Thinking of Taking Private Clients? New York Reporter: …Trust Yourself and Go Do It.

I had an e-mail exchange recently with a New York stenographic court reporter that began taking private clients. With the understanding their identity would remain anonymous, they gave me good insight into how it has increased their profit. I have presented plenty of academic theory on how low our page rates are here in New York and the importance of copies. Today I get to bring reporters a real-world example of just how much a little risk can increase your bottom line. Check out our Q&A below!

Q. How long have you been reporting?
A. I’ve been reporting for 10 1/2 years.


Q. We’ve had multiple discussions now where you’ve disclosed you’ve taken up private clients. How is that going for you?
A. So far it’s a success. I work with my clients 1-2 times a week, which I expected. They aren’t big firms, so I didn’t expect constant work. In March and September they gave me 15 jobs. One thing I hear people express concern about is collecting money for copies. That is, of course, a concern, and I have had to lean on law firms. But I can say that so far no law firm has stiffed me. And while some have been a little slow to respond, all have. So, fortunately, I haven’t had to chase anyone for payment yet. The best thing is the vastly increased copy rates, which makes this work a whole lot more enjoyable 😉.


Q. Did anybody give you permission to do this or did you just start doing it?
A. No one gave me permission. I took it upon myself. It’s all about developing a relationship with the attorney. I should say mostly. A law firm that has used one agency for many years and is happy with the service will not likely change. But still, without developing the relationship, it is unlikely that they will try to work with you. It can take a while, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. I probably worked with my first client four or five times, but we got along very well. I brought up the possibility of his working with me at a time when there was little pressure. I definitely did not bring it up while on a job for someone else. I took a chance and it worked. He said yes. There are other factors that induced him to switch to me. We worked out a good financial arrangement which benefited his law firm, too.


Q. What are your feelings on poaching?
A. By poaching, do you mean taking clients? When we use that term, it makes this sound like you’re doing something wrong if you take a client. This is common practice in all industries. Most of the client the agencies have, they probably acquired through “poaching.” The only thing to avoid is unethical practices. As I said, I would never broach the subject while on a job for someone else. And of course don’t lie.


Q. The audience is going to want to know some hard numbers. What kind of differences are you seeing in take-home pay?
A. I turned in a job 131 pages long, including the [word index], and got two copies. Total take-home was roughly $1200. That was for a med mal case that might have gone two hours . And by the way, I do not charge high rates. So with a different client with the same factors, the total could have been considerably more. This is not the only one.


Q. Wow. That’s like $9 a page. You charge your clients $9 a page in New York?
A. [No], my rate is closer to 4. Again, this is a relatively low rate. But the real profit is in the copy rate. That’s where you’ll make the money. (Just a side note, not one law firm has contested my copy rates. Hopefully that will never be an issue. I’m saying this for those who are concerned about collecting the payment.) So I don’t mind if the law firm wants to negotiate a rate down a little, not too much, as long as I’m aware I can keep the copy rate. On that 131-page job, nearly $800 of my pay was from the copy rate! Keep this in mind, remember this, we’re in business providing a service for law firms. So a) be gracious and patient in dealing with the law firms; b) be open to negotiate rates, just as long as you keep in mind where you’re really earning your money from.


Q. Isn’t it a challenge getting them to pay you?
A. Sure. But I’ll take this challenge over the challenge of trying to make money when agencies are charging 4 dollars a page per copy and they’re giving, so generously, 40 cents a copy. Exactly what was said there. No more needs to be said. We have to strive upwards. I accept the challenge of collecting over the challenge of squeezing small incremental rate increases.


Q. Isn’t the cost of printing eating into your money?
A. Not really. I had a $1,200 job the other day. When it was all said and done, I paid $90 to have it printed up. How come reporters are willing to blow a third of their money on scopists but not willing to even consider seeking their own clients and spending 10 percent on printing? Compare the costs to that of most industries. The cost here is very small in comparison to that in most fields.


Q. Anything else you’d like to tell reporters generally or New York reporters?
A. Look, if someone does want to go out on their own, it’s understandable. For years, I said I would. I made halfhearted attempts, but didn’t really follow up. Even when I got my first client, I almost didn’t expect the attorney to take it seriously. But now that I see the huge difference in what I can earn per job, it’s motivated me to try and get more clients. I will say to those who want to try and do it on their own, just try it. Don’t be afraid of being blackballed by other agencies. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. I’ve heard people say they don’t want to bother with putting transcripts together. First of all, it takes maybe 10 minutes. That’s it!

