At least three times a week I get an email asking if I’m teaching scoping.
People get to doin’ their research and come across websites that mention scoping is equated to proofreading.
I’m not teaching scoping, and scoping is not proofreading.
Scoping is the step before proofreading. It’s also called editing. Just like editing a book is different from proofreading a book, scoping a transcript is different from proofreading a transcript. Scopists do proofread as they go along, but they do quite a bit more than that and as such, many reporters prefer to use a proofreader to check for stray errors the scopist might have missed. No matter how great the scopist, a solid proofreader will likely still find stray errors. There’s just something about that last set of eyes…
Now, many reporters scope their own work and then have a proofreader check for errors. Others use a scopist only, then proofread after the scopist. Still others don’t trust their own eyes to be the last upon their own work, so they bounce the job straight from the scopist to a proofreader.
Isn’t this expensive? It can be. But scopist and proofreader fees are tax deductible and outsourcing frees up a reporter to take on more pages. More pages = more money! If a reporter spends all their “off” time scoping and proofreading the same pages, they don’t have the time to report more pages — which puts a serious cap on their income. Outsourcing the tasks that earn them no money frees them up to do more of what does earn them money: They can earn more “appearance fees” (what reporters are paid simply for showing up to a job) and report more proceedings.
Court reporting agencies also favor reporters with more flexibility to cover last-minute jobs, so the more a reporter can rely on his/her scoping and proofing team, the more comfortable the reporter will feel taking on the last-minute work — and their agency will learn to rely on that reporter! It’s the quickest way to become the favorite around the office (trust me; I used to work in one)!
Why scope vs. proofread?
To that I say, why choose only one? Many PA grads have added on scoping after completing Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™. It’s a natural progression for them.
Sarah, for instance:
Other grads are happy doing only proofreading. Whatever floats your boat!
Scoping is more involved than proofreading, and as such, scopists get paid a higher page rate than proofreaders (average is $1.00ish per page for scoping vs. $0.40ish per page for proofreading). In some cases, proofreaders can get paid more than scopists overall — not per job, but per hour once you calculate the time spent on each job. It all depends on your skill and speed, though. I know scopists who earn upwards of $50,000 per year. I know part-timers who do $20,000 per year.
Just like proofreading, scopists start out slowly and build their speed as they improve. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is another excellent choice for people who love words, and because of the shortage of court reporters nationwide, court reporters are relying on scopists more and more to help them manage their workload.
So long story short, I do not teach scoping, but I know a certain someone who does! Linda Evenson is my friend and colleague over at Internet Scoping School. Industry renowned as a scopist and instructor, I brought her on the blog to pick her brain and ask her the most common questions about scoping vs. proofreading.
(Oh, and Linda has FOUR KIDS… and has worked from home for the last 36 years — even before the Internet was invented! She is living proof even the busiest moms can create income for themselves. So inspiring!)
Scoping is one of the hottest at-home jobs in the country. Scopists are independent contractors who edit court reporter depositions/transcripts via a CAT (computer-aided transcription) program. The scopist receives files from court reporter clients via the Internet. It is then the scopist’s job to decipher untranslated court reporter notes (steno), research spellings, punctuate, paragraph, fix formatting issues, mark anything the reporter needs to check, and create as close to a final document as possible in time to meet the reporter’s deadline. Many reporters ask the scopist to listen to the full audio as they edit the file; others may want just a spot-check whenever something doesn’t read quite right.
After the job is scoped, then it needs to be proofread by either the reporter or a proofreader who goes through it with a fine-tooth comb, sometimes listening to the audio, ensuring that the final transcript is ready to be produced to the attorneys.
What are the startup costs? Then, how much can someone earn as a scopist?
Compared to starting a retail or other type of business, scoping requires an relatively low initial investment. You don’t need a college degree, either! A scopist training course will generally run in the $2-3,000 range and will take several months to complete. The “edit” version of a CAT system runs about $1,500 and can be used during training and for real-world work.
