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Playback: How I Spent Quarantine as a Freelance Transcriptionist

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winona chapter.

This summer was kind of a bummer for everyone—not just for me. With nothing to do and way too much time on my hands while in quarantine, I searched the web for possible work-from-home jobs or remote side-hustles that could make me feel productive. This is how I became a freelance transcriptionist through an online company, where I listened to audio files and converted them to text.


This kept me occupied to say the least. 


The company goes by the name Rev.com, and I definitely did my research on them before signing up and creating a PayPal account linked to my bank account because the internet can be a dangerous place. After confirming that they are legit, I resumed my interest in the job and applied.


I first had to pass a simple grammar quiz to show them that I have a basic understanding of the English language. After passing the quiz, submitting my application and having my application approved, I was placed on a wait-list. I had to be approved and have my account activated before I could even start transcribing. But after a few short days, I was finally activated! 


Then came the learning process. 


Rev has their own online text-editing program, which takes a little time to get used to, especially when learning how to stop and restart audio in just the right spot. Luckily, it was pretty easy to use once I got the hang of it. They also provided a style guide/manual they expected their transcribers to follow when transcribing audio. 


They started me off with some practice audio, which was a voice recording of two people talking about the company and what they do while also trying to simulate the types of common occurrences/challenges that one would encounter while transcribing. Some of these, which they simulated in the audio, is knowing the difference between words that sound exactly the same, such as Cisco, the technology company, and Sysco, the food company— which I definitely had to Google, having never heard of these companies in my life—and being able to decipher sentences such as: They’re there in their car. They even brought some Spanish into the mix and taught me how to insert the “Foreign Language Tag” into the text when another language is spoken. 


I was also introduced to the “Inaudible Tag,” which I was tempted to use generously, especially with a majority of the audio they provided for transcription. 


Basically, a simple, often grammatically incorrect, transcript of the audio was provided, but it was my job to follow along as the audio played and edit the already-existing transcript and add in any words that did not register or registered incorrectly.  


When I actually got to work, I was a Rookie, meaning I did not get access to all of the audio files available that actual Revvers got full access to. In order to get a higher status, I needed to transcribe for at least 45 minutes of audio and manage to transcribe enough projects that were of “customer ready” quality and were completed by the due date, which was usually a few hours after claiming a project. Failing to do so on frequent occasions would result in getting your account deactivated, so no pressure there. 


The audio files available were not always the best quality.                


Since I got last-pick, I was left with muffled, staticy audio that would be hard for humans in general to decipher, let alone a Rev Rookie—which is actually one of the biggest complaints the company got from people who had worked for them. Over the summer, I did manage to complete two audio files successfully, making a whopping $15.03 for both of them combined. 


In other words, the pay was not great.  


The longest of the two audio files I completed was almost 27 minutes long and was a recording of an interview taking place between two women on the topic of HIV and prevention, which took me close to two hours to complete as I continuously needed to stop and replay the audio and Google terms I did not know how to spell. The pay definitely did not match the labor, but longer audio files had the higher prices – over $10 (try to contain yourself).


I attempted to work on another “longer” file to earn more money, but I ended up rejecting the project once I started (which we were permitted to do within a certain time limit after claiming a file). All of Rev’s audio files were very random, and this one in particular was a video which looked like a documentary from the back country, featuring an intoxicated hillbilly-like man riding in the plow of a backhoe conversing rather unintelligently with his friends. I really had no idea what they were saying, and I was getting really annoyed having to stop and replay it over and over. So I rejected it and let someone else deal with that madness. I have not completed a project for Rev since.


Although I haven’t worked for Rev in a while, my account is still active. So, if I ever find myself in deep, dire desperation for mental stimulation, I know where to go. 


If you are looking for big cash fast, transcribing with Rev may not be right for you. 


However, if you like to pay close attention-to-detail while listening to audio and maybe learn a thing or two along the way, this may be a good hobby that makes you a decent amount of pocket change. 


Anjuli is a senior at Winona State University majoring in applied and professional writing and minoring in psychology. She is interested in broadening her writing abilities and writing about topics that she is passionate about. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her three cats, going to the movies and traveling.
My name is Hannah Hippensteel, and I like to say I'm a Chicago city-slicker, but I'm actually from the 'burbs. I'm currently a senior at Winona State with a major in mass communication-journalism and a minor in sociology. Catch me enjoying all Winona has to offer: the bluffs, the incomparable Bloedow's Bakery, and not to mention, Minnesota boys. With a goal of working at Teen Vogue, Seventeen or Glamour magazine, I'm soaking up every opportunity to keep my finger on the pulse and share my personal voice!