How can something you've never heard of be a great way to make a living working from home?
You'd be surprised how many lucrative career paths you don't know about yet. And more and more of them are doable from home nowadays.
So what is a scopist?
Does it make you think of snipers or hunting rifles? Well, it's nothing like that. Think court rooms, witness testimony and court reporters. Because that is a big part of the world of work at home legal professionals. And scopists are a big part of it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
And we're going to talk about more than just one way you can make a living in this secret world of courtroom testimony…without leaving your home.
Official Scopist Definition
Simply put, a scopist edits legal documents for court reporters.
They check spelling and punctuation, translate into words what the reporter’s computer didn’t render, and make sure everything is in the proper format. All of this is done without changing or reordering a single word of testimony.
Scoping is not the same as proofreading court transcripts. Proofreading will occur after the editing – and the editing is where scopists come in. If you have experience in proofreading court transcripts, scoping is a scalable service to offer your clients.
And you’ll have something of a head start in understanding what is expected. But you don’t need to have proofreading experience.
What you will need to succeed is good training, which I’ll discuss later.
What is the job of a Scopist?
A scopist’s work goes beyond simply proofreading court reporter transcripts. As a matter of fact, a legal transcription proofreader checks the work for final errors after the scopist finishes.
Essentially, a scopist is a transcript editor. Your job will be to take the raw transcript and complete the formatting and editing to create the finished version. Without your assistance, a court reporter might have to do this themselves. It would mean less time in court if they handled every transcript on their own.
As a scopist, you are making it possible for a court reporter to spend more time in court, and less time processing the reports. This makes you a valuable member of their team.
You will need to learn how to edit court documents according to the needs of the specific court reporter or reporters you’re working with.
Can I Work as a Remote Scopist?
In a word, yes. As a matter of fact, scopists have always been remote workers.
Court reporters send assignments via the internet, just like work from home legal transcription. As a scopist, your job will be to handle these projects in the agreed-upon timeframe and return them to your client, also using the internet.
Online legal transcription, editing, and proofreading can be done from anywhere you have a secure internet connection and an Internet-capable computer outfitted with the proper software program. If you use a laptop and headphones, you can scope while traveling, or somewhere other than home.
Many scopists like to set up a home base. Make sure you have adequate lighting and a good chair with back support. An ergonomic keyboard and work surface suitable for sitting or standing can help prevent injuries.
Also, noise-cancelling headphones and a foot pedal for starting and stopping the audio can help maximize your productivity.
Do I Need a Scopist Certification?
You will want high-quality training, such as that provided by the Internet Scoping School, as the foundation of your scoping career, but there is no certification required for scoping.
It could be useful to begin by getting a legal transcription certification, which will help you develop your basic skills. You can then work as a certified legal transcriptionist, if you wish, providing income while you study scoping.
However, legal transcriptionist certification isn’t required for scoping. Generally, completing a respected scoping training program will show court reporters you have the knowledge you need.
And, of course, you will build your skills and reputation with each new client.
Typical Scopist Salary
Since most scopists are freelancers, how much you can make depends on a lot of different factors. How much time can you spend on scoping jobs? How fast can you deliver them to the court reporter? What kind of job is it?
All of these will affect how much you make. Of course, your ability to scope quickly and familiarity with your software will improve as you go along.
You’ll develop a better idea about what types of jobs you like best, and how much time you can spend.
As you get faster, you might be more comfortable taking jobs with a quick turnaround. These pay more, so you can make better pay for the same amount of work.
The highest-paying scoping jobs require same-day turnaround, so you’ll need a good deal of flexibility to accept them.
A brand new but well-trained scopist can earn $30k a year. The same scopist with more experience can earn $50k and up (for regular turn around work). It’s possible to earn more if you want to work full-time hours once you’re an experienced scopist.
Scopist Rates per Page for Beginners
As a scopist, you will charge your clients by the page. An average turnaround time for a scoping project is five days. If your clients want their transcripts faster than this, you can charge more per page.
Remember that scoping is not about writing text. You're just correcting it, so it can go very fast once you have some experience.
Beginning scopists tend to charge between $1.10/ $1.25 per page on a normal five-day turnaround. Prices for 24-hour turnaround can be twice as high. As you gain skill, you’ll be able to raise your per-page rates.
Scopist vs Proofreader: What is the Difference between a Scopist and a Proofreader?
You might be asking, “Do court reporters use proofreaders?”
Yes, they do. One reason for court reporters needing proofreading help is that, without it, they might have to take time away from the courtroom to prepare their transcripts.
