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How to Get Work as a Scopist

Don't Work Another Day is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own.
  By Forrest McCall | Last Updated:  September 30, 2020

Are you a Scopist? Here's How to Get More Work!

In the modern world, it’s more practical than ever before to work from home. A generation ago, the options for working at home were extremely limited – and they weren’t necessarily very appealing. To make a good living for you and your family, you likely needed to venture out of the house. Times have changed. These days, there are plenty of opportunities to earn an income without leaving the comfort of your house. One such opportunity is to work as a scopist. If you aren’t yet familiar with what a scopist does or why it’s something worthy of your attention, don’t worry – we’ll get into all of that and more below.

What is a Scopist?

Before you can understand the work performed by a scopist, you first need to understand the job of a court reporter. During a court proceeding, a court reporter will be present to capture testimony and record it officially. These records can be called on later for a variety of legal reasons, so it is important that they are accurate. Accuracy is where scopists enter the picture. A scopist may be hired to edit the transcripts that are created by court reporters to ensure they are correct. Given the speed with which court reporters must work, it’s possible that mistakes or errors will slip through the cracks. A scopist is trained to properly edit the transcripts to take care of any issues. For the right person, this can be interesting work which earns a nice income and helps to support the operation of the legal system. At this point, you may be wondering whether or not scopist work would be a good fit for you personally. This is an appealing job for a number of reasons, but it is not for everyone. By comparing your own personal skills and interests with the requirements of the job, you can determine if it’s worth your time to look any further into this potential opportunity.
  • Good with words. This first point probably isn’t too surprising. After all, the work of a scopist is to edit transcripts, so you’ll need to have a strong grasp of language. That means having a solid understanding of things like grammar and punctuation. You’ll still need to be trained to perform this specific type of work, of course, but starting out with good control over the basics of language and writing will go a long way.
  • Legal knowledge. In addition to a useful knowledge of language, it also helps for a scopist to have a working knowledge of the kinds of terms used in the legal world. This can feel like a language all its own, so having a head start in this area will also be a benefit.
  • Thoughtful people. The task of scopist is not one where you can ‘turn your brain off’ and just log some hours. If you are looking for a passive way to sit back and earn money from home, this is not for you. Scopists need to be engaged in their work and have a passion for the task of cleaning up the transcripts to the best of their ability. This is an ideal role for someone who loves to put their brain to the test day after day, learning new things and developing new skills along the way.
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How Much Money Can You Make as a Scopist?

It’s great to have passion for the kind of work that you do, but there are still dollars and cents to consider when picking a new role to pursue. After all, if your work doesn’t provide enough to pay the bills, you’ll quickly be looking for other options. So, before getting into classes or taking any further steps toward working as a scopist, you’ll want to have an understanding of how much money you could make. Before getting into any specific numbers, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind –
  • It always depends. Anytime you are talking about compensation, you need to understand that averages are just that – they are an average of a wide range of numbers. There is no guarantee where you will end up on the spectrum, so you could find yourself making quite a bit more or less than what the averages indicate.
  • There is room to grow. Getting started in any new field is difficult. Early on, you might struggle to make as much as you would like, simply because you haven’t yet built a long list of clients to serve. Fortunately, you should be able to improve on this problem as time moves along. By adding to your client base while continuing to serve repeat clients, you can expand your earnings potential.
As a general framework, a scopist can usually charge in the range of $1.00 – $1.50 per page. The precise rate available will depend on a number of factors, including the type of transcript to be scoped and the turnaround time required. Projects that offer less turnaround time should offer a higher per-page rate. The tricky thing about estimating your earnings in the scopist field is that there are so many variables involved. Not only will your per-page rate vary by project (although it will likely remain close to the $1.00 – $1.50 range), but you will also have a varied workload depending on your clients’ demands. Plus, you don’t yet know how many pages per hour you will be able to scope! So, you can’t really guess your typical hourly wage until you know how many pages you can produce in that time. Your speed as a scopist will depend on your skill, experience, and the type of transcript that you are working on. As a rule of thumb, a qualified scopist should be able to handle somewhere between 20 – 25 pages in an hour. So, you can multiply that number by your possible per-page rates to figure out how much you can make per 60 minutes. If you decide to focus on this as your only work instead of as an addition to your regular job, there is the potential to generate a full-time income. That could be somewhere in the range of $30,000, or it could be up around $50,000 – $60,000 if you are particularly successful. Remember, you are not an employee in this setting, but rather an independent contractor. So, you’ll need to manage some expenses and pay taxes out of your income.

