Rev transcribers hate the low pay, but the disturbing recordings are even worse (2023)

Content warning: This story contains discussion of abuse and violence.

One transcriber working for Rev says that, for them, the recordings that graphically detail someone being abused or assaulted are the most difficult to get through. For other transcribers at Rev, it’s the videos from police body cams that show dead bodies and people who have been attacked, or files where children talk about where an abuser touched them. “Of course, I have the option not to work on such files, but I have no way of knowing what I’m clicking on until I hear it,” the Revver says. A Rev transcriber can choose from a long list of largely unidentified recordings when picking what to work on. The trouble is, a file submitted under the “legal” category might be “a corporate law meeting,” the Revver says, or “a police recording with someone screaming in distress.”

Rev made headlines this month after it slashed minimum pay for its transcribers from 45 cents per audio / video minute transcribed to 30 cents. The company justified the change by saying it was also increasing the pay for more difficult files, and so, ultimately, the amount paid out to transcribers would be about the same. But even though Rev says the changes will only affect a “very small number of jobs,” workers say they are seeing substantial pay cuts because of the change — and for some, the work increasingly isn’t worth the time and stress.

“I’ve finished more than one file in tears ... and frankly I have no training or expertise that really helps me cope with it.”

Rev was founded in 2010 and raised $4.5 million in funding over the next couple of years. The San Francisco- and Austin-based company claims to have over 50,000 independent contractors who transcribe audio at a flat rate of $1 per minute, with its list of customers including Amazon, Microsoft, Viacom, and UCLA, among many others. For transcribers, it touts the freedom of setting their own hours, working from home, and getting paid out on a weekly basis. Many of the Revvers The Verge spoke with were initially attracted to the site by these promises. It fills a need for those who can’t hold a traditional job for any number of personal reasons. “So many people that do this job,” a Revver says, “They’re caring for elderly parents. They have multiple sclerosis … They’re just desperately trying to get by.”

But over a dozen Revvers, who asked to remain anonymous because they still work on the platform, say that while the work is appealing on the surface, this recent pay cut makes staying on the service hard to justify. Difficult transcription jobs sometimes work out to sub-minimum wage rates, and many transcribers have been exposed to disturbing content without warning.

A normal day transcribing for Rev is mostly filled with boring stuff: meetings, marketing pitches, and company presentations. There are also some fun jobs. Several Revvers say they learned about new podcasts through working on files or liked listening to authors talk about their books. One enjoyed transcribing comedy specials before they aired.

Transcribers described encountering disturbing videos on multiple occasions without warning

But every so often, Rev transcribers also encounter upsetting content, and having to deal with it unexpectedly and for lower wages makes the work that much harder.

Nearly every Revver who spoke with The Verge said they were exposed to graphic or troubling material on multiple occasions with no warning. This includes recordings of physical and verbal abuse between intimate partners, graphic descriptions of sexual assault, amateur porn, violent footage from police body cameras, a transphobic rant, and, in one instance, “a breast augmentation filmed by a physician’s cell phone, being performed on a patient who was under sedation.”

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It doesn’t bother everyone, but for some, it can be overwhelming. “I’ve finished more than one file in tears because listening to someone talk about being abused or assaulted is emotionally taxing, and frankly I have no training or expertise that really helps me cope with it,” one Revver tells The Verge.

The pay rate assigned to each transcription is variable and set by an algorithm. To pick up work, Revvers comb through a queue of available jobs, and when they find one they want to transcribe, they claim it. They then have a one-hour grace period where, if something comes up or the file is too bothersome, they can throw the file back in the queue without penalty. An AI helps to transcribe audio on some files before it’s given to a person, but Revvers say it’s inconsistent.

