I'm wondering if most reporters are expecting what I'm expecting from a scopist. I'd be curious to hear both reporters' and scopists' opinions, of course.

Do you expect your scopist to:

Look up on the Internet spellings of any proper noun, i.e., company names, cities, doctors, products?

Fix wrong punctuation at the end of a sentence? Example:
"You were there what dates."

Follow your preferences as best they can? Examples:
Paragraph frequently
Put "BY" lines after any interruption in Q&A

When it's a video, go over the videotape word for word and be sure every word is in there?

Follow basic punctuation rules? And I know this is an area of much controversy and disagreement, but there are several basic punctuation rules that both Morson's and the rest of the world uses (Chicago Manual of Style and others). I'm very curious what punctuation most people can agree on.

How about these:

Comma between two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction. Example: "He was happy, but he didn't like it." "She went up the stairs, and she fell down on her crown."

Break up run-on or choppy sentences - at least in SOME way. Example:
Q Do you recall during the time, I think you told me you worked there for about a year, during the time you worked at Rain Bird, was there any type of safety training that went about there?

Let me know what you think. Are there basics we all expect?

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Wow, Sheena! Your post completely blew me away. I'm so glad you wrote that. As Renee already said, I couldn't have said it better myself! You are truly the voice of scopists everywhere. :)
Sheena,

I agree with most everything that you have said, except "hinting" to the fact that scopists who charge less per page aren't as qualified somehow as those who charge more. I charge 1.10 a page for a normal depo. I am more than qualified, having 11 years under my belt as a reporter and three as a scopist. After reading the things I have been reading, you can bet I am contemplating raising my rates, though.

Sometimes what people charge per page is because they haven't given themselves a pay raise in a while, as in my case, but it has nothing to do with their competency or whether they're a great scopist. I consider myself both, and I have clients who I'm pretty sure would agree.

I just wanted to say that that shouldn't be an across-the-board comment about scopists with lower page rates, and that for some of us out there, we just need a raise. :)

Sabrina Schneider
S.O.S. Scoping Services
www.sosscoping.com
Sabrina,

You're right; any good scopist should be charging a decent rate. Let the bottom feeders charge those rates and subsequently be put out of business. The good scopists work too hard and too long to make the equivalent to a McDonald's worker. Give yourself a raise!

I know long, long ago when I undercharged, I started to resent the fact that I was working my rear off for a pittance. On some jobs (okay, a lot), they were so messy that sometimes I didn't even make minimum wage. It started to really bother me that I was working 20-plus hours a day, seven days a week to turn a beautiful transcript, but I was only making the equivalent to a minimum-wage worker. The minimum-wage worker was doing even better than I was because they didn't have to pay self-employment tax and all the expenses that come from working for yourself, not to mention the fact that they also don't have to wait to be paid sometimes for months.

I couldn't live that way any longer. I increased my rates commensurate with my experience. The result? I attracted much better writers, worked less hours and still made more money. A true win-win situation. Well-paid and timely-paid workers are happier and more productive workers.

I've seen a lot of chatter lately about scopists' rates. Everyone's belts are tightening. We have to make a living, too, though. In an economy where the price of everything is rising, why would we decrease our rates? That makes no sense. We can't afford to decrease our rates. We're not being greedy. We have to put food on the table and pay our mortgages, too. The truth is that if you're a good scopist, you will have work. The only reason anyone would need to discount rates is if they are not confident in their abilities and/or they know they aren't doing a good job, period.

Along with the rates chatter has been the suggestion that scopists are merely an extravagance. For some, that may be true. But the reality is that reporting and scoping are two totally different functions. Someone can be an awesome reporter, but a really stinky scopist. Trust me on that one. I've seen it for myself many times. I have one client who will admit to it. She says, "I won't send my transcripts anywhere else or do it myself because I miss too much when I scope it. I'm better in the proofreading phase, especially when you're the scopist."