That translates to money they can’t earn. It’s time and cost-effective to hire someone to proofread their transcripts.
Still confused about the difference between a scopist and a proofreader? Proofreaders go over formatted transcripts to catch any final errors that slip through before a transcript is submitted as part of the official procedure records.
A scopist formats the rough transcript and fixes errors with spelling and punctuation using computer-assisted translation software designed for court reporters and scopists.
Of course, some people do both scoping and proofreading. So are proofreader courses worth it for scoping careers?
The answer here is – maybe. While a course in legal transcript proofreading will help you learn how to spot errors in the documents you handle, it won’t be as in-depth as a course designed specifically for scoping.
These courses include training in the required software and will give you a more complete skill set.
With that said, a legal transcript proofreading course might be a good option if you want to ease your way into this field. You could begin with proofreading, building a client base, and funding a more in-depth scoping course from your earnings.
Once you begin scoping, those clients might be thrilled to take advantage of the new service you’re offering. They already know you are reliable. You’ll also have a head start on the editing aspects of your scoping work.
If you’re already sure you want to be a scopist, investing in training specific to that career is a wise choice for both your time and your budget.
The Best Scopist Training Options
Scopist, legal transcription, and legal document proofreading training are available through in-person or online learning. If you’re looking for in-person training, check your local colleges, continuing education programs, or through court reporting professional organizations.
You can also find a variety of scoping and legal transcription courses online. When compared with in-person college courses, they are extremely affordable. Considering that these are remote work jobs themselves, online training courses to learn the skills makes perfect sense.
Some programs offer scoping or legal transcription certification online. While it can be nice to have a certificate or badge to show potential clients, no certification is needed for legal transcription or scoping.
For scoping, you’ll get training in formatting and revising rough transcripts to be sure your transcripts are clean. But you’ll also need to know other things, like how to use computer-assisted translation programs. These are essential to court reporting and scoping.
A very good program can also help you learn how to get clients and run your business.
Check out these free introductory courses that I personally recommend. I’ve even interviewed a number of past students who are now successful scopists, transcriptionists, and proofreaders.
These mini courses are right for you if you’re still not quite sure if this is the best career for you. They’re a great way to get an idea of what it’s really like:
- Internet Scoping School’s free Intro to Scoping Mini-Course gives you the basics in a seven-day course. By the time you reach the end, you’ll know whether scoping is for you!
- Transcription Foundations from Transcribe Anywhere gives you a peek into life as a transcriptionist in this one-week mini-course.
- Proofread Anywhere’s free 7-day e-course includes printables, templates, and case studies designed to help you decide if a career in proofreading is for you.
If you’re already sure that you want to become a scopist, legal transcriptionist, or legal document proofreader, let’s talk about how the training is structured.
Scopist training is more in-depth than legal transcriptionist training, but some scopists begin with legal transcription to get their professional feet wet. Whether you’re looking for a scoping, legal document proofreading, or legal transcriptionist course, I recommend you go with a solid, well-regarded program.
If you’re ready to invest in a full course, each of these courses is highly rated. Not only have I reviewed each of them, I’ve also spoken to former students too. So I know that you’ll get what you need to have a successful career.
- Internet Scoping School – Linda Everson has been a scopist for decades, and she shares her vast knowledge with generosity and wit. In this course, you will learn all the skills you need to become a scopist – and how to build your scoping business. You also get lifetime support and course updates at no additional fee. Even better, you’ll receive a reduced price key for a CAT software program.
- Legal Transcription: Theory and Practice – Legal and general transcriptionist Janet Shaughnessy has been in the business for over a decade. This course is in-depth, covers all the bases, and offers ample hands-on practice. You’ll get to know the software you need, and get marketing support. Included is a great price for the equipment you’ll need, so you can get started sooner. Plus, Janet welcomes prospective students to reach out with questions.
- Transcript Proofreading Theory and Practice – Caitlin Pyle is an experienced court reporter proofreader with over a decade’s experience in the field. This is an intensive course, with sample transcripts to practice on throughout. At the end of this 2-4 month course, you’ll take a multiple-choice exam and submit a completed transcript for grading. Students who score over 90% receive a certification number and certificate.
It pays to enroll in the best training you can manage. You’ll build a strong foundation for a successful career.
How Do I Find a Scoping Job?
I bet you’re wondering how to get work as a scopist. Here’s a quick list of ways to find scoping jobs:
- Become a member of online communities or registries where court reporters or scopists with too much work on their hands can find you. This can be a good approach because the potential clients know they are hiring well-trained scopists.
- Search job boards for court transcript proofreader jobs, transcription jobs, and scopist jobs. There are specific boards for these jobs as well as more general job boards.