Rev bans violent, obscene, and pornographic content, but the rules don’t seem to be enforced

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Revvers say it’s often unclear what they’re getting into when they start a recording. Usually, the only indicators a Revver has as to what’s inside a file is its title and the name of the person submitting it, should it be a person or entity they recognize. Some clients mark the general category of the job they submit or how many speakers there are, but many don’t or label files incorrectly. That leaves Revvers to do the work of organizing files or warning others of a file’s quality and content — something they can only do if they’ve already taken time to listen to the recording. “It’s a unique situation because we are direct competitors,” says one Revver, “but we will stop and help each other.” All of this assistance is done without pay.

One person said they began transcribing a file because it was submitted by an academic institution, only to realize later that it was a Title IX investigation with graphic descriptions of assault. So then they have to make a decision: “I’m already halfway through this, do I bail or do I get through it?” they said. “And usually the answer is: I get through it and then I leave the platform for the rest of the day, because when that happens, it fucking sucks.”

“Instantly there was a set of genitals right in front of me, completely not covered up.”

If the transcriber chooses to not finish a job after the hour-long grace period, they risk receiving a lowered “commitment ratio score” in addition to giving up any money they would have made. If a transcriber’s standing goes below a certain threshold, their account can be terminated. “Sometimes you’ll get part way through a file and realize, ‘Oh, this involves some child abuse,’” says another Revver. “And if it’s past the unclaimed time, you can’t [abandon] it.”

In an email to The Verge, Rev said that “all files” are categorized, but Revvers say this is untrue. Screenshots sent to The Verge show numerous files in Rev’s queue without any subject assigned. “At least 50 percent of them have no subject,” one Revver said.

Rev also said that its customers “are prohibited from uploading offensive content” and that the company “does not require anyone to work on specific projects.” The site’s terms of service agreement says that content can’t be uploaded that is “threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, excessively violent, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, pornographic, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable,” but its customers seem to violate the rules. Within the past month, Rev workers have talked about transcribing porn, graphic surgery videos, and domestic violence 911 calls on the company forum.

Transcribers say they struggle to meet minimum wage under the lowered pay structure

One Revver said that, just last week, they were at a coffee shop when they opened up a file that turned out to be a documentary on a nudist colony. “Instantly there was a set of genitals right in front of me, completely not covered up. It was a video file and there was definitely no warning at all,” the Revver said. “No chance to obscure my screen from any children, baristas, or the security guard at the Starbucks. I had to close my laptop right away because I didn’t want people to think I was looking at porn.”

Many Revvers do the work to earn extra money, but for some, this kind of work is a necessity. One Revver The Verge spoke with used the site as a stopgap after losing their full-time job. Others have disabilities and can’t hold full-time jobs. Another uses it to supplement their Social Security. Even with Rev work as a supplement, they say their income is about half the national poverty level.

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Rev transcribers hate the low pay, butthe disturbing recordings are even worse (3)

Rev transcribers hate the low pay, butthe disturbing recordings are even worse (4)

One Revver The Verge spoke with lives in a rural area and is unable to drive for mental health reasons. They have a part-time job that’s a 90-minute walk away, and they are not near a bus line. They signed up for Rev in order to save up for a new bicycle so they could reach their current part-time job and the nearest town more easily. “I have a 35-year-old bicycle,” they tell The Verge. “It’s trucking along, but it’s bad with the rain and hills. Rev’s pay keeps dwindling. I can’t buy a new bike now.”

The company’s lowered rates spilled over into the public spotlight earlier this month when transcriber Li Zilles tweeted about the change and called it “another example of a gig economy startup brazenly mistreating its workers.”

“I want [Rev] to thrive, but I also want to thrive along with them.”

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Many Revvers say that the pay was okay before this recent change. They were able to meet their state’s minimum wage (which they are not guaranteed because of the job’s freelance nature), and it was enough to keep them happy. But for several people The Verge spoke with, that’s no longer the case with Rev’s new payment structure. Some transcribers said they couldn’t keep pace with the low federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. One Revver says their earnings have already decreased by over one-third, and now they fear they might not be able to make rent.

