When working a side gig goes wrong Rev.com

As you may know, if you have come across this path before, I work a cushy 9-5 job. It is good for me and I enjoy it. But I also work a couple of side gigs. I work selling merchandise at music events every so often and it is an absolute blast. I also transcribe on the side, it is not so much of a blast with one company I do it with… Here’s the story of how Rev.com treats their Independent Contractors. Shall we?

Please note I have since edited this post to make a bit more sense as I thought it was jumbled as it was a rant-esque post.

First off I want to say I work for two transcribing companies and while both pay low money, one is grand to me and has not changed anything since I have joined, so they aren’t getting mentioned here. The other is Rev and well, it’s complicated.

Whats Rev?

Rev is a transcription, captioning and translation company that offers customers the lowest possible number to get their work sorted. The princely sum of $1 per minute of the file’s length. Pretty damn good right? What an offer! Who wouldn’t use that service! Exactly, and that is where the issues started it seems. Everyone was piling in to use the service and that meant they advertised far and wide for workers. I saw one of the ads and thought, why not? You know, some extra money wouldn’t hurt and I can do it at home with no worries whatsoever. Easy peasy.

With Rev only charging $1 per minute of the file (pm) makes you wonder about the breakdown. How is everything paid? Well, originally $0.45pm of that dollar went to the transcriptionist (if it was an easy file). The harder the file the more that number increased, occasionally reaching $0.80pm. Now there are also QC and Graders who get random files to check over to make sure they are okay before the customer gets them. Good way of making sure the customer gets the best files right? Nope, once you are past Rookie status in Rev you rarely get checked. Some people spoke about not being checked in 50 or so completed files. Another company I work for checks everything so the customer gets as close to 100% as possible.

The application process was grand and I got in easy enough and away I went. Trying to take a file here and there and doing grand. Then I had these two files left… One was intermediate and the other hard. Both were not the best with the hard being an absolute nightmare. I trundled through them and got okay scores. Oh, sorry. Rev grades each trainee or Rookie file according to their Metric system and after so many minutes transcribing (100 minutes to be exact) if you do not reach the score they want, then out you go. See you never!

I messed up on one of the files and I wondered what I had done wrong. How did they hear what I couldn’t?! Turns out they were just great transcribers and I was but a novice! I was mostly doing this to improve my skills anyway, so that was okay. Anyway, many files later and I am confident in what I can do. I realised there was a forum for the fellow Independent Contractors (IC)and I dived in there to see what they chatted about. Almost instantly I saw negative comments.

Staff murmurings

Unhappy staff Scott? Come on that isn’t new, what IC staff are ever truly happy? Well it wasn’t a normal type of unhappy, it seemed like the most experienced of Revvers were just… worn down by something and I was confused as to what it was. Was it the pressure of trying to earn money? What was going on? It seemed that any decision or slight change was met with resistance from the older IC staff, while the new naive staff like myself were okay with it. We didn’t know any better in truth, so any slight changes seemed from a new person point of few for the better. The experienced staff knew otherwise, they knew small changes would lead to big changes down the road and that would affect how they earn money. Then Rev started making announcements.

The original changes that I saw were Rev trying to counter scammers who had begun to utilise Rev for easy payouts as Rev’s system is pretty fallible to that type of thing. This, of course, wasn’t Rev’s fault and still isn’t, but it is an issue that they were never able to solve and without serious work, they will never get a grip of. Scammers had come in and typed next to nothing on big files, or typed enough to trick the system and taken the money and ran.

These scammers were utilising Rev’s own AI against Rev, Rev uses a system that on some files tries to transcribe the file via an AI and then we have to correct it. But, some had found that if you just altered some of the file to look like someone had edited it, you could get away with getting that to the customer. Pretty clever, but also terrible for Rev, customers would get poor work as more and more scammers came into the workforce, taking any job and sending it out right away to get that money. It was a losing battle and people who were great to me when grading was getting hit. The system changed and it cost a lot of those folks money. The grading jobs reduced as a new system (that has not worked) came into play.

The day things changed

The feedback was swift and strangely restrained from the Revvers in the forum. They explained what needed to be done or what could be done to improve the situation. These weren’t your normal Independent Contractors. Those people are in and out like a shot and do not care about the company. These people cared about the company and wanted further success for it. Many have been with the company for years and years and a community has grown. A growing community I might add. Social threads in the forum about pets etc existed. It is a great place to be in and have chats with people from all across the world.