Second, it’s a great experience in motivating yourself to be an even better reporter, because you don’t want to turn in an error-filled transcript to your own client! You will be so much more careful and your notes will be so much better! I know because I’ve improved significantly just in the three months since I picked up my first client. If you’re so inclined to strike out on your own, I urge you to trust yourself and go and do it. Develop those relationships. Make business cards. Give them to everyone you know who knows attorneys. It can take time, so don’t get frustrated. Eventually you’ll get a first client. Not every job is big payday, but you will have some jobs where you will see double and maybe even more than what you would’ve earned if it was work for an agency.


In my view, this speaks for itself. Taking private clients can double your money. Collecting can become problematic, but the alternative of allowing certain agencies to continue to push substandard means of reporting on consumers is not a good one.

My girlfriend is very upset that I blew our vacation money on an ad campaign for steno. I’m not allowed to hire graphic designers anymore. Everybody that wants to donate to my vacation fund can do so at paypal.me/stenonymous. (joke)

Addendum:

A reader asked how many copies were charged in the above example. Our anonymous respondent said “2 copies. Keep in mind I give a discount to my client when I have copies. I also only charge 3/copy. I’m pretty sure many agencies, if not all, are charging more.” For more context on this model, it is called a sliding scale. Companies will often decrease the cost to their client when copies are sold so as to be giving them a page rate that cannot be undercut. After all, why would a reporter offer someone $2.60 a page when they could work for an agency for around $4.00? But in New York this continues to hide the value of copies from the working reporter, who up until recently were accepting as little as $0.00 to $0.25 on a copy.

Shortage Solutions 10: Contract or Employment

Can you believe this blog has covered 10 ideas for addressing the shortage? Time flies. Having given the whole court reporting shortage issue some more brainstorming, it’s worth bringing up for discussion the solutions that will follow. As always, happy to have comment on this issue. First, contractual agreements. In the field today, many reporters work under a verbal agreement, or a very informal email or rate sheet agreement. Even in places where independent contractors are required to have contracts, much of the business is contracted verbally or less formally.

Anecdotally, there’s something respectable about putting things in writing. People are more likely to live up to their word when there are clear terms of engagement. Need a freelancer to be on call to cover? Get it in writing. Throw them a little consideration (money) for their availability. Create easy-to-understand terms and expectations on availability. Create fair and realistic penalties for breach of contract on either side, or remedial terms that both sides can live with.

That lets me move on to another thought process. There is nothing in US law, to my knowledge, that prohibits a company from hiring employees and paying them a per-page commission or per diem rate. Pretty much no reporter makes less than minimum wage, so compliance with minimum wage laws is trivial. What is stopping a company from shifting its workforce from 1099 reporters to employees? Nothing. Nothing but a different set of paperwork and some accounting changes. Compliance with workers compensation laws may need a little creative insuring to allow reporters to transcribe from home if they choose to give employees that option. But this does not seem like an impossibility, merely a challenge for the entrepreneurial to overcome.

Why these solutions? Frankly, one of the issues with shortage boils down to the inconsistency of freelance reporting. If reporting firms nail down some availability, via employment contract or independently-contracted agreement, they can have a more realistic idea of how many reporters they have versus how many they need. Businesses survive and thrive off of mastering their staffing needs. Reporting businesses will be no different, and in the end will rise and fall based on their ability to meet demand. In this case, the demand being the service that so many stenographic reporters are ready, willing, and able to provide.

Table of Contents

On the suggestion of a reader, the table of contents has been revised to show articles in date order with summaries. Articles or posts that I believe have no more value are omitted from this page but may be found via the search box.

This table of contents is currently under construction. Please use the search box on the home page if you are looking for something specific.



PCRA Wouldn’t Say Whether It Sees the Future Generation as Being Digital Reporters
& What You Can Do About It
7/17/21
This post describes a webinar held by PCRA on June 26, 2021 that platformed digital reporting, why digital reporting is not an adequate court reporting technology, and what court reporters can do to safeguard their associations.

NCRA News. Career Launcher and President’s Party 7/14/21
This post describes NCRF’s Career Launcher, a series of modules to help new reporters. It also mentions the NCRA convention president’s party.

Why I Resigned From the NYSCRA Board and NCRA Strong, and the Future of this Blog 7/7/21
This post dives into why I resigned from several volunteer activities and announces my intention to continue providing industry news.

John Belcher on Winning Depositions 7/1/21
This post showcases information from John Belcher with regard to depositions.

Gartner: 85% of AI Implementations Will Fail By 2022 6/30/21
This post talks about Gartner’s prediction that 85% of AI business solutions will fail and explains why that might be the case.

PAF Steno 6/29/21
This post mentions PAF Steno and the work it is doing to train stenographers.

Thinking of Taking Private Clients? New York Reporter: …Trust Yourself and Go Do It. 6/28/21
This post showcases a Q&A with a New York reporter that was able to double their money by taking private clients.