- Use a LinkedIn page to find scoping, transcription, or court proofreader work from home. If you don’t have one, consider creating one for free.
- Offer your services on freelance sites like Fiverr.
- Go old-school. Look up court reporters or other busy scopists and pitch your services directly to them.
This is a good time to remember that scoping is an in-demand job. If one way of finding clients isn’t working, try another. You’ll find the right fit for you.
A final word on online communities and registries: Some courses include a membership to one or both of these. As I mentioned above, I highly recommend the following training programs.
One of the reasons they rate highly is the community support they offer for marketing your business and finding clients.
- Internet Scoping School
- Legal Transcription: Theory and Practice
- Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice
Are Scopist Job Boards a Good Idea?
Job boards are an option for finding scoping jobs. You can approach this by joining general legal job boards, scoping boards, or both.
An advantage to scoping boards is that you can find “scopist needed” postings. You can review them until you find the ones you want to pitch and know that you are offering a service the prospective client is actively looking for.
Many scopists find jobs using this approach, and it’s an excellent way to get started in your scoping career. There are several well-regarded boards to choose from.
An alternate tactic is to check out related board listings. For instance, “court reporting jobs from home” is targeted to court reporters. But if you’re looking for potential reporters to pitch to, this might be a good place to find them.
You could also search phrases like “proofreading court transcript jobs.” Though in this case, the court reporter is looking for proofreading help, they might jump at the chance to find a scopist, as well.
This could also give you great results if you opted to learn court transcript proofreading on your way to scopistry. You could contact the prospects and offer a package deal for scoping and proofreading.
When you’re just starting out, you will want experience. Job boards can help with that. You can choose one-time projects or ongoing assignments. You can decide what types of jobs you want to take and strengthen your skills as you go. Opting for various turnaround times will let you get a feel for how they fit with your life.
As you complete assignments, you will be building skills you can use to attract higher-paying clients. A posting on a job board might even lead to a regular client.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Scopist?
Be prepared to spend three to eight months learning how to be a scopist, depending on the training you choose and how much time you have to devote to it. There’s a lot to learn, including the CAT software and some knowledge of stenography.
Many newly trained scopists find work as soon as they complete their training and begin looking for clients. If you choose to become a legal transcriptionist to fund your scoping training or offer more services, you can expect to spend about four months training for that job.
Some of the skills will be transferable. So if you choose to be a transcriptionist first, you may be able to move more quickly through parts of your scopist training.
How Do I Become a Proofreader for Scopist?
A scopist assures the original steno taken by the court reporter translates properly and cleans up formatting problems. While they will probably do some proofreading along the way, that’s not their main job.
That means that the scoped transcript will need a final proofreading. Proofreading is another service you can offer. You might choose to start as a legal document proofreader before becoming a scopist.
Or, you might add it to your scoping skills to increase your value to clients who won’t need to look for a separate proofreader.
Some scopists do their own proofreading. Just as you can learn legal transcription, you can learn legal document proofreading, and help scopists with their work.
It’s a good way to get more familiar with what scopists do. You might even find a mentor as you begin your scoping studies. It will give you a broader base of service offerings once you are a scopist.
If you want to know how to become a scopist proofreader, an excellent approach is to take a course. Proofreading transcripts is more technical than general proofreading.
If you choose a high-quality course, you can expect to finish in 2-4 months of consistent effort. While proofreading requires less specialized knowledge than scoping, this is still an in-demand field. Once you’ve finished your training, many of the same approaches scopists use to find work will help you, too.
Check out job boards, put out the word, join a professional organization, and update (or create) your LinkedIn page. All of these are good options.
Your Questions Answered by Professional Scopists
Ok, let’s ask some real scopists what they think about their work in their own words.
In our researching and reviewing of scopist programs, we've spoken with so many successful (and experienced) scopists in interviews about everything you could ever want to know about being one.
We've taken excerpts from those discussions and added them here to help you quickly get an idea of the everyday life of a scopist.
If you want a personal take on how people found their way to scoping, what it takes to be a good scopist, how professionals are finding clients, and more, read on!
How Did You Become a Scopist?
Linda Everson, a scopist with over forty years’ experience, describes how she found her way to a scoping career in my interview with her:
When I was a young mother, I heard that a friend of mine was making money by typing from home. She told me about typing from dictation for court reporters and also about a thing called “note reading,” which was learning to read the machine shorthand that reporters wrote on their machines — kind of like a secret decoder ring! I was intrigued!