I've seen reporters who don't know a thing about punctuation. It happens more than most reporters would like to acknowledge. As I'm sure you can attest, most reporters who start scoping for other reporters remark that they can't believe there are so many reporters out there who write so badly. There are many reasons for the poor-quality writing. There are some who just aren't qualified, period. There are some who have repetitive strain injuries. There are some who simply don't take the time to perfect their dictionaries. It really doesn't matter the reason to the scopist; we still have to make that gibberish readable.

The bottom line is, scoping is a specialized field, not just anyone can do it, and we deserve to be paid well for all the work we put into the transcript to help make it a salable product. Speaking for myself here, I can assure any reporter that I contribute a lot more than one-third to every transcript I've ever scoped; I'm not ashamed to charge one-third of the page rate for my investment in the transcript.

Sheena Stobaugh
Scoping since 1996
Case CATalyst, Eclipse, DigitalCAT
Sheena,

Well, I do agree with you, but I guess I am lucky in that my clients are excellent writers with great translate rates, and I've had these clients since the day I started scoping. That's another reason my rates will probably go unchanged. I will not accept work where I am a typist/transcriber and not a scopist. I have turned several reporters away for this very reason. With that kind of work, you're right, you definitely aren't making minimum wage. Great discussion!

Sabrina Schneider
S.O.S. Scoping Services
www.sosscoping.com
I don't think there's anything wrong with charging $1.00 per page. That is what I charge. My reporters always give me clean writing, and I feel charging them more would be unfair. Now, if their writing was complete crap, I might charge more. I definitely disagree when you say only poor scopists charge $1.00 per page. That is a complete fallacy.

I, too, use Google, Web M.D., and whatever other resources I need to locate terms. If I can't find those terms, I will either e-mail or call the reporter, or flag it for them. My reporters are happy with the work I return to them, and one reporter is my own mom. Now, I'm not sure about you, but it's very important to me to please my clients, and that's what I do.

The talk about "only" charging $1.00 per page is just complete nonsense. The scopist should prove their value by their WORK, not their PRICE. The common phrase, "You get what you pay for," isn't always true. Reporters shouldn't run to the first $.90 or $1.00 per page price because it's cheap, or to the $1.50 per page because it's more expensive. The reporter should judge the scopist by the work turned in, versus the price paid out.

Just my $.02.

Daniele Self - Case Catalyst v.9 Scopist
Superior Scoping Services
256-529-9209
daniele.self@yahoo.com
Daniele,

You are a fairly new scopist, correct?

Sheena
Sheena,

I haven't been scoping for 15 or 20 years like a lot of scopists I've seen on CSR Nation and on other scoping forums. I know of a few veteran scopists who've been scoping for 20 or 30 years, who do charge $1.00 per page. As far as hard work, I feel I work just as hard if not harder, in order to prove myself, than a veteran scopist. I strive to make my work as perfect as possible and feel my clients deserve that.

Scoping rates are definitely a personal choice, and scopists choose their rates based on a number of factors. Those who scope for a living, obviously charge more money than someone who does it for extra spending money. Regardless, rates don't always determine the quality of a scopist. Now, I'm sure in some circumstances, they do. But, I've also heard stories of very poor scopists charging high rates.

Either way, just like in any profession, you will find a fair share of people who don't belong here and do a good job of making us look bad, as you will find an equal number who make our profession shine. Every scopist is an individual and has their own rates and reasons, and just because someone chooses to charge less per page, doesn't make them a bad scopist or a newbie.

With that said, I respect every scopist who treats their reporters right and does a good job, regardless of what they charge, and vise versa for reporters. Yeah, I may be cheaper than some scopists like, but I do a good job and try my best to show what good scopists can do.

Daniele Self - Case Catalyst v.9 Scopist
Superior Scoping Services
256-529-9209
daniele.self@yahoo.com
Daniele,

The issue of what any independent contractor chooses to charge is indeed a personal choice. But having said that, scoping is a business. It should be treated as one if it is to be successful.

I started scoping on a part-time basis in 1996 and only scoped for local reporters. I had no Internet contact with the outside world to know what the going rates were. I relied fully on my court reporting instructor to advise me on such matters. Let's just say I was fully taken advantage of.