Over-Engineering Will Hurt Your Business 6/24/21
This post explores over-engineering and the dangers of it in a general sense. It also explains how automatic speech recognition and AI relates to over-engineering.

Steno & Me (Under the Sea Parody) 6/24/21
These lyrics are a parody of Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid set to a steno theme. Immediately after this post was launched, it was discovered that more than 10% of stenographers are also mermaids.

Share Something For Me? 6/22/21
This post touches briefly on how social media algorithms can hamper the spread of information and asks court reporters to share my 6/19/21 article in order to counter false perceptions about stenography in the media.

Relationship Conflicts & What You Can Do When It All Goes Wrong 6/21/21
This post talks about the types of personalities you might run into when buying something from someone. It also proposes a process for resolving conflict. It is geared toward business relationships but can be used for personal relationships also.

Journalists May Be Reporting Black People’s Stories Wrong 6/19/21
This post was utilized in an ad campaign to bring more attention to our field with regard to the study Testifying While Black. Many outlets reported false or misleading headlines regarding the study. This article dives into the dishonesty of several media sources when it comes to stenographic court reporting.

Recording Endangered By Stenography’s Retirement Cliff 6/17/21
This post talks about how the stenographer shortage can hurt the record-and-transcribe modality of taking down the record. In brief, it shows how stenographers are used to transcribe work in many places that have “switched to digital.”

Outreach Webinar by Project Steno – June 6, 2021 6/2/21
This post boosted the 6/6/21 Project Steno/NYSCRA webinar pertaining to high school outreach.

1 in 4 Court Reporting Companies May Be Unprofitable 5/28/21
This post describes a 2019 report by Kentley Insights, explains what zombie companies are, and goes on to suggest that the unprofitable companies in the field are the ones using digital reporting.

Does Stenonymous Spend More On Steno Ads Than US Legal? 5/27/21
In this post US Legal’s LinkedIn campaign to recruit digital court reporters is exposed. The post also shows how Stenonymous has been used to expose thousands of people to stenographic court reporting and contrasts that with US Legal’s apparent lack of a stenographic recruitment strategy.

Vote Yes! NCRA 2021 Proposed Bylaw Amendments 5/25/21
This post advertises the 2021 proposed bylaw amendments and gives my opinion of each.

Court Reporters Speak Up For The Record On Future Trials 6/2/21
This post explores the April 2021 report by the Future Trials Working Group to the New York State Unified Court System. It also showcases association and union response to the report and the reply received by the court system.

MGR Interviewed on the Treatment of Reporters 5/18/21
This post shares my interview with Marc Russo, owner of MGR Reporting, on the treatment of reporters.

CART v Autocraption, A Strategic Overview For Captioners 5/13/21
This post gives information to CART providers to help them cope with the hype and lies surrounding automatic speech recognition (ASR) and sentiments by some that they are replaceable. It talks about how captioners can protect consumers and why consumers need that protection.

Literal v Readable, A Primer on Transcribing What We Hear 5/10/21
This post describes several issues stenographers may run into on the job, including whether to edit something that is spoken or leave it completely verbatim. It explains how context matters in our work.

Paying It Forward with Allie Hall 5/4/21
This post mentions Allie Hall’s efforts with regard to Paying It Forward and how reporters can contribute.

A Primer on ASR and Machine Learning For Stenographers 4/22/21
This post explains some of the technology behind automatic speech recognition and machine learning in simple terms so that stenographers can understand it and educate their clients.

How We Discuss Errors and Automatic Speech Recognition
4/12/21
This post explains automatic speech recognition’s word error rate metric and compares it to how court reporters measure errors.

For Digital Court Reporters and Transcribers, Check Out Steno! 3/1/21
This post was used in an ad campaign to expose digital court reporters and transcribers to stenography and express to them in simple terms why it is better to learn the skill of and work in the field of stenographic court reporting.

Facebook Boosting 101 2/26/21
This post explored the power of paid advertising and showed stenographers how they can multiply their reach by 20.

For Students Saddled With Unpayable Student Loan Debt 2/24/21
This post presents links and resources relating to options students in debt have.

Aggressive Marketing — Growth or Flailing? 2/22/21
This article dives into Fyre Festival and describes how sometimes companies talk a good game even when their product or idea is unprofitable or poorly executed. It also takes a look at VIQ Solutions, parent of Net Transcripts, Inc., and how despite making millions in revenue, VIQ reported over $300,000 in losses.

Help Chris DeGrazio Celebrate International Women’s Day! 2/19/21
Court reporter Chris DeGrazio sought to celebrate International Women’s Day by creating a collage. This post helped advertise it.

Court Reporter Humor – Stenoholics & Andy Bajaña 2/15/21
Stenoholics and Andy Bajana have some hilarious videos related to court reporting. You can get links to them through this post.

