Is Free Audio Transcription Software Right For Your Business?
In the current economic climate, with rising interest rates and higher costs, many organizations are looking for ways to cut costs and find the best value services. Organizations spend US$2.95 billion on transcription, so it’s no surprise that free audio transcription software can be a tempting option. However, business leaders need to fully understand the limitations of free software and the hidden associated costs before selecting a solution.
The importance of transcription is growing as it provides an easy way to transform audio content to text so that users can more readily search, analyze and collaborate on recorded information. Professionals in legal, healthcare, education, market research, marketing and other sectors rely on transcription to provide written records of conversations, meetings, interviews and other audio and video content.
Free audio transcription software may not be the most cost-effective option when you take into consideration the resources needed to ensure the transcripts are accurate and meet the standards needed, especially in professional settings. Understanding how free transcription works, alongside the pros and cons, is the first step in deciding if free software is right for your business.
What is free audio transcription software?
Audio transcription software provides an online tool to upload audio and video files and then convert the speech they contain into a text format. Free audio transcription software enables the transformation of audio to text at no cost to you. It works by using Artificial Intelligence (AI), specifically automatic speech recognition (ASR), to process human speech and turn it into text. By using technology, the transcripts can be produced quickly and at little to no cost.
You may also see some paid transcription services that use AI, which shouldn’t be confused with free versions. Paid-for options typically have higher levels of investment and customer support than their free counterparts. For example, Verbit’s AI solutions benefit from advanced algorithms that deliver more accurate results than free services. We have developed and trained our technology to cope with industry-specific content that you may find in healthcare, education, or legal settings, whereas many free services struggle to cope with industry-specific terminology.
If you’re using social or video platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, you’re likely to have seen some free audio transcription tools in action, as many contain built-in software. While you can easily access these tools, you’re limited to using them in the platform and with certain types of content. You may also have noticed that these tools are not perfect, and the transcripts they generate often contain mistakes. These errors can be forgivable in some situations, but in business settings, they can look unprofessional or even cause confusion for viewers.
Outside of free platforms with built-in audio transcription, there are a few other ways to access free tools.
- Transcription as part of an existing paid-for service. Transcription may be included as part of a service your organization already pays for. For example, Zoom’s video call hosting solution provides subscribers with basic transcription, and Microsoft offers a transcription solution through Word.
- Free trials. Free trials are common for transcription software solutions. They offer a low-risk method of trying out a service to ensure it meets your needs before paying or signing up for a longer-term commitment.
- Free software with restrictions. Some services offer a free option, but with conditions on the level of service you can access. Restrictions may include a limited number of files, a cap on the minutes of content you can transcribe or limited customization options.
Although free software is readily available and can be appealing, especially when budgets are tight, the reliance on technology alone comes with limitations. It’s vital to check that free audio transcription software will provide you with a transcript that meets your requirements and doesn’t prove costly in the long run due to the resources needed to edit the transcript into a usable format.
The pros and cons of free audio transcription software
While free transcription software has some tempting benefits, it is crucial to know its limitations. If you are using transcription to create an internal record for reference purposes, free options may work for you. Alternatively, you may be using transcription to improve accessibility for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing or for content you plan to put out publicly, such as marketing videos or to accompany a podcast. In these cases, free services will almost always fall short of the accuracy levels required for accessibility.
Before you jump into using a free tool, you should consider how you will be using the transcript. Although free software has some benefits, you’ll have to decide if the low cost is worth the extra time and effort you’ll normally need to edit the output and if you can put up with the other downsides.
Key benefits of free audio transcription tools
Cost. Free software can help to get the job done when paid services aren’t an option. Free audio transcription tools can provide a viable alternative to manual typing for those with limited budgets, such as students or some freelance professionals.
Ease of use. The transcription process using free software is straightforward. Most services will only require some basic information to get started, and uploading and downloading files can be done in a few clicks online. However, ease of use isn’t unique to free services. Paid-for services, such as Verbit Go, are also simple to use and allow you to quickly check out online using a credit card.
Convenience. The online nature of most services means you can use them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, as they are AI-based, there is unlikely to be any support available and you’ll need to muddle through any issues that arise on your own. If you are using a tool that is built-in to popular platforms, such as Zoom, you don’t need to create a new account to access the transcription features.
