A Complete Guide to Writing Interview Transcripts (With Tools Comparison And Free Transcript Examples)

. 12 min read

A transcript of an interview offers an organized and accessible record of everything that was said. This puts it head and shoulders above recorded audio. Instead of fast-forwarding through a difficult-to-navigate landscape of sound, you can scan or skim an interview transcript at your leisure. Due to their written nature, transcripts also offer cross-platform flexibility, enabling all members of a team to review the dialogue from any device — a phone, laptop, or printed sheet of paper.

A transcript also provides an easily accessible reference source for any follow-up interviews. Instead of scrolling through recorded audio and creating a new outline of salient points you want to discuss, you’ll be able to mark up and underline the transcript itself.

Ways to transcribe and factors to decide which method to choose

There are several methods you can use to transcribe an interview. The one you choose depends on factors such as the clarity of the audio and the specificity of the subject matter, as well as your budget, available time frame, and typing speed.

If you find yourself short on time, automated software may be your best choice, as it takes only minutes to transcribe an hour of audio. Some software, such as Otter, can recognize specific terminologies with the custom vocabulary feature. There, the user can upload a list of the terminologies, and Otter will recognize them in the future.  

If you want to add a human touch to your transcription but don’t have the time to transcribe the audio yourself, consider hiring a freelancer or going with a transcription agency service. If you find yourself with a large amount of audio that you want transcribed on a consistent basis, an automated tool is the logical choice, and this works if you have budget constraints as well: Otter.ai offers a default-free service, and the paid Premium service is still between 92% to 99% less expensive than competitors — who charge anywhere between 2 and 33 cents per minute. The accuracy is similar to other services, and Otter can be better in some scenarios.

You may want to make a list of all the factors that you’ll need to consider before deciding how you want to transcribe: Budget, time, audio accuracy, audio specificity, and if you will need audio transcribed on a consistent basis.

  1. The automated transcription solution

Automated transcription is hands-down the easiest method to use, particularly if you have good sound quality in the material you need transcribed. It uses artificially intelligent software to automatically turn real-time or pre-recorded speech into written dialogue. Before using automated software, you’ll want to first go through the audio to make sure there are no audio problems or issues.

There are a number of automated transcription tools available, including Trint, Temi, and SpeechPal. They all use artificial intelligence and can transcribe speech extremely quickly, taking less than five minutes to transcribe a 30-minute session of audio. However, Otter.ai is your best bet. It can recognize voices from different speakers and can learn special terminology that your industry might use. It’s like another member of the team. Its technology allows you to easily find what you need, such as searching for all instances of a certain keyword, and enables team collaboration, such as live note-taking with the highlight feature, and the generation of smart notes that sync text, images, and audio.

Comparisons of automated services

Name of service Otter Trint Temi Speechpal Descript
Transcription speed Real-time 2 minutes (from upload to result) 5-10 minutes 2-3x the length of the audio file 3 min for each hour of audio
Real-time Note-taking Highlight and comment No No No No
Terminology Transcription? Yes Yes No Yes No
Speaker Identification Yes No Yes No Yes
Interview Recorder Available on Web, iOS and Android Available on iOS Available on iOS and Android No Available with the desktop software
Integrations Zoom, Dropbox, G Suite calendar, Microsoft Calendar, Microsoft Word Adobe® Premiere® Pro, Zapier Zapier N/A Zapier
Transcription Available on the Web, no download needed. Native iPhone and Android app available Available on the Web, no download needed. Native iPhone and Android app available Available on the Web, no download needed. Native iPhone and Android app available Need software download. No iPhone or Android app Need software download. No iPhone or Android app
Free tier 600 minutes of audio per month, with limited editing and collaboration features 7-day free trial available free trial (one transcript under 45 minutes) free trial (first 2 hours of audio) free trial (first 3 hours of audio)
Price Starts at $8.33/month with an annual subscription Starts at $48/month with an annual subscription $0.25/minute Starts at $10.8/month with an annual subscription Starts at $10/month with an annual subscription


2. Add the human touch - Agency and Transcriptionist

If you prefer manual transcription over automated, but you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to do it yourself, you have the option of outsourcing it to an agency or freelance transcriptionist. Below are the top 5 agencies and the freelancer marketplace, and the pros and cons of each.