Finding Time 2/12/21
This article talks about time management, the importance of scheduling, and using common tools such as calendars and schedulers. It also cautions against taking too much time trying to find the “perfect” tool.

Scholarships & Contests For Students February 2021 2/11/21
This post provides information with regard to 2021 scholarships and contests for stenography students.

You Need 2FA Now 2/10/21
This post talks about two-factor authentication (2FA) and why court reporters need to use it wherever it is available.

Veritext “Provides More Work To Stenographers Than Any Other Firm In The Country” 2/9/21
After reaching out to Veritext for comment regarding what I perceived as a nonsensical and incongruent recruitment strategy, I reached out to Veritext for comment.

Need Continuing Education? Consider CCR Seminars. 2/8/21
This post breaks down the value of one private court reporting education company, CCR Seminars.

List of New York Agencies 2/5/21
This post provides a list of New York agencies in spreadsheet format.

The Ultimate Guide To Officialship (NY) 2/4/21
An anonymous person had been harassing me for several years. One of their “gibes” or implications was that I was an official reporter that posts a lot about freelance and I should post more about officialship. So I did.

Collective Power of Stenographers 2/3/21
This post is a mathematical demonstration of the power of stenographers. Often, stenographers share posts from companies or electronic recording companies as gospel. This post notes that reporters collectively have more money and power than any organization.

For The Record Documentary Goes Free 2/2/21
This post reported Marc Greenberg’s announcement that the For The Record documentary would become free.

NYSCRA’s CRCW 2021 & My Thoughts On The Future 2/1/21
This post announced several NYSCRA plans for Court Reporting & Captioning Week 2021 and explained why reporters must stand by their associations.

Can Freelancers Apply For Workers Compensation Benefits? (NY) 1/29/21
This post explored under what circumstances an “independent contractor” could attempt to claim workers comp benefits in New York.

GGU Presentation & Why You Matter 1/28/21
This post talked about Ana Fatima Costa’s presentation for Golden Gate University, Court Reporter Tips Every Lawyer Needs To Make the Best Record. It also went on to describe how any reporter can make an impact.

Beware Commercial Leasing Agreements for Equipment 12/27/20
This post explains commercial leasing agreements and how they can be very costly traps for reporters if reporters do not fully understand the agreement.

Can You Hear Me Now? Computer Parts For Steno Made Simple 12/22/20
This post explains to court reporters what they’re looking at when buying computers. It gives simple descriptions of components and how to make good purchasing decisions. It also provides simple troubleshooting tips or ideas.

What Law Offices Need To Know About A Court Reporter Shortage 12/15/20
This post was used in an ad campaign to explain the court reporting shortage to law offices. It focused heavily on combatting misinformation about our shortage and explained where stenographers could be found.

Remote Notarial Acts Executive Orders (NY 2020) 11/5/20
During the pandemic the governor of New York issued an executive order which allowed remote notarial acts. This post tracked the orders and extensions for court reporters.

Trolls and You 10/17/20
This post explored trolls-for-hire and exposed how cheap it could be to organize a misinformation campaign. The post also noted examples of likely trolls. It also counseled against the advice “don’t feed the trolls” and explained the importance of not allowing trolls to dictate the conversation.

The Question To Ask Yourself When Viewing An ASR Demo 10/10/20
This post compared several high-profile technology buys to automatic speech recognition technology and its dearth of such purchases. It also showed that ASR technology by the biggest players in the business was inadequate for court reporting.

Turning Omissions Into Opportunity 9/19/20
This post explored several omissions in the media regarding court reporting and demonstrated how court reporters can use these omissions to inform journalists.

What Verbit Leadership Needs To Know
9/12/20
This post appealed to Verbit leadership and pointed out how exaggerated claims could make the company look bad.

How To Spot More Better Marketing 8/25/20
A short guide on seeing through puffery.

Common Scams 8/18/20
A guide to spotting scams that may be adaptable to our industry.

August Asterisks 2020 (Jobs) 8/13/20
An August 2020 post about jobs that were available.

StenoKey, Stenographic Education Innovation? 7/1/20
A post about StenoKey, an educational program by Katiana Walton.

Stenonymous on VICE News Tonight 6/18/20
A post covering my TV appearance regarding the Testifying While Black Study by Taylor Jones, et al.

June Jettisons 2020 (Jobs Post) 6/16/20
A June 2020 post about jobs that were available.

Expedite Legal, Enhancing Coverage Nationwide? 6/15/20
A post covering Expedite Legal, an app service connecting lawyers to legal service providers like court reporters.

Check Out 225 and Beyond (Beware of Busywork) 6/14/20
A post promoting the work of Euan Williams.

