Core Competencies for Remote Transcribers

Core competencies for remote transcribers: young business woman at laptop

Core competencies for remote transcribers are evolving as people adjust to new ways of learning and collaborating during the pandemic.

Like all skilled professionals, speech-to-text providers must continually develop their real-time skills to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. Especially if they’re working remotely—which nearly all of us are, for now—they need to update the core competencies related to a shifting technological landscape.

With the sharp increase in online meetings and virtual learning, transcribers need to familiarize themselves with a host of new videoconferencing and webinar platforms (such as Zoom, Google Meet, YouTube Live, WebEx, and Adobe Connect), learning management systems (such as Blackboard and Canvas), and third-party applications that serve as a “bridge” between these different services (such as 1CapApp and StreamText).

Student on Zoom call; Core Competencies for Remote Transcribers

Here are some of the core competencies for remote transcribers that we have come to expect of all TypeWell transcribers, especially those who plan to work as freelancers:

Proficiency in using TypeWell Everywhere, a feature that allows you to use TypeWell’s speed-typing abbreviations within a text field or typing box embedded in other software programs.

The Everywhere feature was originally designed for transcribers’ personal use, as they enjoyed using their fast-typing skills outside of their transcribing job, to compose emails or write reports in MS Word. However, Everywhere has since become a critical feature/skill for any job where you need to transcribe directly into the “captioning window” built into videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate.

All TypeWell transcribers should be familiar with how the Everywhere features work (especially since Everywhere is already built into your transcribing software), as well as how to quickly troubleshoot problems.

Proficiency with online scheduling programs and apps utilized by schools and agencies.

These include programs like When I Work and ShiftBoard. At a minimum, these programs help users keep track of the dates, start times, end times, and time zones for each of their assigned jobs. The more robust platforms also double as time-tracking software and integrate with bookkeeping and invoicing services. Coordinators often add essential job details to each shift, such as user login credentials, contact names and email addresses, and job-specific preferences (for example, whether or not a client wishes to have speakers identified by name).

A truly competent transcriber will review the scheduling and job details carefully, double-check time zone conversions, confirm whether their client observes daylight savings, and set multiple alarms and reminders so they never miss a job or sign on late. Many platforms will sync with transcribers’ own online calendars, such as Google Calendar or iCal.

Conscientious transcribers make a habit of utilizing “prep time” to transfer job-specific details or vocabulary into their software dictionaries, test their meeting credentials and connections in advance, and check for any changes or updates an hour or two before each job begins.

Ability to quickly read and respond to notifications, alerts, and updates from multiple clients across multiple channels.

A typical freelance transcriber might receive multiple updates each day from various school coordinators, agencies, and independent clients. Each supervisor might use any combination of e-mail, text messaging (SMS), instant messaging (Skype or Hangouts), or in-app notification systems. They might also expect their transcribers to review these notifications several times a day.

This surge in digital communication can be overwhelming at the start of the school year, when scheduling apps tend to blow up with notifications as students add and drop classes and coordinators rush to fill last-minute assignments. The more thoroughly a transcriber can filter out the “noise,” the more reliably they can respond to time-sensitive requests. Supervisors notice and appreciate this valuable skill!

Ability to maintain focus and concentration amidst stress and distractions.

All of the above core competencies for remote transcribers require significant attention to detail, along with a willingness to dive in and learn how to use new platforms. Tech-averse transcribers tend to fall behind and require more hand-holding, which is something that supervisors and schedulers take into account when assigning jobs.

While none of these are really “new” in the transcribing profession, what is new are the harsh realities of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas remote transcribers might have arranged for child-care in the past, they might be homeschooling their children full-time this coming semester. They might also be sharing a home office (and internet bandwidth) with other adults who are living and working out of spaces that weren’t designed to accommodate so many different uses. Furthermore, they may face unusual mental stressors related to economic or housing insecurity, health scares, and concern for the well-being of their clients, colleagues, and families.

Carving out a quiet place to focus on one’s job without distractions or interruptions is a reasonable expectation, but one that has become complex and challenging to meet over the past few months. It is vitally important, though, not just for the sake of our clients’ quality of service but also for our own professional satisfaction and mental well-being as transcribers.

How are you managing these new stressors and prioritizing your ability to stay focused while you’re on the job?