Scoping is a side hustle that can make you a few thousand a month (yes, you read that right!), but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it before. It’s an in-demand, money-making side hustle, and it fits right in alongside transcript proofreading. In fact, many transcript proofreaders have added scoping to their skillset as yet another awesome way to make money.

In this episode, I’m here with Linda Evenson, the most respected and experienced scoping instructor online, to talk about what scoping is, how much money you can make as a scopist, what skills you need to be a good scopist, and the best way to get started.

Ready to learn more and see if this is your new side hustle? Listen in!

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Intro: This is the Proofreading Business Podcast with Elizabeth Wiegner. For more, visit TheProofreadingBusinessCoach.com.

Elizabeth Wiegner: All right, y’all, I have Linda Evenson here from Internet Scoping School, and you guys are in for a treat because Linda is here to talk about one of the best side hustles or full-time businesses that you can start that almost nobody has heard of, and that’s scoping. And we’re going to talk all about what scoping is.

Linda is the perfect person here to talk about it. She has been a -- she was a scopist for over 42 years, so not only does she teach people how to scope, she walks her talk. She knows what she’s doing. She’s been in the industry. She knows all the ins and outs. She lives in Montana in the Bitterroot Valley. She says she’s surrounded by mountains, which makes a little jealous here in Oklahoma, but we’re not going to talk about that.

And she lives there with her husband, with her kids, her goats, her turkeys, her chickens, her dogs. In other words, she’s living the life. So, Linda, I am so happy you’re here today. Thank you for joining me this afternoon.

Linda Evenson: Well, thank you for asking me. This is going to be fun.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. You know, when I talked to Linda about coming on and talking about scoping, she was like, oh, I could talk forever. This lights me up. It just -- how she talked about it in her emails, you guys are just going to feel the joy and how much she loves scoping. It’s going to -- you’re in for a treat.

So, Linda, tell me first of all, since hardly anybody has heard what scoping is, can you explain what is scoping? What does a scopist do?

Linda Evenson: A scopist is basically an editor. When court reporters sit and write on their little machines in court, it goes into a computer that translates it into English. But if the reporter doesn’t write everything absolutely perfectly or misses a couple words here or there or whatever the case may be, then that’s the scopist’s job to fix that.

It can be court transcripts, depositions, community meetings, rate hearings -- which really stink -- and any other proceeding that needs to be documented. Scopists read every word carefully, punctuating and researching spellings as they go. And our job is to try and make the transcript as perfect as we can get it.

Then after that, it goes back to the reporter for proofreading or to a professional proofreader who are taught by Elizabeth, our podcast hostess!

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. So as a scopist, I’m assuming -- do you listen to audio, like the audio that was recorded? Do you just read what’s on the page? Or how does that work?

Linda Evenson: Anymore, reporters want the scopists to listen to the audio just because that is a little insurance policy for them that they’ve got every word, that they heard things correctly, and I can understand why they want that. It is slower going for the scopist to do that, but the reporter can pretty much be sure they’re getting a verbatim transcript that way --

Elizabeth Wiegner: And that’s what’s -- oh sorry.

Linda Evenson: I’m sorry. It does have to be proofread after that though. You need two pairs of eyes always on a transcript before it goes out.

Elizabeth Wiegner: 100% because when you’re editing and you’re focusing on the big picture of the research or maybe listening to audio or reading steno, you can miss the -- it’s just -- there’s nothing against scopists. There’s nothing against the court reporter. It’s just -- when you’re trying -- you can’t focus on all the things at one time, and each has their own important job with it.

Linda Evenson: That’s correct. My favorite mistake used to be if there was a short word at the end of one line, and then it was repeated on the next line. It was so easy to miss like as, as or the, the.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: So you have to really read carefully, and those things do get missed sometimes. And that’s why somebody needs to go back through the transcript definitely.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That makes -- it’s kind of like with books. You’ll have somebody who writes. You have the author who writes it. Then you have the editor who goes through and makes it readable, puts things together in the right order. They’ll pay attention to spelling and punctuation too, but it’s the proofreader at the end that just puts the pretty little bow on the top. So the scopist is in the middle part of it.