The top 5 agencies and the freelancer marketplace

  1. Rev. Rev offers the fastest turnaround time on the market, with under 2 hours for files that are below 10 minutes in length, and under 12 hours for files 30 to 60 minutes in length. They offer a price of $1 per minute of audio, with a 99% accuracy rating. Despite this impressive accuracy rating, they do not offer the option of using a preferred transcriber or sending the file back if there are inaccuracies.
  2. 3Play Media. This service is certainly a popular option; it transcribes more than 7,000 hours of videos monthly. They have won awards for their work, including the 2016 Reader’s Choice Award for best Closed Captioning Solution. However, they don’t offer .ass format subtitles, which is the preferred format for ffmpeg software.
  3. Verbit. Verbit boasts an accuracy rating of over 99%, and their cloud system enables the use of customizable templates and the ability for users to upload files directly. They also use machine-learning algorithms that help their technology get smarter over time. However, in classroom audio transcription, scheduling is difficult to arrange by the week, and students can’t cancel their own transcription session.
  4. Speechpad. This service has an easily navigable platform, but it is less popular and comes in below the rating of Verbit and Rev. However, its price is the same as Rev’s, at $1 per audio minute.
  5. TranscribeMe. TranscribeMe comes in at fifth place, and both it and Speechpad have far fewer reviews than the services higher up on the list. This may be because of slower turnaround time or simply lack of reliable information on both of these services. However, its price point is lower than Rev and Speechpad, coming in at $0.25 per audio minute.
  6. The freelancer marketplace. If using a service doesn’t fit your needs, you can hire a freelancer from a site like Upwork. Unlike audio services, many of these freelancers have very specialized knowledge in certain industries, such as medical or legal terminologies. You’ll know that your audio is in the hands of a knowledgeable industry insider who won’t be confused by certain terms or phrases However, keep in mind that their rates are often higher than with agencies, coming in at around $20 to $40 per hour of work (but not per hour of audio, as it often takes longer than an hour to transcribe an hour of audio).

3. When to use manual conversion

Manual transcription relies on humans to do the speech-to-text conversion, rather than artificial intelligence. It is a good option for those working in the legal field who require meticulous, high-accuracy transcripts, or for the medical field, which can involve slurred speech and difficult medical terminology. It can be time-consuming to transcribe audio yourself, but it’s a good option if you are confident in your typing speed and have an ear for picking up dialogue.

For manual transcription, you’ll want to find a quiet place where there is no distracting noise. Use headphones to listen to the audio. Start with small sections, always reviewing your work after each section. If a portion of the speech in the audio is unintelligible, label it with “___”, and for sounds such as laughter, write it as “[laughter]”. For numbers from one to nine, use letters, not numbers. Keep paragraphs separate between speakers, adding an extra line of space, to enable easy differentiation. You may have to play portions of the audio repeatedly to determine what exactly is being said, so be prepared to get comfortable.

Free Templates for interview transcripts

There are many variations on a transcript template. Note that while it is customary to include a timestamp in cases such as inaudible words, you may also timestamp every speaker — or even every 15 or 30 seconds. Here are three templates to help get you started.

True Verbatim Interview Transcript

Susan: Welcome back, Chuck. This is the second part of our interview, and I want to ask you these questions as quickly as possible because I know you have a flight to catch, so. . . .

Chuck: No problem. I’m happy to chat with you.

Susan: It says on your website that you never studied business before accepting a marketing role at a Spanish-speaking multimedia publisher. Was … was that—

Chuck: Yeah.

Susan: So was that more of a stretch, or … ?

Chuck: Yeah, well, actua—

Susan: Oh, I’m sorry, just a minute. Can everyone else just put themselves on mute, please?

Akim: [inaudible 00:37]

Susan: Great, thanks. OK, so where were we? So, I was asking you if, when you took the new role as Director, it felt like a stretch?

Chuck: Right, yeah. . . . I knew there would be a period of adjustment that I just would have to push through, you know?

Susan: Absolutely. Were there any other challenges or roadblocks that you weren’t expecting though?

Chuck: Hm, roadblocks I wasn’t expecting. Um…

Susan: [laughs] I keep throwing you curveballs.

Chuck: No, it’s OK. So, I actually didn’t anticipate the workload involved in learning a foreign language on the job. It’s like, you know, sometimes. . . . I mean, you need to be really flexible and ready to change it up if your strategy isn’t actually working. Know what I mean?

Susan: [laughs] Definitely. So what was your budget like, I mean, was that, like, a challenge, too?

Chuck: Hoo boy. [laughs] Yeah it definitely was. We had funding available, but we just, um, needed so many hands on deck. It was hard to, you know, actually manage so many people with our existing resources. [coughs]

Susan: I totally understand. So what was your next move? I mean, did you—

Chuck: Yeah, yeah. . . . So next, I kind of wanted to see where I do a gap analysis and throw resources at new initiatives where we weren’t, uh, I mean, I wanted to actually close the loop in those places where we didn’t quite have a foothold.

Susan: Nice, nice.

Chuck: Yeah, we really just needed to keep what was working and then lay out a new plan for [clears throat] future growth.

Susan: So, it looks like we have time for maybe, um, let’s see— maybe one more question.

Chuck: Sounds good. Shoot.

Susan: How did this experience change the way you approached new challenges going forward?

Chuck: Hm, good one. [laughs] I think that I was less, uh, likely to question my own judgement when it came to adaptability. Now I know that I really have it in me, you know?

Really all it takes is a great marketing team underneath you and the freelance resources to put together the best marketing initiative you can afford, you know, with, um, the standard tools high-quality content, good ad placement, good SEO, a strong social presence and then maybe debut a new idea every six months. Um, like, you could come up with a certain theme or catch phrase and actually weave it through all your branding and regular initiatives.

Susan: OK, well thanks, Chuck. This is really good stuff. I know you have to run, um, but I’d just like to thank you for, you know, taking this time with me today.

Chuck: Sure, sure. Of course.


