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 can be carried out without you even having to leave your front door.
What is a Scopist?
Does it make you think of snipers or hunting rifles? Well, rest assured, it's nothing like that.
Think courtrooms, witness testimony and court reporters. 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, but you don’t need to have proofreading experience. What you will need to succeed is good training, which I’ll go on to discuss later.
What Does a Scopist Do?
A scopist’s work goes beyond simply proofreading court reporter transcripts.
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. 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.
You can do online legal transcription, editing, and proofreading 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.
Do I Need a Scopist Certification to Work as a Scopist?
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, it isn’t required to kickstart your scoping career. Generally, completing a respected scoping training program will show court reporters you have the knowledge you need.
And, of course, you will build upon your skills and reputation with each new client.
What Is the Typical Salary of a Scopist?
Typical scopist salaries vary depending on hours worked and turnaround time.
Since most scopists are freelancers, how much you can earn depends on a lot of different factors:
- How much time you have to spend on scoping jobs.
- How fast can you deliver them to the court reporter.
- What kind of scoping job it is.
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.
Beginner scopists tend to charge between $1.10/ $1.25 per page on a typical five-day turnaround. Prices for same-day turnaround can be twice as high. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to raise your per-page rates.
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.
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, how much you work is up to you. Consider the following:
- 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.
Scopist vs Proofreader: What is the Difference between a Scopist and a Proofreader?
Proofreaders revise 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.
Both are essential parts of a court reporter's team.
Of course, some people do both scoping and proofreading. 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.
What Are 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 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 incredibly affordable. Considering that these are remote work jobs themselves, online training courses to learn the skills makes perfect sense.
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.
Check out these free introductory courses below that I personally recommend. 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 ready to invest in a full course, each of these courses is highly rated. Not only have I reviewed each of them, but I’ve also spoken to former students too. So I know that you’ll get what you need to have a successful career.
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 of training for that job.
How Do I Find a Scoping Job?
Once you have completed your training, there are many 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, 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. Lookup court reporters or other busy scopists and pitch your services directly to them.
This is an excellent 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.
How Do I Become a Proofreader for Scopist?
You can do court proofreader work from home – or anywhere else you have an internet connection.
A scopist assures the original steno taken by the court reporter translates correctly and cleans up formatting problems. While they will probably do some proofreading along the way, that’s not their primary job. That means that the scoped transcript will need 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.
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 many successful and experienced scopists about everything you could ever want to know about becoming 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.
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 the scoping course 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
Can You Work as a Scopist as a Stay-at-Home Parent?
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 and a half days a week and bring in more than $1,000 a month.
Since the regular turnaround time is about a week, it is easy to fit work around other obligations. As long as work goes in on time, scoping can be wonderfully flexible.
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. Start your scoping adventure today!