The Pitfalls of Outsourcing Transcription Work

Outsourcing transcription has lots of benefits for organisations, including the cost implications, efficiency, professional service standards and support as and when needed. However it also carries a number of disadvantages, Below are five disadvantages to outsourcing transcription.

Confidentiality Risks

Confidentiality is vital for all of our clients. Any company you contract with for outsourcing transcription is going to provide you with a confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement. However, whenever data leaves your facility, you are still at risk of a confidentiality breach. For this reason, it is very important to make sure whoever you use has secure systems and strict data security in place to ensure this does not happen. There are transcription companies out there, including some of the larger websites, who send out their audio files to transcribers across the world. They have very little idea as to who is receiving access to the data. Our company is UK based, ISO & Cyber Essentials accredited (and just completing Cyber Essentials Plus – an extended security accreditation) with professional human transcribers, and we have never had a security issue with any audio data.

Lack of Efficiency

This really depends on the amount of work you are outsourcing, but it can take weeks to receive transcription work back. If you use a budget option and send the work off shore or use AI systems, it is very likely that you will need to spend considerable time correcting for inaccuracies.

This really depends on the type of work you have. Two or more person interviews can usually be transcribed very accurately and quickly by professional transcribers with full accuracy. A larger sized professional transcription company should be able to complete orders of any size within a very short period of time due to capacity. We have had reports in the past of very small transcription companies taking on very large orders at an extremely low price and then failing to complete them.

Significant Costs

Outsourcing transcription costs less than having an in-house transcription department but the costs associated with it are still quite significant. Some transcription companies tie their customers in for a set amount each month of minimum amounts of work, or insist on ongoing payments for a fixed amount. This can build up significantly if you then do not need to use the service.

You can of course lower the costs by looking at using overseas, non-native speaking transcribers, but the problem here is that you then increase costs when the work comes back and requires constant checking and amending.

Lack of Control

You send your audio and video files out to be transcribed and immediately lose control of them. As far as you know they could be sent anywhere in the world. And indeed they are by some companies. Fortunately, if you use a reputable professional business who are based in the UK this is not an issue.

Contractual Obligations and Changes

Relying on an outside company for transcription services can mean that you are locked into a contract for a specific period of time. You are at a disadvantage in this because your ability to make adjustments based on your organisation’s needs is impeded.

I took a number of the above pointers from a US site discussing medical transcription outsourcing and the latter one is very interesting. There are still a number of transcription businesses out there who use the subscription model of transcribing, which essentially requires their clients to commit to using them for a set period of time and at a fixed price, so regardless of the amount of work sent across they still have to pay some or all of a bill each month.

Transcription has moved on in recent times, and the majority of companies now use the ad hoc model – ie you have work and they complete it. This seems a lot more efficient and useful than essentially providing fixed cost services. We have even come across transcription services where a fixed fee is charged, but then the company have gone back to ask for more money when the audio was not as perfect as they thought it would be, even though the organisation were paying them a fixed montly fee.


There are lots of pitfalls to outsourcing services to external businesses. It is simply a question of managing the risks so that they are minimised as much as possible.

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