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  • Writer's pictureLaurén Ettinger

Buslife, and Securing that Dreamy, Remote, Flexible, Nomad-Approved J.O.B.

Written by Jenny Bowen

It was January of 2020. I’d just left the safe harbor of my hometown in the Midwest to travel the country in an incredibly rad skoolie with my then-boyfriend. For me, leaving that cozy harbor also meant giving up my income stream-- but, initially, that was alright. I’d planned to leave with a little cushion, as well as with the sincere belief that I’d figure out how to earn some dollars (and not be a dreaded freeloader) one way or another.

Our first destination-- after stopping briefly to encounter the Roswellian aliens-- was Arizona’s Skooliepalooza. WOW! All these inspiring people chasing their dreams, living creative lives...and making some money somehow. By day three or four, even my daughter was turning a buck easily by smashing geodes and selling ‘fairy dust’(a.k.a. dirt). She came in with a wad of cash, almost $30, and I’d still made zilch. OK, I thought, I’d better find a way quickly…

Well, it’s not that easy. My skills from the normal world didn’t exactly transfer well. There was no symphony orchestra to play in on the road, no music studio to teach at, no plot of land to farm… So I jumped on some remote work websites and started searching around. This was definitely new territory.

If any of you have been in this situation, it might not surprise you that not everything popping up as an option from my search was exactly exciting. How much soul crushing is acceptable for the greater goals of nomadic life? Am I willing to work for Amazon or telemarketing? Or pimp myself out on YouTube seeing if I could slide into the big-money ASMR videos trend, as one person half-jokingly suggested? I was having to ask myself some hard questions.

Weeks went by, with everybody figuring out remote work easily except for me, or so it seemed. The boyfriend was building buses and making great moolah, the daughter was still successfully hawking magic dust, as well as expanding into sticker sales and invisible ink tattoos… and I was looking more seriously at medical transcription work. Fun, huh?

Looking at my skill-set, I’d honed in on the fact that I’m an incredibly fast typer. At least 170 words per minute. Those years of training my minute finger muscles and developing coordination as a pianist and violinist weren’t for nothing. My lightning-fast fingers that can play ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’ on the fiddle could also, perhaps, hold a solution to my increasingly dire state of financial affairs.

While medical transcription did hold some appeal, that was quickly lost seeing price tags of the necessary training programs. Sticking with the ‘jobs-good-typing-skills-are-useful-for’ theme, I found one easier-entry option that caught my eye. It was with 3PlayMedia out of Boston, a transcription and editing company.

Their website impressed me with the amount of personalization I felt. They put faces to their employees, giving a little bio to others already doing the job I was about to apply for. Their team even felt cool--farmers who do part-time work during their slow season, people living on sailboats, a rural weaver who raises sheep far from town, a woman starting a lingerie company and needing steady income meanwhile…

Furthermore, the work felt like it had major potential for being stimulating to my brain! As much as changing my exterior location frequently as a new bus-lifer was invigorating enough, the possibility of getting to listen to university lectures, interviews, speeches, and more from a wide range of sources and topics seemed to offer a glimpse into magical, diverse worlds in its own way. I could do some mental travel-- and get paid!

So-- at last-- I had a clear target to pursue and the enthusiasm to tenaciously hunt this J.O.B. down. Like a hungry hunter, I had an edge to my determination and was sure I would succeed. This was actually no easy task. The initial application portion consisted of reading a long, intricate list of standard editing procedures and keyboard shortcuts and then giving a ‘test transcript’ a go to see how good at following their rules I would be. The level of headache to this was HIGH.

Finding that little bit of internet signal on another’s bus, I sat for several hours trying my hand at this first application test, not wanting a single error to be found in my final draft. There were detailed standards for EVERYTHING-- how to transcribe numbers in different situations, how to type sound effects, how to use punctuation their way, how to label speakers for several scenarios, how to deal with interruptions and mumbling and run-on sentences and how to spell check and save drafts and use italics and and and-- SO. MUCH.

I took a fine-toothed metaphorical flea comb to my prey and got every last imperfection off of it. There certainly couldn’t be a single error, I was sure. I imagined these folks in Boston being seriously impressed with my submission and being equally ruthless at hunting down ME as their newest employee.

