcing makes a lot of financial and business sense.

What a lot of outsourcers fail to understand, however, that there is a vast difference between copy typing and transcription.  Copy typing is basically what it says – handwritten work is transformed into a neatly and accurately typed document within a specified time frame.  Copy typing is not necessarily plain sailing – often the client’s handwriting is virtually undecipherable and, in the case of non-English-speaking clients, the grammar and syntax is often confusing and needs a little time and care to render into a well-written document.  Once a sample of the work is obtained it is easy to quote on the job based on the complexity of the above factors.

Transcription is an entirely different kettle of fish and costs considerably more and this is where the interests  of the client and transcriptionist collide.  Clients often fail to understand the reasons for what appears to be an exorbitant rate but do not take into consideration the factors that underlie the need for a much higher quotation.

Even the most experienced transcriptionist works on the rule of thumb that one hour of dictation takes approximately four hours to transcribe, and quotes accordingly.   This is true of best-case scenarios where, for instance, an interview or dialogue between two people is clear and audible and there is no background noise or distraction.

In reality, large and noisy meetings are conducted in what sometimes seems like a war zone with sirens wailing and traffic roaring in the background.  Building work may be taking place in the adjacent office and the confused mass of voices is punctuated by regular blasts of drilling and hammering.  Speakers are not introduced and the client may or may not provide a list of speakers.  The microphone seems to be perched on the tea trolley, which is a fantastic idea when you really want your transcriptionist to work hard for his or her money.  Throw in various accents and a few foreign speakers and now we’re all having fun.  For a bit of added interest, use lots of technical and insider terms. 

In this case the transcriptionist may very well have to stretch the golden rule of four to one to five or six hours as she frantically tries to Google phonetically-spelled words and technical terms or distinguish the Hungarian speaker from the Romanian speaker, the French speaker from the Moroccan-French speaker, or all four speaking simultaneously, not to mention the guy with the bad cold sitting really close to the microphone, coughing and blowing his nose, clearing his throat, etc.

So rest assured, transcriptionists are not ripping the client off; they are doing their best to produce a clear and readable transcript under very trying circumstances and should be rewarded accordingly.