In an email, Rev said that “many skilled transcriptionists on Rev earn $15+ per hour. Slower and less experienced typists earn less.” It said jobs are offered at “a wide range of pay rates” and are paid per job, not hourly, because the workers are freelance.

A common misconception with transcription is that it doesn’t take that much time or require much expertise. But as many professional longtime transcribers working on Rev tell The Verge, you need good and accurate typing, proofreading, grammar, punctuation, and language skills. Even then, a 15-minute file will likely take someone an hour to transcribe. That’s for clear audio, without much crosstalk, heavy accents, background noise, or the need to fact-check the array of technical words that might pop up in medical or legal files.

As freelancers, Rev transcribers lack most legal employment protections

Rev says it accounts for these challenges with its algorithm, which supposedly sets higher rates per minute for more difficult files and lower rates for easier ones. But many say the math doesn’t work out, and harder files that take twice as long to transcribe don’t necessarily pay more than twice as much for the effort. The harder jobs can also be more mentally and physically tiring, writes one transcriber in a note published on Gizmodo.

Another Revver who The Verge spoke with summed up the exasperation many feel with the company’s latest changes. “We’re not being recognized ... We get no legal protections. We get nothing,” they said.

Revvers have few workplace protections under the law because the company classifies them as independent contractors, according to Veena Dubal, associate professor of law at the University of California, Hastings. “If you are an independent contractor it’s legal to make 1 cent on a job,” Dubal says. Simply put, with very limited exceptions, employment and labor law protections don’t apply to independent contractors, so there are no rules in place about how long an independent contractor works or how much or little they make per hour. Rev also states that it has no age limit on who can work as a transcriber, but said in an email that state laws should be followed. “So there may be people under 16 working over 40 hours a week on Rev and that’s not illegal,” Dubal says.

Uber, Instacart, Postmates, and others have been similarly scrutinized for their treatment of contractors

Employee classification is a big deal in today’s gig economy, with app-based services from Uber to Instacart to Postmates facing similar scrutiny, and California’s recently passed AB5 bill attempting to make it more difficult for these companies to classify workers as independent contractors. Classifying workers as independent contractors allows an employer to reduce labor costs, while stripping workers of potential protections, often making them ineligible for unemployment benefits and disability compensation. The National Conference of State Legislatures says a company can save up to 30 percent on labor this way, which “provides a real incentive for businesses to classify their workers as independent contractors, even if the workers are truly employees.”

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In states where there are stronger protections around freelance work, the changes don’t necessarily end up helping the workers. In California, for instance, Rev no longer accepts freelance transcribers. In an email, the company’s CEO, Jason Chicola, said having to remove them from the platform was “devastating for us” and “the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my entire career.”

Revvers say they don’t want the site to go away. They just want the company to pay attention to their grievances. “I don’t want Rev to go under,” says one worker. “I want them to thrive, but I also want to thrive along with them.”

FAQs

How much can you realistically make from Rev? ›

Rev transcription pay

The majority of jobs pay around $0.50 per video minute (just under 40 pence).

How do you answer why do you want to work for Rev? ›

Example: “I want to work for Rev because I am passionate about helping businesses succeed by making their content more accessible. I have been using Rev since my college days, when I was working on my thesis project.

Is it hard to transcribe on Rev? ›

Rev is a super easy to use platform that you can go back to whenever you want. You can work freely from wherever you are so long as you are able to properly hear and transcribe files. Sticking to the guide book can be difficult at times, but the rules are very simple to follow!

Is Rev better than Transcribeme? ›

Rev scored higher in 8 areas: Overall Rating, Culture & Values, Diversity & Inclusion, Work-life balance, Compensation & Benefits, Career Opportunities, Recommend to a friend and Positive Business Outlook. Both tied in 1 area: Senior Management.

How do I explain why I am qualified for this position? ›

Interviewer: “Why do you think you are qualified for this position?” OK answer: “I am qualified for this position because I have the skills you need and the experience to back it up.” Better answer: “I believe I am the most qualified for the job because I have completed 15 years in this field.