Thanks to the Internet, we don’t need to invest in the extensive library that we used to, since most of the information we need is available online. A scopist does need access to high-speed Internet in order to download the audio files which can be very large. In addition, a scopist will probably want at least the Word program, possibly an invoicing program, and maybe one or two other optional programs.
In general, a scopist can expect to make 30-35K or more working full time. It depends highly on the experience and editing speed of the scopist, how clean/consistent the reporter’s writing is, how much research is needed/how difficult the subject matter is, and the percentage of expedited jobs (which can make it even more lucrative).
What do you enjoy about scoping? Is there anything you don’t like?
I love working from home and being my own boss — although that can be a double-edged sword if you have to deal with a lot of interruptions. I don’t have to buy office apparel, fight traffic, pay for parking, or schlep around heavy equipment like a court reporter.
In over 36 years of scoping, I have only ever had a couple of issues being paid — much better than the average independent contractor. I find if you’re dependable and do a good job for your clients, they want to keep you, pay pretty promptly, and treat you with respect.
The down side, as with most freelance work, is that the workload can be quite variable. Sometimes you have more work than you can turn around on time — which is why you always want to have a friend for backup — and sometimes you may have several days with no work. I have found if I work hard when I have the work available and use my down time to relax or catch up on other projects, it evens out pretty well. You may also have to meet some pretty tight deadlines at times which can translate into high pressure. These jobs do pay quite a bit more, however, so there is a [fabulous!] benefit to doing them.
I feel you on the ebbs and flows. I find myself really appreciating the breaks when I get them. Having multiple skills can really help bridge the gaps too. So — what kind of person would be a good fit to become a scopist?
Anyone who has good English skills, who loves working and playing with words – Scrabble, Upwords, crossword puzzles – and/or who is an avid reader tends to be someone who shines as a scopist. The technique of scoping can be taught, but a natural aptitude for words tends to put a scopist ahead of the game compared to someone who doesn’t have that gift. You must also be self-disciplined and dedicated.
Sounds like a lot of my grads would fit right in. So now the flip side: Who’s NOT a good fit as a scopist?
Someone who has never been good at English, who is a poor speller, who can’t distinguish homonyms, who has trouble sitting at a computer for hours on end, who is a procrastinator, or who doesn’t take deadlines seriously would not be a successful scopist. For me, while I’m very good at words, I’m correspondingly horrible at math, so I would be a terrible accountant. If we find a profession that matches our natural strengths, we are much more likely to be successful and happy with our careers.
That is so true — they call it “finding your fit.” Okay, Linda: What’s the best way to get started as a scopist?
Back when I started scoping many years ago, there was no scopist training. I had to learn on the job on the fly and teach myself what I needed to know. A new scopist nowadays has access to great training and the benefit of someone else’s experience.
After the advent of court reporter software, the Internet is the best thing that ever happened to scoping. With the Internet, a whole wide world of information is available and easily accessible. It also no longer matters where your clients live; you can find the spelling of a street in New York and live in California. And thanks again to the Internet, networking is easy.
There aren’t enough reporters to go around, and deadlines are getting tighter in the high-pressure legal world. More than ever before, reporters need the help of professional scopists to manage the work. With increased access to reporters all over the world, this is a terrific time to get into scoping. After more than 35 years, I still love what I do and I highly recommend it.
Whoohoo! So not only can you proofread anywhere, you can edit anywhere, too!
“What if there’s no work in my area?” is probably in my Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions. I love writing back to say, “IT DOESN’T MATTER!” (Okay; I don’t use the caps lock, but I always want to… hah!) The Web has changed the way people work. It’s no longer necessary to go into mountains of debt just to make $30,000 to $50,000 per year (a scopist’s earnings). Skills are what matter — so if you can learn the skills, it will change your life.
Learning changes everything.