So, What is Scoping? My Informative Group Interview with 3 Work-From-Home Scopists
Have you ever heard of scoping? Or did you read the title of this post and wonder, “What is scoping, exactly?” What does it have to do with a site for work-from-home careers?
If you don’t have a clue what scoping is, you’re not alone! A very basic definition is that it’s editing for court reporters. Read more about it in our ultimate guide!
Or maybe you already know what scoping is. You might even be intrigued by the idea of helping court reporters prepare their transcripts. But you're not sure whether this could be a viable business for you. Is scoping really an in-demand work-from-home career? If so, where can you get training that meets your needs and fits your schedule?
It’s common to have questions before making the decision to work from home. It can also take time to decide which work-from-home option is right for you. One of the best ways to get answers about a particular work-from-home field is by learning from others who are already doing it.
I interviewed three graduates of Internet Scoping School, all of whom had scoping businesses at the time of this interview.
- Matthew Ackroyd
- Danielle Cady
- Christine Smith
Could you briefly share how you learned what scoping is and became a scopist?
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.
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.
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.
Yes, RSI is a boggart in my closet too, Christine. Scoping is much easier than typing, especially since I remapped my keyboard.
What exactly is scoping and what does it entail?
What I tell people is that court reporters take down what people say, and I tidy it all up: make sure that spellings are good, that whatever the computer didn’t figure out gets turned into words, and that punctuation is correct.
Since scoping isn’t even a word in the dictionary (haha), I tell people it’s similar to the editor’s role when an author writes a book, but that we must work with whatever is said as we can’t add, remove, or rearrange any words. We do the heavy lifting of correcting format, spelling, punctuation, and making sure things make sense.
Like Danielle, I use the term editing to describe what I do in the transcript production process. After a court reporter takes down everything in a proceeding, it’s run through specialized software to translate the stenographic notes before I get the transcript file. I take that rough file, clean up any bits (or chunks!) that did not translate properly, and then set out to create punctuation for readability and make sure that all formatting conventions are followed, whether it is a deposition, hearing, arbitration, or court case.
What do you enjoy and not enjoy about being a scopist?
I enjoy hearing all the voices. I love people’s voices. I enjoy tidying up. I don’t enjoy some of the fast and unclear speakers. It is very frustrating to add “you know” over and over again or to deal with speakers who never complete a sentence. It slows me down a lot, and in this job, speed is money. Lol.
I love the autonomy that scoping gives me. I can work wherever and whenever I want to around my schedule. I enjoy moments when I am able to discern a word or phrase that is being said that the court reporter didn’t catch, but least enjoy working with messy files that can slow down your speed or speakers whose style of speech leads to lots of punctuation corrections. As Matthew said, speed is money in this field!
I love the flexibility of working from home or wherever I happen to be. It’s great to skip a commute and work around family commitments. I have a few spots around the house where I work so that I can vary how I’m sitting to minimize pain. What’s hard for me is often having more work than I can easily take on and sometimes working with ornery clients. However, it is ultimately up to me to choose with whom I want to work and I love that.
Yes, Christine! Can’t beat the commute from bed to coffee pot to home office or couch or occasionally just down the street to a nearby coffee shop I like working at. My dog loves that he gets a “stay-at-home-mom” and is usually curled up next to me while I’m working. Setting up an ergonomic workstation and varying your body position to minimize repetitive stress is important.
Yes, I switch from sitting to standing regularly. Not really ergonomic, given that I just put my keyboard on a coffee can-sized can, but it is better than nothing. I also set alarms to remind me to move frequently.
Do you think scoping is a career that a work-from-home mom (or dad) could fit into her/his busy schedule?
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.
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.
Absolutely. 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.
What skills or characteristics do you think are needed to become a successful scopist?
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 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.
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 over and over.
Aside from the skills that Matthew and Danielle mentioned, you have to have some business acumen and excellent time management skills.
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.
Two thumbs up.
Can working as a scopist from home give you financial freedom?
It depends, I suppose. If you are doing full audio, it is hard to go fast enough to make the hourly “wage” livable. At least, I find it hard. But then, I have only been doing it for a few months, and I am still getting faster, so we’ll see. 🙂
Given that I’ve had to move around a lot and to other countries outside of the U.S. for my husband’s job, I’ve had a hard time either maintaining continuity in traditional work or even finding traditional work in the places I’ve lived, so for me, scoping has allowed me to earn a decent living and contribute to the household income. My husband will be retiring from the military in a few years after 24 years of service and still has no idea what he wants to do as a second career. Even though he will be receiving a military pension, it is only a fraction of his current income, so the the income I make scoping will come in handy during that transition period of military to corporate world. I’ve been trying to convince him to join me in scoping and working as a husband-and-wife team haha.
Because of our family size, I couldn’t be a sole provider on this income. However, as an additional income for our family, I am constantly grateful for a solid per-hour or monthly income in this line of work.
What was your goal in becoming a scopist? Have you achieved it or are you achieving it?
Ultimately, my goal is financial independence. I was going to transition into scoping full time, but honestly, just the freedom to teach a little bit less has been brilliant. I don’t mind now if someone cancels a class, because I get scoping jobs that make up the difference. It is a good blend of interaction with others and working quietly.
My goal was to find work that I could do from anywhere at any time that provided a decent wage. Scoping has allowed me to do just that — earn a decent income in a continuous way from anywhere in the world. I’m one of those people who does take a bit of work along on vacations, so I have proofed/scoped in 16 countries so far!
My initial goal was to make a certain amount of extra money per month and I consistently make twice or sometimes three times that amount. Now that I know that regular income is possible, my goal is to be able to continue working and squirrel away money for retirement.
Agreed. I have surpassed my initial monthly income goals by double, sometimes triple, which has been great for ensuring that regular income is possible for my family size and our income needs for our next phase of life.
Thank you Matthew, Danielle, and Christine!
SIDE NOTE: Be sure to check out Christine's tips for productivity as a work-from-home mom! With 6 kids, you know she's got some great ideas to share!
Conclusion: What is a Scopist – and is Scoping the Career for You?
Did anything Matthew, Danielle, or Christine said about their scoping lives sound especially interesting? Do you want to know more about this under-the-radar but high-demand career?
I've gathered some great information on scoping:
- I interview Darcy Thornburg
- Our ultimate guide to scoping
- Our scoping resource roundup
- A discussion with Lyndsi Martel
- I interview with ISS grad Ashlie Pechin
- My interview with scopist Chelsea Stock
- Free scoping intro course: A free 7-day email course!
- Review of Internet Scoping School: A detailed report of the course that taught these three scopists (and many others!) what they needed to know to get started
- Interview with Linda Evenson: The creator of Internet Scoping School (ISS) shares her experience with scoping. She also tells me how and why she developed ISS
Do you feel you've learned what a scopist is? Do you still have questions? Thoughts about this well-paying work-from-home career? I’d love to hear them!