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.
hair

Slightly.

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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Let’s Do This Thing

…We’re going for it. If you’re falling behind on reading my posts (the same way I’m falling behind on writing them), you might have missed my last two, wherein I talked about the need for me to go from full-time stay-at-home-dad to full-time SAHD and part time wage-earner. As much as I love contributing financially to the family, my work experience before, during, and after college has consisted of various levels of food service and/or retail; noble professions to be sure, but I’m tired of them, my wife’s tired of being a restaurant widow, and the boys would probably like to keep our current arrangement of seeing each other over the weekends.

A couple of years ago, I began aspiring more than ever to earn enough money to keep things nice and stable without having to stand at a counter and feign interest in how someone’s day is going, like I do when my wife comes home from wherever it is that she goes.

While my education, ambition, and a handful of skills said that I could do something new to earn a little scratch, the reality of nearly two decades of work experience and the challenge of learning a new job while taking care of twin babies said something different:

I think they were being sarcastic.

Still, while researching work-from-home jobs, I came across Rev, an online transcription service that pays people to transcribe audio files it uploads onto its site. I took the entry test, got accepted*, and was able to start listening to recordings of people and typing them out for money. Only I didn’t.

Even something as simple as transcription seemed too challenging to leap into, what with still working at the store and doing the parenting thing. It was also partially the fear factor of starting something new when real time and money were at stake.

When Kat accepted her new job in D.C., we decided to try things with me as a full-time SAHD. It’s a job I’m fairly good at, and, unlike my previous jobs, it allows me to exercise my own brand of dictatorial control without HR always getting involved.

hr

“For the last time, refer to them as ‘valued team members!’ No more of this ‘discontented rabble’ nonsense!”

It’s doable, but it doesn’t give us as much wiggle-room or ability to save as we’d like, so we decided it would be best for me to bring home something more useful to the family than anecdotes about the day’s trip to Target. (Spoiler: I forgot the one thing I went for.)

Which brings us back to the transcription thing. We did the math, and based on two trial weeks, it seemed like a viable option. By then, I had actually applied for a weekend job at a nearby grocery store, a job I subsequently interviewed for and was offered.

*deep breath*

I respectfully declined. I haven’t declined many job offers before, and to roll the dice on this new thing was pretty…well…dicey.

Yep, we decided to go for broke (insert uncomfortable laugh here) and give the “me doing a job I like” thing a whirl. I’ll get more into the five w’s of the job in my next post, and it will be a while before we see if this was a huge mistake or not, but we’re at that now-or-never point of trying something new. It’s something that might not be as lucrative as other prospects, but which can potentially pay off in other dividends, like work-life balance, mental health, and…well, that’s really about it.

For now, we’re 90% excited and optimistic, and only 10% WHAT THE HOLY [EXPLETIVE DELETED] WERE WE THINKING??? Given that this, right now, is the happiest I’ve been with my life in a  long while, I’m really hoping we can make it work out. Well, I know we can make it work out, I hope we do make it work out. The fact that we physically work out so rarely gives me cause for concern.

*I’ll discuss this in better detail later, but I want to emphasize the point that I am not an employee of Rev, but am classified as a “contractor,” self-employed and, unlike my last job, able to come to work in my boxers, if I want.

The Best $4.68 I Ever Made

…I might have another option. Maybe. We’ll see.

If you missed my last post re: us not being in the 1%, I’ll sum it up briefly: I need to pick up some extra work to add a little padding to our finances in case of those unforeseen expenses that tend to pop up exclusively when you don’t have padding.

computer hit

It’s called “Murphy’s Sucker-Punch.”

This would mean missing weekend time with the family – basically the only quality time all four of us spend together – but sometimes necessity trumps preferences.

That said, at some point in the past you might have read or heard me mention a transcription “job” I had been “hired” for. I took some tests for a transcription company and became a contractor. This allowed me to choose audio transcription jobs that they post, and work whenever and wherever I want, and earn a little walkin’ around money. It’s a much better way to earn extra cash than the last thing I tried.

abuse

Now I’m married and a father, so I do this for free.