After I began forming relationships online with other scopists in 1998 and discovered to what degree I was being taken advantage of, I raised my rates accordingly. No, I didn't raise my rates as high as a more experienced scopist because, in a sense, I was still learning a lot. I wasn't worth as much as a more experienced scopist. I wasn't a bad scopist, but I wasn't as good as a scopist with many more years of experience under their belt. I did, however, bring my rates more in line with their rates, taking into consideration my experience level. I was always very careful not to intentionally undercut someone else's rates just to gain a client. I was always honest about my level of experience when questioned by a reporter about it and I charged what my service was worth.

There is a difference, in my mind, between charging a slightly lower rate when starting your business and outright undercutting someone else's rates to gain clients.

More food for thought on this issue. In 1998, the going rate for scoping with audio was $1.00. On average, over a 10-year period of time, that rate has only increased by 25-30%. When comparing that with the national average for cost of living increases, it's low. When I worked an office job, I received a 4% cost of living increase every year. It works the same way in any business. Prices increase over the years. They can't stay the same. An item that cost $100 in 1998 would now cost roughly $140. Do you see what I'm driving at here? If I charge the same rates I did 10 years ago, I'll have to work 40% more to pay for that same item. I don't want to work 40% more. I want the same raises everyone else gets who does a good job.

Yes, reporters have raised rates over the same 10-year period. Your mom's a reporter; you know this. She's not still earning the same rate she was in 1998. Neither is any reporter in my area. Rates here have increased an average of 40% in the ten-year period I've referenced. On the same token, attorneys' rates here have risen approximately 40%, if not 50%, in the last ten years.

Now, how will you feel 10 years from now, after you've gotten all that experience, when a slew of newbies come marching in and try to drive down your rates by undercutting your rate deliberately? I'm going to go out on a limb and say you won't like it one bit. It is an excruciating process to attempt to raise rates with your established clients. If it took you ten years just to raise your rates 25% (a measly $0.25!), wouldn't it just chap your hide to have to drop your rates back down to what you charged 10 years ago in order to be competitive because now all reporters think $1.00 is the going and fair rate?

This scenario plays out the same for reporters as well. No reporter would want to have their rates driven down by a sudden influx of new reporters, all so eager to get jobs that they undercut the rates by 25 to 30%.

Fair is fair, all across the board. A 25 to 30% increase over a ten-year period for the scoping aspect of the job is more than fair. One must remember that reporters are also paid for other services they provide at a deposition such as realtime, copy fees, appearance fees, rough draft fees, etc. A scopist plays no part in these extra services; therefore, the scopist receives no portion of that income. The page rate is for the product, the transcript. That service, the scopist does have a part in and should be fairly compensated for such.

I have to say that, having a business mindset, I will never understand the theory behind a competent, reliable business owner of any type charging less than his or her competitors do when providing the same service. It simply defies all logic. Why work more if you don't have to? When you go to get your hair cut, there is a definite range of rates that all hairstylists charge for a comparable service. If there is a hairstylist whose abilities are head and shoulders above the rest, he or she charges a bit more because their services are more in demand and are more specialized than the stylist fresh out of cosmetology school. When you get your oil changed, there is a definite range of rates for that. When you buy gas, the rates at all surrounding stations are extremely competitive. I could go on all day with these examples. So I ask: Why should this logic apply any differently to the scoping or court reporting world?

One more thing to think about. When raising rates, how do most of us, scopists and reporters alike, go about that? We quote a slightly higher rate to a prospective client. I don't care if you're a scopist or a reporter, if you have a client who is willing to pay you a higher fee than another of your clients, you will be more available to that higher-paying client. So in a perfect world, the scopist will charge somewhere within the range of going rates, reporters will pay that going rate, knowing they're getting their money's worth, they're compensating their "partner" fairly for their efforts, and that "partner" is always going to be there when the reporter needs them because they are being adequately taken care of.

Just as reporters loathe reporters who work for contracting firms and thereby drive down their rates, scopists also loathe other scopists who intentionally undercut rates and drive us all into bankruptcy and poverty. We all need to stand united as an industry, not chop one another off at the knees. Tons of experienced scopists do a lot to help out new scopists. It's pretty much a slap in the face to have your rates undercut by those you've helped show the ropes, so to speak.

