When you see the words affordable transcription on a website, it may not always be as straightforward as it looks.

There are taxes, VAT charges, and often times due to the recording quality of your audio files, the transcription company may charge you extra.  And by the time you’ve received a quote or are about to checkout, affordable transcription doesn’t look so affordable anymore.

But do not worry.  This guide will give you actionable tips to save your time and money and get affordable transcription every time, regardless of the transcription company you decide to go with.

1. Machine Transcription

affordable transcription, AI

The above image may not be an accurate representation of machine transcription.

(It’s not transformers robots transcribing your research interviews on fertilizers, guys, come on…)

As it’s commonly known, voice recognition or transcription speech recognition software.  Most automatic transcription software lets you process your audio/video file through them to get a raw transcript.

If you would like to try machine transcription, our article on the best automatic transcription software delves deeper into the topic.

Machine Transcription Accuracy

Please note that unless your audio/video file has the most amazing, pristine sound quality, the transcript you get back from a transcription software will be littered with errors.  And you will have to spend substantial time on proofreading, formatting, spelling and grammar checks.

To clean up a machine transcript of a 1 hour audio file, it may take you on average between 3-5 hours.  Now, as we all know, time = money.  So, depending on how much you earn hourly, let’s say $20 per hour, you will probably lose $100 just to proofread a file transcribed by a machine.

Whereas if you hire an affordable transcription company like ScriptoSphere with a team of human transcribers for your project, at the rate of $1.20 per minute, you will spend $72 for transcription + proofreading + formatting of the same one hour audio duration.  The transcription will also be done much faster.

2. Transcribe it Yourself

affordable transcription, DIY transcription at home office

How long does it take to transcribe a file?

  • 1 hour audio/video file (without transcription hardware) = 10-12 hours
  • 1 hour audio/video file (with transcription hardware) = 6-8 hours

Add another 2-3 hours if you want to proofread that transcript.  More people can work on separate chunks of the same file and get this work done in lesser time.

Other things like multiple speakers, background noise, overlapping conversation, technical audio problems etc add more time.

A foot pedal, good pair of headphones and some sort of sound amplifier works like a treat to save time on transcription.

Time vs Money

Now, while on paper the best way to get affordable transcription is to do it yourself.  But as we’ve explained previously in this post, you’re trading your time for the illusion of saving money.  Especially if you’re not an expert in the field, it may take you much longer compared to someone who does this on a daily basis.

If you’d like to try your hand at DIY transcription, our articles on how to do transcription and how to get better at transcribing give you all the information you will ever need to not only get started, but to improve and hone your skills over time.

Please note that transcription can be tedious and time consuming, especially if you’re new to it and don’t have transcription hardware like a foot pedal to control playback, an audio playback software for transcription and good quality headphones.

It can be discouraging if you’re new to the world of audio transcription, but just like anything else, you get better with practice.

3. Outsourced Affordable Transcription

As we’ve discussed  already, it’s a compromise of time vs money.  And you will definitely, a 100% take more time compared to an expert transcriber who’s using transcription hardware, and who’s doing this day in and day out, for several years, at the highest level.

outsourced affordable transcription

And because your hourly rate can’t compare to someone living in a developing nation, it makes sense to outsource your workload to them, and let them help you.  As mentioned in Tim Ferriss’ award winning book The 4-Hour Workweekoutsourcing your tedious, time consuming work saves a massive amount of time, which translates into saved money.

Your valuable time can then be spent on doing things that are more important and move you closer to your goal.

It just makes sense!

Which is why outsourced affordable transcription is preferred by professionals and companies around the world.

4. Record in a Quiet Place

A lot of transcription companies will charge you extra for difficult audio files.

That’s because audio difficulty adds time, so it takes twice as long for the transcribers.  It’s also not a fun thing to do!

If you decide to record your interviews in a public place, make sure you’ve got a quiet corner, away from screaming kids, or a busy street.

You could save a ton of your hard earned money on transcription costs with a few tweaks at the recording stage.

Background Noise = More Time and Money

Just as an example, on average the difference of transcription rates between a good quality audio file versus a difficult audio file is somewhere around $0.40.  For a 1 hour audio file, that equates to 60 x $0.40 = $24.  So, that’s $24 extra cost that you can avoid by simply eliminating background noise.  That $24 equates to $240 extra for transcription of 10 hours.

If you can, avoid public places like parks, busy restaurants, pubs etc. and go for a meeting room.  Ideally go over to the interviewee’s house if possible.

Then make sure the recorder is closer to the interviewee than the interviewer, especially if the interviewee is going to be doing most of the talking.

And voila!  You pay lesser and you get your transcripts faster.

5. Ask the Participants to Enunciate

affordable transcription, enunciate

A small request at your end to the participants in your interview, but it can have a massive effect on the outcome as far as affordable transcription goes.

It also helps if you’re able to control the flow of the interview.  For example, on top of asking the participants to talk slowly and enunciate, you could also ask them to wait for their turn and avoid overlapping conversation.

If your project is massive and spans hundreds of hours, those $240 saved every 10 hours can mean thousands of dollars!  You could pay for a new car just by planning ahead! :)

6. Place the Microphone in the Center

This is one mistake a lot of interviewers make.  Often times we’ve found the interviewer to be closest to the microphone, and the interviewee away from it, which actually defeats the purpose, especially if you’re interested in capturing what the participant wants to say.

If you’re recording a one-on-one interview, it’s best to put the microphone closest to the interviewee/participant.  You will have a list of questions anyway, which you can give to the transcription services team, so even if your voice is faint in the recording, it won’t matter.

This is one of the most important factors that results in affordable transcription, and which you have total control over.

7. Invest in a Digital Recorder or App

If you’re going to be doing this often, it makes sense to invest in a high quality digital recorder purpose built for recording crystal clear audio files.

Or as it is these days with the latest smartphones with high quality microphones and loads of storage space, you can get a free or paid audio recording app.  You can also attach microphones to smartphones via a micro-USB or USB Type C port for greater fidelity and clarity.

Our articles on the best audio recording apps for Android and best recording apps for iOS help you with the best app recommendations, which make recording interviews a breeze.  Crystal clear quality interviews make not only for affordable transcription, but also mean they will get done faster, because they’re easier and the transcriber or QA doesn’t have to go back and forth several times.

8. Give as much Information as possible

Once the initial price and turnaround time negotiations are agreed to, please make sure you provide all relevant information, and possibly a glossary of terms document with everything related to your project.  Or point them to a portal or a website where the topic of your interview can be researched.  This always helps in reducing the amount of research that will be done by the transcription team, saving them time, and saving you money.

While we don’t charge you extra for projects which require extensive research, it’s always nice to be able to turn transcripts around faster with information that is easily available.

So, you make it easier for the transcription company, who in turn give you your transcripts faster.

9. Read the Terms & Conditions Carefully

A lot of transcription companies will charge you a lot of money and only provide you with a roughly transcribed document. Which you will then have to edit yourself on your own time. That adds considerable time to your project.  Instead, try and find a transcription service (such as ours!) who make it clear on the outset that they will provide you with a transcribed and proofread document, i.e. a final document that doesn’t need proofreading.

Our transcription process is three tiered.  Every audio file gets transcribed, proofread, and then reviewed by an experienced quality analyst to maintain the highest levels of accuracy.