I’m talking about scoping, a freelance work-at-home career involving editing legal transcripts for court reporters (FYI, proofreading is NOT the same as scoping).
To learn more about this hidden niche, I’ve invited Linda Evenson to join us on the blog today, a 37-year scoping expert and creator of the industry-renowned training program, Internet Scoping School (the first online scoping course when it was created over 19 years ago!).
I have had the amazing privilege of working with Linda behind the scenes at ISS for her recent migration from the old ISS site to her new upgraded site! We worked very closely throughout the transfer and upgrade, and I’m SO excited to have her join me today to bring you some awesome insight into this well-kept secret in the work-at-home world.
Thanks for joining us today, Linda! Tell us, how long have you been a scopist, and what made you decide to become one?
I am coming up on 37 years as a scopist. Good grief!
I heard about a friend of a friend who was doing typing for court reporters from home — back before there was ever court reporting software. Not long after I learned to read steno notes from an old correspondence course, the first mainframe computer came out. I snagged a part-time job in a court reporting firm, and since I was always good with words, it was the ol’ “duck-to-water” scenario.
Scoping is reading on a computer screen, word for word, a transcript created by a reporter on a steno machine and translated into English. A scopist needs to know how to read steno notes (for more information on steno, check out this infograph); how to research spellings; use correct punctuation; how to put a transcript together; how to use CAT (computer-aided transcription) software, correct terminology, and formatting; ethics; ergonomics; as well as how to market him/herself to reporters in order to find clients.
If that sounds like a lot, it is! Scoping isn’t something just anyone can do; it takes hard work! But Internet Scoping School covers it all. We produce the most highly trained professional scopists in the world!
Is it required to have a degree or prior legal experience to become a scopist? What skills are necessary to succeed?
You do not need a degree or prior legal experience. ISS teaches you everything you need to know to become a successful scopist. Having an aptitude for working with words is probably the best attribute a potential scopist can have. People who love to read, who are good spellers, who love things like crossword puzzles and word games, tend to be naturals at scoping.
Attention to detail and consistency are necessities; having a good work ethic and being a self-starter are essential; being able to sit at a computer for several hours a day is a plus; paying attention to deadlines and ensuring you meet them is hugely important as well. You can create the prettiest transcript in the world, but if you don’t get it in on time, you won’t last long.
Do you feel that scoping is a good work-at-home career for stay-at-home moms?
Scoping is an awesome work-from-home career! These days, reporters and scopists send work back and forth over the Internet. And since most everyone has an Internet connection these days, a scopist can pretty much work for any reporter anywhere! I can find the spelling of a street or a doctor’s name in New York as well as a scopist who lives there, even though I live in Montana.
When I started out as a scopist, lo those many years ago (when God was a boy), the mainframes used by court reporters cost about 100 grand. Needless to say, scopists worked in house for reporting agencies; it wasn’t real easy to come up with that kind of pocket change! But it wasn’t too long until software companies started to adapt and machines became a lot more affordable.
My first home computer cost $16,000 — and could do nothing but transcripts! That was more than my house payment in those days! Now I work from home on a PC that runs numerous programs and costs a fraction of what the old computers did. As we say here in Montana, yeehaw!
For all the moms out there, is it realistic to be able to become a scopist if your children are still little? What is your experience working from home as a scopist while raising children?
I first started working from home when my 31-year-old daughter was an infant. She was my third of four children. I was still able to spend time with my children while supplementing our income by thousands of dollars per year. What young family can’t use that?
Daycare these days is horrifically expensive! Many moms can’t afford to work away from home because child care consumes all their wages. As work-at-home scopists, with reasonably priced computers and the Internet, moms can be at home with their little ones and still bring in many thousands of dollars for the home budget. SAHM’s can work around naptimes and after kiddies are in bed at night or when dad comes home and can cut mom some free time. Regular turnarounds give a scopist several days to get the transcript back, so there is room to work around other obligations. It is the perfect solution!
How much can a scopist realistically make?
Scopists can work part time or full time, whatever works best for their family. Working just a few hours a week, it’s really easy to bring $1000/month into the family larder. Working full time, a scopist can easily make $35,000/year or more. Since rush work pays 2 to 2 1/2 times the page rate, if you get into the expedited market, you can make far more than that — maybe when all the kids are in school and you can dedicate your day to getting that transcript out.
How long does it take to complete your program? How long after graduating do your students start taking paid work?
Length of time to complete depends on several variables: the aptitude a student has for working with words; how many hours one can spend studying per week; how quickly one can absorb the information. If a student can put in 15-20 hours/week, the course can be completed in about six months. This is figuring that most people are working a full-time job and fitting studying in where they can. Someone who can spend significantly more time studying can finish much sooner.
From what I have seen, most ISS grads start working very shortly after graduation. There are several factors that contribute to this success: ISS teaches an intensive section on how to find clients; my name is known among reporters since I have been active in NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) and the profession; ISS has a good reputation among reporters for producing well-trained scopists; with an increase in litigation, a shortage of court reporters, and ever-tightening deadlines, reporters need scopists’ help more than ever; there are many Internet sites inhabited by reporters and scopists where valuable connections can be made; there are also several job boards online where reporters can posts ads for scopists and scopists can list their services.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with those interested in scoping as a work-at-home career?
I honestly feel that this is the best time ever to go into scoping! There is so much stress working in the corporate world, and in this economy, downsizing might be just around the corner. An independent contractor scopist is his/her own boss and has much more control over how his/her time is spent. The hourly wage is very good compared to many jobs, clients are appreciative of a job well done, and the benefits of working from home are many. Ask me! If you want someone to tell you the disadvantages of being a scopist, you came to the wrong person. Here I am, almost 37 years later, still loving my job. How many people can say that? I can!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Linda!
Interested in learning more about becoming a professional scopist? Linda offers a free intro course for a peek inside the world of scoping to help you gauge if this career might be right for you. Get more details by visiting Internet Scoping School at ScopeSchool.com. Linda is excited to hear from you!
What do YOU think? Have you ever heard of scoping before today? What else would you like to know about this hidden niche? Comment below and let me know!