Associations and Why You Matter

The other day on Facebook I came across some rather honest remarks about the upcoming NYSCRA social. They said hey, Diamond Reporting has been depressing our rates for a while, how are we supposed to feel with their names on this event?

Let’s just say we have touched on the fact that sponsors of events do not control the event. The working reporter controls the NYSCRA leadership, and when you sign up as a member you become a part of the decision-making process.

This blog is all about the working reporter. By the time I’m done with it, I’ll have figured out how to organize the dozens of posts a bit better and the 200 or so monthly readers will have an easier time finding information. That said, it’s time to talk less about Stenonymous and more about you.

You matter. I did the math on it. Think of anything you want to legislate in New York. Stenographers in the courts? Bring back the Workers Comp stenographers? Copy protection since courts often rule our transcripts are not copyright protected? This is all done with funding, representation, and grassroots action. Lobbying is expensive and can cost 5,000 to 50,000 a month. In a six-month New York legislative session that might be 30,000 to 300,000 dollars a year. Seems impossible, right? But let’s use some easy numbers. There are 1,300 reporters on the NYSCRA Facebook page. If 500 of those reporters (38 percent) donated 100 bucks a year, which is less than the $165 annual membership, NYSCRA would have a lobbying war chest of 50,000 a year cash. In only two years, NYSCRA would have the cash for a $100,000 lobbying campaign. What could we do with a biannual lobbying campaign of 100k? Even assuming we fail half of all campaigns for ten years, that’s 2 or 3 successful campaigns. Between playing political Powerball and grassroots action, we have a serious shot at making a difference. For a C-note a year and a letter or two when there’s a campaign on, January to June, you’re looking at bolstering your field, securing your job, and protecting all of your fellow stenographers.

And I’m not saying 100 a year is easy to give up. I’ve given up thousands of dollars in membership fees and donations to organizations over the years. I’ve felt the sting of putting down money I didn’t necessarily have. I felt the pain when the Workers Comp campaigns failed. It cost a lot of good people their job and made those that kept the job miserable. I know a lot of you reading felt what I felt. I know a lot of you reading had to do more than feel it. Some of you had to live it. But there are two options: Suffer through the defeats so that we might see victory, or put our heads in the sand and wait for the next big thing to come around and threaten our jobs.

There’s a lot to say for the human factor. Machines don’t vote. Politicians will side with stenographers when they learn how many stenographers they represent. But the bottom line is we have to put together resources to educate them. To do that, you matter.

What Rate Should Freelance Reporters Charge?

This is an interesting question for stenographers across the country. What rate should be charged? What is fair? What is a good amount of money?

I have often simply left the answer at: It should be more. I have a body of work on this site that talks about negotiation, inflation, and makes several cases for higher rates for New York freelance. It bears repeating that in New York, the current private regular rate mandated to be charged by officials is about $4.30 per page. If you’re a freelancer paying your own taxes, advertising, business costs, benefits, or workers compensation insurance, then you should consider trying to make more than that by any means necessary, including realtime, rough, daily delivery, and copy sales. The skills you bring to the table are as important as your ability to negotiate and seek out work.

Without more fanfare, let’s turn to what I did tonight. I designed a very small calculator program that takes the user’s input of how much annual salary they want to make, and divides that by all the different rates someone might charge per page to figure out how many pages you need to make that annual salary. It then takes the pages and divides those pages by 20, assuming that’s how many pages a person transcribes an hour. Then it divides  those hours by 7 to tell you how many 7-hour workdays you need to make that money. To tailor this to yourself specifically, you can either edit the calculator, do the calculations manually, or simply half, double, or triple your transcription speed.

I understand that most people do not really do anything with computer code, so I ran the program for several different salary ranges.

These are the calculations if you want to make:

$25,000 a year.

$50,000 a year.

$75,000 a year.

$100,000 a year.

$125,000 a year.

$150,000 a year.

$175,000 a year.

$200,000 a year.

The moral of the story is obvious: The lower your rate is, the more pages you need to make money. The higher your rate is, the fewer pages you need to make money. But to see this in action, let’s just take one point of data: $5.00 per page.

At $5.00 per page, you need about 35 days worth of transcribing to make $25,000 a year.

That’s about 70 days to make $50,000 a year.

That’s 140 7-hour days of transcription to make $100,000 a year.

Anecdotally, if we spend an hour transcribing for every hour we are on the machine, that’s 280 7-hour days of work. There are only 260 weekdays a year. That means to make that $100,000 a year you’re giving up 10 weekends a year at $5.00 a page. Increase the rate to 5.50 and you’re giving up no weekends. 50 cents makes that much of a difference.

Bottom line? Your rate is going to dictate not only your income, but your quality of life. Strive to be a good reporter, know your market, team up with a mentor, and make sure you’re getting paid enough to reach your goals.