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How Many Transcripts Would I Need to Proofread to Earn $X?

The number of hours vs. income earned will fluctuate for beginners and people who’ve been proofreading for a while.

I read a maximum of 100 pages an hour, and that is only achievable when the work is very clean with very little stopping/starting. The work gets denser and harder, though, in which case my pages-per-hour drops to as low as 40-60. One of my first students, Victoria, is currently at 60-70 pages per hour for easier stuff, and beginners who’ve just completed the course tend to start at around 40-50, but it can vary based on the type of job, too. Hearings generally take longer than a super simple workers’ comp deposition. The speed comes only with practice — not overnight.

No one should expect to get to my earning level as a beginner. It took me several years to get there.

It’s really hard to say how many clients and how many transcripts will get you to a certain amount of income because all the transcripts are a different length, every proofreader is different, and each reporter will have a different workload from week to week. My advice is to start slowly at first — do NOT look for clients until you know what you’re doing, and do NOT just focus on getting as many clients as possible to make the most money as possible. This can and does backfire. Pour into your first few clients post-training. If you invest in your first few clients, you can earn referrals much easier that way.  

Also, to make real money, you actually don’t always need a lot of clients — if you do excellent work, your clients are repeat customers so they will keep sending you work time and time again. 

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  1. Very well put Caitlin.

    It’s nice not to have high expectations placed on something like this starting out. And it’s nice that you put it out there right away as well. Thank you for not setting the bar too high and making people expect too much but bringing them back down to earth and making it realistic.

    So rare to find someone who says this is not a get rich quick job and that you need to put real time and effort into it to get anything out of it. So rare to find true flexible work from home jobs.

  2. I was wondering to myself whether court reporters ever just hand over, to the proofreader, their shorthand notes (or whatever the modern automated form of that might be) and for me two specific questions arose from that:

    1.) Is the court transcript proofreader ever likely to loose work to proofreading software? And,
    2.) Are work opportunities for the court transcript proofreader threatened by scopists (who do, apparently, read the reporter’s work straight from machine notes or shorthand notes) and who therefore, by ‘doing more’ – eg researching to clarify unclear elements of a transcript – might be more valuable to the reporter than a ‘mere’ proofreader?


    1. Hi, Heather!

      I am happy to answer your questions! First, as a transcript proofreader, you are never at risk of losing the transcript. Why? Because the court reporter has the master copy. They send you a copy and you send back the annotated version of that copy. Even if your computer crashed and you somehow lost your annotated copy, you still aren’t at risk for losing the work the reporter did. Trust me. Most reporters have multiple backup copies of all of their transcripts.

      Second, creating a transcript requires three man job elements: reporting, scoping, and proofreading. Some reporters choose to do all three. Some choose to report and scope themselves, but would rather have a second set of eyes go over their work for proofing. Some scopists proof as well, but usually reporters do not have the scopist do the final proof. It’s too easy for them to miss errors they may have already missed during scoping. That said, the need for proofreaders is greater now than it’s ever been because there is a huge shortage of reporters. Reporters simply have too much work to do all three jobs and, therefore, are hiring people to do the proofing and scoping for them. To clarify the role of the scopist, they do not translate all the steno. The reporter’s CAT software does all the translating of the steno. The scopist goes through and cleans up all the mistranslated and untranslated steno that the software missed and fixes errors and formatting. Sometimes scopists actually listen to the audio as well, which helps them spot misstrokes in the transcript.

      Proofreaders are extremely valuable in this industry, so don’t worry about being undervalued because you’re “merely” a proofreader. Most reporters see us as the most valuable element of the process because we preserve their reputation by ensuring their work is as close to perfect as humanly possible. 🙂

      1. Hi again and thanks for replying Katie,

        I think I didn’t select my words and phrases very well though. I didn’t mean I was worried about ‘loosing the work’ in the sense of ‘loosing the actual transcript.’ I meant ‘missing out on getting work,’ i.e., ‘loosing the opportunity to work’ to a competitor, including one who might appear in the form of ‘advanced proofreading software!’

        (I’m worried that that might happen, in the future, IF technological advances ever produce some sort of proofreading software that makes human proofreaders redundant – or at least ‘less valuable’ to a reporter – and hence less likely to be called upon, by a reporter who might have a choice between a computerized proofreading program and a human proofreader.)

        I am in my mid sixties and on an aged pension. Till a year ago I was my mother’s carer. She had lived with me for 10 years. (She was my best friend.) But very sadly she passed away a year ago. Though past her mid nineties at the time, she had been well and and more like a sprightly eighty year old; going to an art class and writing poetry … until she had to go into respite care while I recovered from surgery for cancer.

        It was a relatively short time, in the greater scheme of things – in total about 2 months – in three different respite places, but she came home from those places more like a person way past one hundred years of age, no longer able to walk … and deeply depressed.

        Eighteen months later she developed a very fast developing liver cancer (which I blame on the stress of the culture shock – and the physical stresses – of, even temporary, nursing home life.)

        My mind has felt like it is just full of sand for these past 12 months, but I am now slowly feeling a little bit better.

        I know that I need to be able to earn more than just being on a pension for two reasons: financial, and to be able to live as if I still have a role in this life … in order to stave off my own depression. I have been trying my hand at writing science fiction (not the laser-guns blasting type, but more along the lines of exploring, what future consciousness and life in general might be like, through stories.)

        I belong to an online s/f writing group, but want to branch out into writing and drawing in the graphic novel format for my stories. Within that journey, I have had to learn a bit more than just the intuitive, essentially-untrained grasp of ‘grammar and punctuation’ than any native English speaker, such as myself, has without thinking too much about it.

        That’s how I came to wonder if it might also be a source of future income for me. (I did also – a long, long time ago pass the law entrance exam, here in Australia … but for personal reasons I didn’t continue with that then-possible path. But that whole area of how we structure the legalities of societal life (and the dialogue that might be used daily within that world, dialogue that reflects that structuring and how it affects different people and society itself) interests me – but mainly, now, in terms of how it can be represented in science fiction.)

        When I saw your course I wondered if I might be able to merge these interests into a part time career: one that would be better than the pension – allowing me to get on with my science fiction writing and drawing activities, more financially assuredly!

        But of course I am worried. Is it all a fantasy; especially at my age, a dream. And might it be that even after putting in all the hard work, and expense, I really won’t be able to use it to earn or supplement a living? That’s why the questions about the risk of missing out on work opportunities to ‘some competitor!’

        Thanks for listening to me in this rather long word-ramble through my life’s story.

        1. p.s. I just realized there’s one more thing I should clarify. That is, when I mentioned that “I wondered whether a court reporter ever just handed over their short hand notes to a proofreader,” I meant I was wondering whether or not a proofreader should also learn shorthand? … and, from wondering that, I ended up at the questions I asked (in my messages, above.)

  3. Caitlin:
    I want desperately to take your course and get started but I’m dead broke. I’m looking for ways to get some quick cash so I can enroll. In the meantime, I have a question for you:
    I have a super-slow internet connection (the only service available in my area). Can I succeed at this job with a slow internet connection?

    1. A slow internet connection might lead to some frustrations (especially in downloading transcriptions or doing research, but it shouldn’t hinder you. An unreliable internet connection, on the other hand, might cause problems. You need to be sure you can get your finished work to your reporters. So if it cuts in and out and you don’t have a backup (a public library connection, for example) that might be a problem.

  4. I would like to know how we get the work? Do we apply at the courthouse? Lawyers offices or what? I’m confident in the course but how do we aquire the work when we are done? Thank you!

    1. Hi, Sandra! All of that material is covered in the course. 🙂

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