“How do I decide if I want to be a scopist?” Have you been asking yourself this question? Maybe you don’t really know what a scopist is and want to find out. Either way, you’ve come to the right place.
Simply put, scopists help court reporters by editing their deposition transcripts. These documents are translated from the stenographer notes taken during court proceedings by CAT (computer-assisted translation) software. However, both stenographers and programs can make mistakes, and that’s where freelance scopists come in.
Scopists do the research and editing needed to ensure the court reporter has a clean document to submit. This gives court reporters more time to spend in the courtroom taking depositions. Currently, court reporters are in short supply, and this is a problem that’s expected to last.
With reporters in such high demand, a trusted scopist is a tremendous asset to them, and to the judicial system as a whole. So if you decide to become a scopist, you will help the legal system function properly.
So, back to the question of, “How do I decide if I want to be a scopist?”
Are you good with grammar, punctuation, and spelling? Are you interested in the legal system? If so, freelance scoping might be the perfect fit for you. It’s an anywhere and anytime career that fits around your life as a parent without college-level investments in learning.
This is the fourth interview in my series of chats with working scopists. All have graduated from Internet Scoping School with the benefit of creator Linda Evenson’s four decades of scoping experience. If you want to know more about scoping in general, read our ultimate scoping guide. You can also check out our in-depth review of Internet Scoping School.
Lyndsi Martel lives in Manitoba, Canada, and, in her own words, “I spend too much time debating things like effect and affect.” She graduated from ISS in April of 2021. Read on to see if her story helps you decide if you want to be a scopist, too.
Hi, Lyndsi! You do your internet scoping from Manitoba, Canada. Do you work with Canadian or American court reporters – or a combination of the two?
All of the court reporters I work with are American. When I advertised my services, I was not just strictly looking for American reporters. The only ones who replied to me just happened to be American.
You mentioned that you debate things like the proper use of “effect/affect.” How has Internet Scoping School helped you to resolve this type of widespread grammatical confusion?
The great thing about ISS is that you can always e-mail Linda Evenson about anything. If you are a current student, a graduate, or even a prospective student, she always finds the time to reply to any questions or concerns you have.
There is also the ISS (Facebook) group that is specifically for students and graduates. Everyone in there is extremely friendly and always willing to help. As someone who hates asking for help, they sure make it easy.
You’re a full-time work-from-home parent. How do you manage the demands of parenting and completing scopist jobs? Have you set up boundaries in either area? If so, can you describe them?
Before entering into a business relationship with a reporter, I make sure they know that my work week is from Monday to Saturday. This means that I do not include Sunday in my turnaround times.
I also make sure that my family knows that I work from 9-5 every day and that working from home means just that; I am at work while being at home.
As I got busier and busier with my work, we decided to put our daughter into daycare twice a week, then we bumped her up to three days in the week. She is now in daycare full time. There are times when she is sick or her daycare is closed for the day that I, of course, can’t work during those days. However, as soon as she goes to bed, I get as much work done as I can in the evenings. The last thing you ever want to do is fall behind in your work.
You suggest that new scopists should take it slowly to get their “scoping legs” (I love that term!). I noticed you graduated ISS in April 2021, and that you now scope full-time. How long did it take to find your “scoping legs” and feel confident in filling out your client roster?
When I first graduated, I advertised my services, and I had a lot of inquiries the day after I had advertised. I tried a reporter that didn’t end up working out in the end, but I never looked at it as a bad thing. In fact, it was a good thing because she made me realize what expectations I need to communicate ahead of time before entering into a new business relationship.
From there, I met my second reporter, and I have been working with her ever since. I am not her main scopist, but she uses me when things get too busy for her other scopists.
I did some jobs for other reporters here and there, just to help them out if they were overloaded and needed a scopist right away. Every little bit of experience helps when you are first starting out. You get to see how other reporters write, and you need to learn how to ask questions if you are unsure about something. I cannot stress that enough. Asking questions is very important because not every reporter writes the same way. If you don’t know something, ask. It is much better to ask and get it right rather than guess and get it wrong.
I would say around September is when I really started feeling like I was ready to take on a couple more reporters. I advertised my services, and I tried working with a couple of them. The two reporters that I decided to try are still with me, and they are absolutely great.
Do you work regular scoping jobs with the same court reporters, or do you have various reporters who offer you assignments?
I work with the same three reporters now. One of them has even made me her main scopist. They are all great people!
Can you describe a typical day in your internet scoping life for those asking themselves, “How do I decide if I want to be a scopist?”
This is a tough one! For me, I make sure to have my tea ready, and then I start on the files in order of when they arrived. I work until I take a 15-minute break for lunch, and then I get back at it!