Linda Evenson: That’s right, and I have the utmost respect for proofreaders because they’re responsible for catching basically everything. If they miss something, it goes out as an error in the transcript. So they have to be very good at what they do, very conscientious, and I have a lot of respect for that.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh, well, thank you. And I --

Linda Evenson: You’re welcome.

Elizabeth Wiegner: On the flipside, I have a lot -- I was actually talking to a court reporter about this yesterday about the type of scopist that you get makes such a difference not only for the court reporter, but it makes a huge difference for a proofreader. I have scopists that I prefer to proof behind because they just make my job so much easier, whereas if you had a scopist who wasn’t well trained, who didn’t come from Internet Scoping School, then they -- it can be a lot more challenging to proof. And when you have a ton more errors to fix, it’s harder on me to catch everything that the court reporter needs for the proofreader. So that scopist is such an integral part of making a really good transcript.

Linda Evenson: That’s really true. The transcript should be very clean when the proofreader goes through it. It should go pretty fast. Proofreaders make less per page, but they should be able to read a lot more pages in an hour because there should be very little to fix.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. I’m, like, nodding my head up and down for those who are not seeing it. It’s like I'm going to nod my head off. So that’s a -- that brings up an interesting question. So how many pages per hour can a scopist -- I know it can vary depending on the quality of the transcript. But on average, how many pages can a scopist expect to scope an hour?

Linda Evenson: I tell my students even with doing full audio, they should be able to do 20 to 25 pages an hour minimum.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Wow.

Linda Evenson: If they’re filling in a lot of drops, or if the notes are just really -- the transcript is really messy, they may make less than that. And so I tell them, well, keep marketing yourself. Work your way up to some better writers so that you can make a living at this because nobody can live on $10 an hour, not in this day and age.

So when I did it, I didn’t do the audio. I worked with court reporters who only wanted me to spot check the audio if something didn’t sound right. Well, I was able, with the great writers I worked with, to do 35-40 pages an hour.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Wow.

Linda Evenson: So it takes almost twice as long to listen to the full audio.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So can scopists charge more when they have audio, or does that depend on the scopist and how they set up their business?

Linda Evenson: Anymore, the lowest page rate since almost everyone wants full audio is higher than what it was --

Elizabeth Wiegner: That makes sense.

Linda Evenson: -- when I was scoping because, like I said, it takes just about twice as long, but then the court reporter is willing to pay more because they have less to fix, or they should.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That makes sense. No, that makes sense. So kind of -- so how much -- like if you were talking about working per page, per hour, how much does a scopist tend to average? And I know it can really vary. But if you wanted to be a full-time scopist -- that was going to be how you make your living -- what would you say they could average a year or a month, whichever is easiest to go by?

Linda Evenson: I think anymore, someone working pretty much full time probably makes $40-45,000 a year. As I said, if someone specializes in rush transcripts, they can make $60,000 or more because all they do is the high-stress, really quick-turnaround jobs, and they charge two to three times as much per page. And then the reporter also charges more because it has to be done so quickly.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s -- so they -- obviously, if you’re going to be stressed more, you have to be there at a certain time and have your time filled up for rush jobs. You’re obviously going to get paid more for it. That makes sense.

Linda Evenson: Yes.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That makes sense. So tell me -- you talk about how much money you can make and the skills that a scopist -- or what the scopist has to do. Is there a demand for scopists out there? This obviously sounds like if you can make $40-, $50-, $60,000 a year working from home on your laptop, is there a demand for this kind of work?

Linda Evenson: It’s funny you ask that question. I am hearing from my graduates that they have more work than they can begin to do. Especially since COVID, a lot of reporters now use Zoom for their means of communicating with the attorneys and the witnesses. So because of that, I guess, there’s more work out there. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: But I had a little gal named Holly who graduated in February, and two days after she graduated, she posted online. And I heard from her a couple months later, and she said, “I love this career! But I am so busy. I haven’t taken a day off in two months.” So she had to start learning to say I’m sorry; I can’t do that, and give herself some time for herself and her family because the work is out there to drown the scopists. It’s a great time to go into it, I’ll tell you.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Well, hey, y’all, if you are looking for a side hustle or full-time business, I mean, Linda is proof that there -- and, you know, when I’m -- as a proofreader inside, I’d see court reporters talking about needing proofreaders and needing scopists. I see a lot of not just I need a scopist -- I need a good scopist because it seems like there is a huge difference between -- there are scopists out there just like there are proofreaders out there. But there aren’t that many good proofreaders, or not just good but exceptional proofreaders, and there aren’t exceptional scopists. And that’s what court reporters really need.

