The best way to have affordable cheap transcription is to transcribe your interviews yourself.

But let’s be honest, audio or video transcription can be a tedious, time consuming task even for the best of us.

When you see the words “affordable cheap transcription” on a website, it may not always be what it looks like.

We provide both machine transcription and human transcription services.

So, don’t worry, this unbiased guide will give you the facts along with actionable tips and tricks to save your precious time and money and get affordable cheap transcription every time.

1. Machine Transcription

cheap machine transcription

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

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

Although, AI can be mistaken for robots.

Anyway… machine transcription is also known as:

  • Automatic Speech Recognition
  • Automated Transcription
  • Voice Recognition or Speech Recognition Software.

They are one and the same.  An AI listens to your audio or video files and types it into a document.

Our article on the best automatic transcription software delves deeper into the topic.

Some of these services are free, and some charge between $0.06 or $0.10 per audio minute.

And since it’s not a human typing away on a keyboard, it can transcribe at the speed of light, for pennies.  Those robot bastards!

Perfect, I’ll get Automatic Transcription then!

Not so fast.

Have you ever tried talking to Siri or Alexa or Cortana or Google Now in a crowded room?  Or out in the park with screaming kids and barking dogs in the background?

Word salad is the best description we could find.

While AI has improved a lot, there’s still a lot it can’t do.  For example,  as long as you’re a single speaker talking at a slow pace (like putting a baby to sleep with a lullaby), it will do fine.  The moment you introduce a 2nd speaker, the accuracy starts to go down.

It gets worse if both of you are speaking at a fast rate or having a normal human conversation.

So, is it really Affordable Cheap Transcription?

Machine transcription accuracy rates are somewhere between 60% to 80%.  Whereas human transcription accuracy is around 99% consistently.

So, while you will save money initially, you will have to spend substantial time editing, proofreading, labeling speakers and formatting the transcript.

To clean up a machine transcript of a 1 hour audio file, it may take you on average between 3-5 hours or more.

As we mentioned at the start of this article, we provide both machine and human transcription services, and have done the cost analysis.  Most of the time they end up costing the same, especially if the client is short on time.

So, if you have the luxury of time, go for machine transcription.

If you have better things to do with your time, you can concentrate on more critical activities and leave the heavy lifting of audio transcription to us.

2. Transcribe it Yourself

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

If you’re a team, you can split the file into chunks and get the work done in less time.

Multiple speakers, background noise, overlapping conversation, technical audio problems etc. can add more time.

How to Transcribe an Interview

We’ve done in-depth complete guides on:

Those will help you go from a beginner to an expert transcriber in no time.

Time vs Money

Now, while on paper the best way to get affordable cheap transcription is to do it yourself, but you’re trading your time for money.

Especially if you’re not an expert in the field, it may take you much, much longer compared to someone who transcribes on a daily basis.  Practice makes perfect.

3. Outsourced Affordable Cheap Transcription

Over the years, the term “outsourcing” has had negative stigma associated to it due to fear-mongering politics.

But how bad is it really?

affordable cheap outsourced transcription

Everything you use on a daily basis in 2020 is outsourced in a way.

We are based in the United Kingdom, and apart from food products I don’t see anything else that’s manufactured in the country anymore.

As we’ve discussed earlier, it’s a compromise of time vs money.

Furthermore, Tim Ferriss‘ award winning book The 4-Hour Workweek shows you how outsourcing 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 toward your goals.

There are only 24 hours in a day.

What about Privacy, Security and Confidentiality?

We sign legal NDAs for our clients when and if needed.  You can ask the same from your provider if you’re indeed outsourcing your transcription needs.

It is preferable to go with a transcription company compared to a freelancing individual.  Mainly because a company will follow best practices around data confidentiality by default.

4. Record in a Quiet Place

If you’ve already recorded your audio, then this doesn’t apply to you, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind for the future.

Bad quality audio will add substantial time to transcription, and it can often take twice as long.

Due to COVID, a lot of interviews are now done over the phone or online.  The following may help:

Try and find a quiet corner before you hit record.  Stay away from noise if possible.  Keep the microphone closest to the interviewee and not the interviewer, or in the middle for best results.

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

5. Ask the Participants to Enunciate

better sound quality for affordable transcription

A small request to the participants in your interview which can have a massive effect on the outcome as far as affordable cheap 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 talking over each other.

Background Noise + Fast, Mumbling Speakers = Wasted Time and Money

If your project is massive and spans hundreds of hours, every minute saved can translate into saving thousands of dollars!

6. Place the Microphone in the Center

This is one mistake a lot of interviewers make; keeping the mic close to them, and away from the interviewee, so we can hear you chewing, breathing and typing while we’re desperately trying to figure out what your guest is talking about.

If you’re recording a one-on-one interview, it’s best to put the microphone closest to the interviewee/participant.  You will have your 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.

Because of saved time, this results in affordable cheap transcription.

7. Invest in a Digital Recorder or Smartphone 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 install free or paid audio recording apps.  You can also attach microphones to smartphones via a micro-USB or USB Type C port for greater fidelity and clarity.

The following articles may help:

8. Communicate Your Needs Clearly to the Transcription Service

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 project can be researched.

Also communicate your project deadline clearly.

This always helps in reducing the amount of research that will be done by the transcription team, saving them time, speeding up the transcription time and saving you money.

9. Read the Terms & Conditions Carefully

A lot of transcription companies will charge you a lot of money and only provide you with a transcribed document that is not proofread for accuracy.

A lot of clients that have given us 5-star reviews have told us how shocked they were finding ridiculous errors in transcripts from big brand companies.

And that they had to edit those themselves, which added significant time to their research project.

Fortunately, our transcription process is three tiered.  Every audio file gets transcribed, proofread, and then reviewed by an experienced quality analyst to maintain accuracy levels of 99% consistently.