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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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…

Coming Back to Christmas

I think it’s been a combination of factors that have led me to what at best can be called a disinterest in and at worst a loathing of Christmas and its entire affiliated season.

First and foremost, I have been working some form of customer service/retail job for the last…well, every day I’ve ever been employed for my entire life. In particular, for the last – oh my God – seven years, I have been employed with a high-end grocery store. Something about having wealthy people get pissy because you’re sold out of organic mulling spice packs can really chip away at my holiday spirit. Add to that year after year of looping Christmas music (courtesy Muzac) bombarding me for 8+ hours a day, lack of time with family, and first-hand experience with people at a level of holiday narcissism and gluttony that would make Linus vomit into his blanket.

On top of this you can stack age, a growing lack of disinterest in holidays in general, and the shadow of depression looming over me even darker when I’d rather be enjoying the season with my family. It has all added up to what amounts more or less to a resentment of holidays in general and Christmas in particular.

A robust and sincere tip of the hat to my brothers and sisters in retail, food service, hospitality, and other service jobs who don’t flinch during holiday times and especially to those who enjoy them. Kudos, and I even get it. The holidays are more intense, seem to fly by, can be exciting, and even I get a sense of enjoyment when I contribute to making someone else’s holiday/s great. What I particularly dislike, though, is the disregard with which one in our profession is often treated, a disregard that increases during the periods surrounding the various holidays.

I might as well be an Amazon page for all the consideration I get.

This is part and parcel of the service industry, and one typically becomes numb to or at least used to it. What I’ve never been able to reconcile, though, is the increased disregard and even contempt leveled at employees in various customer service jobs.

I’m sorry your family is stressing you out and that you forgot to order your turkey until it was too late and that your credit card bill is growing and that I have offended you with my inability to help you in these or any other matters. Truly.

As the years have passed, and my displeasure with what I do in general growing, I have lost more and more interest in, concern over, and enthusiasm for the holidays. They (all of them) have become just more work challenges to get through, no more fun or exciting than inventory or budget meetings or Weasel Stomping Day. Grab your bootstraps and get through it.

My real problem with this is that it’s really an area of work I can’t help but bring home. I deal with holiday stuff – music, food, etc. – at work all day. Coming home to more holiday music and food isn’t a lot of fun anymore. Placing my own holiday stress second to that of total strangers makes my stress that much tougher to tolerate. I largely dislike Christmas music anymore, or at least any of the common stuff. I look forward to Christmas morning and Halloween night like I look forward to doctor appointments. I’m too frazzled to pick good gifts for people, and although I always plan big holiday meals, I wind up regretting the choice about 30 seconds into taking food from the fridge.

For the first time in ever, I have something really, truly exciting to look forward to this Christmas: a couple of babies.

Last year, when K was pregnant, I actually had some serious optimism about this. I want these boys to renew my excitement in holidays. I need them to.

I know that’s a lot to dump on babies. Asking my children to restore my enjoyment of holidays? They are not real life Rankin/Bass characters.

I don’t care. This year might not make much of a difference, and even next year might be a little tepid.

At some point, though, I will watch these two little terrors start to actively enjoy Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and the rest.

Fireworks?! Eggs?! Turkey?! PRESENTS?!” I want my babies to look forward to and enjoy holidays the way I used to, and I’m praying that they bring me back to at the very least optimism about them. I admit it; I plan on living vicariously through these guys. I’m not even sorry.

I think that at a certain age, you accept that the bulk of holiday fun is for kids. So you let the little ones have their fun. That, in itself, brings more than enough happiness to many adults, and I’m eagerly looking forward to being one of those adults.

I know pinning the enjoyment of holidays – especially Christmas – on our little boys seems a bit unfair. My justification is that they brighten up my regular days so much that I can only imagine what they’re going to on Christmas.

 

This is M's "official" first crawl. All it took was a singing, light-up novelty Christmas decoration from Hallmark.

This is M’s “official” first crawl. All it took was a singing, light-up novelty Christmas decoration from Hallmark.

Winter time!

Winter time!

OK, Santa didn't scare them; it was the three grumpy teen girls in elf costumes and the other two women helping shaking jingle bells and cajoling the boys to face the camera. Fun, but a bit intense. Oh well. It was free (at P.T.'s office building) and they got to keep those bears!

OK, Santa didn’t scare them; it was the three grumpy teen girls in elf costumes and the other two women helping shaking jingle bells and cajoling the boys to face the camera. Fun, but a bit intense. Oh well. It was free (at P.T.’s office building) and they got to keep those bears!

IMG_3785

Awesome Santa in Kent, WA.

 

Daddy needs Christmas cheer too.

Daddy needs Christmas cheer too.

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GQ pose!

GQ pose!

First Christmas, first pile of electrified strangulation hazard studded with gass.

First Christmas, first pile of electrified strangulation hazard studded with gass.

8 months old!

8 months old!

8 months!

8 months!

Work

Before I went in for my third and fourth days (respectively, non-consecutively) back at work this week, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My two days back the week prior had been fairly miserable due to a blend of exhaustion, wanting to spend time with my (then) two-week-old babies, and an overwhelming resentment of the job itself.

Before I took time off, several people at work told me that between crying newborns, lack of sleep, and family in town, I’d be begging to come back to work. (Author’s note: these people clearly don’t know me in the slightest.) My first days back I was anything but excited to be there.

By the time I went back again this week, I was more tired, the crowded house was beginning to wear on me, and I was ready for a change of scenery.

Would the prophecies come true? Would I be happy to be back at my job? Would my least favorite place on the planet become a refuge?

As it turns out, no. I spent two days performing up to my usual level of awesomeness (I’m not even bragging, I’m pretty good at my job) despite being more or less entirely checked out. I’d rather have spent my time with two fussy newborns, a cluttered house with visitors, and my even-more-exhausted-than-I wife.

I’ll continue looking for PT work (or even FT work that I don’t mind leaving the twins for every day) because income is needed, and of course I’ll scrub out sewer pipes for a living if that’s what I needed to do to give the boys the life they deserve. In my mind, though, part of that life would ideally involve a dad who isn’t completely burnt-out and who is able to leave any work-related stress at work. It isn’t just my opinion either; you can a better idea of what I’m talking about here, here, and here.

“But Robb,” I hear some people saying*, “Most people have to go back to work after having babies! Even your wife will be going back soon! Why are you trying so hard to get so much time at home? That’s what daycare is for!” True, and aside from the fact that I’d like to have our kids get as much face-time with their parents as possible, there is the fact that once you subtract daycare for twins and commuting costs from my current salary, there isn’t a whole lot left; roughly a PT job’s salary. So to continue working would simply cover the cost of daycare with a little left over, and if I’m just paying for daycare, why not eliminate the middle-man and make less and be the daycare provider until such time as the kids’ ages and our tax dollars align and we can drop them off at school?