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I recently interviewed Linda Evenson from Internet Scoping School. She has been a scopist for more than 40 years and she also teaches others how they can become successful scopists through her course Internet Scoping School.
You can find her on her website.
- Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I have been a scopist pretty much my whole adult life. I heard from a friend that an acquaintance was doing some typing for court reporters, so I called her to ask her about it. From there, I chased down a notereading course and took it on my own. Then I started working for reporters, at first just reading the notes, and then switching over to editing on computers when they came out. I have enjoyed the work my whole career.
- Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful scopist?
You can kind of tell who would be a good scopist. If they like to read and write, like to play word games, work crossword puzzles, etc., they probably have a natural aptitude with English. Once they get into the training, these are the same people who will work hard, ask questions when they have them and be willing to expend some effort in learning all of the material.
- What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become Scopists?
Sign up with the most through online course you can find which would be ISS. We have two to three times the training that the other courses do. In addition, for students who are having trouble learning a concept, we can use AnyDesk so I can actually see their keyboard and show them where they’re making their mistakes. Especially for visual learners, this is a real benefit.
- What key activities would you recommend Scopists invest their time in? Anything to do with words. I feel vocabulary building is kind of a lifelong task, so I add several new vocab words a week to our public Facebook page. Read. The more they increase their word skills, the better off they will be.
- How do you market your business and which tactics have been most successful?
It used to be that we would write letters and make phone calls. Now, since everyone is on the internet, that is by far and away the best place to make client contacts. There are many reporting and scoping websites, and there are also a few job boards where reporters advertise for help. It’s a great time to go into scoping!
- What is scoping?
Scoping is the editing of files created by court reporters of depositions, court cases, hearings, and other proceedings. The reporter writes on her machine which then translates the machine shorthand (steno notes) into English. The computer translates her written strokes by matching them against words she has preprogrammed into her dictionary. If she doesn’t write a word exactly the same way, or if the word is not yet in her dictionary, it will come up as an untranslate/mistranslate.
As scopists, we read the files word for word, punctuating, paragraphing, fixing formatting issues, deciphering steno, researching spellings, sometimes checking exhibits, and getting the file as close to perfect as possible. It then goes back to the reporter or to a professional proofreader for a last read-through before going out to the attorneys.
- How do you know if you might be a good scopist?
People who are likely to be good at scoping are those who love to read and write, work crossword puzzles, play word games, learn new words, and love language. Scopists also need to be able to sit at a computer for many hours a day and concentrate. They must be motivated self-starters, organized, conscientious, and client oriented.
- What experience/ skill does it require?
Scopists are ahead of the game if they are good spellers and have a good vocabulary. They need to be able to distinguish between homophones (e.g., discrete/discreet), be consistent in how they edit each client’s files and follow the varied preferences of different reporters. They need to know their CAT system (Computer-Aided Transcription), the specialized court-reporting software that we use so that they can run it efficiently. Since scopists are paid by the page, the more efficiently we can edit, the more money we can make per hour/day/month/year. Like anything, the more you scope, the better/faster you’ll get. Experience is one of the few benefits of aging!
I have found court reporters to be very accepting of new scopists, provided they are well trained, do a good job, meet their deadlines, and take good care of their clients. Your training course should be able to teach you all the knowledge and skills you need so that you have the confidence when you begin scoping that you know exactly what you are doing. The very first job you do should be as good as the fiftieth. ISS does exactly that! You have my word on it.
9. Can you work as a scopist from anywhere?
These days, we receive and return files via the internet. So if you have a good internet signal, you can work from almost anywhere for any reporter anywhere. Years ago, I worked in a park while my kids took swimming lessons; I’ve worked from our camper beside a lake; and I’ve sent and received files while my husband was driving down the interstate. Compared to being stuck in a stuffy office, running an old mainframe computer, we’ve come a long way, baby!
