A message from Rev founder, Jason Chicola

I learned a lot last week.

We made some operational changes where we raised pay on certain jobs and lowered pay on others. This upset some of our freelancers, and our clumsy response led them to take their frustration to social media. A few news sites ran with the story and wrote what these freelancers told them. This is legitimate news and there is a real story here — a story that includes a fast-growing startup that made some mistakes, upset some users, and is now being judged by the court of public opinion.

I founded Rev because I wanted to create great work-from-home opportunities. Rev freelancers (“Revvers”) work on their own terms — when, where, and how they want. The work is portable — they can move across the country without the stress of finding a new job. Rev is often a lifestyle choice for people who want to opt out of the rat race. Revvers don’t want 9-to-5 hours, a long commute, and a boss who tells them what to do. Rev offers total schedule flexibility, the ability to work in your pajamas, and total control over the jobs you take or don’t take. So many of them tell us they will never, ever go back to an office job. We built Rev for them.

This is why it is so painful to read some headlines that miss this story and present the fair complaints of these understandably frustrated Revvers, as if they represent the reality for most Revvers. I get that the dominant media narrative is “the gig economy exploits workers” — but before you assume that we are another evil tech company, I humbly ask that you take a few minutes to hear our story.

Fact vs. Fiction

Some of what is being written about us is true, some is untrue, and some is simply misleading. I’ll try to set the record straight, and let you judge for yourself.

ClaimReality
Rev cut pay by 33%.False. We cut some pay on the easiest jobs by up to 33%, and on harder jobs, we raised pay by up to 45%. The average pay is the same. On average, freelancers are earning the same as before.
Rev cut minimum pay by 33%.True. See above. We cut pay on some jobs, not on some people. Freelancers typically have over 1,000 jobs to choose from, at a wide range of pay rates.
Some Rev freelancers are earning less than last week.True. Those who do the easiest jobs only are earning less than last week. Others, who do harder jobs, are earning more than last week. Freelancers have the choice to claim any job, from easier jobs with lower pay to harder jobs with higher pay.
Rev did not email freelancers ahead of time.True. We announced the change in our online forum, where we discuss changes. We should have emailed the news as well, with more advance notice.
Rev did this to make money.False. Our average pay is the same as last month. Our profit margin is the same as last month. We made this change to improve quality for customers. We were trying to incentivize freelancers to claim harder jobs, with higher pay rates.
Rev freelancers are outraged over these changes.False. Out of 50,000 active freelancers, less than 1% are vocally objecting. These changes benefit many Rev freelancers, particularly newer freelancers who will now get a chance to do the easier jobs, more in line with their skills. Also, freelancers who do harder jobs are earning more now.
Rev freelancers earn $4.50 per hour.False. Rev freelancers are not paid by the hour. They are independent contractors, paid piece-rate, with pay tied to the size of the job. Their earnings are driven by their productivity, notably typing speed and familiarity with our software. Many skilled transcriptionists on Rev earn $15+ per hour. Slower and less experienced typists earn less.
Rev is another gig economy company leading a “race to the bottom” — lowering pay and squeezing freelancers.False. Rev has invested tens of thousands of engineering hours building the most technologically sophisticated platform for transcription, and AI that helps the freelancers work faster by editing a draft transcript. These technology investments have grown freelancer productivity and effective hourly earnings by over 20% over the last three years.

We Made Mistakes

We aren’t perfect.  We make mistakes. Last Friday, I spoke to Rev freelancers in a YouTube Livestream and explained what happened and why, what we wish we did differently, and what we are sorry about.  

I apologized for:

  • Being insensitive to the impact these price changes would have on some freelancers.  We should have given them more advance notice, and we should have made other changes to our platform to make the harder jobs more appealing.
  • Not listening well enough.  We didn’t understand these users well enough to predict their reactions.  We thought they would just claim harder jobs for higher pay; we didn’t realize they had legitimate reasons for not wanting those jobs. 
  • Poor communication.  We communicate mostly in-writing, for example, through our forum.  That is no longer enough for a community of 50,000. This change created fear in some people’s minds, and we were slow to quell that fear, so rumors ran wild.

We will do a lot more in 2020 to listen better, including in-person meetups between freelancers and Rev employees, online video focus groups, and tighter moderation and engagement with our online forum.

An Open Invitation

Out of a community of 50,000 Revvers, well under 1% were vocal critics of the recent changes.  A far larger number are happy with Rev, and happy with or indifferent to the recent changes.

I hope the reporters who are interested in Rev will continue to learn about our company and the Revver community, and I want to help them get the facts they need to evaluate us.

So, reporters, if you are reading this, I invite all of you to visit our offices, learn how and what we do, view some of our internal data, and speak to Rev freelancers to learn why they choose to work on Rev.  We’d love to find reporters who want to tell the whole story. Email press@rev.com and we’ll give you lots of info and access.