How Organizations & Associations Work 6/13/20
A post that explains how associations work and the volunteer structure of them.

May Machinations 2020 (Jobs Post) 5/12/20
A May 2020 post that described available jobs.

NYSCRA Student Webinar May 2020 5/5/20
A post advertising the May 2020 NYSCRA student webinar.

Stenopalooza was POWerful 5/3/20
A post summarizing Stenopalooza 2020 and NCRA STRONG

Pricing Pages In A Market of Fear 4/6/20
A post that discussed supply and demand and the dearth of work in our field at the start of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

April Applications 2020 (Jobs Post) 4/1/20
An April 2020 post about jobs that were available.

Steno Shortage Stats March 2020 3/14/2020
This post gave fast facts reporters could keep in mind when discussing the stenographer shortage.

What Verbit Investors Need To Know
3/4/20
This post investigated Verbit’s series A funding claims and compared them with series B funding claims. It also explained how a cost savings estimate by STTI was pathetic.












The Audio Sink

We’ll try not to pontificate too much beyond the title, but it’s time to jump right into discussion on Audio Sync technology. For a quick overview to newbies, the aptly acronym’d AS is basically an audio recording contemporaneously taken with your stenographic notes that allows you to jump to that place in the audio where your notes were taken.

It’s a wonderful tool that’s revered by newbies and seasoned reporters alike. It’s a great thing. It was impressive when it came out and remains an impressive feat of technology today. All that acknowledged, it’s time to put out some caution for the newbie or seasoned writer that utilizes it. Many will have seen these ideas or perhaps assume everyone already knows these things. We’ll assume the weakest link doesn’t and strengthen the chain.

First thing is first, if you’re going to use it, it’s not good to rely on it. Computers are funny. Sometimes they appear to be recording but aren’t. Sometimes they’re recording so much background noise it makes the audio useless. Sometimes you, the operator, forget to turn on the mic. It can be beneficial to pretend you do not have it. As saying goes, if you didn’t hear that answer, don’t assume the microphone did.

It can be beneficial to take jobs without it for three reasons. Firstly, it gives you an accurate idea of where you’re at. If you need a repeat every few seconds it feels awful, but it gives you an honest understanding that when you find some time, you need to work on that speed, or work on that particular accent, or improve whatever is going wrong within your control. There are resourceful tricks we often only come up with if we are forced to get it and do not allow ourselves to “let the audio catch it.”

Then there is also a boon to your wallet. If you rely on audio, then you listen to the entire deposition over, and it can literally double or triple your transcription time to listen to something more than once. Time is money, and very few of us have time to spend listening to every job over. Learning to read misstrokes and getting to glide from word to word will save you time and money in the long run. In the short run, you can also listen to music while transcribing.

If you’re planning on taking an employment test, the ability to walk into a job without audio is priceless. Your transcription skills and on-the-spot resourcefulness will be as sharp as it gets. You will have the ability to cope with getting it under pressure.

In the view of many, AS has done wonders for the field, but also hurt us badly. We graduate at 95 percent accuracy. Many of us go on to let the audio catch it, resulting in lower accuracy, longer transcription times, and tougher times passing examinations for certification or employment. This isn’t to ostracize those among us that use it or even rely on it, but to encourage that occasional job where you shut it off and let yourself develop skills in polite interruption and writing resourcefulness that this generation of reporter just hasn’t had to develop.

Value Gradients for the Stenographer in Training (180+ WPM)

In this article we’ll get down to the different kinds of services offered by freelancers and some officials. This’ll be for the benefit of the relatively new and uninitiated. If you’ve already obtained some mastery over the basics of steno industry or if you’re brand new, this really won’t be for you because you already know about it or are just too new to be worrying about it. I say if you’ve completed 80 percent of a 225 words-per-minute program, 180 WPM, this is probably a worthwhile read.

So there are different things in this field that add value to your work as a stenographer. While we can’t necessarily get behind the subjectivity theory, value is, to a great degree, subjective. This means that simple things like writing a professional cover letter, resume, or contract pitch can make you, at 180 WPM, more valuable than a person who can get 225 WPM but can’t really nail the grammar on anything. Consider the first gradient in your whole career to be learning to write professionally, and always look to improve that writing.

Then we get to the simple things offered by stenographers that pull in more money, typically called upcharges. Often markets are different, and “employers” may even tell you that “they don’t pay for that.” This is a tactic to get you more comfortable with doing the work for less. If there are more stenographers willing to do the work for less, the “employer” has leverage over the stenographers that know about these upcharges, and can bypass them and have you do it for less money. Work smarter, not harder, and consider asking several reporters in your market about the types of upcharges they get. Here are some common ones: Medical testimony, expert testimony, video testimony. Some charge up to 5 percent more for late night work. Some even add an interpreted testimony fee to make up for the time lost to interpreted depositions, which are often fewer pages per hour.

