The Full Story
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.
|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 email@example.com and we’ll give you lots of info and access.
Here are some responses to the recent job pricing change:
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:
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.
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.