How to Become a Scopist

As you might imagine, you can’t just get started as a scopist immediately without any training. You need to know what you are doing to perform this work properly, and it’s not the same as just editing other types of written content, like articles and blog posts. This is specialty work, and it requires the knowledge to match. Fortunately, there are a few potential paths that can lead you to an active scoping career. For starters, many scopists are former court reporters, as it is a natural transition from one career to the other. So, if you used to work as a court reporter and have moved away from that line of work, serving as a scopist is an opportunity to pick up income using the knowledge you gained in that past career. Of course, most people are not trained in court reporting, so there are other options if you would like to get into the scoping field. If you aren’t a trained court reporter, the following options may be ways for you to get started as a scopist.
  • Take an online course. Online education is a rapidly expanding space, and there are courses available for potential scopists to receive the training they need. The benefit of this option is that you will get direct training on all of the skills you’ll need to start attracting clients. By the time you are finished with the course, you should feel confident that you have exactly the knowledge necessary for this kind of work. On the downside, of course, is the cost. You’ll have to spend money on a course upfront before you are able to start earning later on.
  • Learn directly. Do you know someone in your personal life who works as a scopist already, or as a court reporter? If you have this kind of connection, you may be able to leverage it to learn what you need to know. This could be a free option if your friend is willing to pass on knowledge without charge. Or, you could pay them for their time, but you’d still likely spend less than a formal course. However, it’s worth noting that a formal course will be carefully structured and may help you gain all of the necessary knowledge in a timely manner.
It’s important not to shortcut the learning process as you push toward a scoping career. If you try to get started too early and you provide poor work to your clients as a result, you may never wind up getting this business off the ground. Investing in your education upfront could pay off for years to come. Scoping can be a great low stress job for retirees as it does not require much physical labor.

How to Increase Your Workload as a Scopist

There’s no doubt that you will have to ‘hustle’ early on in your scopist career to find work. That’s just how it goes when first getting started in any business, especially as an independent contractor. You’ll have to send out a lot of messages – and hear a lot of silence in return – before you start to accrue a list of clients. So, the first key to increasing your workload is simply to be persistent. You need to stick with it when you are replying to classified ads, looking at listings on LinkedIn, etc. One good way to get yourself started is to communicate with others online who are also looking for scopist work. Engage in forums and discussion boards where you can pick up ideas on finding opportunities to work with court reporters. As you start to get clients and complete jobs, by far the most important thing you can do for the advancement of your career is to do accurate, timely work. If you hit all of your deadlines, and your work meets the expectations of your client, you should be able to expand your workload over time. Court reporters hire scopists with the expectation of getting excellent performance, and that’s exactly what you need to deliver. It’s ultimately the quality of your work, and the timeliness of your work, that will determine your success in the end. You can also consider browsing job boards to find scoping jobs to find more work.

Conclusion: Here's How to Get More Work as a Scopist

Is working as a scopist a good fit for everyone? No – this is a job that requires not only some specific skills but specific interests, as well. With that said, if you think this role is a good fit for you, be sure to pursue more information and think about finding the training you need to get started.    
Forrest is a personal finance, entrepreneurship, and investing expert dedicated to helping others obtain life long wealth. He has a Bachelor's degree in business and has been featured in many popular publications including Forbes, Business Insider, Bankrate, CNET Money, and many others. To learn more about Forrest, visit the About Us Page for more info.
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