Linda Evenson: That’s correct. I tried, when I created my course, to be as thorough as I possibly could. Compared to any other courses that I’m aware of, my course has two to three times the material just because I wanted to cover everything. I wanted to make it so when someone graduated, they knew that they knew what they were doing. They were confident, and I also drill into their heads to be dependable because reporters are working hard. They’re under a lot of stress. They usually have a lot of pages to get out, and they don’t have time to mess around with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, number one, or who takes their work really casually and maybe doesn’t meet the deadline, doesn’t communicate well. Those things, if I hear of any of my graduates doing that, I won’t allow them on my website anymore.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh, I like that!

Linda Evenson: I’m tough. I’m mean. I’m old.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s good though because that encourages your grads to not get lazy, and it also keeps -- like if somebody says, hey, I’m a grad of Linda’s Internet Scoping School, they’re going to be like, well, I know she’s good then because Linda does an amazing job of training. That’s good. You have to preserve that integrity.

Linda Evenson: We sure try, and I know you do the same thing with your students. You want them to get out there and do the best job possible.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: And as much as I respect proofreaders, I really, really respect court reporters because it’s a hard job. It’s not easy to write over 200 words a minute, which is what they have to be able to do to even graduate court reporting school. Then they’re under the stress of dealing with sometimes, shall we say, not-so-wonderful attorneys and judges and putting up with a lot of stress. So we really want to help them. We don’t want to make things harder.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. My head is just going to nod off during this whole podcast. So you’re talking about -- court reporters deserve to have excellent scopists. Your scopists deserve themselves to be the best that they can be because, I mean, that’s how you get work. That’s how you make money. So tell me what kind -- what skills do you need to be a good scopist? Because, honestly, I mean, and I’m the same way with proofreading. Not everybody is cut out to be a proofreader, and I’m sure not everybody is cut out to be a scopist either. So tell me what kind of skills are -- you have to have them to be a good scopist.

Linda Evenson: You need to have a natural aptitude at working with words. If you don’t, it would be like me trying to be an accountant. As good as I am with words, I am that horrible at math. If I had gone into accounting, I would have starved to death years ago.

Elizabeth Wiegner: We are the same.

Linda Evenson: Yes. You would be a good scopist if you did well in English in school even if that was a long time ago, if that was kind of your strong suit; if you spot errors in text like spotting a fox in the henhouse -- they just jump off the page at you -- you enjoy working crossword puzzles, anything to do with language; generally you love to read, and you also often love to write and are particular about how you write. Words are just your thing.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s a good point about loving to write and being really particular about that. I think that’s one big thing that separates scopists from proofreaders is proofreaders -- I know a lot of proofreaders do go into writing or were formerly writers. But as an editor and scopist, you do have to be more focused on the writing aspect of it. That’s a really interesting point. I like that.

So what kind of personality traits would you consider a good scopist to have?

Linda Evenson: Well, I’ve always thought being half crazy has been a good trait for me because --

Elizabeth Wiegner: It’s worked for you.

Linda Evenson: It works for me. I have always really enjoyed scoping, and I have loved my clients. And I’m one of those people that, when I see a really funny untranslate or something comes up really strange on the computer or someone asks a really dumb question or whatever the case may be, I’m one of those people that has to put a smart-aleck note in there for the reporters. And I have seriously had more than one tell me, you know, you’re great to work with. You do a good job. But I love working with you because you make me laugh! And you know, since our jobs are stressful -- pretty much anybody’s job can be stressful -- why not get a laugh here and there if you can? It makes it a lot more fun to do what you’re doing.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, my goodness, yes. If you can’t laugh at it, what’s the point, right?

Linda Evenson: Right. Like I said, you do need to be dedicated. You need to take good care of your clients because the court reporters depend on you to not only get their jobs out on time but to make sure they’re accurate. I mean, I can’t stress enough, I guess, how much they depend on a good scopist, and we have to take that very seriously.

