Why do prices vary for real-time transcription services?

When new customers ask, “How much do TypeWell services cost?” and we answer, “It depends,” we’re not trying to be vague or mysterious! We invited guest author Randi Hecht Castro, owner of Intellitext LLC, to explain why there’s such a range.

Prices for real-time TypeWell services can vary greatly, typically ranging from USD $60–$85/hour for educational assignments and $85+ for corporate settings and special events. So, why the variance?

Most agencies and individual service providers base their prices upon the complexity of the assignment in terms of content, setup, and administration. For example, K-12 transcription services are likely to fall in the lower price range, due to relatively simpler spoken content that can be transcribed by more junior transcribers.

College and university classroom work is more likely to fall in the mid-to-higher range because the spoken content is often denser and focuses on complex topics requiring advanced preparation.

Transcription services for events, business meetings, or keynote speakers may be higher because of specialized technology or advanced preparation that demands more time and expertise from the transcriber, the transcription company, and the people who coordinate the event.

young businessman delivering presentation at a conference

“Unlike a more conversational classroom discussion, a rehearsed speech is typically delivered more rapidly, with fewer natural pauses.”

Preparation time

Advanced classes or business meetings, like those with dense medical terminology, typically require what is known as “prep time.” A transcriber may review PowerPoint slides, notes, and other materials ahead of the class to familiarize themselves with the core concepts of the presentation and to enter commonly-used and/or complex vocabulary into their software dictionaries.

Transcribing for business presentations and special events can be more difficult than the classroom setting, because the presenters may have carefully rehearsed their speeches in advance. Unlike a more conversational classroom discussion, a rehearsed speech is typically delivered more rapidly, with fewer natural pauses.

Adding to that challenge, live transcripts of special events might be viewed by hundreds or thousands of people simultaneously or streamed to the internet, which increases the pressure on transcribers to capture everything perfectly and avoid any misspellings. Assignments like these are reserved for only the most advanced, highly-experienced transcribers.

A transcriber and their team may need to meet the event staff hours or days before a special event to work on technical setup and audio/visual requirements, sometimes using advanced technology to embed captioning onto the screen or into a live video feed. This can be expensive simply because not many people have the technical expertise to do it.

Perhaps surprisingly, business meetings can be the most difficult to transcribe in real time. These can be stressful for transcribers because of the frantic pace of intense conversations. The speakers in these meetings often know each other well and are meeting face-to-face, and it’s not unusual for participants to interrupt one another or speak simultaneously. The transcriber may not initially be able to distinguish their voices, but they must learn to do so on-the-fly so they can differentiate speaker changes in the transcript (usually by quickly setting up a new abbreviation for each of the speakers’ names), without missing any of the content of the meeting. Only the most elite and experienced transcribers will have the focus and stamina to keep up during these rapidly-evolving social transcribing situations.

professionals brainstorming at a business meeting in a modern office with a laptop on the conference table

“The speakers in business meetings often know each other well and are meeting face-to-face, and it’s not unusual for participants to interrupt one another or speak simultaneously.”

Pay rates commensurate with experience

TypeWell transcription and communication access is a career that requires a lifetime to master. As with any career, the spectrum of skill and experience of a transcriber determines how much they are paid. Transcribers have an ethical responsibility to only accept those assignments for which they possess the appropriate skill level. Companies providing services, like ours (Intellitext LLC) and many others, must get to know their transcribers’ strengths and employ them accordingly.

Transcribing can be very mentally and physically demanding. Mid-career transcribers have typically refined their skillset to include special tooling, unique abbreviation systems, and mental focus techniques to keep up with complex spoken content. The best transcribers who are qualified for the most challenging assignments are paid highly for their skills, experience, training, preparation, and professionalism.

When you contract with a company to provide TypeWell services for communication access, I encourage you to consider the complexity of the content that will be discussed, the setting of the event, the number of speakers that need to be identified, and what level preparation or setup might be required by a service provider who may not have formal background or training in the topic being discussed. All of these factors may affect the hourly price of transcription services.