I did a little research and found a correspondence course in note reading. Not long after, I was hired by a local reporter to start typing up transcripts from his notes. After that, I started working in-house for a reporting firm when they got their first mainframe computer that translated reporter notes into English. Hot diggety dog! I was hooked. Who would have thought that it would turn into a lifelong career that I still love?
I had a group chat with three former students of courses I recommend. Here’s what scopists Matthew Ackroyd, Danielle Cady, and Christine Smith had to say about how they came to scoping as a career:
I was looking for more work-at-home jobs to supplement my income from teaching ESL, and maybe to become a full-time thing. I think I first read about scoping at the Penny Hoarder website. I didn’t start here, but I ended up here instead, after not liking a couple of other things I tried. Linda Evenson’s Internet Scoping School is where I got my training, and it left me well prepared for the job. – Matthew
I was also looking for a legit work-at-home opportunity that could be scaled to either part-time, full-time, or anywhere in between and that could be done remotely in any time zone.
I originally started proofreading court transcripts after taking the proofreading course offered by Proofread Anywhere and that naturally led me to scoping as a way to offer an additional service to clients and open up my income potential. I’m a military spouse who has frequently moved as par for the course for my husband’s job, including one overseas assignment and another overseas move coming up this summer, so the portability of scoping is what sealed the deal for me. – Danielle
I was looking into medical transcription when I found out about proofreading for court reporters, which led me to scoping. I was really interested in MT, but I was concerned about repetitive stress injuries. I have a chronic pain condition so I knew that I would need to be careful about my work environment and what I physically need to do. I went through the Internet Scoping School course. – Christine
How Did You Know You Would Be a Good Scopist?
Here’s what these scopists have to say:
Both professional proofreaders and scopists are in demand, and both must have excellent word skills. For myself, I like scoping because there is more editing to do, and I really like the note reading and research aspects. It’s kind of like taking pieces of a puzzle and making them fit perfectly together. I guess I’ve never outgrown it — and it keeps me young!
I think good word skills are probably more important than almost anything else. ISS (Internet Scoping School) provides lots of training in word usage: commonly misspelled words, hyphen rules, capitalization, apostrophes, British vs. American spellings, one word or two words, plus a lengthy section based on Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters, a long-used authority on the English rules.
You do need to know how to type, but since most of the transcript is already in English, you don’t have to type a million words per minute. Having some internet/computer experience is helpful because you will have to know how to get around your machine. And the better your word skills, the faster and easier the training will be for you.
If you are a self-starter, able to organize and motivate yourself, you enjoy the challenge of being the best you can be at what you do, and especially if you have a love of language, scoping is an amazing and fulfilling career. I highly recommend it! – Linda Evenson
You have to like punctuation. Seriously. There is a lot of that, and it is really different punctuating speech instead of writing. You have to be able to focus, even if it is for short stretches. I try to work in 30 minute chunks. You also have to be okay with spending your work time alone. It is a team effort the rest of the time, which is awesome, but the actual scoping is pretty solitary. – Matthew
As Matthew pointed out, it is a partnership between you and the court reporter and/or proofreader, but for the most part, you have to like working alone. You also need to really understand punctuation for verbatim material, the parts of speech, and know how to utilize your resources to verify things you are unsure of. Knowing your software and the different time saving editing features is also key to improving your efficiency and saving yourself and your sanity from having to make repetitive corrections. – Danielle
Aside from the skills that Matthew and Danielle mentioned, you have to have some business acumen and excellent time management skills. – Christine
Yes to time management, absolutely. Making sure that you manage your time effectively so that you can ensure you turn in transcripts on time is so important to maintaining an ongoing work relationship with your clients. Also, having the confidence and decisiveness to establish and adhere to the business policies and practices you’ve set up. There will always be someone who wants you to work for less or change your practices. Ultimately, it’s up to you on whether you decide to deviate from those, but the great thing about owning your own scoping business is that you get to decide who you work for and in what manner. – Danielle
In case you’re more interested in legal transcription, I’ve got you covered, too. Here’s what Janet Shaughnessy has to say in my interview with her:
A legal transcriptionist needs all the skills of a general transcriptionist with the addition of a basic understanding of the law, legal terminology, and style and formatting guidelines for the legal profession.
The mechanics of transcribing aren’t different, so we cover that in both courses. In addition to being excellent with the “regular” usage of English grammar, spelling, and punctuation, there are additional rules and style formats for legal transcriptionists. There’s a LOT of legal terminology to learn.