What are three reasons why you would want to do this job? ›

Focus on the job at hand

'I want this job because I have clear skills that will help me achieve...' 'This role will give me the opportunity to combine both my skills in [skill 1] and [skill 2] to achieve...' 'I love [job role specific task] and my last job took me away from that.

How long does it take to hear back from Rev? ›

If you pass the quality check, you'll receive an email permitting you to register your account with Rev and start claiming transcription jobs immediately. Normally it takes under about one week to hear back, meaning you could get paid for your first transcription job within less than two weeks of applying.

Is it worth working for Rev? ›

Working for Rev is fairly good, but only to make extra money on the side. They can sometimes pay too little for the videos that must be captioned. Some videos are of bad quality so it can be difficult to do those.

How long does it take to transcribe 1 hour? ›

As a very broad rule of thumb, many transcribers say it takes four hours for every one hour of audio. Obviously, if you're wondering how long to transcribe 30 minutes of audio file, around two hours.

How long does it take to transcribe 1 hour recording? ›

Generally, the industry standard for transcribing one hour of audio is four hours. That means you should expect any audio that is less than 15 minutes to be transcribed within an hour. Some experienced transcriptionists can transcribe files much faster.

Who pays more Rev or Scribie? ›

Considering Rev vs. Scribie's price per minute, Scribie rates are lower at only $0.80/min. The lower pricing makes a big difference in transcription charges as rates add up. Rev's transcription rates are not as upfront, making it challenging to compute total costs.

Who pays the most for transcribing? ›

19 high-paying transcription jobs
  1. A Quo Co. A Quo Co is a legal transcription company that focuses on court transcriptions. ...
  2. Aberdeen Broadcast Services. ...
  3. SpeakWrite. ...
  4. Allegis Transcription. ...
  5. Transcript Divas. ...
  6. Alpha Dog Transcriptions. ...
  7. Speechpad. ...
  8. Audio Transcription Center.
14 Apr 2022

Which is the best transcription company to work for? ›

21 Places to Find The Best Transcription Jobs Online
  1. Rev. With more than 170,000 clients worldwide, including CBS and Viacom, Rev is one of the best sources of online transcription jobs. ...
  2. TranscribeMe. ...
  3. Crowdsurf. ...
  4. Quicktate. ...
  5. SpeakWrite. ...
  6. Tigerfish. ...
  7. CastingWords. ...
  8. Scribie.
7 days ago

Is Rev income taxed? ›

Follow. All of our transcriptionists, captioners, and translators are independent contractors and therefore Rev does not withhold taxes from your earnings.

Do I have to claim income from Rev? ›

You are required to report "all income" you receive in the year, regardless of where it comes from, and the CRA requires any income over the amount of $3,500.00 to be reported as Self-Employment income.

Can I work at Rev again? ›

Common Reasons for Deactivation

Rev may close accounts that do not meet our quality standards. Per Rev's Terms of Service, freelance agents must be at least 18 years of age or older. If your account was closed for being a minor, you may reapply when you turn 18.

Does anyone work with Rev? ›

Decent work for some extra cash.

It's a good website. I like how easy it is to apply and go through the assigned (paid) training. There is a lot of variety when it comes to projects and usually there is a sufficient amount of work of decent quality.

Why should we hire you over other candidates? ›

Explanation: By highlighting your experience with a particular skill that the position requires, describe in detail what that experience looks like and how you have used it previously. This gives the hiring manager the chance to see some of your work and determine if it fits what they are looking for in a candidate.

Why should we hire you for no experience? ›

As a fresher, I have theoretical knowledge I am looking for a platform to implement my skills and knowledge I think yours is a great organisation for me and I will give my 100% for the growth of the company I am the well suitable candidate you are looking for.

