Art of the Deal

Lesson In Value.

In theory, everyone knows the basics. Supply and demand. Freelance deposition reporting in New York City is not very different. When the supply of reporters is high and the demand is kind of average, it makes each reporter just a little less valuable economically. When the supply of reporters dips low, most recently via court hiring pulling people out of freelance, the value should go up! There are, however, factors that go unsung, and that we should all consider in our daily acceptance or declination of work.

Every marketplace, including ours, has actors. These actors act within and around the market. These actors include court reporting agencies, insurance companies, court reporters, government agencies, clients, lawyers, recording companies, courts, political organizations, et cetera.

As new or seasoned reporters, we can struggle to find our place in the marketplace, and even worse, the actions of others can cause us to lessen in value.

Worth Is Static.

Often when we think about work, salaries, and prices, we feel they’re dynamic, ever-increasing with our experience and skill. We like to feel that way because it creates a sense of security and progression. There’s no shame in feeling this way, but it doesn’t draw the whole picture.

A company once “employed” three friends of mine, who I will call reporter A, B, and C. Reporter A had the least experience and made somewhere in the $3.50 to $3.75 per page range. Reporter B had more experience than everybody, and took any kind of work they’d throw at he or she, but only made maybe $3.25 per page. Reporter C had less experience than Reporter B, but made maybe $4.00 a page.

Another company “employed” my dear friend, Reporter D. Reporter D had less time than me in the field, and spoke very highly of the company. I called the company, and they told me they were only hiring reporters with ten years of experience.

Truth Is Worth Knowing.

So where does this leave us? With a few simple truths. It is not necessarily what you know, and there is no magic ladder where agencies grade you and proactively raise your pay. The amount of money you’re making is directly related to how much you negotiate for yourself. Having your certifications and being a seasoned reporter may boost your personal confidence, but truly, because there are no minimum requirements in this state as of writing, your worth is dictated by what any particular company believes you are worth versus what you believe you are worth. In 2011, I was paid $2.50 per page to take 50-h hearings by a company I really like. It took years to realize that other companies would pay me at least $3.50 per page for the same exact work.

When we freelance, we must be loyal to ourselves, and choose the best deals for us. Be aware that some agency principals will talk to down to you, they will point out trivial errors to make you feel as if you do not deserve the pay you are currently receiving, and they will make you feel like less of a reporter if it benefits them. This is no reflection on you or them, but the truth is that they are actors in the marketplace, and every ten cents you don’t ask for, they get to keep. It is beneficial to them to get you to accept less.

Consider this: As freelancers, you have no salary or benefits. As an official, you get salary, benefits, and pages, and those pages can be $4.30 per page or more. The money is there in this field, but the actors in the marketplace rely on us to be complacent and accept low rates so that they profit, and if we ever want to make more in the freelance arena, we must also act, we must share information, and we must siphon to whatever company is willing to pay properly. Choosing to view each other as competition and withholding ideas and knowledge can only hurt freelance stenographers. We could learn a thing or three from the agencies that network with each other whenever there’s money to be made. Bottom line is we must network with each other wherever money can be made.

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