10. How do we correspond with the court reporter?
Most communication is done via email and texting. I have worked with reporters for quite a while and have never heard their voices or seen their faces. It can seem kind of weird at first. However, I used to go to the national convention every year, and I have to say it was a lot of fun to put faces to scopists’ and reporters’ names. People in this profession are smart, wonderful people. I have made many good friends through the years.
Since we work from home, scoping can be isolating, so you want to be sure you get some socialization. There are many reporter/scopist websites where you can visit with and get to know others in the profession. And you want to try to keep in touch with friends and loved ones who “have their skin on.” We all need a warm hug now and then!
11. . What tools do we need to have to work as a scopist?
1. A relatively recent computer: It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, fastest machine out there. Something with a minimum of 250 RAM, a good-size hard drive, and the fastest processor you can afford will work to start with. When you start making money, you can always upgrade.
2. Dependable high-speed internet access: The audio that comes with the files takes up 14-16 megabytes per hour, so they can take a while to download. There are several different ways to transfer files, and some are quicker than others.
3. CAT software upon which you will edit the files: I teach Case CATalyst software, made by Stenograph Corporation, the oldest, largest company in the country. Since it is the most popular software among reporters, it offers the biggest marketplace for scopists to find clients.
4. Reference books (optional): While we used to have expensive/extensive reference libraries, almost anything can now be found online, which has alleviated the need for this expense.
5. A great training course: Internet Scoping School. There is no substitute for the most thorough, comprehensive program you can get. ISS has two to three times the training material of other online courses, the most experienced instructor, and it is the only course to thoroughly train students in reading steno notes and the intricacies of running the software. ISS also offers almost 50 files, written by a dozen different reporters, upon which you can practice editing to the reporter’s preference form. You won’t find a more thorough program anywhere.
12. How much can you get paid as a beginner? And how much can it potentially increase?
As a new graduate, you should work with one reporter for a little while to get your feet wet and get into the scoping “groove.” Once you get a feel for how many pages you can edit per hour/day, start adding clients. You will need to market your own business, but we have several lessons that will help you learn how to do that. The school also passes on reporter contacts that we get, and grads often refer clients to each other. You might only make 20K/year or less starting out, but once you get up to full time, you should be able to make 30-45K per year. If you get into the high-stress rush work, you can make even more.
Part of making a good living is dependent on finding the better writers. Like any career, there are those who get by and those who excel. As a “newbie,” you may start out working with some reporters who aren’t the best writers and who want you to listen to every word of the audio as you edit. This is a lot slower going than better writers who may not need you to listen to the entire audio. With a little experience, you should be able to edit about 20 pages/hour minimum. If you keep marketing yourself and can find a better writer, you can give yourself a several-dollar-per-hour raise in one fell swoop!
13. How long does it take to complete the course? Do we get help after course completion?
If a student can dedicate 15-20 hours/week to studying, s/he should be able to complete the training in six months or less. Compare that to a four-year college degree! There are tons of quizzes with answer keys, as well as final exams on each section. Students are given a great deal of feedback on exams and asked to look up rules and correct answers. Students are allowed to restudy sections and retake tests if they don’t score at least 85% on exams. Unlike colleges, the goal of this course is not the grades: It’s the working knowledge and skill that graduates need to make a successful scoping business for themselves.
ISS students are given lifetime access to the website and the instructor. If the training is updated, that material is available free to all grads. If new sections are added, they are available at a steep discount. We have a public and a private Facebook page, the latter for students and grads only. We interact, ask questions, give advice, refer work, share experiences, and do our best to see that each person succeeds.
As the instructor, I am available online during working hours Monday through Friday, and I’m usually online weekends too. It is a point of honor with me that I respond to emails promptly and thoroughly. I am always available to answer questions, even for experienced grads, and I take a personal interest in the success of every. single. person. If there’s anything I can do to make an ISS grad successful, I do it.
For those who are good at/enjoy working with words and want to own their own business and work from home, scoping is the perfect career choice. I’ve been scoping since 1980, and I still love what I do. No one has to tell me how blessed I am! Maybe it will be that way for you too!