Linda Evenson finds herself constantly having to explain what a scopist is. Although scopists are freelancers who work online in a thriving field, almost no one has ever heard of the word. Linda knows what scopist means because she worked as one full time for 40 years before deciding to teach others how to earn money in this online career. She created what is now the very successful and popular online course called Internet Scoping School. I interviewed Linda to learn all about how her course teaches people how to work online as a scopist.
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What is a Scopist?
A scopist is a person who creates final transcripts of trials, depositions and other proceedings which are typed onto a steno machine by a court reporter.
How to Work Online as a Scopist with Internet Scoping School
How did your online course Internet Scoping School come into existence?
I started Internet Scoping School (ISS) in 1998 because I saw the need for a thorough training course for scopists. Having been a scopist myself for 20 years, and having trained new scopists for the agency for whom I worked, I thought I could meet that need. Now that I see graduates getting out there and doing a great job and making money, I am confident I achieved that goal. Being able to share this awesome career with others is very rewarding to me.
How does scoping differ from other online jobs like transcription or proofreading?
Transcribers are given audiotapes of interviews, depositions, and other proceedings. They have to type in every word from the audio, which is very hard on the joints. When a scopist gets a file from a court reporter, it has been translated into English by a computer, so we read every word, punctuating, paragraphing, deciphering untranslated/mistranslated steno notes, listening to the audio where necessary, researching spellings, and getting the file as close to perfect as possible. The file then goes to back to the court reporter or to a proofreader, who actually has the most responsibility because theirs are the last eyes to see the transcript before it goes to the attorneys. They read the transcript carefully, looking for typos or any other errors and correcting them. Then the file is produced to the attorneys and/or the court.
How much money can people earn online as a scopist?
A brand-new scopist might only make a few thousand dollars the first year. But once the scopist gets some experience and speed and does some marketing, working full time or close to it, a typical yearly income for a scopist is probably $35,000 to $50,000.
There are many variables that enter into this: how well the court reporter wrote; how difficult the subject matter was; how fast the speakers were; how experienced/fast the scopist is; how much listening to audio is required; etc. There are up rates for expedited jobs, which are usually considered three-day turnaround or less, so the more rush jobs a scopist edits, the higher the pressure to meet tight deadlines, but the more s/he can earn.
You can enroll in my free mini course to learn how to become a scopist right here.
Most – or possibly all – scopists are freelancers. What are some pros and cons of working as a freelancer online rather than as an employee?
I’ve been working from home now for over 30 years, and I wouldn’t trade it for a million-dollar salary working in an office! I don’t have to maintain a professional wardrobe, fight inclement weather or traffic. I receive/return my work online, and I even get paid by an internet service. I sit here by the fire with my five dogs for company (and I like them better than some people!), I can take breaks when I like — or even take a nap! — I am my own boss, and as long as I make sure my court reporters are covered, I can take off time when I wish. And on top of that, without ever leaving home, I can bring in thousands of dollars a year for my family. I’ve always known I have the best of both worlds working online as a scopist.
On the other hand, working from home alone can be isolating, so ISS has a Facebook group where students/grads can visit with their peers, share experiences, ask for advice, and even refer work to each other. There are many court reporter/scopist sites online as well where one can socialize.
What are some advantages of becoming a scopist?
Being your own boss and having more control over your time; working from home; being able to live in a rural area or somewhere where wages are low and still making a decent living; perfect career for “wordophiles.”
Do scopists needs any kind of degree or experience of any kind?
No degree is necessary. Experience with legal matters or medical terminology can be helpful. However, if you have no experience but have an aptitude with English, that’s all you really need. Internet Scoping School teaches you the rest about how to work online as a scopist.
To learn what skills are useful, information about marketing and finding clients, what you need to get started – and more – sign up here for my free mini course on how to work online as a scopist.
Why is it important that people study scoping rather than just buying scoping software and trying to work as a scopist without training?
Court reporting is a relatively small profession, and if you do a lousy job, word gets around. A bad reputation is not easily overcome.
Scoping is not for everyone. What personality types are suitable for working in this field?
The most important thing is to have an aptitude for English; you must be a self-starter; need to work independently and not need a lot of ”hand-holding”; anyone who loves reading, working crosswords, playing word games; someone able to keep confidentiality.
How long does it take to complete the Internet Scoping School course?
If a student can dedicate 15-20 hrs/wk to studying, the course can be completed in six months or less. Compared to getting a four-year degree at a college that is often useless, becoming a scopist doesn’t take long, is a fraction of the cost, and often yields a better salary than a 4-year degree. That’s what I call a win-win!
You worked as a scopist for decades before founding Internet Scoping School. Do you still work as a scopist?
I do, although I consider myself semi-retired. I stay pretty busy running the scoping school, so I only scope part time. I have always really enjoyed my job, so I don’t want to quit. I also want to stay current with new innovations in the profession, and continuing to do scoping myself is the best way to do that.
Once your students are ready to become freelance scopists, how do they find clients, and do you help with that?
Internet Scoping School teaches students how to market themselves, and the school also passes on contacts we get from court reporters looking for professional scopists. Especially with everyone working online these days, court reporters are pretty easy to find. There are also some job boards where reporters post “ads” for scopists. It’s a great time to get into this type of online career!
Scoping is location-independent work, meaning scopists can work anywhere they want. Do you know where graduates of Internet Scoping School tend to do their work? At home? In coffee shops? While traveling?
Most graduates work from home, but I have trained several people whose “home” is overseas, especially military spouses. I have also trained some folks who want to do a lot of traveling while still making an income. As long as they have a good internet signal, they can work from anywhere. And if someone wants to get out around people, an internet café is a viable choice. Have laptop, will travel!
What are some of the biggest challenges of being a scopist?
Being able to motivate yourself to finish the work on time; isolation; keeping one’s concentration up; keeping up with new technologies; “protecting” your work time from interruptions.
Scopists need to listen to the audio files that accompany written transcripts in court cases. How do you and other scopists handle listening to the audio, and concentrating in general, when there are noise and other distractions?
When you listen to the audio, you wear headphones, and they tend to kind of cover up other noises. The more you scope, the more you learn to concentrate on what you’re reading and ignore distractions.
Do you find that many of your graduates have enough work to support themselves, or is scoping more of a part-time job?
I think most ISS grads do scoping pretty much full time, although some want to scope part time. Retirees enjoy this job because it helps them supplement their Social Security and savings. Some people want to keep their jobs but supplement their income. Scoping is flexible enough to go either way.
What advice do you have for people who are considering learning how to work online as a scopist?
Ask yourself, did you do well with English in school? And since school? Take our free seven-day email series that tells you more about scoping. You can read about it and sign up right here. We have a public Facebook page called Internet Scoping School which you can find here, where folks interested in scoping, as well as students and grads, hang out and get to know each other. If you think you might be interested in this awesome work-from-home career, ask to join and I’ll add you.