What makes interviews special is that every single one is unique. Even if a person was interviewed 100 times by the same person, each sitting would offer a new nugget or valuable insight.

But, that unique value can quickly go out the window if a) you fail to record the interview b) you fail to preserve the interview c) you botch the interview transcription.

Why Transcribe an Interview

If you’ve recorded an interview, why go through what is usually a hassle in transcription?

For better organization and ability to pick and choose key points

Simply put, you can read faster than you can listen, as you’re really at the mercy of the pace of the interview (or, have to resort to speeding up the playback, which can just lead to greater confusion). Not to mention that when listening, you’ll find yourself needing to write down certain things anyway. If you try and do so directly from memory, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of possible error.

To repurpose the interview as a blog post, article, or book excerpt

Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to post an entire interview on your website or blog. But if you do, it should be relatively shorter, and probably accompanied with video. If not, your best option is to offer the content as a podcast and go from there.

In a perfect world though, you can do both and use the interview for a podcast, and transcribe it as a blog post.

Again, though…why even bother?

Because good content is hard to come by.

And, in most cases, interviews make for good content because you are:

  • Hand-picking the person you’re interviewing
  • Interviewing someone of authority and knowledge
  • Planning specific questions to solicit the best answers
  • Compensating the person you’re interviewing, in some cases
  • Attempting to extract and share valuable pieces of information

All of those points work together to create some really great, uniquely valuable content that can’t be found anywhere else.

So, back to the point at hand, why limit yourself in the promotion of that content? Use it as a podcast, put the video on youtube, and definitely transcribe the interview for use on your website.

Search engines are getting smarter and smarter, but they still have a much, much easier time comprehending written word versus spoken. If you’ve conducted a 30-minute interview, that’s a lot of words; and a lot of written content that can make for a meaty, well-informed blog post that search engines – and users – will absolutely love.

Transcription isn’t really a type of copywriting, as there is little freedom, but it’s worth exploring as part of your site’s content strategy.

To get better at interviewing

Most of us cringe at the sound of our own voices, but listening to your interviews is a key piece to improvement.

That said, the brain is a funny thing. If you conduct an interview, you’re present in the moment and listening to pretty much everything that transpires. When you listen to an interview, it’s really not that much different. you’re listening to something you’ve already heard, and because of that, you might tune out or think you already know what’s coming next, so you subconsciously pay less attention as a result.

When you transcribe an interview and read it, though, you’re giving yourself a brand new experience. Thus, you’re able to pick up on certain things that would have otherwise slipped by had you only be listening (again).

So, transcribing your interviews takes personal education and understanding to the next level.

To easily share an interview with others

This goes in hand with what was mentioned above about repurposing. If you’re needing to share your interview, say with classmates or research partners, or with customers, prospective clients, etc., written word offers my flexibility. When written, others can consume the content basically any time, any place.

But when an interview is in its raw form as an audio file, someone can only listen in private, or in a quiet place, when they have headphones handy, etc. Then, if they need to make notes, will have to transcribe certain bits and pieces. If the interview is transcribed already, they can engage in simple copying and pasting.

Questions to Ask & Pitfalls to Avoid When Transcribing

When you get to the point of transcription, there are a few key questions to ask and answer. The last thing you want to do is engage in transcription twice, which is both time consuming and costly.

So, think through the process. Do you want to capture both the interviewer’s questions or just the interviewee’s responses? Do you want to include all the “likes” and “ums”?

You’d be surprised at the rate and volume of which people rely on using words to fill pauses or transition from one idea to another. If you are not going to include these words, be sure to let the person you’re interviewing know. A transcription must be a full and accurate recapping of the actual interview, and if not, it should be signed off on by the person you interviewed.

Tips When Transcribing

If you are a transcriber performing a transcription for another party, it’s crucial you both agree on a certain set of “rules of transcription.” If you’re performing your own transcription, be sure to be up on the latest in generally accepted principles. Here is a nice transcription style guide followed by those at transcribe.com.

Some general things to think about:

  • If a sentence isn’t finished, put either an “…” or end with a dash (“-” and start a new paragraph to show the interruption.
  • Subjects are often left out when speaking, for sake of clarity, but when transcribing, it might make sense to include the main subject in brackets if something is routinely and confusingly referred to as “it.” (For example, “It [baseball] is so mundane sometimes, it’s hard to keep focus.”
  • Never add to the transcription to make it more entertaining or in order to follow correct grammar. Anything you do add for any reason should be blatantly obvious that it’s not part of the original interview, and was added by you at a later time.
  • But with that said, you should always write out the word in it’s correct spelling if you’re certain a particular word used. Meaning, we all speak differently, each with different accents, impediments, etc. Words should be written out as they’re meant and not necessarily how you hear them.

All in all, transcribing might be a good way to break-in as a freelancer who is trying to land jobs without much professional experience. Reason being, there is not a whole lot left up to interpretation after you and your client settle on how certain items (like those mentioned above) will be addressed when encountered.

Interview Transcription Tools & Software

I use a lot of different tools for many different things. Sometimes though, manual work offers better results. Depending on your goal, whether it is speed, accuracy, or something in between, one tool might work, where another doesn’t. Or, you’ll find you just need to listen and write.

With that said, here are a variety of different tools available to help with your transcriptions. Please note, I have no affiliation with these tools or providers, and do not vouch for or have experience with any of them. Please do your own research and due diligence as these are merely supplied as a courtesy.

List of Transcription Companies & Services

If you don’t even have time for tools, but have more resources in the way of budget, here are a few transcription services, or people/companies you can hire to help with your transcriptions; which typically charge by the minute. (Again, please note, I have no affiliation with these providers, and do not vouch for or have experience with any of them. Please do your own research and due diligence as these are merely supplied as a courtesy.)

Also note that there are handfuls of different transcription services based on where you live. I tried to handpick those available to most anyone online.