We have to also keep ourselves up to date on software, hardware, trends in the profession because I know a lot of times my reporters, perhaps they had an issue with their writing that I knew the software company had made a fix for. So I could advise them, hey, turn on this function in your translation options. It will help your work translate better.

A lot of them I helped learn how to run CATalyst, the software that I use because reporters tend -- because they’re so busy, they tend to only learn what they have to learn to do their job. And so a lot of times the things outside of that narrow corridor that would actually help them do their jobs better, they haven’t taken the time to learn. And I have found that the people that I helped in that way were so appreciative, and it usually made it easier for them on their end if they just took a few minutes to learn a new tech thing or whatever.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s really interesting that you -- it’s not -- and I put “just” in quotes. It’s not like you’re “just” scoping. You’re also almost a little bit of a tech support for them in some ways if they need it.

Linda Evenson: Right. I consider myself what I saw online one time. Someone coined the term “a reporter supporter.” So you can think of yourself as a stretchy undergarment. You’re a reporter supporter. And it’s the truth. We need to make their jobs easier. As far as I’m concerned, that’s my job. That -- of course, that involves all different aspects, but I know I used to have clients that would get beat up really bad during their day of taking a job, and they just -- oh, I’m so bad. I never should have done this. I want to quit. And I would tell them, you know -- I might go in and look at the job and say that job is actually pretty good. I think they felt like it was bad because they were struggling to keep up. But because I did work with very good writers, they did a lot better than they thought they did.

And so I would try and be their cheerleader and lift their spirits and tell them, no, you write very well. You’re going to get a bad job now and then, whatever, and that seemed to be something they also really appreciate.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I love you brought that up, Linda, because this actually just happened this week. A court reporter that I follow on Instagram, she shared a screenshot, and she came from it from the perspective of she needs to be a better writer. I took it from the perspective of how dare that scopist talk to this court reporter this way. But the screenshot was the scopist was talking to the -- saying are you a reporter, what machine you use. I’m trying to understand how the job got this bad. And I’m thinking, why would you ever -- that pulls somebody down, whereas if you have a scopist like you or the students and the grads that you train, it’s -- you’re there to support them, to encourage them, to help them want to get better. That’s such a huge trait of both a proofreader and a scopist is to be there to encourage and not to -- you’re already pointing out their mistakes when you’re editing and proofreading. Don’t make it harder by --

Linda Evenson: Don’t kick a guy when he’s down.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. So I love you brought that up, Linda. A trait of a good transcript proofreader and a good scopist is being kind and supportive and a cheerleader, yes.

Linda Evenson: And that was another thing I’ve done with reporters is, if I see that they’re having trouble with a certain word, let’s say, I’ll go in and look in two or three of my reporters’ transcripts and see how they write it. And then I’ll say I see you’re having trouble with this word. Here are some ways some of my other people write it. Maybe one of those will work for you. But you want to do it in a kind way. If you’re making them feel like they’re doing a lousy job and they’re a bad reporter, that just going to get you nowhere.

Elizabeth Wiegner: You’re going to lose clients real fast.

Linda Evenson: You are, not to mention you may cause some reporters to get so discouraged that they quit or that kind of a thing too, and we don’t want that to happen.

Elizabeth Wiegner: No. Oh, that’s -- I’m so glad you mentioned that. That’s -- that’s why running a business as a scopist or as a proofreader, really any business that you have, is so much more than just being a good scopist or knowing how to use your software or even being dependable. It’s how are you treating your clients. You can be the best person out there, but if you are just a miserable person to work with, then you’re not going to get anywhere.

Linda Evenson: Go into a different business, cleaning outhouses by yourself or something where you don’t have to see people.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, and you know what? There are people who don’t do well with other people, and that is totally fine. It takes all sorts of people to run this world. Just go into a career that’s not scoping or proofreading. I mean, there you go. That’s a good hint to not go into it if you don’t want to.

Linda Evenson: That requires no people skills, yes.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. That’s a really good point. I’m glad you mentioned that because I feel like that is a very underrated part of running your business is being able to have people skills and communicate well.

Linda Evenson: Communication is absolutely huge in this profession. If I had to name the single most important thing other than having an aptitude for words, it would probably be being a good communicator. If you get sick and you can’t get your head out of the toilet, don’t wait until the job is past due to tell your court reporter, oh, I’ve been really sick for the last two days. Call them as soon as you get sick and say I don’t know if I’m going to be able to finish this. Can you wait a day or two? Do you have a backup scopist? Can I hook you up with someone who can help you get this job out the door? Because they are depending on you, and you need to let them know what’s going on on your end.

