There are many benefits to transcribing your podcast episodes (you’re probably here because you already know this!). You can use transcripts for several purposes in your marketing process—in fact, transcripts can downright become a vital multi-tool for growing your podcast audience.
While you can type out your podcast episodes yourself, sure, it’s actually much more efficient to hire a quick typist whose focus is on making sure your transcript will speak to your target audience.
And do you really want to listen to your conversation again?
So, you’re smart to recognize that it’s time to bring help on board to get the tedious work off of your plate, but if you’ve never outsourced this kind of work before, you’re going to discover that it can be a bit of a process to find that golden needle in the haystack of freelance and B2B marketplaces.
Whether you’ve been paying for transcription services since you started your podcast, or you’re looking to outsource for the first time, there are a few things you should know about paying for transcription services.
When looking to meet your podcast transcription needs, you want:
To save time, money, and effort—efficiency! (This is the obvious one.)
Someone who understands your business and marketing needs
A ready-to-use document
Here are 5 costly mistakes that podcast marketers make when hiring transcription services—and what you can do instead!
MISTAKE #1: Using automated services
Automation is great for setting up email campaigns or queuing up social media posts, but do you know what it’s not great for?
Sure, it can work for short dictation, and it might even be able to distinguish names and some places.
But where it completely fails is in capturing the nuance of language, the poetry in the punctuation that makes it an enjoyable read. Have you ever seen a movie version of a book you love and found yourself completely disappointed at the end? Automated transcription of your spoken content is kind of like that—it’s robotic and reads flat dead-pan. They know basic grammar and spelling rules, but they don’t capture the heart of speech.
And you’ve got to have a heart to have an audience. Hire someone with a head, fast fingers, and a heart.
MISTAKE #2: Going cheap
A low price might sound good, but it might end up being the costliest mistake you could make out of any of these.
More than likely, you’re someone who is just trying to make your podcast marketing process more efficient. So, consider the hours you might spend editing a poorly written transcript for a half-hour episode. If it’s bad enough, you might as well have even transcribed it yourself, which could mean 6 to 8 hours of your time if you type about 65 words per minute—not to mention the money you wasted on an unusable document!
Avoid typing “cheap transcription” into Google, and find a transcription service that is focused on your specific type of project. It’s worth it to pay a little extra for the specialized understanding and experience. You at least want to make sure that the person or company you’re hiring has a basic understanding of your podcast’s subject matter, jargon, and intended use of the resulting transcript.
You’re going to want to read the next mistake before you buy, too.
MISTAKE #3: Buying from transcription “vending machines”
There are several companies online that offer unbelievably low rates at fast speeds for any kind of transcription need you can think of. You conveniently upload your file, you get it back the next day, and you never, ever interact with a human being.
While that’s perfectly fine for some people, I suppose, I know that when I outsource a project, I prefer to work with someone that understands my privacy, business, and marketing needs—and if it’s something I’m going to purchase repeatedly, I want consistent results.
Furthermore, having been someone who has experienced working for one of these big vending machine sites, I can tell you that the people working for these sites really don’t get paid (in my opinion) fairly—and this is something to consider when choosing to outsource any kind of work.
Pay rates generally fall between 40 and 75 cents per audio/video minute on these big-fish sites. Also, most of the folks working for those kinds of sites generally don’t have much experience with transcription, and the rate of people trying out “working from home” is high. The chances that you’ll get the same person doing the same quality of work are pretty slim, and you’ll never have a solid point of contact that works with your team directly.
The average Joe-off-the-street types 41 words per minute, according to Ratatype, and the average person speaks 130 words per minute, according to speechinminutes.com.
It would take a person with a typing speed of 41 WPM at least 4 ½ minutes to listen to and type out what is being said in 1 minute of media—and that’s not even taking crosstalk, misheard sections, typing mistakes, or figuring out who is who into consideration, which can bump it up to 6 or 7 minutes worked per media minute!
So, if it takes a person 4 ½ minutes to type out 1 minute of audio/video, that means that a person working at a middle-of-the-road pay rate of 50 cents per audio minute earns $15 for your half-hour podcast episode.
To put it bluntly, that’s $6.67 per hour of their life spent on transcribing your podcast—not a living wage in the United States!
Plus, given the fact that most of these sites have high turnover, you don’t really know what you’re going to end up with. Often driving blind, these transcriptionists may not understand your market-specific needs. Many of these sites have “quality checks,” but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your ultimate needs will be truly acknowledged, understood, and integrated. Turning speech into text is a more complicated job than you would expect, and buying from a transcription vending machine might mean more revisions, editing, and wasted effort on your dime.
Find a transcriptionist or transcription company that understands your project and the goals you are trying to reach—and search for a company that can afford to pay its employees for the quality work your deserve.
MISTAKE #4: Outsourcing overseas
On the theme of “you don’t really know what you're going to end up with,” let’s talk a little bit about why you would want to hire a transcriptionist from your own geolocation.
In a transcriptionist, you’re going to want a fast typist who:
It’s not that you won’t be able to find a stellar writer who speaks English as a second language—Vladimir Nabokov managed to create the classically controversial American novel Lolita as a Russian native. However, these people are rare, and they probably won’t be working for pennies on the dollar.
I had a customer tell me once, “The last transcriptionist I hired had no command of the English language—he didn’t even know that ‘skateboard’ was one word—and I spent hours fixing the document, so I could use it.”
Again, you might be able to find someone who can do it, but you’ll have to do a lot of sifting, and that’s a lot of time resource wasted.
And that brings us to the last big mistake that podcast marketers make when hiring transcription services…
MISTAKE #5: Hiring through freelancing marketplaces
Here we are again with finding golden needles in giant haystacks. Post a job like “transcription” on a large freelance marketplace, and you’re going to get hundreds—maybe even thousands—that apply to your project.
If you’re looking for an all-you-can-eat buffet, and you have hours to sift through applications, then try it. You might get lucky!
But if you’re looking to efficiently find someone who will meet your specific marketing needs, with the experience and reputation to back that up, you’ll probably want to try someone who is more established and has invested time, resources, and energy into building their business.
Plus, more often than not, you’re going to pay more than the sticker price listed.
These marketplaces charge a “processing fee” of 1% to 2% while also charging the freelancer you hire upwards of 20% of the price for their finder’s fee—not to mention any artificially created barriers in place between you and a potentially great freelancer, such as on-site “job connections” currency bought by the freelancer in the hopes of trying to get your attention in the first place.
Furthermore, the prices for work on these sites varies so greatly that it’s hard to understand what you should expect to pay for your project.
Again, you could still get lucky and find your superstar transcriptionist in one of these marketplaces, but it’s just all inefficient—and this whole piece of writing here is about efficiency, right?
Cut out the middleman and hire more organically.
Find a market-focused transcriptionist or transcription company that understands your language, your manner of speaking, what your audience wants to hear, and, ultimately, who helps you to accomplish your audience-growing goals.
What have been your experiences with hiring a transcriptionist for your podcast? Do you have any outsourcing horror stories to share?
The Scribe Wizard offers market-focused podcast transcription service starting at $2 per audio minute for the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.