If you work in a field where you need to keep detailed notes from interviews, phone calls, group meetings and the like, you may need to hire a transcription service to turn a call or meeting recording into a typed transcript. This way, even if you are also taking notes, you can be sure you won’t miss any key details. Physicians use transcription services regularly to turn audio recordings of notes from patient consultations into written form so they can add them to medical records. Lawyers often need written transcripts of depositions and other legal proceedings. And journalists record interviews with sources, then use the transcripts to capture accurate quotes and information in articles.
Generally you can expect to pay 75 cents to $1.50 per audio minute for transcription services. Some transcriptionists charge an hourly rate of $15-$30; in these cases, after you have shared the audio file, you should ask for an estimate of how many hours transcription will take so you are prepared when you receive the bill.
Many transcription services charge a set rate based on the length of the audio or video recording to be transcribed. This rate takes into account the fact that transcribing an hour of audio always takes longer than an hour — especially if the transcriptionist has to frequently rewind the recording to capture exactly what was said, which can happen if a speaker talks very quickly or has a heavy accent that makes it more difficult to understand. Transcription Details, based in Buford, Georgia, charges $1 per audio minute, a fairly standard rate for transcription, depending on where you are located. Drennan Transcription, in Marshfield, Missouri, has a flat rate of $1.35 per audio minute. Owner Gail Drennan estimates that it takes about 3 hours to transcribe 1 hour of audio, due in large part to time her transcriptionists spend researching terms, names and so on. Drennan’s goal is to avoid delivering transcripts with inaudible marks (timestamps in the transcript where the transcriptionist cannot make out what was said). Put that way, Drennan’s hourly rate averages out to $27.
To smooth the transcription process, it’s important to have a high-quality audio file in which the speakers’ voices are distinct and loud enough to hear clearly. A transcriptionist may charge more to transcribe low-quality audio because it requires extra time and effort to decipher what’s being said. In rare cases, a transcription service may decline to take on a project because the audio quality is too poor for them to deliver an accurate transcript.
Some transcription services have a standard turnaround time for transcripts. These times vary, depending on the company’s staffing level and current workload; you should always ask upfront how long it will take. If you need a file transcribed more quickly than the standard turnaround time, the service may charge an additional amount per minute or a flat, additional rush fee. Drennan Transcription does not charge additional fees for faster turnaround (or other "extras") because owner Gail Drennan wants her clients to have total clarity about her company’s rates. Drennan’s standard turnaround time is 48 hours, but if a client needs a transcript faster she will do her best to juggle other projects to be able to meet their requested deadline.
Number of speakers
Some services may charge an additional fee to transcribe recordings with more than three speakers, This is not commonly done, but if your audio recording features multiple speakers, it’s a good idea to ask.
Human vs. machine transcription
You may find transcription services that are priced extremely low — less than $1 per audio minute or a very low hourly rate. It’s possible that these services rely on voice recognition software to turn audio files into written transcripts. You would be wise to steer clear in these cases because you may end up with files that contain many errors of transcription and/or punctuation and grammar. Drennan says she has gotten requests from Thumbtack users to clean up transcripts they got from such services because they are so difficult to read as to be almost useless. "Just a few days ago, I saw a transcription job come through Thumbtack. The customer had a voice recognition manuscript that was basically one long run-on sentence," Drennan says, “and they needed someone to make it readable.”
Many transcription services offer accuracy guarantees. Drennan’s 99 percent accuracy guarantee is based on the "experience factor" of her transcriptionists, who have all passed a rigorous test before she hires them as contractors.