I did have one gal who, two or three times, ended up not meeting a reporter’s deadline and didn’t communicate with her. And afterwards, she’d say, well, this happened or that happened. And yes, sometimes it was something she had to handle, but there was absolutely no excuse unless she was dead or in the hospital in a full body cast not communicating with that reporter and letting her know what was going on. That’s unforgivable.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, and it is -- of course, people tend to talk about the negatives more than they do the positive inside groups. I mean, that’s human nature.

Linda Evenson: True.

Elizabeth Wiegner: But a lot of things that I see are -- that people are upset with scopists about is they didn’t turn things in by the deadline, and that’s not -- and no communication. That’s huge to turn things in on time.

Linda Evenson: That is.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So as a scopist, would you say that you can work on your own schedule? How would you talk about the flexibility of the job of being a scopist?

Linda Evenson: You can control your workflow to a degree. If you work as someone’s full-time or main scopist, you are generally responsible for taking care of any work they send to you. So you can’t just say, well, I’ll only do two jobs for you a week. If they have another scopist and they agree with that work share arrangement, you might be able to do something like that. But usually if you work with a reporter, you do the work that they send to you. But if you can’t, what I always tell my students, and we have a very active online group, a private group for students and graduates, I tell them to hook themselves up with one or two other people that can back them up if there’s an emergency. I have gotten as many as a thousand pages in one day.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh my goodness.

Linda Evenson: I have. You know, it’s like -- what is -- is this everybody-beat-up-on-Linda day? Everybody. And what ends up happening then is it’s -- that’s a week’s worth of work. So I’m booked out for a week at that point. And so at that point, right away, I need to be asking people, okay, I’m really -- I’m booked up for the next week. If you get something else, do you have someone who can do it? Do you want me to help you get someone? There again, I try to do -- always tried to do the best I could to take care of my clients. But having a good backup that you can trust and vice versa, you will back them up when they need it, is worth its weight in gold.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, yes. I say the same to my proofreaders. If you can’t take a job, obviously tell them right away because the court reporter is waiting on you to get the job done.

Linda Evenson: Right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: And you have this excellent community of grads just like you with your scoping students, that if you can’t do something, you have a back -- so you don’t have to feel like you always have to be working. You can -- it’s okay to take time off or if you need it.

Linda Evenson: It is. Everybody needs to be human, to be able to have a down day or two here and there to just relax and unwind and think about something other than your job just like a regular 9-to-5 job. And since we work from home, it’s really easy to end up on your computer from day -- sunup to sundown if you’re not careful, weekends. And when I was a younger scopist back early in the day, I used to work a lot more evenings and weekends. But as I got a better class of writer, I guess you would say, and worked my way up to some really good reporters, I got to where I didn’t do that anymore because it really -- and if you do work all the time, I think you start making mistakes because you’re overtired and overworked. So it’s really not a very good idea.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. That’s a good point. You have to take care. It is exciting when you’re starting your business and you’re getting clients and you’re making money. And you can ride that wave of excitement for a while. And then eventually it’s like, oh, I think I need a break.

Linda Evenson: I can’t remember my name. I think I’m overly tired. It happens. You do have to find a nice way of saying no.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, yes, and you know, when you can refer back to -- your scopists can get into the grad group and be like, hey, I need somebody to cover for me, you don’t feel so bad saying no because then you know they’ll still be taken care of, and your client will be happy too because they got a great scopist. But they can always come back to you for the next job.

Linda Evenson: That’s right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So you’ve talked about -- this is kind of going back a little bit to the beginning. You’ve talked about them writing and the machine that they use and their software that they use. And you’ve talked about having to be a little bit tech savvy to be able to use the software. I know that what they write in is called steno. Can you explain to our listeners what steno is and how a scopist interacts with steno?

Linda Evenson: steno is basically its own language. But the great thing about it is you don’t have to speak it and conjugate verbs. I took Spanish years ago, and conjugating the verbs just about drove me crazy.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Same.