You also might have read or heard me lamenting the fact that I could never scrounge up the time, energy, or wherewithal to get rocking and/or rolling on this transcription job.

I took this test roughly two years ago, and almost immediately, my eyes had a faraway look, dreaming about busting out transcriptions throughout the day, filling in spare time by earning money for the fam by doing something I enjoy. The (then) forthcoming babies would be strapped to me as I worked, sound asleep through the day, soothed by the clickety-click of me typing hundreds of words per minute and the soft glow of the computer monitor.

But then…

computer hit

This guy again!

Getting started proved harder than I thought. I had new twin babies, I was still working at the store four days a week, my “free time” was actually spent cooking, cleaning, running, questioning my life choices, and trying to keep up on this blog.

When it became clear that we’d probably need to add a secondary income, the obvious choice was to have me get back into the grocery/food-service/retail game. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of that game, but you do what you gotta do.

I had a bit of a now-or-never moment and decided to at least be able to say I’d given the transcription thing a shot. I logged in to my two-year-old account, re-read some tutorials, and plunged in. I took the shortest job they had. I didn’t make a lot of money for that first job – just $4.68 – but it was the first job I’ve been paid for that wasn’t in some sort of customer service field. Other, than, well, the customers of the transcription service.

Who knows? Maybe I can turn this into at least something to add a few bucks here and there to the budget, and have a job I enjoy. In case you skimmed over the title of this post, it was the best $4.68 I’ve ever earned.

Of course, this whole post is basically just a footnote now, because…

Job Sitch

In order to accommodate the two little bundles of inconvenience we brought into our home nearly four months ago, we are changing our respective work schedules. Kat will be working in town two days a week and will be off on alternating Wednesdays. I will be off the other Wednesdays and will also be taking Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays off. This way we’ll maximize our time with the boys as much as possible, “save” money on a nanny, and – in my case – gain a little more time to hunt for local jobs and work on writing and my transcription job.

Nothing much will change for Kat, but for me limiting my availability is a pretty big move. I’ll be stepping down from my current leadership role at some point and will be turning in paperwork stating that I am waiving my rights to seniority and that I understand that I am not guaranteed any number of hours and that they can force me to go back to the hours I agreed to when I was hired (full time, any shifts). I’ll probably also be looking at a pay decrease, which is swell.

That said, I have no idea how this will play out in the long run. There is a delicate pas de deux  between my employer and I: do I need them more, or do they need me more?

This question isn’t out of aggression towards them or arrogance towards me; I just know that I do a lot at my job and am a valuable team member, and I’ve been told that my pay (etc.) would be stretched out as long as possible until H.R. figured it out. The last time a situation regarding me and loss of benefits (due to budget reasons) occurred, it got stretched out more than a year before H.R. caught on, so we’ll see. That said, they know I can’t up and quit (utter employment disasters not withstanding), so I’m at their mercy as well.

One way or another, I’ll be taking a pay cut by working fewer days. Granted, we’ll save some money on daycare, and maybe it’ll balance out considering our commutes and my taxes. Either way, it means an end to reckless spending, which is good, but reckless spending has now changed to mean things like “wine” and “brand name anything”.

The belt-tightening has been more or less successful so far, but has room to improve. I’d say our hardest issue is food; it takes time to shop for ingredients and cook them into healthful meals at home, and time is something we don’t have a lot of these days. Again, me being home more often should help, but if the boys decide they want to be up all day and night playing or crying or otherwise deliberately sabotaging my efforts to be productive – which they totally do on purpose – we might find ourselves ordering pizza yet again.

The money stuff is pretty much panicking me, and I suppose Kat to a degree. I just see us in a few months loading our crap into a storage locker and moving into an apartment, only to realize that the two things combined cost more than rent at our current house, and finally needing to move in with relatives and oh my god how can this ever work??? I guess we’ll make it work…

Although the income might be minimal, especially at first, I will also be bringing in a few bucks with a new transcription job. Rev.com, the company I’ll be working for, hired me a while back but only recently squeezed me in to start taking jobs.