Related to what we just went into is confidence. There is a level of unease that comes with being new. You will probably be pressured to take jobs for less than they are worth. Immediately out of training, it’s agreeable to take all you can get. That said, after a couple of months, after you’re used to getting the transcripts out and doing the work, have the confidence to talk to some other reporters in your market and learn more about what’s expected locally. Don’t talk to one or two — talk to as many as you can. One reporter may say don’t get out of bed for less than a thousand. Another reporter may say hey, if you can rack up 6 busts in a day, it’s okay money for zero work. Have the confidence to take all the different types of jobs just mentioned. In my “class” of reporters there was a very strong fear about taking medical testimony. It had been hyped up as this impossible thing. To be clear, medical words can be unique or difficult, but having the confidence to go out there and do it makes you a better writer with the marketable trait of being able to take any kind of job. There is value in a person that can be sent to any type of job.

Let’s touch on some more common upcharges. Expedite. What is an expedite? That depends. When I started, a “regular” was 2 weeks. Anything quicker was some kind of expedite. Of course the rule follows: The faster they want it, the more they should pay. Nowadays, agencies are pushing people to make 7 or 5 days the regular. In my mind, this is much too short, and it devalues the worth of an expedite. It’s what people who play strategy games would call “a stupid move.” That said, if you can get your work out faster than “regular”, that adds value.

Daily. What’s a daily? You take the job, go home, transcribe, and the job is done by the next day. If you can do a daily, again, there’s value there. Not every single stenographer or transcriber can fulfill a daily. Indeed, to fulfill a daily, multiple transcriptionists have to be put on the same job sometimes. If you can do a daily, you can probably make a thousand or more dollars in a day without being realtime because daily jobs can be worth double a regular in freelance.

Immediate. Immediate is basically you finish the deposition and within 30 minutes to an hour it is ready to go out. The bottom line is the client is getting the transcript pretty quick after the deposition ends. Only the best reporters with 99.9 percent accuracy or a phenomenal scopist behind them can achieve these kinds of levels.

Rough. Rough is basically you go through the untranslates and fix up the transcript before sending it out with the understanding the finished transcript comes later. A rough can be a dollar or more per page in upcharges because it’s basically like an easier immediate. Proceed with caution: Many reporters go out there and produce roughs that are basically unusable. Some of my own roughs have been pretty bad. Always seek to improve and get out the best roughs so that lawyers are encouraged to use this service.

Realtime. Maybe you’ve heard of realtime reporting. It’s among the largest upcharges because these reporters have their words coming out on a laptop or tablet screen for the client. I haven’t personally done realtime, but I know that these reporters can command a dollar or more per realtime hookup on top of their daily, medical, or other upcharges. Why are these upcharges important? More money per page equals fewer pages to make the annual income you want to make. We’ve got over 900 mathematical calculations to show this off.

Now that we’ve been through these different levels of skill, let’s look at how it’ll apply in the real world. Certifications exist, and they are important. That said, in many states and municipalities you can offer these services without the certification. What does this mean? It means that the limiting factor is you. It’s your skill and comfort level. It’s your willingness to go out there and say yes, I will take a medical. It’s the desire to get your skill level to a place where you can realistically offer these things. Your value, to a great degree, is dictated by you.

You will go out there and have bad jobs. There will be hard days. There will be times you feel shaky about the service you’re providing. There will be “employers” who make you feel replaceable. Just keep improving. Know where you are at. Be open to feedback, but don’t live by it. Learn from every mistake. If you are in training and know you are able to produce a daily transcript already — great! Don’t let anybody take that away from you. Don’t accept, as fact, that anybody can do it or that nobody charges for that. The freelance world — the business world — is a tough one. There are buyers and sellers, and the buyers will always be looking for a way to knock you down on the price. Remember these gradients in value, and remember that the more of them you achieve, the more you have something to sell.

There Is No Rebel Alliance

We’ve got a natural leader on the field. There are a lot of leadership styles, but two very prominent ones are those who want to lead, my way or the highway, and those who do not want to lead but know that speaking out is the right thing to do. We think we’ve got the latter! We came across a California blog, SoCalReporters, that does pretty much what we do and brings forward important issues related to steno. And we’d go so far as to say the author(s) behind SoCalReporters are needed natural leaders! The post zeroes in on Veritext, but we all know they’re not the only ones. Sounds like a Sam Smith song.