Linda Evenson: If it’s go, it should be go, or going but it should -- I mean, it was just really hard for me to do that. With steno, you’re just reading it. You don’t have to speak it, and it is its own language. I think there’s only -- I’m trying to -- I don’t remember how many keys are on a steno machine, but it’s less than there are letters in the alphabet. And so the way they make letters and words is by hitting several keys at the same time. So the letter N, for example, is written TPH.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh, interesting.

Linda Evenson: So it would seem like, well, that takes a lot more time to write than writing the letter N. Well, it doesn’t because they hit that and the vowel and maybe even the end sound of the word all at one time. So they would write “need” in one stroke or “need to” in one stroke or -- oh, one of my favorite briefs is “ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” Now, that’s a mouth full.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: But the universal brief for that is LURJ, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. It’s kind of the sounds of the words. And since that’s not a real word, once the court reporter defines that as ladies and gentlemen of the jury, every time they write “LURJ” that phrase comes up perfectly. So you learn how to read the different letters.

And then there are a lot of brief strokes, as I said, “have to, “need to,” “I can’t,” I want to.” All those different kinds of things have short forms that you learn. Sometimes they’ll -- it’s called tucking a vowel where a vowel comes at the end of a word, but they put it in the middle. But as long as they write it that way and define it that way, it comes out perfectly because what the computer does is matches what they write to the words in their dictionary. So when it sees LURJ, it matches that to the phrase, “ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” Now, if they don’t write it perfectly, it may not translate, and so it comes out in what we call an untranslate, which is this jumble of letters. And once the scopist knows how to read notes, they can usually tell between the letters that are there and either dropping letters or adding letters and by context what that word should be.

And, of course, nowadays, we have the audio, which makes it even easier to get those words correct.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So a scopist should be able -- so they don’t have to know how to type on the machine because the court reporter works all that magic. But should a scopist learn steno for those untranslates that they see inside their computer screen?

Linda Evenson: Since the advent of the audio, there are trainers who feel like it’s not important enough for scopists to know how to read the notes anymore. My personal belief is, other than punctuation, that is your foundation that you build on for the rest of scoping because sometimes the audio is garbled. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, or it may not work for, say, the space of 20 pages, and the reporter -- maybe after lunch they forgot to turn their audio back on. Well, all you have to go by then during that period of time is the notes.

I even had a client here a few years ago who owned a court reporting firm, and one of his reporters had died. And of all things, one of her old transcripts got ordered up.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh!

Linda Evenson: Yeah. They didn’t even have her dictionary anymore, but they did have the notes. So he read the notes into a computer and translated them against someone’s dictionary that he wrote closely to this reporter and sent me the job, and I noteread -- well, actually, no. On that one, I think I noteread the whole thing because it was short. It was only, like, 30-, 35 pages. And out of the whole thing -- she was a pretty good writer -- there was only two words that I wasn’t sure what they were. One of them he recognized. The other one was just a goober that got in there, and he just deleted it out of the transcript.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Wow.

Linda Evenson: So I felt pretty good that this old dog, after all these years, could still read notes that well.

Elizabeth Wiegner: What are the chances that something like that would come up?

Linda Evenson: I know. I know. That was just such a fluke, but it really helped him. He didn’t have to mess around with it. I was able to read the notes and do it and save him all that time.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Well, and that just increases your value and demand as a scopist because --

Linda Evenson: Right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: -- the more skills you have, the more money you can make, the more particular you can be with the clients you want to work with.

Linda Evenson: And the better reputation you get.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: Yes. That’s worth a lot.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Do you -- absolutely, your reputation is everything, yes. So do you teach -- since steno -- obviously, the average person walking around doesn’t know steno. And so I’m a transcript proofreader, and I’ve been for years, and I don’t read steno. That’s because, by that point, the scopist has worked all their magic, and it’s not in the --

Linda Evenson: They better have.

Elizabeth Wiegner: If it is, I send it back. That’s not a job for a proofer.

Linda Evenson: That’s right. That’s right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So as a transcript proofreader, I don’t have to worry about that part, but for scopists, do you teach -- as part of your Internet Scoping School, do you teach people how to read steno?

Linda Evenson: I do.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh, that’s awesome.

