This sixth feature in our Self-Employment Series is of Lori Anderson (fake name for privacy), a scopist, who learned her trade at the Internet Scoping School.
In case you missed the other four, here they are:
- My interview on how I made $32,000 as a part-time proofreader
- How Michelle makes $100,000/month as a full-time blogger
- How Cynthia makes $22.50/hour minimum as a legal transcriptionist
- How Kirstin makes $1,100/month as a part-time bookkeeper
- How Vashti makes $2-3,000/month as a part-time virtual assistant
Scoping is a work-at-home job that is near and dear to my heart because they too work for court reporters in a similar way that proofreaders do, but their job is harder.
Let’s get started!
What is scoping?
Oh, my goodness. I struggle with this explanation every time someone asks me! What I usually say is that I edit work for court reporters, but it’s so much more than that!
The court reporter takes down his or her work with a steno machine which is plugged into CAT (Computer-assisted translation) software which then translates the shorthand into English.
The court reporter then sends these files to me for me to go through, sometimes with the audio and sometimes not, to edit the transcript, checking format, speakers, punctuation, spellings, etc.
The topics range anywhere from slip-and-fall litigation to medical malpractice to highly technical software litigation to patent litigation to U.S. Supreme Court arguments. You name it, we’ve covered the topic.
Why and how did you decide to pursue this career?
Several years ago I was laid off from work. I was living in a smallish town at the time, in a depressed area, and there wasn’t much work to go around. So I figured it was a good time to start something new. I’d heard that the local college had a court reporting course, but that section was no longer being taught.
I then heard about proofreading for court reporters. My sister was doing some of that for a court reporter friend of hers, and she was working at home.
So I went online and started researching the field and discovered this thing called “scoping.” Much more lucrative and interesting, I thought, than proofreading. Plus there were no layoffs in a self-employed business, not if I did my job well enough to attract clients.
Why did you choose the Internet Scoping School?
Why ISS? Well, I did a search online and found a couple of online schools that were teaching scoping, and after researching them and talking with the instructors, I felt that ISS had the most professional approach.
The prices of the schools were all pretty much the same, so I had to look for what seemed the best fit and the best teaching for me.
One of the strong points was that Linda’s course was the only one that also included training in the CAT software.
Another great selling point was that you could “purchase” different units of the course at different times. You didn’t have to purchase the whole course at once.
How long did it take you to complete the course?
It took me about five months, I think. I wasn’t working at the time, so it probably helped me to finish it quicker than some.
How long after completing the course did you obtain your first client?
I had my first client before I even finished the course! I was still working on the practice modules at the time.
My first client was found on LinkedIn. So here’s a hint: Be honest about you being in school or a recent graduate when you publicize yourself. There are people who will respond to your honesty!
How much do you make a month? Do you work part time or full time?
I work full-time…I can tell you that my husband was able to quit the job he was working as a medical assistant and become a house husband, taking care of our home and me while I worked in my own little office there in the house!
I’ll also say I’m making more now than I ever did in a regular 8:00-5:00 job I ever had.
In 2014 I made about $52K; 2015 totaled just over $66K; and this year looks to be on the path to $70K. If I remember correctly, my first year was just over $20K. That was in 2012.
But I would say that on average it’s somewhere around $20K to $30K, and I think that depends on how many hours a person wants to put in each day and whether or not they are scoping expedites or not, which have a higher per-page rate.
What are your expenses (business-related expenses)?
Very few now. Getting started was the course and the software, new computer, a couple of monitors, some reference manuals. So I’d say maybe about $5,000 or so that first year.
Now my expenses are very minimal. My biggest expense is my renewal of my support contract each year with Stenograph, the maker of the software I use, but my expenses are more than offset by the business deductions I also take.
What are your duties? Can you describe a day in your life?
My clients are located anywhere from the West Coast to the East Coast, so depending on where they are, my hours fluctuate.
My business is now geared towards what are called “dailies.” So as my reporter is working, “drops” are made to the cloud every 20 to 30 minutes and I pick them up and start working on them ASAP.
When I’m not doing a daily, I pick my own hours. Either way, I’m basically sitting at the computer all day long editing work.
What is your least favorite part/hardest part of being a scopist?
Least favorite. Hmm. Well, some of the topics can be rather boring. I have my green tea pills from Costco sitting on my desk for those days!
Hardest part. Well, that would be when the Internet goes down or is sluggish. Ugh. So frustrating! I’ve actually had to go to a neighbor’s house once and use their service!
Oh, wait! I just thought of another one. You will learn that different reporters have different skill levels. Starting out, you may wind up with a few clients that need more work on their transcripts than others. Don’t run away!
Use this opportunity to hone your skills on your software. The more mistakes they make, the better you will get with creating macros and shortcuts that you will use throughout your career, I guarantee.
What is your favorite part of being a scopist?
I like being my own boss.
I like my clients.
I love the friends I’ve made on Facebook who do the same thing I do. The support is awesome!
I love relying on myself to get the work done and get it done well and not having to sit across from someone else who is just sliding by each day.
I know that doing a great job means getting plenty of clients, so I love being able to do a great job and feel like it means something to the person on the receiving end!
Another thing I love is finding some obscure reference and locating the correct spelling for something that I knew absolutely nothing about until that day!
What traits do you feel are necessary to being a good, successful scopist? Which ones are taught and which ones are inherent?
You definitely have to be a word nerd of sorts and be well read so that you have a large vocabulary. Punctuation can be taught, but you have to be willing to let go of some of the wrong or outdated things you learned in school. See, we punctuate what was spoken; we don’t change the words. This is definitely something that is a learned skill.
Being comfortable with a computer and learning new software. Being a curious-minded person so that you can get the most out of the software you’re using. You can be taught the basics of the software, but there is so much more that can be done with it to enhance your profitability.
And I think, too, you have to have good deductive reasoning, common sense, and be curious and self-motivated.
And if you don’t have good ethics, don’t even bother. Your clients will depend on you to keep your word and do your job. If you’re the kind of person who will give up if it’s too hard or just want to be quick about it, don’t bother. Your reputation will get around, good or bad, and it can make or break you.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this career?
All I can say is that it is definitely a GREAT field to get into and there is a need, a real need for good scopists. Do your research on the schools. Get on Facebook or whatever and find groups of people in the profession. Listen and learn. See the types of questions that are asked and the answers that are given. You’ll learn quickly enough whether or not it is for you.
And if you do decide to go for it, go for it with gusto! Be the very best you can be on each and every job you do! Learn your software and the grammar/punctuation and take to heart EVERYTHING you are being taught in your school.