Clean Verbatim Interview Transcript

Susan: Welcome back, Chuck. This is the second part of our interview, and I want to ask you these questions as quickly as possible because I know you have a flight to catch.

Chuck: No problem. I’m happy to chat with you.

Susan: It says on your website that you never studied business before accepting a marketing role at a Spanish-speaking multimedia publisher.

Chuck: Yeah.

Susan: Was that more of a stretch?

Chuck: Yeah.

Susan: Oh, I’m sorry, just a minute. Can everyone else just put themselves on mute, please?

Akim: [inaudible 00:37]

Susan: Great, thanks. OK, so where were we? So, I was asking you if, when you took the new role as Director, it felt like a stretch?

Chuck: I knew there would be a period of adjustment that I just would have to push through, you know?

Susan: Absolutely. Were there any other challenges or roadblocks that you weren’t expecting though?

Chuck: Hm, roadblocks I wasn’t expecting.

Susan: [laughs] I keep throwing you curveballs.

Chuck: No, it’s OK. So, I actually didn’t anticipate the workload involved in learning a foreign language on the job. It’s like, you know, sometimes. . . . I mean, you need to be really flexible and ready to change it up if your strategy isn’t actually working. Know what I mean?

Susan: [laughs] Definitely. So what was your budget like, I mean, was that, like, a challenge, too?

Chuck: Hoo boy. [laughs] Yeah it definitely was. We had funding available, but we just, um, needed so many hands on deck. It was hard to, you know, manage so many people with our existing resources. [coughs]

Susan: I totally understand. So what was your next move?

Chuck: Yeah, yeah. . . . So next, I kind of wanted to see where I do a gap analysis and throw resources at new initiatives where we weren’t, uh, I mean, I wanted to actually close the loop in those places where we didn’t quite have a foothold.

Susan: Nice, nice.

Chuck: Yeah, we really just needed to keep what was working and then lay out a new plan for [clears throat] future growth.

Susan: So, it looks like we have time for maybe, um, let’s see — maybe one more question.

Chuck: Sounds good. Shoot.

Susan: How did this experience change the way you approached new challenges going forward?

Chuck: Hm, good one. [laughs] I think that I was less, uh, likely to question my own judgement when it came to adaptability. Now I know that I really have it in me, you know?

Really all it takes is a great marketing team underneath you and the freelance resources to put together the best marketing initiative you can afford, you know, with, um, the standard tools high-quality content, good ad placement, good SEO, a strong social presence and then maybe debut a new idea every six months. Um, like, you could come up with a certain theme or catch phrase and actually weave it through all your branding and regular initiatives.

Susan: OK, well thanks, Chuck. This is really good stuff. I know you have to run, um, but I’d just like to thank you for, you know, taking this time with me today.

Chuck: Sure, sure. Of course.

Concise Clean Verbatim Interview Transcript

Susan: It says on your website that you never studied business before accepting a marketing role at a Spanish-speaking multimedia publisher.

Chuck: Yeah.

Susan: Was that more of a stretch?

Chuck: Yeah.

Susan: Just a minute. Can everyone else just put themselves on mute, please?

Akim: [inaudible 00:37]

Susan: When you took the new role as Director, did it felt like a stretch?

Chuck: I knew there would be a period of adjustment that I just would have to push through.

Susan: Were there any other challenges or roadblocks that you weren’t expecting though?

Chuck: Roadblocks I wasn’t expecting.

Susan: [laughs] I keep throwing you curveballs.

Chuck: I didn’t anticipate the workload involved in learning a new language on the job. I mean, you need to be really flexible and ready to change it up if your strategy isn’t working.

Susan: [laughs] So what was your budget like? Was that a challenge, too?

Chuck: [laughs] Yeah it definitely was. We had funding available, but we just needed so many hands on deck. It was hard to manage so many people with our existing resources. [coughs]

Susan: So what was your next move?

Chuck: I wanted to see where I do a gap analysis and to close the loop in those places where we didn’t quite have a foothold.

Susan: Nice, nice.

Chuck: We really just needed to keep what was working and then lay out a new plan for [clears throat] future growth.

Susan: It looks like we have time for maybe one more question.

Chuck: Sounds good.

Susan: How did this experience change the way you approached new challenges going forward?

Chuck: [laughs] I was less likely to question my own judgement when it came to adaptability. Now I know that I really have it in me.

All it takes is a great marketing team underneath you and the freelance resources to put together the best marketing initiative you can afford with  the standard tools: high-quality content, good ad placement, good SEO, a strong social presence. Then debut a new idea every six months. You could come up with a certain theme or catch phrase and weave it through all your branding and regular initiatives.

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See why transcripts are now smarter than ever

Transcription has evolved from a tedious task to an automated value generator. Individuals, researchers, students, teams, and organizations are just beginning to realize the potential of having accessible, sharable transcripts of their interviews, meetings, and important conversations. The rise of sophisticated apps such as Otter takes productivity to a new level – it’s like another member of the team. Otter empowers you to do more than write transcripts. Easily search and find key information across notes, collaboratively edit and highlight transcripts as they generate in real time, and share smart notes that sync text, images, and audio. Ready to get started? Try Otter now.