How to Choose a Transcription Provider

OutSec Blog How to Choose a Transcription Provider Image of a laptop headphones and iPhone

If you are in the process of choosing a transcription provider, (or looking to change providers), you may not know how to find one that suits your needs.  In this blog post, we aim to give you some advice on what to look for. Also, what questions to ask when choosing a transcription provider.



Transcription providers charge in varying ways.  These include:

  • Charging on a per minute of dictation basis; and
  • Charging by character count (on a per-line basis).

Most UK based transcription companies charge on a per minute of dictation basis.  This is because this is the most transparent charging structure. It, therefore, allows customers to know the costs before submitting the work.  This helps office managers or practice managers keep tabs on budgets and spending.

If a transcription provider charges £1.20 plus VAT per minute of dictation, it follows that a 20-minute file will cost the company £24 plus VAT.  However, what you must bear in mind, if you are to compare this to employment (for comparison purposes), is that it will not take a typist 20 minutes to type a 20-minute file! This is simply because we can all talk faster than even the fastest typist. So for comparison purposes, it will take somewhere in the region of an hour and 20 minutes to type the documents, save and name the files on a 20-minute dictation file. Simplest put four times the dictated audio.

Where transcription is offered on a character count (on a per-line basis) these transcription companies are more often than not based outside of the UK. Different providers may include spaces as characters, whilst others don’t.  Therefore, it is important, that if you are comparing prices you understand how the line count is calculated as some often include spaces within the count.

If you are comparing transcription providers that deploy both of these charging methods, they should be able to tell you how their quote would compare to either charging model.

Hidden Costs

When researching your transcription providers, be vigilant about hidden costs.  Some transcription companies charge:

  • Set up costs;
  • Require you to enter a contract;
  • Management fees; and
  • Have minimum spends per month.

It is also a good idea to seek clarity in terms of charging.  For example, is there a cheaper charging rating based on a longer turnaround time?  Will you be charged a premium for the next day or solely for the same-day turnaround?


If you go for an in-house option, recruitment, therefore, is typically expensive and time-consuming.  It requires adverts to be placed, time spent selecting candidates, and time is taken out for interviews to take place.  When you have recruited your successful candidate, you have induction and training before an employee can stand on their own two feet.

When you employ staff you must pay: monthly salaries, PAYE costs, National Insurance contributions, offer a pension scheme and pay a certain percentage of tax per employee. You also have other fixed costs such as desk space and office costs per employee, and the costs of infrastructure like computers, telephones, workspaces etc. However, there are other costs such as:

1. Unproductive Time

What most employers forget is the indirect costs of employment such as “unproductive” time.  Recent research suggests that: “In an eight hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours 53 minutes”.

2. Office Space Costs

According to Business Matters Magazine: “The average cost to rent an office space per person, per month is between £650 and £1,500” in London. This means that the cost of desk space in London is therefore somewhere between £7,800 to £18,000 per annum.

3. Sickness Absence

According to the National Office of Statistics, an “estimated 141.4 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2018, the equivalent to 4.4 days per worker“.  The most common reasons for sicknesses were:

  • Minor illnesses;
  • Mental health conditions;
  • Musculoskeletal problems.

4. Holiday Pay

Whilst statutory paid holiday entitlement in the UK is 28 paid holiday days, most employers in the UK give considerably more holidays to their employees.

Indeed, “the average UK holiday entitlement including public holidays is 33.5 days – that’s more than a week above the statutory minimum”.

Clearly, by outsourcing, you would not have these additional costs (that are in addition to your hourly rate salary).

Outsourcing v In-House

If a transcription company, therefore, charges £1.20 per minute plus VAT, the comparison hourly rate against employment would be £18 per hour.  However, when comparing the two fairly, you do need to factor in the additional overheads that come with employment (as stated above).

So, if you are interested in understanding precisely how much employing staff costs per hour based on salary, NI contributions, pension contributions, desk space etc, please check out our  Cost Calculator created independently by Stanbridge Associates.

Confidentiality, Data Security and Data Protection

When choosing a transcription provider, the most important considerations are confidentiality, data security and data protection.  Any transcription service offering a price that seems too good to be true they are likely to be based outside of the UK.  This means they are therefore unlikely to have the following standards which relate to data security:

ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is an internationally recognised information security standard.

It is designed to establish and maintain an effective systematic approach to managing data security and sensitive information. The Information Security Management System preserves data, confidentiality, integrity and availability of information by applying a risk management process.

The great thing with ISO 27001 is that it aligns so very well with GDPR.

Leigh Ronczka from Pivot Point Security was asked:  Can aligning with ISO 27001 or pursuing/achieving ISO 27001 certification help you comply with the GDPR? The short answer is “Yes”.

Cyber Essentials

Cyber Essentials is a UK government information assurance scheme, operated by the National Cyber Security Centre (a part of GCHQ). It is required for any contracting party with HM Government.

Therefore, these standards help provide some guarantee that the transcription company adheres to GDPR legislation when it comes to securing data.  It is the responsibility of your company to ensure that the chosen provider has all the relevant data security policies and protections in place to meet GDPR legislation.

So, What Questions Should You Ask Of Any Transcription Provider?

Here are the questions you should ask when choosing a transcription provider.

  1. How is the quote calculated?  Is it rate per minute of dictation or is it on a character basis (per line of text)?  Could they provide a list of all their charges?
  2. How can I work out how the outsourcing cost compares to the cost of my current resource or other providers?
  3. Is the company based in the United Kingdom?
  4. Does the company hold an ISO 27001 certificate?
  5. Does the company hold a valid Cyber Essentials certificate?
  6. Are there any costs for:
    1. Set up
    2. Management fees?
  7. Is there a minimum spend?
  8. Does the company have specialist transcriptionists who have worked in your field and know the terminology?
  9. How work is allocated to typists?  Does it go to a bank? Or will your work be conducted by a small number of typists that will get used to your style of work overtime?

About OutSec The UK’s Leading Online Transcription Company

OutSec is the UK’s leading online transcription company whose business has grown substantially since 2002. We are one of the most successful transcription companies in the United Kingdom.

OutSec provides secure outsourced transcription services to the medicallegalproperty and surveyinguniversitiesmedia and interviewsadvisory boards, conferences & seminarsinventoriesfinancialcorporateHR, recruitment and Executive Search sectors.

So, why not open an account today. What do you have to lose?