Secure, Cheap and Quality Transcription Services: Can You Have it All?

Secure cheap quality transcription

You need a transcript on a budget, but you don’t want to sacrifice security and quality — is it possible?

The short answer is… it depends.

I know, that isn’t helpful!

What we are going to explain here is how you can get the transcript you need at the lowest possible price. What is true, is that you don’t have to pay ‘top dollar’ to get a top-quality transcript, and to get the transcript that best fits your transcription needs does not necessarily have to be the most expensive transcript on the market.

A big part of getting a good deal on transcription service is knowing exactly what you need, getting the best quality recording possible and giving yourself as much time as possible.

Let’s explain!

What do you want out of a transcription service?

First, you need to figure out what you need in your transcript. Ask yourself: does the recording contain sensitive information? Does the transcript have to be verbatim? How quickly do I need the transcript? All of these variables will affect the cost of the service, so it’s important to consider all of them.

Different types of transcription services

Not all transcription services are the same. Not all ‘verbatim’ transcripts are even the same. You need to know your options to get the best outcomes and the best price. These are the most common four types.

  • Verbatim: Also known as “word-for-word”, “clean verbatim” or  “intelligent verbatim”, this service edits out the idiosyncrasies of speech, keeping the conversation word for word, but cleaned up for an easier, clearer read. This is broadly considered the industry standard, it sits in a middle price bracket and is one of the most versatile transcript options you can choose. If lost in your decision making process, this is a good default choice.  
  • Full verbatim: Capture everything. Speech is transcribed in its entirety, including filler words (like ‘um’), false starts, repetitions, interruptions, cross-talk and more. Everything that might be edited out of a verbatim transcript is reintroduced. If desired, you can pay extra for notes on tone, laughter, pauses and more. These kinds of transcripts generally contain more detail than is needed, are hard to read and cost more than is necessary. If, for legal reasons, you need this level of detail, make sure you get it. Otherwise, look for cheaper and more accessible transcripts.
  • Detailed notes: Deliver exceptional value. Detailed notes transcripts take the editing processes even further than verbatim transcripts. All off topic chit-chat is removed, interview questions are summarised and you are delivered a ‘to the point’ transcript. These services are less common than full verbatim or verbatim, and quality transcription services will let you provide a brief on what is important within a recording. These generally cost less than verbatim transcripts, meaning that if the editing fits your needs, this is a great choice.     

What about ASR: Automatic Speech Recognition Software

ASR, or speech-to-text software, is growing in popularity as a fast and cheap alternative to human-based transcription service. ASR apps work in real time, some are free, and the paid services generally cost 10x less than the cheapest human transcription services.  

But, ASR falls short of human-based transcription when it comes to quality. Humans are better at picking out multiple speakers, accents, background noise, and more. Generally, ASR caps out at 80% accuracy rates. If your audio quality is not top notch, those outcomes can drastically deteriorate — sometimes becoming unintelligible.

If you have a high-quality recording, time to edit the result and perfect outcomes do not matter, ASR might deliver a cheap alternative. If you need something right, first time, speech-to-text software-based services are not the choice for you.

How to ensure the service you use adheres to security policies

Security is an essential consideration when working with a transcription service. If you’re sending sensitive information out to an external company, you need to know that they can be trusted with it.

While you don’t need to splurge on transcription to ensure security, going for the cheapest available services can put you at more risk of having your audio data misused. The cheapest services tend to outsource the actual transcription work to offshore workers and firms, who might not follow or be aware of the data protection and privacy laws that you rely on. Furthermore, trying to enforce those standards overseas can be difficult.

Using transcription services that keep their transcriptionists in house will always cost more. But, if you need the highest security standards, you need to take certain precautions. You need to think specifically about who is gaining access to your content, where they are located and the restrictions and supervision place upon them.

Regardless of your ability to stick with transcription services who do not use off-shore transcriptionists, there are three security standards you should look out for and never compromise on:

  • Make sure the service has ISO 27001 & 9001 accreditation, meaning they have gone through third-party formal assessments and been found to follow best practice in both general management and information security management.
  • Check that their services are secured with a HTTPS web address and the use of SSL or TLS encrypted logins for their portals/apps/storage.
  • That they are willing to sign an NDA and have an internal privacy policy that they are willing to share with you.

These concerns are equally applicable to both human-based transcription services and ASR service providers.  

How to get the best price without sacrificing security or quality

Cost-effective, safe, and quality transcription is possible, but you need to do a little research to find it. Check that any transcriptionist you work with is committed to privacy and data security. Make sure that they follow the minimum guidelines mentioned above. Fundamentally, know what kind of services you want, before you start looking at the following ways to keep them in budget:

  • Look for services with slower turnarounds. If you want high quality in a short amount of time, you’re going to have to pay extra.
  • Keep an eye out for bulk discounts and other offers by following quality transcriptionist services on social media or through their email newsletters.
  • Pick a less detailed transcript option, like detailed notes
  • Use automatic speech recognition speech-to-text software if accuracy isn’t your main priority.
  • Strike partnerships with transcription services that offer bulk discounts and bespoke pricing if you need consistent access to large quantities of transcripts.

Some compromise must be made for cheaper services, whether it’s quality, security, or the project turnaround — you need to know what’s important to you.

Getting the transcript that you need doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank. You don’t need to pay an extortionate amount in order to get a secure and high-quality transcript. As long as you know exactly what you need out of a transcript, it’s possible to get accuracy and quality for a reasonable price. Do your research! Look online, call services up and get quotes from differing services. Find the best deal that works for you.


You have been reading about how to get secure, cheap and quality transcription services. If you still have questions about the options available in the market, how transcription services cater to legal transcriptions, market research rims and more, we have written the Ultimate Guide to Transaction Services just for you!

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.