Well! Readers, you probably know by now that finding that dreamy, flexible, remote, nomad-approved J.O.B. couldn’t be that simple. To jump ahead a bit, there was a global pandemic. There was a break-up. There was moving back into a house, then moving further across the country, and an irresistible job thrown my way as a farm manager to root me to a place.

So clearly I wasn’t good enough for these folks in Boston. But I didn’t need them now, anyhow...

Fast forward to approximately a year after submitting that long-forgotten, dusty, work-of-art application. Less than 48 hours after doing a YouTube money manifestation exercise (for realz), I received an email from 3PlayMedia saying that my application was great, and they’d like me to proceed with the next steps.

The memories of painstakingly applying flooded back! Feelings of annoyance that it took a year to hear back showed up, along with feelings of wanting to successfully complete my hunt, and feelings of the freedom and peace-of-mind of having a dreamy, remote, flexible, nomad-approved J.O.B. in my back pocket…

The week of second-round application hell came and went. Get your chocolate ready, your best motivational tips, write on paper how good it will feel to land this job! You’ll have money available whenever you need it! From anywhere! While learning interesting stuff!

I did the week of horrible test after test after test, each one increasingly harder. That flea comb was out, finer toothed than ever. My head throbbed. So much to learn, with only 7 days to complete or I’d have to start over. To learn Entertainment & Media transcription skills, I tested on a clip from Quantum Leap, being really annoyed when I couldn’t make out what lyrics a farm kid with a guitar and a sick pig was singing.

The truth is, the application for this sucks. There’s so much to learn. And if you’re not a perfectionist, forget it. At this point, I had too much invested to risk bombing the rest of the process. So I persisted, passing each round of increasing difficulty, and was accepted as a transcriber.

Some of the more nitty-gritty details of being a transcriber for 3PlayMedia is that you get paid

direct-deposit weekly. You essentially have unlimited hours of work you can do. You make approximately $10-20 per hour (with occasional pay incentives), dependent on your typing speed, grasp of standards, use of keyboard shortcuts, previous general background knowledge (being a ‘glorious generalist’ familiar with many topics is a huge plus), fluency with general grammar, etc. You can work as few or as many hours a year as you like.

Since I’m not traveling right now, I like to use 3PlayMedia to save up extra money for specific things, to fill time when I’m bored, or to do in any situation where there’s WIFI and I’m having to wait for something. I’ll work on it while my daughter is in classes, essentially being able to sit there and make the money for the cost of the class while she’s in session.

As a new or seasoned nomad, I can see this opportunity being good for either of you. While pay or interest in it may not be a great motivator for some, it’s a fabulous opportunity for getting some basic income coming in while you work towards something else. It’ll get you on the road, let’s say.

For those with something they love that’s bringing in money but perhaps not a consistently reliable amount, filling in with 3PlayMedia work could help you more easily meet monthly income goals by making up the difference. It’s essentially a money spigot that you can turn on or off, a drip, trickle or gush, whenever you need.

For life-long learners, being a little fly on the wall getting to pop in and out of other people’s worlds is really wonderful! I get to listen to experts teach on subjects I’d never actually enroll in a class for. I get to see what goes on behind closed doors in top level universities. I get to smile affectionately while transcribing an ESL session, remembering the joy and pain of grasping a new language.

I get to transcribe for interviews on racial justice, listen to professional actors discuss pros and cons of their unions, transcribe presentations on environmental restoration, transcribe doctors’ explanations during surgical demonstrations, and so much more. I can stick to jobs on topics that interest me. And it’s replaced lots of my wasted Netflix/YouTube browsing habits while giving me a weekly paycheck.

So what do you think? Does being able to transcribe while traveling wherever you wish or from your house and getting paid weekly sound great? I can assure you that it IS! And all you’ll need is a computer and a great pair of headphones.

For now, I’m not living that enviable nomadic life. But I love day-dreaming about it again. And for now, I know that leaving the secure harbor won’t seem so scary when that day comes. Best of luck in finding a way to your freedom! May this help you there.

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