What qualities make you a good candidate? ›

Desired Candidate Attributes
  • Leadership. Even in entry-level positions, most employers look for evidence of leadership qualities. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills. ...
  • Analytical Skills. ...
  • Dependability and a Strong Work Ethic. ...
  • Maturity and a Professional Attitude. ...
  • Adaptability and Flexibility. ...
  • Good Personality.

What is your weakness best answer? ›

Answer “what is your greatest weakness” by choosing a skill that is not essential to the job you're applying to and by stressing exactly how you're practically addressing your weakness. Some skills that you can use as weaknesses include impatience, multitasking, self-criticism, and procrastination.

How do you handle stress and pressure? ›

2. Commit to a Positive Attitude
  1. Decide what you can do. Pinpoint which parts of the situation you have the power to change or influence for the better. ...
  2. Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation. ...
  3. Care for yourself. Take especially good care of yourself when stress in your life is high.

How fast do you have to type to work for Rev? ›

Practice Typing

While most transcriptionists can type at around 50 words per minute (WPM), make it your goal to type at least 60 WPM. By improving your typing speed, you can get more work done in less time, which seriously increases your earning potential!

How long are you a rookie on Rev? ›

When you first start, you will be at our Rookie level. As a Rookie, your first 45 minutes of projects will be reviewed and graded by our review team.

Why is transcribing so hard? ›

Transcription is one of the most demanding and labor-intensive among all translation services. It requires high-skills from the transcriptionist, from listening to the audio or video file, researching the subject matter, understanding the context of the recording and typing the audio into readable text.

How long should a 20 minute dictation take to type? ›

A professional typist can exceed 100wpm – meaning it can be up to 5 times faster than trying to type yourself. At around 20wpm, a 3,000 word or roughly 6 page word report will take a minimum of 2.5 hours. Dictating this will take 30 minutes.

What are the four major skills needed for transcription? ›

4 Most Important Skills for a Transcriber to Have
  • Attention to detail. A transcriber must be constantly re-reading as they're typing to make sure they didn't miss anything. ...
  • Google skills. Like most modern workers, a good transcriber needs to be an experienced Googler. ...
  • Grammar skills. ...
  • Typing.
12 Feb 2015

What is the average speed of a transcriptionist? ›

The average typing speed for transcriptionists is 40 to 60 words per minute. Transcriptionists with above-average typing skills can type more than 80 words per minute. Many professional transcriptionists can type 80-100 words per minute.

What is a good rate for transcription? ›

Industry standards. Standard rates for professional transcriptionists (especially those professionals from North America) range from $1.5 to $3 per audio minute or $90 to $180 per audio hour. If your project has extra requirements, such as a quick turnaround time, you may be forced to pay more to have the job done.

How long should it take to transcribe 20 minutes of audio? ›

In my experience as a professional professional transcriptionist, clearly recorded audio with slow, clear speakers can be transcribed at a ratio of 3:1 or 2:1 or even lower – that's one hour of transcription time for a 20- or 30-minute file.

What are the easiest transcription jobs? ›

26 Online Transcription Jobs for Beginners
  • #1 Ubiqus.
  • #2 Scribie.
  • #3 Way With Words.
  • #4 eScribers.
  • #5 Rev.
  • #6 Speechpad.
  • #7 VIQ Solutions.
  • #8 CastingWords.
4 May 2022

Which transcription site pays the most for beginners? ›

The Best Transcription Jobs
  1. SpeakWrite. What is this? ...
  2. Transcript Divas. Rate Info: Average of $1.39 per audio minute. ...
  3. Speechpad. Rate Info: $0.25 – $2.50 per audio minute. ...
  4. Averbach Transcription. Rate Info: $1.00 – $1.50 per audio minute. ...
  5. Transcription Outsourcing LLC. ...
  6. TranscribeMe. ...
  7. Daily Transcription. ...
  8. Tigerfish.
15 Jun 2022

How much does a beginner transcriber earn? ›

Average starting Salary for Freelance Transcriptionist in India is around ₹1.0 Lakhs per year (₹8.3k per month).