We also cover the different types of law, the trial process, depositions, law enforcement, and offer training and practice specific in all of the ways industries employ legal transcriptionists. It is possible to learn all the skills and knowledge you need to know to become an LT (legal transcriptionist). We cover everything an LT needs to know in our course, Legal Transcription: Theory and Practice. A legal background might be helpful in getting through the course quicker but is not a prerequisite.
Where Do You Find Scoping Jobs or Clients?
You’ve probably figured out by now that you’re not likely to see “scopists wanted” ads in your local classified ads or job listings sites. Scoping is a specialized occupation, and since many people have never heard of it, you’re going to need to seek out the court reporters who are looking for scoping and transcription help. As for finding them, this is another way a good training program can help.
Internet Scoping School’s Linda Everson says this:
ISS teaches its students how to market and find reporters, and from what I’ve seen over the last 17+ years, they get out there and do pretty darn well for themselves.
I do recommend that scopists get involved in their state/local associations because reporters are impressed by scopists who care enough about their profession to participate.
And legal transcriptionist Janet Shaughnessy adds this:
Some LTs will work for larger transcription companies and some may choose to obtain their own clients. It’s up to the individual. We give you the resources and tools for both options.
Certification is available through AAERT. I’m not going to say it’s unnecessary because it can be very helpful if your focus is on working with court reporters. In my business, I work with all sorts of clients (attorneys, law enforcement, etc.) who, believe it or not, have never even asked if I was certified. But, having said that, I did base the course around the AAERT guidelines. If you can pass the TA legal transcription course, you’ll be able to pass the AAERT certification exam.
So both Janet and Linda show us why it can be very helpful to enroll in a quality course. The right training can help you sort out what you need vs. what might be nice to have as you build your client roster.
Do You Work A Lot of Hours as a Scopist?
Scopists and legal transcriptionists decide how many hours of work they want to take on. Possibilities range from an occasional project to more than full-time, and projects might range from immediate turnaround to taking most of a week.
Since scopists are in high demand, it’s up to you. How much can you work? What are your goals? What does the rest of your life look like? Once you have the answers to these questions, it’s easier to decide how much or little you want to work. Even better, scoping is a career that allows you to take on more or less work as your circumstances change.
Can You Work Part Time as a Scopist?
Are you a stay at home mom (or dad!)? A student? Looking at scoping as a side hustle? Just don’t want the commitment of full-time work as a scopist? Well, you’re in luck!
As a scopist, you can set your own schedule. If you only want one court-reporter client you help occasionally, that’s fine. A regular client or two providing steady part-time work? Yes, that’s possible, too. You can fit your scoping work into your schedule in the way that best suits your life, as long as you are scrupulous about meeting your deadlines.
According to Linda Evenson:
A work-from-home mom can easily scope part time and bring in some nice extra money working around nap times, school activities, and other parenting responsibilities. Some reporters require scopists to listen to a full audio recording of the job as they edit. Even though this work is slower going (and higher paying), a scopist could work two, two and a half days a week and bring in more than $1,000 a month.
Since regular turnaround time is about a week, it is easy to fit work in around other obligations. And even if a lot of work comes in at one time, I always recommend that every grad “buddy up” with another grad or two so they can help cover each other’s clients when necessary. As long as work goes in on time, scoping can be wonderfully flexible.
These three scopists share their experiences whether scoping seems compatible with parenting:
I imagine it is, for the most part, although you might not be able to do a lot of short-notice jobs. I teach at specific times, so I can’t just drop that to do a rush job. You just have to be a little more choosy about which jobs you can accept. – Matthew
I don’t have kids, so I can’t speak from that perspective of being a working parent, but without the obligations of another job or responsibility of caring for kids, I can work full-time and am able to take a lot of last-minute expedited and daily work which has probably increased my income by a third compared to doing that same work at a standard-turnaround rate. It’s a niche service I enjoy and a boon to my wallet. – Danielle
Four of our six kids still live at home and I am able to work while they are at school. In the summer, I work a half day in the morning and another half day after dinner so I am still available for activities with our family. It does take cooperation and I will add that my kids are now ages 11 and up. When they were younger, I would have been a lot more limited in the hours I could work. It certainly would have been doable on a part-time basis but would be tricky in the summer. – Christine
And for transcriptionists, Janet Shaughnessy says:
I'd say more than 50% of transcriptionists work part-time. Since most of us work as independent contractors, we set our own schedules.
Let's Go Scoping
Can you see yourself working as a scopist, a legal transcriptionist or a legal proofreader? Are you curious about how you can learn more about this secret world of work at home legal professionals?
Love working solo, and want to earn good money while you’re doing it?
If all these are true, then scoping may be just the career you never knew you were looking for.
Are you ready to start your own scoping adventure?