Are Human Transcription Services Too Expensive?

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Anyone looking to engage with transcription services for the first time is going to be struck by the vast differences in price. Some services appear to be free while others charge in excess of £2 per recorded minute of audio. Everything that costs more than £0.75 per minute of audio will be a ‘human transcription service’. The cheaper services are all delivered by Automatic Speech Recognition software. This leads many people to question if human transcription services are worth the cost.

The answer to that question depends on your audio quality and the final transcript that you need. While human services are going to cost more, this doesn’t necessarily make them too expensive or unaffordable. The extra costs of human transcription services pay for something. You are paying for quality control and options around outcomes. If that is what you need, they aren’t too expensive because automated transcription services do not deliver these outcomes.

Paying For Quality: The Power of Human Transcription Services

For many people investing in transcription services, quality is a top priority. If this is the case, you can’t really turn to ASR software. While automated transcription services offer cheap pricing and quick turnarounds, they don’t offer quality control. You get what you get, and if your audio is low quality or has many speakers, you may end up with a transcript that is simply gibberish.

There are issues revolving around audio quality, accents, speaking patterns, and colloquial language. If the software struggles to detect the audio or comes across slang words that it can’t register, then the results are incredibly inaccurate. Even under ideal circumstances, automated services struggle to hit accuracy rates above 80%.   

Human transcription services deliver results that you can count on, that is what you are paying for. They have quality control mechanisms, if the audio is poor, transcribers can spend more time reviewing the content. A human can detect slang with relative ease, understand different accents, and handle poor audio quality with less difficulty.

Fundamentally, we are not in a place where machines can match the language processing power of the human brain. If you want your transcript done right, you are going to have to pay a person to do it. If you use an automated service, expect to spend your own time reviewing and editing the transcript to get something that accurately reflects your recording. If your audio quality is poor, be prepared to start again from scratch if what is delivered is unintelligible.

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Human Transcription Services Offer More Variety

A top-quality human transcription service will also give you variety around the service. ASR software will often only allow you to purchase word for word transcriptions — and they often struggle to do that well. With human services, you can tailor what you get to match your needs. Most human transcription services will allow you to fully customise formatting and transcription priorities.  

Word for Word transcripts provide the full details of what was being said. But, standard word for word human transcriptions will clean up the audio for you, removing ‘ums’, ‘errs’ and false starts. This is actually easier to transcribe, so you will often get a price break for this type of transcript while receiving something that is easier to read.

Detailed Notes transcripts allow you to get an overview of a recording and digest the meaning without having to read every single word. They also tend to be much cheaper per minute, but you obviously don’t get every single detail.

Verbatim transcripts deliver detail. You get a word for word transcript that also includes any ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’, pauses, and so on. They can even include notes on tone and laughter.

Human transcription services can offer a lot more than the automated versions. This means they offer far better value in that you can pay for exactly what you need. Instead of paying the top price for a detailed verbatim transcript, you can choose a summary instead — if it satisfies your requirements.

Data Protection & Security

When you’re paying for a transcript, you need to be certain that all the information you pass across is completely safe and secure. Otherwise, there’s no telling who could get their hands on some important business information via your audio recordings or the completed transcripts.

With both human and automated services, you need to look for hallmarks of data security. Research where your data is stored, how it is stored and how it is shared. You want SSL encryption. Always look for ‘https’ in the website URL as this ensures that your personal information is secure. Also, check for ISO 27001 & 9001 certifications as these indicate a safe data environment.

Fundamentally, you want your data to remain within jurisdictions with high ethical business standards and judicial systems that pursue violations. Without that, it will be harder to follow up breaches, increasing the likelihood that they occur.

With automated transcription services, it can be difficult to ever get your data removed from servers. This increases the likelihood that it eventually ends up in the wrong hands. With human transcription services, data security is often the difference between the low and high-end fees. Human transcription services that cost less than £0.75 per minute of recorded audio are often lacking in a fundamental area — data security can be one of the first areas to go. If you need security guarantees, you might want to look at the higher end of the market.

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How To Get The Best Deal on a Human Transcription Service

A lot of businesses are unaware of how many deals there are in the human transcript world. While you’ll never get the same price as an automated option, you can still take measures to lower the costs to suit your budget.

For example, you can choose longer turnaround times to get a cheaper rate. There is often a large price break if you are willing to wait more than seven days. If the transcript isn’t an immediate priority, this is a smart way to squeeze out more value from the service. Likewise, the different transcript options mean you only pay for what you need.

The bottom line is that you can find brilliant transcription services that also offer excellent value for money when you explore the different deals available. As a consequence, this can lower the costs without diminishing the service quality.

Summary: Human Transcription Services Are Not Too Expensive if You Need Quality and Options


By looking at the price of these services alone — particularly when compared to an automated transcription service — it’s easy to think they’re too expensive. But, the deeper you dig, the more you realise that human transcription services are incredibly affordable.

Essentially, everything boils down to the service quality. You get more out of your money when you spend extra on a human service as it will always provide a higher degree of accuracy. Not only that, human services can handle poor audio much more easily than ASR software. When the audio quality is low, or someone is talking too fast, then automated transcription services end up with accuracy levels of under 10%. Humans can pause and slow down audio files to understand fast talkers and listen through any additional background noise that might be disrupting the audio. What’s more, a human transcription service handles accents and slang words way better than automated ones.

Human transcription services also allow you to tailor your transcript to your specific needs. When combined with the additional data security measures, then the cost of human transcription services seems extremely reasonable indeed.

When all’s said and done, human transcriptions are more expensive — but they’re certainly not too expensive. Remember, you get what you pay for. So, if you want the best service possible, then be prepared to invest in it.

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Take Note

Take Note is a UK-based transcription service with world-class customer support alongside the highest standards of security and ethics. We deliver a comprehensive range of transcription services including Audio and Video Transcription, Video Captions and On-Site Note Taking.