How long does human transcription take to complete?

Rule of Thumb

There is a rule of thumb in the transcription industry that it takes a human transcriber four hours to complete one hour of audio or video recording. Video recording used to be very different, but whilst some transcription businesses still don’t have the capability to transcribe video recordings in the same way as they would audio, the reality of current transcription software is that both audio and video should take about the same time.

Professional Transcribers can be faster

A professional transcriber can usually complete most transcription work in three hours, assuming a one hour recording, but this very much depends on the nature of the recording. There are a lot of factors involved in transcription; whether there is any specialist terminology, hard to hear audio, strong accents or speakers talking over the top of each other. In these circumstances recordings take drastically longer to complete, but in order to give clients consistency, most specialist professional transcription businesses will charge for the minutes of recording rather than how difficult it is to hear a particular recording.

Hard to hear takes longer and costs extra

Larger multinationals will quite often return audio without completing the work if they think it cannot be done within a particular time frame.

If you experience problems with a transcription business trying to charge extra for hard-to-hear recordings then you might want to consider using our services (TP Transcription Limited). We set a price at the start and stick to it regardless of the difficulty or complexity of a recording. Take heed of low pricing in transcription companies because this is often the way they put the price up from the baseline low cost per minute. When you actually send the recording off to them they decide it is hard to hear, there are multiple speakers or the complexity of the language requires a higher price.

Completion times are irrelevant for costing

In reality if you are using a professional transcription company and they are charging per recorded minute then it does not really matter how long it takes a human transcriber to complete the recording because the price to you will be the same. Some smaller companies still use the price per word method for quoting (this dates back to pre-war copy typing work billing) and it has the same effect.

Turnaround times

Whilst some transcription companies have a unique selling point of being able to return transcriptions within a very quick timeframe, this is often because they are simply running the audio or video recording through an AI machine-transcription software and then quickly correcting some of the items they can spot within a short time span. This often results in a lower quality product because the transcriber has very limited time to spend in order to achieve 100% accuracy.

100% accuracy takes skill & time

For 100% accuracy levels you need to think about using a professional transcription business that does not set very tight schedules on return times. A company providing a return within the hour for human transcription will be running the recording through AI, and then getting transcribers to work either on correction of the whole recording or on sections. Human professional transcribers working on longer turnaround times will work on the transcription from start to finish, with the transcription then going through a quality control process.


In summary human transcription can take anything from 3 – 6 hours (excluding conversational analysis which is completely longer) and it really depends on the complexity of the language, the number of speakers and the quality of the recording. Using human transcribers to do your work should result in a fixed price from the outset.

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