Rev Slashes Minimum Pay for Gig Workers
An internal post reviewed by OneZero outlines new rates that would result in transcribers taking home less money as automation looms
The popular transcription service Rev has reportedly cut the pay of its freelance workers who produce transcripts for pennies a minute.
Rev launched in 2010 and has received millions of dollars in funding. Like many rivals, it offers automated transcriptions using speech recognition software, but also has a separate service for transcriptions that are “performed by humans, not A.I.” Users submit audio files to the service — interviews or recordings of meetings, for example — and contractors return a transcript within 12 hours. The company stands out for its accuracy and affordability — just $1 per minute of audio — but all of it comes at a human cost, say Rev gig workers.
Li Zilles, a Seattle-based contractor for Rev, tweeted on Monday that the company slashed its baseline rate for transcription workers on Friday, calling it “yet another example of a gig economy startup brazenly mistreating its workers.”
On Wednesday, a representative for Rev posted to an internal company forum that its minimum pay would drop from $0.45 to $0.30 per minute transcribed. A Rev worker, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job, sent the post to OneZero. It frames the policy shift as a way to “fairly compensate” its “best Revvers” who take on harder transcription jobs — audio files containing noise or multiple speakers, for example — which could earn workers rates of $0.80 per minute. In an update to its announcement, the company clarified that “the goal is NOT to take pay away from Revvers.”
“For this round of pricing changes, 30 [cents per minute] will be the starting price for a very small number of jobs,” Rev’s post states. “On the other hand, some jobs will now start at 80 [cents per minute], and these jobs will still be able to increase in price from there.”
OneZero spoke to several Rev freelancers who said the payment change was only announced on the company forum.
“I wasn’t even aware of the forums’ existence until just now,” Andrew Marsden, a U.K.-based contractor for Rev, told OneZero. “That doesn’t seem a suitable announcement vehicle for such a major change. It didn’t appear in a pop-up on login, even though Rev requires a reacknowledgement of their confidentiality agreement seemingly weekly.”
Rev doesn’t publicly say how it determines these rates, but people who say they’ve worked for the company allege that much of its workflow is managed by algorithms. Transcribers can choose more time-consuming projects with higher rates, though it’s unclear whether these jobs are worth it.
The company did not respond to OneZero’s request for comment.
Zilles explained that an industry standard for transcription is four minutes of work for every one minute of audio. This amounted to $6.75 per hour under Rev’s previous rate, and now equates to a payout of $4.50 per hour.
Rev workers began to organize against the pay cut as soon as the change went live. Transcriptionists would claim the higher rate jobs, and then unclaim them, leaving a note of protest for the next person in line. A similar protest tactic was used by Instacart contractors during a recent strike.
Human transcribers have reason for concern. There are a growing number of speech-to-text services that use A.I. for transcription and cost less than Rev’s premium offerings, suggesting that these jobs are becoming more automated, threatening to put contractors out of work entirely.
Rev requires freelancers to take a grammar quiz and submit a transcription sample before approving them to work on the platform. Workers can then select jobs based on pay rates and deadline.
Zilles used to net $1,500 to $2,000 per month from Rev, which pays its freelancers via PayPal.
“For the most part, we haven’t been able to organize because the only place we have to communicate en masse right now is the internal forum,” Zilles says. “People are scared, some are still hoping to appeal to the company rep on the forum.”