How to Get Cheap Transcription Services

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So, you need a transcript, but you don’t have a big budget to play around with, so you are looking for a cheap transcription service. You need the best value for money and to figure out how to get quality transcription services on the cheap.

This is easier said than done, particularly if it is your first time. But, there are a few tricks to getting a transcript on a budget without resorting to transcribing the audio yourself. We are here to let you in on how to find transcription services that don’t break the bank. You will have more options if you haven’t yet made your recording, but there is always a solution somewhere.

Let’s get started!

Using Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR): Speech to Text Software

The bare bones cheapest way to get a transcript is to use a machine — specifically, speech to text software. Several of these services are free, most offer free trials, and those that do charge cap out at around £0.10 per minute of recorded audio. Compared to pretty standard rates of £2 per minute for human transcription services, this is a deal that you would think more people would use.

The problem is that ASR still isn’t very good. The quality of your transcript can be significantly impacted by the nature of your recording. Even under ideal circumstances, you shouldn’t expect accuracy rates in excess of 80%. The algorithms employed by speech to text software can be easily disrupted by background noise, accents, poor audio quality and multiple speakers. Under most practical circumstances, ASR is not a viable option if you need a professional, accurate transcription. No matter what, you should always expect to spend time editing what is delivered by a software transcription service.

If, however, you invest in making a clean recording and get all participants to speak slowly and one at a time, you may well be able to access the low transcription rates of speech to text software with only a little bit of effort put in after the fact to edit the transcript. It all comes down to avoiding poor quality audio.

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Compromising Security and Features with Human Transcription Services

Human-based audio transcription services generally sit in two camps, those with starting fees around £0.50 per minute of recorded audio and those starting above £1 per minute. These two camps are generally divided by how seriously they take security and the number of features that get bundled into that starting price point.

There are a lot of factors that go into security when it comes to transcription services. Your basic coverage starts with encryption. But, transcription companies that take security really seriously keep their transcribers in-house and solely employ people from the country in which the company operates. This is done to ensure accountability when it comes to enforcing NDAs and pursuing privacy violations. This, however, comes at a cost. Employing someone in the US or UK costs more than a transcriptionist in India. You lose accountability by engaging with offshore workforces, but you can access lower prices if that is something you are able to sacrifice.

Low starting price points are also an indication that a lot of the ‘extras’ associated with transcription services are charged for separately. That can include things like timestamps, the identification of different speakers, proofreading and more. If these are things you don’t need, look for a service that allows you to pick and choose what you want.

However, you need to be careful that these complex pricing schemes don’t backfire. For example, transcription services that operate this way also often increase prices based on audio quality, the number of speakers, accents and more. This can quickly spiral into something that is not affordable. Something as simple as an interviewer asking a quick question at the beginning of a recording might push you into a higher price bracket, and it can be hard to tell what quality threshold will trigger a price jump. But, these kinds of options, if navigated appropriately, can deliver a high-quality transcription service at a bargain rate. That can be key to finding an affordable transcription service.

Opt For a Slow Turnaround Time

A lot of services will give you a discount if you pick a delayed turnaround time — often in excess of a week. Sometimes low headline price points already take this into account (something to look out for if you can’t accommodate the wait!). But, if you are in no rush to get your transcript, you can often get a price break of 20% or more by letting the transcription service fit your order in when it is easy for them.

Of the various tactics on this list, opting for slow turnaround times is probably the most solid option. You will get a cheaper price without having to sacrifice quality, security, options or risk complex pricing models confusing you into paying more. It simply takes planning ahead to get things done.

Picking a Less Detailed Transcript

Not all transcripts are the same. The industry standard for human transcription services is ‘intelligent verbatim’. This delivers a word for word account of the recording but strips out stutter, ‘ums’ and repetitions. This is an easier transcription style for transcribers and costs less than a strict verbatim option that includes all of those details. If you don’t need every stutter included, make sure to select this option to pay a little less.

Some transcription services will go even further and offer summary or detailed notes options. Here, the detail is abandoned altogether and the service simply delivers an overview of the themes and subjects included in the recording. If you don’t need details at all and are simply seeking a transcription to decipher the basics of what is contained within an audio file faster than listening to it would allow, this is not only the perfect solution for you, it will cost less too.

Summary: Know Your Options and Pick a Transcript That Fits

To get a good deal on transcription services you need to understand why you need a transcript in the first place. If you don’t need timestamps, the names of speakers and a high level of detail, you can often get a better deal by finding a service that provides options around these factors. If you just need a rough approximation of a recording, accessing summary transcriptions (or even ASR produced transcripts) becomes a real money-saving possibility.

If you need detail, your options are really two-fold — sacrificing security or planning ahead and picking a service that offers a discount for slow turnaround times. There are also some services that will deliver discounts for bulk orders. But, that will only be applicable if you have a lot of audio to transcribe. Overall, opting for slow turnaround times is probably your best bet to get cheap transcription services if you also need detail and quality. You can often sacrifice nothing, but still access a lower rate. What you need to find is something that fits your needs but is still an affordable transcription service. Know what you need and look into options.


You have been reading about how to get cheap transcription services. If you want to know more about how to pick the best transcription service for your transcription needs, please check out our transcription blog for more helpful articles.

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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.