In the blog post There Is No Evil Empire, the author explores how many Veritext-owned companies there are. The post goes on to say: Have you worked with those companies? That’s okay — we have too! And this is a fine example of what we often try to impress upon people, it doesn’t matter where you work, but the deal you make for yourself and the impressions you give potential clients matter a lot. The post moves into suggestions for what to do with regard to the shortage. Notably:

  • Stop destroying each other over where we work and start building each other up.
  • Talk to each other about the issues.
  • Create alternatives. The writer notes video depos and remote steno appearances in California may not be legally possible for the reporter. In New York, they are possible under specific circumstances. If I could’ve taken depos via video from a satellite office in Brooklyn or Staten instead of White Plains or Long Island, I would’ve saved dozens of hours of my life from the commute. These are possibilities worth exploring.
  • Picking up clients. The blogger eloquently sets forth that it might be time to reconsider how we market ourselves and that this is a great time to market ourselves. Make people feel good, and the money’ll be rolling in.

Believe it or not, No Evil Empire is very much the kind of thing we need a this point. Whether or not you believe these big box companies to be the Evil Empire or not, you have to admit that the salient theme of working together to propose solutions is paramount.

We are proud each and every time a reporter breaks the silence and seeks to introduce their ideas. It happens on Facebook. It happens on blogs. It happens through associations and submissions to the JCR. It’s happening all over the place. And it happened on February 9, 2019. All that is left is for us to organize these efforts and ideas into a coherent strategy. And let’s face it, whether or not you believe there is a rebel alliance, you surely see the merits of working together to solve perceived problems in the field.

Keep writing, keep leading, keep reading, keep learning.

Creating a Degree-Granting Institution in New York

Over two years ago I had written New York State to learn about how to legally establish a degree-granting college in New York. At that time there was not a process to do so in New York State. Now an application process has opened up and the application may be found here.

Succinctly, we will benefit from New York Stenographers being aware that they can apply to create degree-granting institutions. While I am a staunch supporter of all forms of stenographic learning, I made my way through a brick and mortar, degree-granting college, and received my Associate’s Degree in Occupational Studies, Court Reporting.

We will benefit from entrepreneurs getting together and reinventing how we teach this thing. We will benefit from schools offering financial aid to students that need it. Though this information is only a small piece of a complicated puzzle of how to open a successful school, I do hope it reaches people who have interest in perhaps designing programs of their own and building a better environment for students. At the very least, we’ll have more colleges reaching out to high school students and informing them this is a career option.

For-profit colleges are a tough market, often dependent on the employees they hire to remain in compliance with federal aid requirements and subject to scrutiny from the public. Perhaps now that New York State has opened up this application process we can see more dedicated professionals work on this issue and secure funding for schools that make programs as great as Plaza or New York School of Court Reporting. Perhaps institutions that are currently operating will take steps to grant degrees if they do not already.

For better or worse, in my experience, parents and students consider degree-granting institutions more legitimate and are more likely to put time and money into career-building if an institution or school provides a degree. Though New York currently has no educational or professional bar to becoming a stenographer, there is definitely a social stigma attached to having no degree that we cannot ignore if we hope to attract more students to this wonderful profession.

NYSCRA Certs Waive Provisional Assessment for NY Courts

NYSCRA President Nancy Silberger announced on December 13, 2018 that holders of the NYSCRA (New York State Court Reporters Association) certs ACR (Association Certified Reporter) and RCR (Realtime Certified Reporter) will be able to skip the provisional assessment for the state court test. This happened thanks to the work of Debra Levinson. I had written in the past about the value of associations, and today I can honestly say that the value of a NYSCRA membership has increased.

To put it in plain language: Every one to four years there is a civil service examination for the court reporter title and a statewide civil service examination for the senior court reporter title in New York State Unified Court System. Senior court reporters work in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, which is the “highest” trial court in the state. Court reporters work for the other “lower” trial courts, criminal, civil, or family courts. Passing the civil service examination is what gets you a permanent position with the New York State Unified Court System. Sometimes, and as a matter of fact right now, there are provisional postings for titles where people may apply for and take an assessment test to work provisionally in a title. Working provisionally allows people to begin accruing vacation time, sick time, comp time, and I believe it also leads to time in the title and pension. Basically if you are waiting for a permanent position to open up, the provisional posting is your way in. What NYSCRA has done is made it possible for you to get the provisional position in the court reporter title without the assessment test. You already passed a test, so why take it again? So if you can pass NYSCRA’s NYACR or NYRCR, you don’t have to pass the provisional examination to get a job with the NYSUCS right now. What’s better than that?Join NYSCRA. Propose great ideas like this one, and watch the association work to make NY reporting better year after year.

Practice Does Not Make Perfect

Inspired today to write a little about the pitfalls of poor practice habits. It is no secret that it takes practice, and a lot of it, to become a stenographer. Dedication, time management, and perseverance when faced with crushing failure or frustration are all things that come to mind when we think about practice. 
But we who have done it can tell you that practice does not make perfect. Others have tried to describe this truth by saying perfect practice makes perfect. The concept is simple: When you have set a goal, ensure you are doing the things that lead to that goal. Analyze and know yourself, your habits, and decide what must be worked on the most. 