Rev had created this wonderful ecosystem, that although flawed, people were happy enough with. Happy enough that they would look beyond the issues they had with certain things going on with how they were treated. They were getting paid and that is all that mattered to them. Rightfully so, if I am being paid every week then I have no complaints about anything!

Then last week arrived and boy did things change and change quickly. Rev announced a pay restructuring. This restructuring involved paying a base level of $0.30pmto the transcriber from the original $0.45. A 33% pay cut. But this wasn’t for all files and it would be a tiered system on payments. They would also be increasing the price of files that were deemed harder, to make transcribers go for those instead. So in practice in practice IC’s were getting paid at best $4.50 an hour… Not very good and obviously a big hit to everyone but Rev.

It seems like a plan was in place (not a good one, but a plan). Except, the wording was poor. They insinuated that the best transcriptionists in Revver Plus were only picking the easiest files for an easy life and really as the best in the company, they should be taking on the harder jobs as they will have heard everything. Rev has a three-tier system of Rookie, Revver and Revver Plus. It takes a long time to get to Revver Plus and they get minimal perks if we are honest. But, those people in that group get to pick the files 90 minutes before anyone else. This means that IC’s were being punished for picking up the crystal clear files and have a jolly good time. It is their right to do it. Easy files for easy money, this means they make more money. More money means bills are paid and families are happy.

Rev needed to change this. Why? Well because the best staff were not picking the harder files and thus leaving them for the less experienced to try and ultimately fail at. This meant longer waiting times and unhappy customers. It wasn’t the transcriber’s fault, they were still learning! It also wasn’t the Revver Plus’s fault as they earned the right to take what job they wanted. So Rev dropped the price on the easier files to “persuade” the Plus TC’s to take on the harder files. A revolt started in the forums, not one person was pleased about this (rightfully so). But that can’t be the whole story right? Oh yes this is a few of the reasons why IC’s were upset.

The reasons for the anger

Rev did not send out an email across the company to let us know about this restructuring (pay cut). That would be the common and decent thing to do right? No. They decided to post a fundamental change to how people were going to EARN MONEY via a forum post. BTW not everyone reads the forum. I would hazard a guess and say that less than 5% of the entire workforce does. So, this was going to get missed. Maybe purposely so, but I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

With such a big change like this, you would expect it to be a few weeks before implementation right? Wrong again. thousands of people were given two days’ notice. I will repeat that. TWO. DAYS. NOTICE. Not very long for staff to get used to this and maybe see if they could financially still do the job right? Correct. But it gets better, or worse, depending on your thought process about it.

So, this is happening, they must have a plan for this, a nice structure to how it is going to roll out, right? Wrong! Three strikes! The plan is, there is no plan, they are going to see how it goes and adapt and improve as they see fit. Who plans a change like that to thousands of people? People, who depend on that job for their lives? How can they decide that they will restructure the entire pay of thousands of people and then adapt and tweak it as and when required? It is not very good and rightly had a lot of people nervous, worried, angry, depressed, daunted and unable to work.

The best part of all of this is that the people making the changes on short notice and without telling everyone, was that they were going to take feedback on the changes so they can refine it. Why on earth would you change something that hurts peoples earnings and then ask those same people on how to make it better? That is such a backwards process that I can’t even comprehend it. Even now.

The response from IC’s

The news hit everyone like a rock. How could they do this? They can’t do this right? What am I going to do? Hundreds of comments saying this. But the same responses came from the forum manager. The sole contact between everyone and Rev during this. No one from Senior Management informed everyone, they left it to the lowest person they could and dug their heads into the sands until the long weekend hit. Now, no one truly blames that person for what has gone on. You don’t shoot the messenger after all. It is just staggering that this even happened and people were numb. Really numb. It was almost like a stunned silence as people tried to work out what was going on, how it was going to affect them etc. But the anger came soon after.

The main issue as to why we will not do those harder files is because of someone of them and no offense to the customers… But some sound like there were recorded with a potato in the sea while a tanker is going past, while fireworks are going off. They are not workable in any way. And if you try them your Metrics are guaranteed to go down and if they go down, you might slip out of Rev, or if you are a Revver, slip out of the company as they will fire you if your score is not good enough. People do not want to risk their job with a file that will stop them from earning more money. So we reach an unpleasant impasse. A company needing these files to be completed by their best and their best and (almost everyone else) unwilling to do them as they could hurt their score and thus cost them their job.