Revvers Speak

Here are some responses to the recent job pricing change:

“This is my highest-paying week so far with Rev. I guess I’m a “bootlicker” who will keep on working. Haha!” — Revver in Hersey, MI
“I greatly appreciate the pay increase, as I was already relying 100% on work from a single requester to pay my bills. The base went from $0.50 to $0.60 per minute which translates into less time having to work to pay my bills and more time to work on my web startup. Typing over 150 words per minute and understanding a large breadth of fields, and accents, allows me to make over $30 an hour on Rev, including breaks, with my peak being at $35 on a hit where I could go at 150% speed and barely had to pause. After struggling for years to make minimum wage and having to work seven days a week to fulfill cryptic bonus requirements on other platforms, this freedom has truly, without exaggeration, changed my life.” — Revver in Ohio
“I have been with Rev for almost three years now, and quite honestly, I really haven’t seen that much fluctuation in the pay scale. Sometimes I make more, sometimes less, but it’s usually about the same. I’m really confused by all the pearl-clutching outrage…” — Revver in Salina, KS
“I haven’t noticed much difference. I only worked today and yesterday, and for those two days I made as much as I would have before the pay changes.” — Revver in Des Moines, IA
“I work full-time for Rev, have done so for the past four years or so. My weekly target is around $400. I usually achieve that with ease, and this week has been no exception. When I finish my project on hand my earnings for the week will be $480.” — Revver in South Africa

The changes that sparked this all were designed to get more of our best freelancers doing the hardest jobs, and to ensure that our least experienced Revvers (we call them “Rookies”) have access to easier jobs they can do well.  Happily, we have heard from many Revvers who love the changes. For example:

“As someone who has been with your company for a number of years, and has recently dropped out of Rev+ due to a couple crappy jobs, I LOVE THESE CHANGES. The tenure grading system is perfect. Thank you for listening.” Revver in Idaho
“I am a rookie and want to stay as a Revver and now feel you have answered my own particular experience. I am looking forward to trying again with the new guidelines.” –Revver in Australia
“In principle, I think the pay restructuring is a good thing, I also think it’s a good thing for career TCs to try and up-skill themselves to work on harder files because in the not too distant future with AI becoming as good as it is, this might be all the work that live transcriptionists can depend on. Again, not a popular view. I genuinely feel for people whose income is severely impacted. But as a business move, I understand the logic.” –Revver in South Africa

Who is a Revver?

There is no single answer. So many people want to work from home and be their own boss. 

Here are the patterns we see in our community.

  • Stay-at-home moms in the US are the most popular demographic at Rev. This is work they can do with their children at home without paying for childcare.  At every other job on earth, parents can’t bring their children to work. Rev fits into their lives and they can literally work with their children nearby.  We aim to set generous deadlines for jobs so they can tend to personal responsibilities like children and still make their deadlines.
  • Shy introverts or those who simply don’t like office politics.
  • Rural areas are over-represented.  As the population has moved to large cities, many small towns lack good jobs.  Rev is for everyone, everywhere.
  • People with disabilities.  Rev provides freelance work that you can do from a chair, despite health concerns or disability.  Revvers with disabilities often tell us we are truly their only chance for work.

Here are some notes we received just this week.

“I’m kind of a creeper on Rev. I diligently do my work. I consistently score 5s, have completed over 100,000 minutes in the last few years. I’m a pro with weird accents. I don’t complain in the forums, probably because I type fast enough to pull $12-16/hr during active typing time so there’s not much to bitch about. I honestly didn’t even notice the drop in pay because I filter out projects that pay less than 48 cents per minute. I work from my room in my grandmother’s house and make more than the locals here in rural Missouri. This brings me to the purpose of my email, to let you know amidst all the complaints and the blame being thrown around that I appreciate what you’ve done for us.” –Revver in Missouri
“When you have a chronic illness and a body clock out of sync with working America, that doesn’t go well. I can only work part-time because of the illness and doing so outside my home and comfy clothes is exhausting…I found Rev two years ago now and have been a happy Revver ever since…Rev allows me to work in a schedule that works for ME, and means this extreme introvert doesn’t have to spend two days worth of energy on a four hour shift in an office somewhere. I also don’t play well with others and have been fired for standing up for myself in harassment situations. I’m incredibly grateful Rev exists and I hope it doesn’t go anywhere for a very long time.” –Revver in Louisiana

Why Rev Exists: To create great work-from-home opportunities

We started Rev because we believe the Internet will revolutionize work. For the first time ever, people wouldn’t need to choose where they live by drawing a 20-mile circle around their employer.  The Internet lets people serve clients all over the world, and work from anywhere, from the smallest town to the farthest country to the largest city. Traffic in major cities gets worse every year.  Home prices near those cities keep rising. Rev freelancers don’t have to commute. They can live where they want, or move at will and take their work with them.

We founded Rev to create great work-from-home opportunities.  From day one, we listened hard to freelancer’s needs and sought to build a platform with great technology that allows them to become increasingly productive. And our “experiment” is working. As we come up on our tenth anniversary, we have 50,000 active Revvers, and we continue to invest heavily in our platform.  We are working harder than ever to be responsive to the needs of both the customers who pay us and the Revvers who get paid and make our business possible. We will never stop listening to our users and striving to be better.  

We’ve learned a lot from the recent public criticism and will use this as an opportunity to reflect and fix some of the issues that frustrated users. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to hear our side of the story.