Paying for audio files transcription?
Thread poster: Muhammad Said

Muhammad Said  Identity Verified
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jul 28, 2013

Hello All,

I am going to transcribe 10 audio files, each one is about 50 minutes. Actually, I don't really know the rate for these. I also would like to know whether there is any difference in rate between transcribing audio files for people who are native or non-native. They are some sort of surveying and the respondents' answer are in English. Finally, shall I ask the provider for any notes about such a task?

Thank you.


jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
15$-20$ per audio minutes Jul 29, 2013

If you charge less you will feel very mad when you are working on them, at the client for paying too little, or at yourself for quoting to little. You will be mad all the way until it is fully done.

So, charge higher in the first place.


Steven Segaert
Local time: 21:20
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
See previous discussions Jul 29, 2013

I have never provided such service, but those who do seem to agree that one can transcribe 10 audio-minutes in an hour (if the quality is ok).

The topic has been discussed before - see


Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes. There have been plenty of previous discussions Jul 29, 2013

You also need to be clear as to whether you are transcribing or transcribing and translating.
The former is really a job for someone who is really good at typing (not necessarily a job for a translator) and the second is a job for a translator but you need to ensure that you are charging more than for a normal translation as it's tougher and takes longer.


Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 03:20
Chinese to English
+ ...
It depends Jul 29, 2013

Test yourself: find some audio files of varying quality and transcribe them, see how long it takes you. Set a per minute rate based on how long it takes to transcribe one minute, and how much you expect to be paid per hour of work. Charge extra for poor quality, and when there are more than 2-3 speakers.

$15-$20 per minute is usually ridiculous. My experience is that it takes me 3-5 hours to transcribe one hour of audio, and I only transcribe in my two native-level languages of Cantonese and English.

One last note: please mark your speakers properly. I had a client who was much happier with my work than what she got with a translation agency, because I marked my speakers "A, B" while the agency marked speakers "Man, Woman", which understandably creates some problems when there are multiple speakers of the same gender.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
Member (2007)
+ ...
Be sure before quoting Jul 29, 2013

As has been said, your normal hourly rate is what counts to you. Make absolutely sure you can do the job before quoting, and that you want to do it. Transcribing can be a nightmare if the quality is bad. Never give a fixed quote until you've listened to snippets from different parts of the recording.

Do you have transcription software? If not, you may find the frequent pauses and rewinds rather time-consuming.

The client should specify whether time-stamps are required and whether every tiny utterance should be reflected in the transcript, or whether it should be tidied somewhat.


Muhammad Said  Identity Verified
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
+ ...
I appreciate it Aug 11, 2013

I do not really know how to thank you for your comments.


Marie-Christine Nguyen  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:20
English to French
+ ...
Ask tem to send you a sample Aug 11, 2013


I have done transcription. Ask your client to send you a sample (1-2mn) and you can judge quality of the file, the vocabulary etc. Ask your client if they want you to transcribe everything, that is if there is a cough, a "ahem", etc and you will be able to give them a quote according to the time you will spend on it (listening, typing and checking) . And always specify in your quote/Terms and Conditions all these details mentioned above that have been agreed with the client and if the file is really of bad quality that you cannot take it. That said, usually you charge for transcription (same language) and then if there is a translation, per source word)

Good luck!


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:20
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Rates vary a lot, and difficulty too Aug 11, 2013

The first thing to check is YOUR speed. Record 10 minutes of the best newscast from your local TV, then transcribe it to find out your ratio. I have found mine and several colleagues' to be 6:1, i.e. it takes us one hour to transcribe those 10 minutes.

There isn't much to gain by benchmarking your rates, as rates seem to be random, which I'll explain next. Anyway, you should know fairly well how much an hour of YOUR work is worth per hour. Multiply that by your ratio, divide it by 60, and you'll have your basic rate per minute.

A few notes on the random nature of such rates.
  • I charge the same rate per minute to transcribe, translate as-is, translate video for subtitling, or translate a video for dubbing. This is because I've timed myself over several years, and discovered that the type of work does not change my speed.
  • I've had contact with colleagues whose average ratio is 5:1, as well as 12:1. These are the limits I've seen so far.
  • I've lost a bid on a 100 hours transcription job to some local company using its internal staff, and their price was only 0.13x mine! Slaves? Possibly...
  • I saw a domestic web site offering transcription services charging per hour what I charge per minute!
  • On quality... I'm in Brazil, translating from English. Once I received a Hollywood movie to translate for dubbing, and the client proudly said, "We've got a script!". That script was on the stationery of a video transcription company located in Los Angeles, just a few blocks away from the studio where the movie had been produced. With all due respect, from its contents I envisioned the transcriber still dripping water from the Rio Grande.

So what matters is YOUR time upon calculating your basic rate. If what they are willing to pay you is strikingly different, perhaps it's not worth taking it, provided you can really make the money you think you can from some other endeavor.

That basic rate should be corrected by some job-specific factors, such as:
  • Is the audio quality bad (e.g. noisy) to the point of requiring that you listen more than once to understand? Is there loud music or noise in the background causing the same effect?
  • Does everybody there talk like spitfire?
  • Are people talking there uneducated (bad enunciation & grammar), foreign (heavy accent), drunken or dopey (incoherent), or perhaps missing their teeth?
  • Is there any other job-intrinsic reason why you'll need frequent breaks to rest?
  • etc.

Then you'll have your figure. Since your job offer at hand is large, a minor inaccuracy in your per-minute rate will be multiplied by 500, watch out!

Suggested readings:
On audio quality:
On how to do it:


nrichy (X)
Local time: 20:20
French to Dutch
+ ...
Software Aug 11, 2013

You can download Express Scribe
The basic functions are free, and it helps very much.

As other people I recommend you to try a sample before you make a quote.
Audio files or video files which are just documentaries will take 5x the length in minutes.
Conferences usually 7-8 times, this can be more if the files are of bad quality or if several people are speaking at the same time.
I also recommend you to use the "speaker A" and "speaker B" method, as described above, or for a conference, their names (ask your client for a program of the conference).

As for the prices, I don't do transcription anymore, as this is being done in other countries for 1/4 my price per hour.


Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 03:20
Chinese to English
+ ...
Rates Aug 12, 2013

I charge the same rate per minute to transcribe, translate as-is, translate video for subtitling, or translate a video for dubbing. This is because I've timed myself over several years, and discovered that the type of work does not change my speed.

For me, transcript+translation takes about the same time, possibly even less than same-language transcriptions. I charge more than twice that of straight transcriptions, however, because in this case I'm not selling my time, I'm selling a premium service with a higher requirement than text-to-text translation, and there are significant fewer people capable of providing this service at my level.

I've provided straight transcription at the rate of about 1hr = 1200-1800 words, and translation from audio at 1hr = 3000 words. The bottleneck isn't so much how fast I can work or how much time I have, but how long I am willing to have my headphones on continuously.


remember the quality Nov 1, 2013

in the beginning charge less and as you gain experience increase the price, remember always provide quality work no matter how much time it takes for more points on quality ensuring check


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