In Rev’s defense…

Now I will pause here to say that I understand the reasoning for wanting to make your best staff (not really staff) work on the hardest files, it makes sense to do this. I get it, I think everyone understood it. They were more than willing to engage in a dialogue with Rev on how to work this out. Alas, the doors were closing on this action.

Rev cornered themselves with their own system and decided to change everything without consultation or with that engagement. Why consult IC’s? Well, these people are loyal and Rev knows that very well. They will stick around until they absolutely cannot.

What Rev should have done

So here are a few things Rev should have done and by golly, these have already been brought to the attention of Management, so they must know by now!

  1.  If Rev needed to change things, then they should have asked their best staff what could make them want to do those files. Would you not consult the people doing the work on how you could get them to do said work that was getting ignored.
  2. Ideas raised were that the customer should be informed that if the file had not been picked completed in 2 days (depending on file length) then Rev could inform the customer that the file is difficult to transcribe at the 98% accuracy that Rev says it can achieve. But if the customer wants, they can have someone try and get as close to it as possible for them. As it is quite likely the customer knows the file is not good anyway. Rev then waves the Metric score from whoever gives it a go (I would only allow Plus people to do this). Then the customer knows the best person available tried their best for them. Win-win.
  3. An email should have gone out. This one is so easy it hurts. Revvers were told that an email was not sent out because not all changes need to be emailed out. But when it changes regarding pay, it kinda should!
  4. Longer than 2 days lads, I mean what are we even doing here?

I could go on and probably will if I come back to this post, but you get the gist. There were ways and means for this to be avoided and it wasn’t. Full-on bull in a china shop approach and it has backfired.

These have all been communicated to Rev by a lot of IC’s. They know what they are talking about and like I said, they love working there due to its independence. They WANT to help improve. But if Rev keeps allowing low-quality content from customers, delays, inaccuracies are going to be commonplace.

The main thing is the metrics/scoring. If someone does one of those difficult files they are going to get a hit on their score and it will go down. As I said, if it goes below a certain level, then that person is out the door. Who would risk that? People see this as a career. Who is going to risk THEIR CAREER?! I wouldn’t risk doing one of those files and I only do it for holiday money.

Why are you speaking up about this?

Why am I talking about this? Well, there have been articles and tweets. One brave Revver spoke up about it on Twitter and has caused this little storm on our side of the internet. I felt a need to write about it in a couple thousand words to let it out of my head. I am frustrated with the company and how they have treated people. I will not lie when I say I have seen the following posts from scared workers.

  • Advice on how it is better to bulk buy food off Amazon than spend money driving to the grocery store.
  • How living in a car is a fast-approaching option.
  • How many of these work from home people have disabilities that mean Rev is their sole source of income and they are petrified on what to do?
  • How someone relies on Rev for their rent and bills
  • How someone created a thread to make someone clothes as they had to drop a file early because they were in financial trouble and needed clothes.

I have even been tempted to start a thread on how we can help each other through this time, some may need a lend of $20 for heating or electric. Some Revvers could live near each other. We all have specific non-transcribing skills and maybe we could utilise them to help one another. But in almost posting that thread, I was worried that it would come across as condescending, so have held off thus far.

In the end…

These people have got to live and Rev has (I would like to think) accidentally reduced that, but are now in a position where they do not or can not go back and sort this out. It is a damn shame as so many people could have been happy there for many, many years.

I could go on and on. The worst thing is these people are fantastic at what they do and deserve so much more than this. I have whittled on for a long time, but I think you get my point. What Rev is doing is wrong and it should be reverted back. These are literally people’s lives and it doesn’t seem like people care.

That is all from me today. If you are a business wanting transcribing done for you. Email me at scotthgilliland@hotmail.com. I think I might know some people who can help you out on that one…

If you want to read the thread that prompted this, have read on twitter here:

https://twitter.com/thricedotted/status/1193928787857039362

For information on how it is affecting those less fortunate than me, check here:

https://gizmodo.com/there-is-a-point-where-a-person-cant-do-anymore-1839808189

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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