I’ve felt compelled to write about this for a few days. Here in NYC, we have a very interesting way of doing things. We were trained or told that the O+2 is automatic. The original and two copies in freelance gets covered, generally, under our original fee. That’s how it was when I was freelance, and for the majority, that’s how it is today. If I had to guess, I would assume it’s because attorneys generally waive our filing of the transcript under the CPLR, but to do that, everyone must get a copy. That lack of responsibility costs us!
Over the years, I’ve gotten to talk to people from outside our little bubble once or twice. You know what’s surprising? Most other places, the witness’s attorney pays for a copy. So not only are the copy rates generally higher than 25 cents, they’re much closer to Nex Dep’s $2, and charged along with the original.
What does this mean? Well, again, let’s take Nex Dep’s $4.00 original. In NYC, a regular deposition with a witness and two attorneys would get you $4.00 per page. Outside NYC? That witness’s attorney would be paying for the copy, meaning the reporter would be walking away with $6 a page on an original regular.
In all honesty, there are a lot of reporters out there who left the freelance business that would still be there today if they were walking away with $6 a page on their standard deposition. That’s just not the reality for most people today, and we have to face that. I raise it as an academic look at how we in NYC might just have to re-examine how we charge for these things. If our original is higher because our copies are so bad and one copy is free, then it makes good sense to demand the original is actually high.
That said, even today’s standards don’t make it impossible to bump up the rate so that reporters are making a better deal. One thing I was encouraged to do by mentors, and one thing that I would honestly encourage reporters to do? Upsell. Don’t be afraid to mention that you can do something expedited or daily. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they want a rough draft, if you can handle that work.
If your agency absolutely won’t come up on the regular rates, as I’ve suggested publicly they ought to, then get them to go up on the expedite charges and make sure you mention to the attorneys it’s a service you can provide. Work out the math. Let’s say you can promise a daily for, whatever, $2.50 more, and you can get a scopist to take it for $1.25, or even $2.00, that’s a profit. Treat your freelance career like a business, the Corporation of You. Do yourself a favor, take a look at what other people charge for, and ask yourself: Am I selling myself short?
Don’t know something? That’s okay. Ask around. I’ve spent over nine years asking questions. I am still asking questions. Why did my lawyer want $15 a page for depositions? How come agencies are crying shortage but refusing to raise my mentees’ rates? Why were CED’s reviews so bad? The only time anyone ever shamed me for asking questions, they were insecure because they didn’t know the answer. I’ll set out these questions for anyone brave enough to ask themselves:
- Are you happy with your career?
- If you are not, are you willing to learn the skills or techniques to get there? Are you willing to build on what you know to get where you want to be?
- If you are, will you help one more person obtain that happiness?
And now, what are you going to do?