Wherein I Explain My New Jzzzzz…

Okay, so this won’t be the most exciting of posts, but if you’re wondering how the wide world of online transcription works, you’ve come to the right place.

ICYMI, I finally found a work-from-home (or wherever, really) job! I started working as a paid transcriptionist for a company called Rev, which does audio transcription and video captioning.

“How does this new job work?” I can hear you all asking from the edges of your seats. I’ll break it down for you:

Customers have recordings they want transcribed and send those to Rev. Rev posts these on their site, and transcriptionists pick and choose them on a first come, first serve basis. These recordings can be by anyone and about anything. Sadly, I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t go into details of specific jobs, but I’ve done everything from interviews with famous musicians and Hollywood insiders, to product test focus groups, to medical discussions, to a person who literally just had a mic on as s/he went through the day. Some things are more interesting (discussion about an as-yet-unaired season of a popular TV show) than others (somebody vacuuming during the recording), but overall, it’s a pretty fascinating gig.

When jobs are posted for one to choose from, they are categorized by length, number of speakers, the name of the customer, the duration, and the subject (sports, religion, medical, etc.). You can preview everything, even to the extent of listening to an entire project, but you then run the risk of somebody else snagging the job while you’re listening. To that end, you can claim a job, and if you decide you can’t do it or don’t want to do it after all, you can “unclaim” it within an hour without it counting against you. Actually, you can unclaim it any time, but after an hour, it affects your metrics.

Those metrics show how you’ve been doing with your jobs, and include scores on accuracy, formatting, on time submissions, and so on. The higher your scores over X period of time allows you to advance, which in turn allows you to have access to jobs sooner than people lower down the ladder, earn more money, and take on extra work like grading other transcriptionists and doing closed-captioning. I wanted to advance as quickly as possible, so I burned the midnight oil for two weeks to max out the numbers and get to the top, earning the title of “Revver+.”

I’ll admit, the job is more challenging than I thought, and takes a combination of skill, strategy, and, memorization. My typing has never been consistently great, and it goes down a peg when typing something I’m listening to, but it’s been improving since starting this job. I’ve learned a number of keyboard shortcuts built into the Rev editor, and got a foot pedal that I use to start, stop, and scroll through audio. These have all helped to increase my speed, and speed is money.

My three biggest challenges are:

  • Not typing what I hear. There are two kinds of projects: Verbatim and, um, not-verbatim, I guess. In the case of verbatim, you write everything, from coughs in the background to the “ums,” slang, and stutters people tend to sprinkle their speech with. In regular projects, you ignore all that and write the core of what the subject is saying. (“It’s, like, um, challenging.” = “It’s challenging.”) I tend to get in a zone and write what I’m hearing, at least as far as dialogue goes.
  • Typing what I didn’t hear. An issue I didn’t know I had until I’d done some proofreading of my own work is a tendency to fill in blanks and hear things backwards. I’m not sure if this stems from dyslexia, a lack of listening skills, or what, but if the speaker says “I thought about going to the mall downtown,” I might write “I thought about going down to the mall.”
  • The APS, CMS, and MWDEU can, apparently, kiss it. Transcription grammar rules seem to be a mix of stylebook standards and total nonsense. I’m sure the stuff that seems ridiculous actually makes sense in some transcription-specific way, but not in the way things are correctly written in any other setting. For example, numbers need to be either numerals or spelled, regardless of the quantity of digits. My biggest issue is that they are rigid in the notion that sentences should never, ever start with conjunctions, whether every style guide for the English language says it’s okay or not. Usually, sentences can be edited with punctuation or omission to avoid starting a sentence with conjunctions, but it can be slightly annoying.


That said, my written grammar and spelling have been improving, as even knowing rules doesn’t do a lot of good if you don’t practice. (Because I just wrote that, I’m sure this post is riddled with errors.)

Overall, the toughest part of the job is also the best part: flexibility. I don’t have to show up anywhere and punch a time clock, so I can work when I’m free. If I’m ever free, which I’m not, at least not as much as I’d like. The benefit to working away from home is having to be there during certain times; no distractions, no other obligations, no temptations. You’re there for however many hours straight, earning money without needing to work around anything.

As it stands, I’ve had a harder time lately than when I started out, since I neglected other things to crank out as much work as possible during the first few weeks, but mostly because right after we decided to give this whole thing a shot, we started transitioning the boys from cribs to beds. For the last few weeks, naps have been non-existent (except for a few in the car), so I lose the possibility of that work time.

Even if the boys do nap, it can be tricky work that requires listening and focus will come to a screeching halt if there are toddlers to deal with. These jobs are all on a deadline, and getting interrupted can potentially wreck any productivity. In fact, I’m finishing this post instead of working because the boys are being more high maintenance than usual and I have appeased them with Elmo (more on that later).

Speaking of skipping naps, it has also taken its toll on me; I never realized how even a short nap on their part can be very rejuvenating for me. Being with awake two-year-olds for 12-13 solid hours with no break for at least five days a week can push me to  the point of physical and mental collapse. I’ve gone to bed (and actually fallen asleep) a few times over the last few weeks before ten, which is unheard of, and I’ve basically lost my infamous 10:00pm second wind, which has for years has been my most productive time. This loss of night work time completes the circle of not being able to keep up on jobs as much as I’d like.

There’s also more familial obligation than working away from home. Yes, I get to see the family more, but it’s hard to say to my wife, “Good luck, I’ll be in the basement, don’t bother me,” when the boys are being difficult and I’m right there. We’re trying to get in a groove, balancing this job with family time, but there’s a learning curve, especially since the boys aren’t napping now.

All in all, I’m glad we’re taking a shot at this. If nothing else, I’ll get to add something to my résumé and have a story to tell the kids about that time I tried something and failed, so they probably shouldn’t try new things because life is failure and pain and loss. But maybe this’ll be awesome and go smoothly. Either way, I’m having genuine fun at a job for the first time in a very long time, and that’s worth the challenge.


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