Is transcribing an easy job? ›

Transcribing is a relatively easy career to enter, as there are few academic or training requirements. Some people may find the job itself more challenging, as it can require intense concentration to accurately transcribe events or recordings. Many transcribers enjoy getting to work on a wide range of documents.

Is working for daily transcription worth it? ›

Some of the work is more difficult than others, but all in all, it's pretty straightforward. You get paid weekly which is great. I'd definitely recommend this company if you're just looking to bring in a little extra money working from home.

Is transcription a stressful job? ›

Medical transcriptionists may work from home, receiving dictation and submitting drafts electronically. Their work may be stressful because they need to ensure that reports are accurate and completed within a quick turnaround time.

Can you make a living being a transcriber? ›

As a beginner, you could earn $10 an hour or less. More experienced transcriptionists who work in specialized fields can command over $25 an hour.

Is transcribing on Rev worth it? ›

On average, people are able to transcribe or caption about 20 minutes of audio or video per hour, which works out to $8.00 – $15.00 per hour. Not great money, but you're also not doing manual labor and you can stay at home. Don't expect a steady stream of assignments though.

Is Rev a good transcription service? ›

Rev is trusted by 750,000+ users across every industry. You're in good hands. Rev provides guaranteed 99% accurate transcripts, subtitles and captions with quick turnaround for customers large and small. That's why we have the highest number of positive reviews than any other speech-to-text service around.

Is it better to be a captioner or transcriptionist on Rev? ›

Captioning files pay a bit more, starting at about 54 cents per minute while transcription files start at about 45 cents per minute. Keep in mind with captions there is an additional syncing step and longer deadlines. If you enjoy straightforward typing, you may prefer transcription.

How do you transcribe faster in Rev? ›

Here's what one full-time Revver has to say about transcription productivity and working toward hitting his $500 weekly goal.
  1. Use text expanders.
  2. Save correcting mistakes and research until the end.
  3. Get a foot pedal.
  4. Slow down the audio.
  5. Don't just skip back for the hell of it.
  6. Find the right file.
  7. Use autocorrect.
13 Aug 2018

Is it hard to work for Rev com? ›

Overall, this is a decent company to work for. The onboarding process is not very difficult. You will be considered an Independent Contractor, not an employee. You choose when you want to work and are able to select the projects you want to transcribe.

Which is better Rev or Scribie? ›

Overall, Scribie is a solid choice for both automatic and manual transcription needs. However, Rev is the Editors' Choice winner among transcription services for producing better transcriptions and giving users plenty of purchasing options.

What is a good hourly rate for transcription? ›

Transcription Jobs by Hourly Rate
Job TitleRangeAverage
TranscriberRange:$10 - $26Average:$16
Legal SecretaryRange:$14 - $32Average:$18
Legal Word ProcessorRange:$12 - $32Average:$20
Court ReporterRange:$15 - $42Average:$30
3 more rows

How long does it take Rev to transcribe? ›

Transcription Speed for the Professional Transcriptionist

For professional transcriptionist, the average time to transcribe one audio hour ranges from 2-3 hours. Some of the most qualified transcriptionists can transcribe up to 30 minutes of audio in an hour.

Does Rev captioning pay well? ›

A typical revolves around using their portal to find available jobs which may they claim (captioning). Pay is usually 0.60 to 0.90 per minute captioned.

What typing speed do you need to transcribe? ›

Typing speeds vary greatly, but it's safe to say that transcriptionists should have a typing speed of at least 60 words per minute, which is equivalent to 120 keystrokes per minute. Transcribers have to type every word as they hear it, so their typing skills are in sync with their listening skills.

How long does it take to transcribe 20 minutes of audio? ›

In my experience as a professional professional transcriptionist, clearly recorded audio with slow, clear speakers can be transcribed at a ratio of 3:1 or 2:1 or even lower – that's one hour of transcription time for a 20- or 30-minute file.

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