Transcription Services

4 Ways to Get Quality Transcription Services on a Budget

By Take Note Team on May, 16 2019
Take Note Team

So you need a quality transcript on a tight budget. Is it possible?

This isn’t a hard yes or no answer. At the end of the day, getting a high-quality and detailed transcript won’t come cheap. But, depending on what kind of transcript you need and the research you do, getting one on a budget is possible!

There are many kinds of transcripts you can get, some of which are more expensive than others. Different transcription services will offer different kinds of transcripts, so it’s best to know what’s available to you and any money-saving tricks you can use before you buy.  

While it can be tempting to go for the services charging £0.10 per minute, these use automated speech recognition software (ASR), which is at minimum 20% less accurate than human transcription services. If your audio quality isn’t pristine, this can quickly deteriorate.  

So, if you want quality without breaking the bank, look for human transcription services and follow these four helpful steps...

1. Don’t Pay for Full-Verbatim!

When requesting transcription services, it’s important to note that there are several levels of detail used by transcription services which can dramatically impact the price. Full-verbatim is the most expensive option because it captures every detail down to the  ‘ums’, ‘ahs’ and false starts. Sometimes, full-verbatim transcripts even include annotations on tone. Creating this is an incredibly time-consuming transcription process. Most likely, however, you don’t need all this detail. In fact, it is likely to deliver a transcript that is harder to read and less helpful.

Always consider avoiding full-verbatim transcripts. The main alternatives are verbatim (sometimes known as intelligent verbatim) and detailed notes.

Verbatim is essentially full-verbatim with all the unnecessary sounds removed — delivering something that is much easier to read. This gives you a very clear and accurate transcription without being overly detailed. It’s not as expensive as full-verbatim and also has slightly faster turnaround times.

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Under a lot of circumstances, however, detailed notes transcripts are even better — and at an even lower starting price point. These further summarise, removing off-topic chit-chat and paraphrasing interview questions. This is a fantastic option for anyone that doesn’t need the full transcription of a recording or has a whole batch of audio files that need to be quickly transcribed and reviewed.

2. Plan Your Timing and Opt For Slow Turnarounds

Many transcription services offer price breaks if you let them slot your transcript into their schedule at a time that suits them. Not every service will offer this, so look around for options that provide this kind of discount if you have time to wait. Typically, you will need to wait about two weeks to see a significant drop in price. But, even waiting a few extra days can transform into a substantial discount if it is a long recording.

How much you save and how long you will need to wait is impacted by the specific service. You will likely have to wait longer, for example, to see discounts for full-verbatim transcripts. This is because these more complex services generally have longer base turnaround times. But, again, this will vary.

Opting for slow turnaround times is arguably the best ways to lower prices without impacting the quality of the output. Nothing changes other than how long it takes to get your transcript. By planning ahead, you can slash your transcription bill substantially without sacrificing the level of detail you want, or any other extras.

Equally, always making sure that you don’t have to opt for an ‘express delivery’ is important. If you need a transcript turned around in less than 24 hours, it will cost you extra. Sometimes a lot more. Time management is critical if you want to get a good deal on a quality transcript.

3. Judicially and Deliberately Engage with Extras

The basic text is just the beginning when it comes to transcripts. There is a load of additional information that can be captured within your transcript. Primarily, this includes speaker names and time stamps. But, it can also include annotations on tone, pauses, laughter and more.

For some transcription services, these extras will cost more. For others, they are bundled as part of the starting price. This is something that you should consider when assessing price points. If these extras are unnecessary, you can save money by looking for a service that does not include them by default. Equally, if you need loads of extras, finding a service that bundles them automatically often results in a lower total cost than adding them in one at a time. But, always look into the specifics and add them up.

Lastly, you might incur extra fees if your audio quality is poor, the speakers have accents, the language is complex, or the recording is otherwise difficult to transcribe. Some services charge more simply based on the number of speakers, regardless of speaker identification. These are all pricing variables that you need to investigate and work to mitigate. Use high-quality audio recording equipment and pick services with pricing models that match your specifics. The same service won’t always deliver the best deal for every specific recording.

4. Buddy Up with a Partner!

Although bouncing from one deal to another is one way to get the best price, it also costs time. What you should know is that some transcription services reward loyalty. Looking to find a transcription partner, not simply a transcription service, is often the best bet for high-volume users.

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By partnering with a transcription service, you’ll typically have more options for personalised services. For instance, you can combine large batch orders with longer turnaround times. This will allow you to save money on a bulk order while also cutting costs by giving the transcription service more time to complete the order. By offering repeat business to the transcriber, you’ll be valued. Depending on the service, this can deliver access to special formatting requests, discounts and bespoke pricing options.

To take advantage of this, you need to think about contacting a transcription service to see if they’re willing to form a partnership with you. This is often only open to B2B clients, but it’s still worth asking as long as you plan to regularly make use of their transcription services. If you have many bulk orders in mind and are looking to take advantage of bulk discounts and special formatting, then a partnership is the best way to save money while still maintaining high-quality transcripts.

Always Do Your Research, But Don’t Sacrifice the Quality You Need for a Cheaper Service

When using a transcription service, whether it uses human transcriptionists or ASR, make sure you research the company and know what you are getting. You will be able to customise your transcript, but these extras often come at an extra charge. However, regardless of the price you’re paying, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality when on a budget. If you don’t get a transcript that matches your transcription needs, it will be overpriced by definition. Getting a good deal starts with getting the right transcript.   


You’ve been reading about how you can get high-quality, accurate transcriptions on a budget. Discover more about the right kind of transcription service for you with our Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services.

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