Imagine that you are a beginning student whose goal is to hit various combinations of keys quicker and more accurately. In such a case, finger drills may be an appropriate use of your time because they are allowing you to familiarize yourself with the keys and combinations, and be more effective at hitting strokes on your early test. Now imagine you are a court reporter applying for a position in a court where there is a high volume of cases and the judges talk very fast. Finger drills are less helpful in such an instance because you do not need to be better at your stroke combinations, you need more speed and endurance. Only fast takes for moderate lengths of time can really help. Finally, imagine you are looking to be a captioner. Writing ultra fast or writing for long periods of time may be helpful, but ultimately it may be that your goal is to hear the words, take down the words, and have them come out on screen perfectly. For such practice, the answer may not be speed takes, but literally listening to the television, taking it down, and building your dictionary word by word.

Then there is another important factor for all of us to consider. Even if you have come up with a great method of practice: Despite some similarities,!our brains are all very different, and we all have different learning styles. Though court reporting/stenography clearly favors auditory and tactile learners over visual ones, you should consider what learning style you truly are and how you might work that into your practice. Are you a visual learner? Flash cards might be your thing. Are you an auditory learner? Listening to dictations over and over might be your path to victory. Are you a tactile learner? Maybe you just need to spend more time stroking the keys, with or without dictation, to get your fingers to glide without hesitation from one word to the next during the actual job or test.

This is all to say: Practice will not make you a great writer. You must know yourself. You must be willing to look at what everybody else does, incorporate what works for you, and discard all else. We have seen brilliant writers come out who focused primarily on finger drills, and we have seen writers just as brilliant that despised finger drills and never ever practiced one if they had a choice. You must be willing to learn who you are and how your mind makes connections. We can only urge each other and ourselves to choose a goal, and work backwards from that goal to figure out how to get there. If you want to make good transcripts, your writing is not required to be 100% accurate but you will need to practice transcribing time. If you want to caption for a large national event, you will need to be pretty close to 100% accurate and will need to focus on practice that forces you to stroke things out and build your dictionary.

There is a place for every dedicated reporter in the Reliable But Unremarkable Stenographic Legion. Practice won’t make you perfect, but with the right practice, you will achieve your goals and find success in this field.

Audio Transcription, Pricing, And You

First and foremost, happy Thanksgiving. As with most great writers, I’m going to take the time away from preparing to the holiday to write about something I know everybody will want to read about: Audio transcription and pricing. As stenographers, we tend to get very focused on a per-page pricing structure. This often leaves us trying to measure our time by pages, and is not always the most ineffective way of being paid.

For purposes of this post, let’s talk a little about CART, audio transcription, and pricing generally. CART and audio transcription are not the same thing, but they have similarities. One key similarity is that they tend to charge by the hour. For CART it’s per hour of writing, usually with a set minimum, and for audio transcription it’s money per hour of audio, sometimes prorated for audio that doesn’t last a whole hour or end exactly on an hour.

Succinctly, for CART, captioning, and audio transcription, despite having different prerequisite skills, the pricing for all of them must take into account the amount of work we’re doing, the quality of the work we’re doing, and ultimately the time it will take us to do the work. So speaking strictly for transcription: I’ve guesstimated that it takes me approximately one to two hours for every hour on the machine to transcribe with pretty close to 100% accuracy. That means for every hour of audio, there are about three hours of actual work involved. So, for me, honestly, working for less than $30/hr becomes painful, so the transcription deal isn’t sweet until maybe the $100-something range. The bottom line of this story? We must examine our time and really decide what it’s worth.

In examining our time, we can also consider other factors. For example, what are other people charging for the same work? As we can see from this Google search here, there are companies that boast a $1/minute transcription fee. So if we do an independent assessment of our time, and we come to the conclusion our time is worth $2/minute, that’s perfect, but just bear in mind that we may lose a couple of customers to the person who is half our price. A potential solution? Split the difference and charge $1.50 per minute.

There’s a lot that goes into economics, buying, selling, demand, supply, and no one blog post could ever impart all of that knowledge on anyone. Even top economists who have devoted their lives to understanding value and money disagree with each other. The best we can do is urge every reporter, where applicable, to look at what they charge, whether charging an agency, lawyer, or outside consumer, and consider how our pricing practices affect all different areas of the field. There’s tons of literature and articles on price matching and how it can help consumers, hurt consumers, help businesses, and hurt businesses, and the cold truth is that it’s up to us to take the time out and learn about these things, because many of us are our own business, and our business rises or falls on our willingness to learn beyond the machine.