Limitations of free audio transcription tools
Errors: Accuracy is one of the key reasons that organizations turn to paid transcription services over free alternatives. Errors can include misspelt words, grammar issues or whole portions of text being returned incorrectly. Free software can produce transcripts littered with errors, which take significant time and resources to correct. As the services are free, they do not provide support to help check and correct errors, which many paid services offer as standard. The cost to businesses to correct the mistakes often negates any cost savings from using a free service.
Lack of customization options: The features and functionality offered to users of free services are restricted. Customization options such as speaker identification or timestamps are often unavailable with free services. Attempting to add these manually to the transcript is impractical and often done incorrectly by individuals who aren’t transcription experts.
Limited transcription types: Most software will attempt to deliver a word-for-word verbatim output, but there may be circumstances when a more concise output would be helpful. Verbit Go offers both verbatim transcripts and more concise outputs, such as meeting minutes, to cater to the needs of modern businesses. The limited range of transcription types and customization options available with free audio transcription aren’t flexible enough for most organizations.
Poor security: Free software is less likely to have invested in the data security of the service than their paid counterparts. Understanding how any content you upload will be processed and stored is essential, especially if it contains sensitive, confidential or personal information. At Verbit Go, we deploy various secure transcription measures to ensure your data is safe.
Service restrictions: Restrictions may allow only specific audio file formats to be uploaded or limit the volumes of minutes you can transcribe. Integrations with other platforms are also likely to be minimal. Free services are often too restrictive for organizations’ range of transcription requirements and content volumes.
Lack of support: Free services provide low-to-no levels of customer support. If you are having trouble using a service or with a transcript, you’re unlikely to be able to seek much help.
How to access free audio transcription software
Most tools will require you to sign up for an account online by navigating to the website of your chosen tool and providing a few basic details. Once you are registered, you can upload your files and start transcribing. Before you begin, check for any compatibility issues, such as file formats or size. Once your transcript is ready, you can either use the editing options provided by the software or export the text file to edit in your chosen text editor, but know that you’ll definitely need to check the results.
Correcting mistakes and adding additional formatting can be very time-consuming, so make sure you leave plenty of time to carry out these tasks. It’s also a good idea to have someone check over the edited version before publishing it anywhere, as it’s easy for errors to slip through. Paid-for services usually include proofreading as part of their service to deliver high levels of accuracy.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a more accurate paid service, several free transcription software options are available, each with its own capabilities and limitations. Some options you may wish to explore that could work for specific projects include Google Docs, Transcribe app, Microsoft Azure, or Dragon Professional software, which can be purchased for a fixed one-off cost.
Regardless of the free tool used, the accuracy and reliability of the transcription will vary depending on factors such as background noise and speaker accents. Some free audio transcription software has been designed to work best with single speakers. Due to limited voice transcription applications, many free solutions aren’t a good fit for transcribing content such as events, meetings or research focus groups.
If you’re looking to transcribe recordings that have poor-quality audio from the start, it’s unlikely that free services will work for you, as you’re likely to encounter many errors or content that’s fully missed by the AI.
Free audio transcription software can be a false economy
Free tools can certainly be a time-saving step up from typing a transcript manually, but the editing time needed is still a significant drain on resources. In conclusion, free audio transcription software only makes sense when budgets are tight and don’t allow for the use of paid-for transcription services. For most organizations, free software is a false economy as it doesn’t provide the accuracy levels, features and functionality required in professional settings. Business leaders may need to use significant resources to bring the transcripts from free tools up to an acceptable standard or risk using transcripts that contain mistakes or aren’t fit for purpose.
Businesses turn to paid-for services for a reliable way to gain exacting outputs and cater for a wide range of transcription needs. If you have limited resources available for correcting errors or are using transcripts to make materials for students, employees or customers accessible, you need high-quality transcripts that are delivered on time. Verbit Go uses expert transcribers to produce transcripts with 99% accuracy and with guaranteed turnaround times. Plus, you can access the services within an easy-to-use, secure platform and pay instantly with a credit card. Discover the cost-effective solutions and obtain an instant online quote today.