Whether you are a student preparing your dissertation, a journalist working on a big scoop, or a podcaster hoping to boost your SEO, at some point you will probably need to convert an audio or video file into a written document.

There are three main methods for transcribing your file: manually doing it yourself, using an automated transcription service provider, or outsourcing someone else to do it (think Upwork).

***But which option should you choose? ***

Having a clear sense of what you have to work with and what end result you require will help ensure you choose the right transcription method.

So before you embark on transcribing your audio, read these 6 criteria to consider when choosing a transcription method. This quick read will save you time and money in the long run.

1.The Complexity of Your Audio File

One of the first things you need to determine is the complexity of your audio file. How is the quality of your audio recording? Are languages other than English spoken? Do you need language translations as well as the audio file transcription?

Each of these elements will have a huge impact on the accuracy, cost and turnaround time. Some may even determine if you can use an automatic service or if a human-based service is the only way to go.

If you have a high-quality recording with just one or two subjects speaking in loud, clear voices, then using an automated transcription service should be sufficient for your needs.

However, if there are multiple speakers with heavy accents and lots of background noise, you may need to invest in a human transcription service.

Choosing the wrong type of service based on our audio file complexity might leave you with a significant amount of editing to do. Which leads us to required accuracy.

2. Required Accuracy

Advancements in technology are pushing automated transcription accuracy rates up. Most automated providers can get close to 90% accuracy rates depending on the quality of the audio file provided and the complexity of the dictation.

If you require a 100% accurately transribed document, then you will probably need to outsource your work or do-it-yourself or use a combination of all three methods.

Required accuracy ratings will also have a direct impact on cost and turnaround time. Two other important criteria to consider.

3. Available Turnaround Time

In today’s ‘I want it now!’ mindset, turnaround time becomes a huge factor to consider when determining what transcription method you choose.

Manually transcribing even one hour of audio can take up to 6 hours of your valuable time. Not a good option if you are a journalist working to a tight deadline or even a student drowning in research and thesis writing.

Compare that turnaround time to those offered by automated transcription service providers like Happy Scribe. They can turnaround a similar length of audio in around 6 minutes. Admittedly you will need to add some additional time to edit the document to 100% accuracy, but still the overall turnaround time comes in at around 2 hours for a 1 hour audio file.

In stark comparison, outsourcing your transcription through a human-based service like Upwork will take on average between 12 and 24 hours to get a file back. Albeit you should have little to no additional editing to do on the back end.

So if a fast turnaround time is essential for you, the clear winner here is using an automated transcription service.

4. Budget

Time is money they say, but we all have a different value we place on both.

How accurate you need your transcription and how quickly you need your transcription will all effect the cost. This makes thinking about your budget an important consideration when determining which transcription option you will use.

If you don’t have any budget at all then your only option is to manually do the transcription yourself. However, you could invest a little money in an app like Transcribe. For only $20 a year, it offers an integrated audio player and word editor with useful workflow tools that reduce the number times you need to pause and rewind. A good budget option that is still faster than using a traditional Media Player and Word Processor.

The best value option though is automated transcription. Most automated transcription services charge on a per-minute basis, but also include monthly and yearly plans for better values. For example, Happy Scribe offers economical price plans that include a Pay As You Go plan for €0.15per minute and Monthly Plans from €9.00 + €0.10per minute.

If accuracy is paramount and money is no object, then outsourcing may be the way to go, but expect to pay upwards of €50 per hour of transcribed audio. Human-based services may also make you pay for faster deliver speeds.

5. Level of Confidentiality Needed

No matter what you are having transcribed, some degree of confidentially is needed.

Reputable automated transcription services will offer a high level of confidentiality and adhere to a strict code of ethics. However you should investigate how your information will be kept safe. At Happy Scribe, we encrypt all data that goes between you and Happy Scribe using field-standard TLS 1.2. Besides, we have multiple layers of security including firewalls, intrusion protection systems and network segregation.

Freelance, human-based workers, through platforms like Upwork, may not be able to offer this level of privacy.

The important thing to consider is using a provider that will protect the privacy of your content and holds the same set of values that you do.

6. Inclusion of Editing and Revision Tools

No matter what type of transcription method you choose, chances are you will need to do some final editing. You may also what to share your file with colleagues or collaborators. For this, you may want to consider if your transcription method offers value added tools

Most, but not all, automated transcription service providers include built-in editors. For example, Happy Scribe’s interactive editor allows you to highlight and add comments; offers time-stamping capabilities; and includes sharing and exporting capabilities. All of this can be achieved through a single friendly interface that has the audio file, transcribed text and playback controls all in one place.

Some human-based transcription options will only provide you with a final Word or PDF document. This is an inconvenient setup that requires you to switch between a document and the audio player every to make an final amends.

The Bottom Line

If you want an economical and fairly accurate transcription, then an online automated transcription service provider like Happy Scribe is the way to go. The best option for when you need something transcribed fast and the audio doesn’t have a lot of complicated jargon. Automated transcription service providers also offer a high-level of confidentiality.

However if you need perfect accuracy, don’t want do do any editing or have complex audio to transcribe, then a human-based transcription option might work best for you. Just remember that for that accuracy you will have to sacrifice higher costs, slower turnaround times, and potentially lower level of confidentiality.

If you want a hands-on approach, then the DIY transcription method is still an option. However, this method is only advised if you are on an extremely tight budget and you have an abundance of time on your hands.

The choice is yours!