After checking out some of the transcription jobs (they’re emailed to me multiple times throughout the day), it seems like an interesting and fun way to earn a few dollars. As a rookie, I’ll earn a little less, but upon listening to some of the audio files available to transcribe, I think I’ll be good at this job and that it will keep me interested. You are allowed to preview each job, and I was listening to pieces that were interviews with Korean War vets. Very interesting, very clear (read: easy to transcribe) and at the rookie prices, I could make roughly $27.00/hour on average depending on my typing speed. All pieces won’t be as interesting, and I won’t be able to crank out as many as my “counting unhatched chickens” mind is imagining, but still; a paycheck is a paycheck. I have the added benefit of working a job I’ll enjoy, that offers hours based on my desires, that is centered around the English language, and – most importantly – isn’t in the retail/food industry. It’s a foot in the door of a bigger world, one where I can report to work and not expect to try to up-sell a customer by offering gravy.

We have no idea where we’ll land with regards to jobs and pay. What we do know is that we are making the best moves we can for our sons at this point in time. We are also fortunate enough to know that if it all really hits the fan (heaven forbid), we have friends and family that will make sure the four of us have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

That’s more than some people have, and we’re thankful for it. This is sort of one of those situations that will work itself out; we’ll just need to have faith that it will work itself out for the best.

Because we’re awesome, we’ve paid our dues, and we deserve it.

 

The Good News Is…

When I launched this blog (and this Tumblr and this Twitter account), the goals were threefold:

  1. Keep family/friends updated on our lives
  2. Have a place for me to get some writing done, with family eagerly awaiting news as my motivation
  3. Help me connect with other parents, folks with ADD and depression, and possible leads on jobs

The good news is that I’ve actually managed to do some of each of these, and will continue to get posts in as I can.

The other good news is that due to the amount of time the twins demand, I can’t get as much writing done as I’d like. Yes, I think that’s actually good news; it means I’m spending lots of time with the boys, so much so that other activities have been neglected.

The bad news is that the overall point of having these accounts is to work towards a better life for the boys via my improved mood and new job. See how it’s cyclical? 

That said, the other other good news is that I have been hired by a transcription company. Before you send me the congratulations cards, the work is limited to what they have available and how quickly you can do it. The pay is by the audio minute (the length of whatever I’m transcribing), and obviously I’ll be slow in the beginning. The average for a “rookie”, says the welcome email I received is $40.00/month; not exactly a living wage. Ideally, I’ll get pretty fast and move up the ladder relatively quickly and start earning more money. I’ll get more into this when I get started, so stay tuned.

The good news in that is that I got hired. Specifically, I got hired for a WAH position based on the results of a test I took that required writing, listening, grammar, and paying attention. In other words I got hired based on skills I have that don’t involve putting potato salad into plastic tubs. This provided a big and much needed ego boost, low-paying job notwithstanding. It also opened up the idea of this type of work; I’ve found more companies that I’ll be applying to over the next few weeks. The ultimate goal is to work from home while earning enough to not need to work in a retail establishment for the first time in my life. I don’t know if transcription is going to do that, but it’s a step in the right direction.

One unexpected benefit of having twin babies is that I have been more focused, less distracted, and better able to organize and plan ahead. Please note that I’m not saying I’m great at any of these, but I’m better than I was a few months ago. I think that being on edge with regards to the boys’ needs keeps my brain on task better than it had been. Knowing that I have two hours before the babies need to eat keeps me focused on the task at hand. I’ve always been a “work better under pressure” person, and this is that. I just need to work on getting to bed earlier; I tend to get home, help with a feeding, do some work, and be ready to go to sleep just when the boys are waking up. Depending on my level of exhaustion this leads to anything from a shrug of mild annoyance to downright “Of COURSE they’d be hungry right when I’m ready for bed!” anger. I absolutely have to adjust my sleep patterns, but I’ve been going to bed at hit-a-wall o’clock for the better part of the last 20 years, so making a permanent change is daunting. I’ll get there, though, because Kat says I have to.

So the blogs aren’t being kept up like I was hoping, but there have been other benefits of this “father of baby twins” thing. Like I said earlier, this stuff was supposed to make me better, therefore making life better for the boys. Turns out they flipped that on me; they’re not letting me get to everything I want, but they’re improving me in their own way.