Linda Evenson: There’s a really long section. I don’t even have any idea how many pages it is, but it teaches the letters of the alphabet because, of course, that’s where you start. And then they write -- reporters write either long vowel sounds or short vowel sounds so that “stead” looks different than “steed.”

Elizabeth Wiegner: That makes sense.

Linda Evenson: Yes. So then you teach the vowel sounds. Then you start making simple sentences where you put the vowels and the consonants together, and then you work your way up. And they also write prefixes and suffixes that often are more than one -- stand for more than one syllable, so you teach those. And then you teach a lot of the briefs that people use. Some are -- like I said, they’re universal. Pretty much everyone uses them.

But all reporters write just a little bit differently. So part of being a good scopist with your client is learning their style of writing. You also get a preference sheet that tells you how they want their work done. Do they want a comma before “is that correct?” Do they want a semicolon? When -- if someone is interrupted, and it comes back and that attorney starts asking questions again, it’s called a byline. And so they’ll put in “By Mr. So-and-So.” Well, there’s about four different ways of doing that.

And so you get their preferences, and then you follow those as you edit, and as I said, everybody is a little different. So when you’re first working with someone, you refer to that sheet a lot. The more you work with them, the more you kind of get into the groove and do things the way that they want them done. But it is -- it’s definitely a teamwork proposition all the way.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s interesting you brought up preferences because that’s a huge part of proofreading is to proofread to the preference. And when I -- like I have one court reporter that I still proofread -- that I proof for, and I can always tell when she scoped it or when somebody else scoped it because I know her preferences so well. And sometimes I’m like, oh, that scopist did not follow her preference. I’m like, that was not this court -- so it’s very interesting. You kind of develop your own writing style, but you still want to -- like a good scopist that you’ve trained is going to follow the court reporters as closely as possible, so the proofer, I mean, could have a hard time telling who’s who. And that’s the way you want it to be.

Linda Evenson: Absolutely, don’t have to wear a mask to pretend to be the court reporter.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. So how long -- you have to learn steno, and then you’ve also mentioned the software. So do you train -- because the software -- as proofreaders, some proofreaders proof in software. Some use PDF. I specialize in teaching PDF proofreading, but I do know how to proofread in software. PDF proofreading is very easy to learn. It’s very low-tech. You don’t need a lot of tech skills. The software is a beast. I mean, it can do -- it’s amazing everything it can do, and it also means it’s a little bit of a learning curve. So do you teach how to use the software as well?

Linda Evenson: I do because learning to run the software efficiently can mean a $5 difference in your hourly rate as to how many pages you can get through in an hour. If I’m looking for a command and I don’t know how to do it, or I’m typing everything in when there’s quicker, easier ways of doing things, I’m going to be a lot slower. So I do -- I have them go through the video training that is put out by stenograph Corporation who makes the CATalyst software. So I have them go through that first.

Then I start at the beginning. I show them how to set up a user, how to create a dictionary, how to do globaling, how to do replacing, how to copy, how to break a file and put it back together in a different order. I mean, I try and teach them everything I can think of as far as running their software.

And there are a lot of shortcuts. There are hotkeys that you can hit that will take, say, a colloquy and turn it into a question, vice versa, to insert a parenthetical, a discussion was had off the record. There are shortcuts to doing all those things where you’re not typing them in. So learning to run that software well is a huge thing.

And as I said, then you can help the reporters as well, which makes you more valuable.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. The more skills you have, the more money you can make.

Linda Evenson: That’s exactly right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I love that you give them the basic training that’s -- stenograh, the one that makes the software, Case CAT, I love that you give them that, but then you don’t just be like, okay, go read the, literally, 2000-page manual and figure the rest out for yourself. It’s -- you tell them what you know so that they don’t have to figure it out on their own. That’s so good, Linda.

Linda Evenson: Thank you. I’m glad I thought of it.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I bet. That’s -- so if -- tell me then. If -- a lot of people -- one thing I hear about proofreading is this. Do I have to learn a lot of software? Do I have to be very tech savvy? So -- and with PDF proofreading, no, you don’t, which is awesome. How do you balance out -- how do you address like if -- okay, maybe tech is a little harder for somebody. What would you encourage them or how -- I mean, obviously, you spend a lot of time training. How would you address that?

