Audio Transcription Online: How to Pay as Little as Possible

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Turning audio files into accurate transcripts is a time-consuming, but necessary process for a number of businesses in the United States and the UK. But, if you have a business that regularly (or even irregularly) needs to create online transcriptions from voice recordings, you’re probably concerned with two things: when the job will be completed and how much it will cost.

That’s correct: the old “time and money” quandary rears its ugly, distress-inducing head.

Quite like most business owners out there, you’re probably guilty of asking the 2 most common questions online transcript providers hear – “When will it be ready” and “How much is this going to set me back?”

Instead of sending email after email to every single audio transcription service provider you can find online (and oh boy, there are a lot of them) with the same two questions, try a more efficient approach. Even if you need to get those files turned into text on a tight deadline, you can afford to calm down for a few minutes and consider your next step.

If nothing else, business people can generally do a little work on their end to get cheaper rates for meeting transcripts. All they have to do is learn what most companies look at when they give project quotes.

“Online Transcription Services” are really not that different from most other B2B companies. While you’re obviously not going to want to spend too much time doing work on your end for a B2B business (that’s why you’re paying them, after all), most would do well to get in a flow of making things as easy on the people who actually have to listen to the recordings as possible. Without going overboard, of course.


Audio Clarity Can Make a Big Difference

What can turn an expensive quote into a more manageable figure? One of the main variables that transcriptionists will use to give you a quote is the voice clarity in the recording. Clear audio is obviously the easiest kind of audio to decode and therefore some more pricy providers will give you cheaper rates if you make things easier on their human transcribers. Never use automatic audio to text software (sometimes referred to as machine transcribing) to transcribe important business documents, let alone legal documents. And what business documents aren’t important?

You will always want to have vital details from meetings and other events transcribed and proofread by a human. Preferably a native-English speaking human, assuming the meeting was Anglophonic in nature. Otherwise, even seemingly insignificant details can come back to bite your company in the future.

Trying to write down what the speakers are saying in recordings rife with background noises, mumbling voices, many different speakers, or people talking too far from the microphone will typically cost higher per minute or hourly rate. Some of the more reputable providers do offer flat pricing for transcription services with the details openly posted on the web. Regardless, if you’re a human with a conscience you’ll want to make the whole process as easy as possible on the hard-working people rendering your audio into text… right?

Forget your conscience though: if you’re conscious at all of how much dosh you’re dishing out online for audio transcription, focus on sending (and taping) clearer, easier to understand recordings. Audio post-production can do a number of really cool things for sound and video projects; one thing it can’t do is make awful recordings magically become decent. So, ensure that your business is recording audio in an area that is as silent as humanly possible.

It might seem obvious, but then why does it happen all the time? Don’t tape your meetings at a restaurant or out in the middle of a noisy cubicle farm.

One tip that can be extremely useful is to have speakers identify themselves on the recording so that the transcriptionist doesn’t have to try to distinguish voices. Naturally, if you’re recording a Q&A session or similar event, ask the speakers to introduce themselves by name or job position before speaking.

Besides the quality of audio, the quality of the words being enunciated also matters. Ask speakers to say clear “yes” and “no” rather than “mmm-hmm” or similarly infamous “Mumbly Joe” non-words.

Allow speakers to completely finish their sentences before someone else begins speaking. This can be easier said than done, perhaps depending on the quality of personalities in your office. Not o­­­­­­nly will these basic rules likely lead to cheaper quotations, but company meetings, seminars, and corporate events will probably run more smoothly as well. And who doesn’t appreciate a smooth-running business meeting?


Save Money by Using the Right Tools

Meeting/event tapings can only be as high quality as the audio recording equipment permits. Microphones are the most obvious culprit resulting in substandard recordings, but overly cheap sound recorders can make otherwise perfect conditions still result in terrible-sounding recordings. What’s more, good quality recording devices are a rather small investment even for startups. Plan to write it off your taxes at the end of the year if it makes you feel better; just get a decent sound recorder.

Don’t bank on tools that aren’t fit for the job, including everything from obsolete or inappropriate audio equipment (yes, some microphones used by businesses to tape meetings are meant for recording bass drums) to modern, over-touted multi-purpose smartphones (iPhone and Android, I’m looking in both of your directions). Smartphones are great for doing a lot of things online, but recording clear voices without background noise is still not one of them.

Crackly and hard-to-hear recordings are bad enough if you’re having some poor soul double as a “professional” transcriber in house – perhaps the most expensive and inefficient method of getting (hopefully) accurate transcripts when you add up the time they’re not attending to their normal work tasks. Even if you’re contracting an online transcription service, it still behooves one to keep their wits about getting the right conditions when making recordings.

Furthermore, even if having clearer recordings doesn’t affect your quote, it’ll at the very least make the people at the company you’re contracting with like you a lot more. Who knows, they might even go easier on you when it comes to additional services, or give you priority in their queue. Your online transcriptionists are human, too – at least if you’re doing it right.


Be Honest, Be Organized

Always be upfront about the recordings you’re uploading or mailing to audio transcription services. I’ll say again and again, it makes more sense to go into a quote offering clear audio with little background noise, easy-to-pick-out voices/speakers, and understandable sentences than offering bad or mediocre audio with “eh, some” noise, ambiguous voices, and “some” difficult to understand sections.

Remember that just a couple “rotten” time spans in the recording can end up making a simple job cost quite a bit more, as it would take even an experienced human transcriber many times to listen to the same section to decode and translate into text format. If your recording is an hour or several hours, think about how much time it will take someone to listen to it over (and over), and how much their ears will be hurting from pushing their headphones into them by that point.

You can choose to follow all or none of the steps above before you send your audio off to an online transcript service. Just don’t blame us if it costs more than you think. Either way, a service with a full, easy to read website that is easy to contact if you have questions or special requests, and offers flat pricing to customers is generally a good one to go with.

Of course, accuracy and turnaround time are often paramount to pricing, especially if the cost is already low for your business. Before you purchase online transcription from a service you’re not sure about, do your research and feel free to contact them with any questions you may have. If they’re a reputable company, they should have no problems responding to your questions about their service.

Go with your gut – don’t be afraid to follow your intuition here, especially if you need rush transcript services for a time-sensitive project.

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