Sheena
Sheena,

I definitely agree with you on some points you made, especially those about cost of living raises, etc. Now, to address another point you made, I am in no way trying to undercut anyone. I don't think I can express that enough. Yes, I may charge on the low end, but that is not an intentional effort to run other scopists out of business. If you take my low rates as an attempt to run you out of business, I'm sorry, but that isn't my goal. My goal is to get through court reporting school, while being able to stay home with my son and help my boyfriend pay the bills.

Whenever I see a reporter look for a scopist and a scopist has already replied, I don't sit there and look up their rates and try to undercut them, and the fact that you suggest that is very insulting. I do what I can to find more clients, while helping other scopists out. I don't know if you're a member of the Scopists' Support Group on Yahoo, but I compiled a list of resources for a family friend, and then offered them up to the group. That list took me months and months to make, yet I still shared it with every scopist, old and new. If I was really trying to undercut veteran scopists, I wouldn't have shared that list to make more competition for myself. The fact that you might make it out that new scopists, or myself who knows, are trying to undercut others, is a slap in the face.

Daniele
Daniele,

I wasn't directing that comment specifically at you. It was a general comment. But if you know what the going rates are and you are charging less, then, yes, you are intentionally undercutting other scopists' rates. I call it like I see it. The longer you're in this field, you'll learn that about me.

When I undercharged in the '96 to '98 time frame, it was because I had no knowledge of what the rates were supposed to be. I was young, naive and relied on one person's opinion of what they should be. Geez, no wonder I got three new clients in one week. I was charging .35 less than other scopists.

But once I gained the knowledge of what the going rates were, I rectified it. I find fault with those who don't follow suit.

Daniele, please don't take my posts as a personal attack because, honestly, they're not meant to be. I'm simply expressing my opinions, as I'm known to do, and trying to get you to come over to my side, so to speak. Most of my post wasn't directed at you personally; it was directed at the scores of new scopists who are, whether they want to admit it or not, intentionally undercutting rates just to get work. I'm simply trying to make my point and get scopists and reporters on the same page as far as rates go.

And my comment about the slap in the face certainly wasn't directed at you. I guess I should have elaborated. I have seen so many times a situation where an inexperienced scopist will post questions about transcripts on different forums, asking for help from the more experienced. Those same scopists will take that knowledge so freely given to them and stab those other scopists in the back by intentionally undercutting rates. I've even known new scopists to befriend an experienced scopist, all in an effort to learn their rate structure and then undercut them.

I'm not on some "newbie scopist bashing" rampage. I've been known to take newbies under my wing who I felt had tremendous potential and help them build their business. I hold nothing against anyone trying to break into this business. I only ask that they make every effort to be one of the best and charge accordingly.

Sheena
Sheena, here is some more information for you to think about since you seem to know everything there is to know about reporter's wages.

I was an official court reporter in San Jose, CA, from 1995 to 2005, where I made pretty good money, but had to fight for every wage increase, including COLAs, and even had to go on strike for three days one time because the county didn't want to pay us a 3% increase. In 2005 I chose to move to a small town in Idaho, where I work more hours for less money. So you are right, I am not making the same rates I was making in 1998; I am making much less.

That being said, I think scopists, including my daughter, provide an extremely invaluable service. Every scopist, just like every reporter, should be able to choose what they are going to charge, or pay, without threat of being criticized for their choices. My quality of life is more important to me than any dollar that I make.

You are entitled to your opinion, just as we all are, but you should do a little more research into reporters' salaries all over the country before you just assume that every reporter out there makes more every year. That is also a slap in the face to us reporters who work hard every day and pay your paycheck.

Anita
Anita,

I don't think I said I knew "everything there is to know about reporters." I stated facts about reporters in my area. Those facts, I do know because I have friends who are reporters. And I made sure I called them today to make sure I had my facts straight before I posted. So, Anita, I did my research.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

Sheena

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