Transcription Services

How Much Do Transcription Services Cost? A Transcription Service Rate Guide

By Thomas Carter on February, 14 2019
Thomas Carter

No one wants to pay more for something if they can get a better deal elsewhere. One of the most confusing things when looking into transcription services for the first time are the differences in price. If you just take headline price points, it appears that getting an hour worth of audio transcribed could cost you anywhere from nothing to over £150.

Making sure that you aren’t taken for a ride generally comes down to knowing a little about what you are purchasing. If you go in blind, you won’t be able to tell the hucksters apart from the quality solutions. Luckily, we have your back. This is your guide to transcription service rates — giving you the context needed to understand how much you should be paying to get the transcript you need and want.

The Big Divide: Speech to Text Software and Human Transcription Services

If you start breaking down different costs for transcription services, you will quickly notice that the big divide is between automatic speech recognition (ASR) software and human transcription services. All of the free services are provided by software, which then caps out around £6 per hour/£0.10 per minute of recorded audio. Human services start at a minimum of about £0.50 per minute and quickly climb to an average of £2 per minute.    

In addition to per minute fees, some subscription services operate on a subscription-based model. However, most of the services that charge a subscription limit the total upload time you are permitted per month. That means that most services work out to around £0.07 to £0.10 per minute, whether that is paid directly or through a subscription. Equally, signing up to a subscription is only really advisable if you believe that you will use most of your allotted upload time on a regular basis.

 

Is it worth paying for ASR software transcription services?

The primary differentiation between the paid ASR services and their free alternatives is the quality of the outcome and security protocols implemented throughout the transcription process. If you are going to pay for an ASR service, you should look for things like TLS or SSL encrypted storage. It is also worth noting that most of the paid ASR services offer free trials. It is worth experimenting, both to see if you like the outcome delivered by ASR at all, and to investigate the differences compared to free alternatives.

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Why do human transcription services still exist when they cost so much more?

Fundamentally, it is easy enough to understand that services undertaken by a software program will be a lot cheaper than those done by a human. But, it is far less clear if these two camps represent outcomes as distant as their price points. Unfortunately, human services generally do not offer free trials with which you can experiment. Luckily, however, this is pretty easy to explain.

Accuracy and quality control — those are the two main reasons that human transcription services are still the most widely used solution to meet transcript service needs.

Currently, ASR struggles to achieve accuracy rates above 80% — even if the audio file is as high-quality as possible. Complications like accents, multiple speakers, background noise or simply poor quality audio can cause accuracy to plummet. If too many of these issues are present, then you can end up with a transcript that just doesn't make any sense. 

If you do decide to go ahead and use automatic speech recognition, then you have to plan ahead. That means investing in a high-quality recording and capturing audio in a quiet room with little background noise and, ideally, with only one speaker.  

No matter what, you are going to need to count on spending some time editing your transcript produced by ASR. The upside, however, is that the pricing is pretty consistent. There are no options when it comes to the transcription process. You simply get the algorithm’s best shot at a verbatim transcription of your recording.

Basic Price Variations Within Human Transcription Services

There are a lot of price variations within human transcription services. This can be confusing. But, if you understand the options you will be able to get exactly what you need at the lowest possible cost. Unfortunately, that cost won’t be as low as anything offered by speech to text software. But, you will always get an outcome that you can count on.   

Human transcription services offer three basic options: intelligent verbatim, verbatim and summary. Summary transcription services are the least common of the three and deliver exactly what they sound like — a summary of your recording. A summary transcription service won't give you a word for word account, rather, it will deliver a fast way to learn what a recording contains. This might not be helpful, or it could be exactly what you need. If the latter is the case, it will cost you less — starting around £0.75 from a quality transcription service provider.

Intelligent verbatim is the industry standard. This delivers word for word details, but within an edited context aimed to increase readability. Primarily, this means removing ‘ums’, stutters, repetitions, cross talk and false starts. This sits in a middle starting price point, often with headline prices around £1 per minute.       

Verbatim transcripts include every detail. This starts with everything that would be omitted in an intelligent verbatim transcript and can be expanded to include notes on tone, laughter, pauses and more. This level of detail, however, is obviously more challenging to transcribe, meaning starting prices are more, often around £1.50.  

Look Beyond The Transcription Service Headline Price Point

You always need to look past headline transcription rates whenever investigating a new transcription service. Most transcription companies will list their lowest price on their homepage, something that will be impacted if you want a verbatim service rather than a summary. Additionally, although some transcription companies have all-inclusive pricing, many have a basic rate and then charge more for both complicating factors and specific ‘extras’. These include:      

  • Timestamps

  • Multiple speakers

  • Making a note of speakers

  • Accents

  • Turnaround time

  • Audio quality, and more

Lower starting prices often indicate more options, steeper price rises and easily triggered extras relating to audio quality etc. A starting price as low as £0.60 could easily turn into more than £3 per minute if you have a poor quality recording, need verbatim detail, a fast turnaround, timestamps and the identification of speakers.

If you think about it, these price jumps are often pretty fair. Most relate to factors that make it a lot harder and more time-consuming to transcribe the recording. This type of pricing can also play to your benefit. If you don’t need these ‘extra’ you can get a lower price by forgoing those details. But, if you want the whole package, it is often cheaper to go for transcription companies that include everything in their baseline rates. Fundamentally, it is important to look beyond headline price points because it is not always clear what service those figures are describing.  

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Getting The Right Price Comes Down to Knowing What You Need

In the end, getting a good deal and getting a solution that works go hand in hand. You need to know what you need before you can go around looking for a price that fits. There is a lot of variation when it comes to transcription services. By and large, service quality differences correspond pretty directly with costs.

If you want quality transcription services, you need to go with the human-based options that are more comprehensive and give you better outcomes. If all you care about is low prices, you should look into automated services instead. But, be prepared to invest in a high-quality recording, accommodate errors, and be willing to spend some of your own time editing. The reality is that certain audio quality levels do really rule out automated services. But, if you have time to experiment, ASR will deliver a significantly cheaper solution.

Deciding which company to go with will depend on the costs and the quality of service that you are looking for. The only factor we haven’t fully discussed here is how security protocols impact transcription rates of human transcription services. Again, you often pay for what you get. Fundamentally, you should always look for added value when it comes to higher price points. Most things about transcription services can be tailored to fit your transcription needs. Finding the right company is about understanding the outcome you want and doing the research to find a solution that fits.   


You have been reading our rate guide for transcription services. If you want to learn more about how to choose the best transcription service for you, including information on how security procedures impact transcript price points, we have written an Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services just for you!

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