I don’t like taking longer breaks because the more I can get done in a day means the more work I can accept that week.
This would be a great question to ask a RealTime scopist (a scopist who uses software to nearly instantaneously scope a deposition as it is occurring). I have had one scopist tell me that she was in a RealTime deposition while she was on a yacht during her vacation.
What is your biggest challenge in doing internet scoping jobs full-time from home? What is your greatest joy?
Right now, my biggest challenge is finding a good balance between scoping and having time off at home. I had never realized how busy I would become, so it can be tough finding a good work-life balance at times.
My greatest joy is that I don’t have to drive to work! I live in Manitoba, and the roads in the winter can be a nightmare to drive on. We’ve just had our first winter storm for the year, and when I looked outside, I smiled because I knew I didn’t have to drive in that!
What did you do prior to beginning your scoping journey?
I was a hairstylist first, and then I was an education assistant at a high school. I loved both jobs, but I moved out to a very rural area where the demand for both isn’t very high. I’m happy my mom came across a scoping article. She is actually the one who told me about scoping. I owe her a Coke! Lol.
What was your answer to, “How do I decide if I want to be a scopist?” What convinced you to take the chance and enroll in Internet Scoping School?
My mom had come across an article talking about ISS. I checked out the ISS website and I thought it was too good to be true. I decided to go to the public Facebook page, and I privately messaged some of the graduates on there. They all told me, in their own words, the same thing. It is a great course, Linda is a great teacher, and they all make a living wage. They were all right.
How long did it take you to complete the ISS course?
It took me a year and a half to graduate. I had some health issues during my time taking the course, and I could not commit to studying all day, every day. It varies for everyone, though.
What truly fascinates you about being a scopist?
A lot of the depositions I get are really interesting. In a sense, it is like reading a book that you edit as you go. However, I don’t find out the endings to those books!
Can you tell us how much of an initial investment you made in your scoping training and setup? Have you recouped your startup costs? If so, how long did it take? If not, do you have an anticipated date for doing so?
I believe the course was roughly $3000. The books I used came to be around $450. I was lucky enough to have a brother-in-law who decided to buy himself a new computer so he gave me his old laptop. I made it back in approximately 5 months, which was not when I was doing full-time scoping.
Do you have any scoping tips to share with my readers?
- Start slow. Gain experience before you take on more than one reporter at a time. You will build confidence as you go, but it is not something to be rushed. This can be applied to anyone starting out something new! Everything takes time.
- Clear communication. You need to have very clear communication when entering a new business relationship with someone. E-mail is the best way to go because then you have everything in writing. Check in often with your clients. The one thing I have heard is that reporters get very frustrated when they don’t hear from their scopists after sending them a job. Even checking in just to say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know the job is going well.” Of course, I am always asking them questions, so that’s my way of checking in, as well. This can also be applied to anyone starting out a business. Check in with your clients just to let them know how the project is going, if you have any ideas, and if you have anything that needs answering.
- Don’t rush your work. Take the time to focus on what you are working on and be proud of it. That’s your name you’re putting out there!
- Don’t take on more work than you can handle, and don’t be afraid to say no to a job. If you take on too much, you may allow yourself to be overworked, behind on your projects, frustrated, and burnt out. There may be disappointment from a client if you have to say no to a job, but that’s nothing compared to if you were to say yes and let them fall behind, as well.
Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you in your business?
Honestly, I love the picture of the cat that has the saying at the bottom: Hang in there!
It’s so simple. And sometimes, that’s all you need to hear.
Thank you, Lyndsi!
Are you still asking, “But how do I decide if I want to be a scopist?”
If so, we have you covered. Read our group interview with three scopists, and our interviews with Chelsea Stock and Darcy Thornburg. All are working graduates of Internet Scoping School who have taken advantage of their scopist training, the responsiveness of course creator and long-time scopist Linda Evenson, and the online Facebook community to get scopist jobs helping court reporters to get more done.
Internet Scoping School is recommended by the National Court Reporters Association.
Linda Evenson also guarantees that if any student feels something they needed to succeed as a freelance scopist isn’t included in the course, she will add it. Since students have lifetime access to the course materials, they benefit as well as new students from this ISS policy.
Still trying to decide if ISS is for you?
You could also read our review of Internet Scoping School, or, if you want a feel for who Linda Evenson is, check out our interview with her.
You can also sign up for Linda’s free Internet Scoping School 7-Day mini-course. This email series will give you a sampler of information on life as a scopist. It's designed for people who are asking: How do I decide if I want to be a scopitst?” This course will help you decide if being an internet scopist is a good anytime and anywhere career for you.
“How do I decide if I want to be a scopist?” If you’re still wondering, please drop me a comment with your thoughts or concerns, and keep the conversation going!