Linda Evenson: Well, I always tell everybody they need to know how to run a computer. I don’t teach Windows. I don’t teach any of the other computer programs. Word, for example, can be pretty persnickety to run at times. Those kinds of things I don’t teach. You do need to know how to get around on your computer, how to find things, how to get online, those things. If you don’t know those, then you need to take a basic computer class first.

Then once they come to me, generally they can do those kinds of things. Then I teach them, oh, in addition to the software, how to send and receive files. There are several different ways of doing that. Different reporters prefer different ones. They’re generally pretty straightforward to use, but it’s something a scopist has to know.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: You have to know how to do invoicing. Anymore, you probably want to know how to set up a payment so that it will go directly into your bank.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: Those days of having to trot down to the bank with your little paycheck in hand are over.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Thank goodness.

Linda Evenson: I know. Isn’t that great?

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: You get paid -- you bill online. You get paid online. The money just shows up in your account, and whoop-dee-do. You can go shopping.

Elizabeth Wiegner: It feels so good when you get that invoice paid, so good.

Linda Evenson: Oh, it does. It does. And once you get them coming in pretty regularly, I mean, it isn’t like having a 9-to-5 job where you get a set paycheck every two weeks or every month or whatever. It does vary, but I’ve always told everybody too that there are sometimes some slowdowns in work. Every single time I decided I was going to clean out my closet, bang, I’d get a file. That closet never got cleaned for many years because that was my secret.

Elizabeth Wiegner: All right, y’all, you have got the -- I mean, Linda just dropped the marketing tip of the decade right there.

Linda Evenson: Yep. When you get some time off unexpectedly, go do something fun or tackle a -- cleaning your windows or something you’ve been meaning to do, and don’t sweat it because 9 times out of 10, when things bust loose, you’re going to be drowning in pages again and trying to figure out how to do it. And so once you kind of learn to give up that angst about the regular paycheck, and maybe on the months you make more, even set a little bit aside so that when you have a slow month, you’ve got a little bit to fall back on, whatever it does to make you not worry about that because worrying about income is almost as bad as worrying about taxes.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: But the difference is most of your creditors won’t come and pirate you away in the middle of the night and hide you where no one will ever see you again like the IRS can do.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: But trying to learn to go with the flow is really important.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I love you said that, getting over the angst of not getting a normal 9-to-5 paycheck because --

Linda Evenson: And that is hard.

Elizabeth Wiegner: It is. It’s -- especially if that’s been your -- and a lot of people who come into proofreading or scoping come in from 9-to-5 jobs where they’re regularly getting paychecks. It is a very -- and it can be a little -- I still remember when I first started proofreading, and I’d be super busy one week, and the next week I’m like, uh, what happened? But then give me a few months and I’m like, oh, this is normal. And the weeks that I’m busy make up for those downtimes that I have, and it’s great because I’m giving myself vacations every other week or whatever. It’s not that often, but the flexibility is just so good.

Linda Evenson: Yeah, and it’s a tradeoff. It’s a big adjustment at first, and I know what I used to do when things would get slow is I’d think, oh no, did I screw up a job? Are they not going to send me work anymore? And you kind of beat yourself up, and then all of a sudden, here come the pages again. And after a while, you figure out it just -- it’s an ebb-and-flow thing, and most businesses are that way. And you just have to learn to count -- maybe count to 10 or take deep breaths or do whatever. Go run around your house two or three times, calming yourself down, and realize that that’s just part of it.

Elizabeth Wiegner: And you know, when you have a great education and experience, because by the time they graduate with you, Linda, they have not only an education, but they have experience. They can -- they know that they’re good at what they do, and they know how to run their business, and it’s a matter of just -- not just, but it’s a matter of adjusting to the difference of freelance life versus a 9-to-5 life.

Linda Evenson: Right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s -- I’m glad you mentioned. Oh, this was good. And then, I know I’ve been keeping you longer than I planned, but you have so much good stuff to say, Linda. What would you say are your favorite parts of -- I feel like we’ve touched on this, sprinkled it a little throughout, but I’d love to hear, if you could summarize your top favorite parts of being a scopist, what would you say?

Linda Evenson: Oh gosh. Working from home is way up there on that list, especially living here in Montana. In the wintertime, we can get some really bad weather where the roads are so slick, and really unsafe. While other people are crawling along, trying to get into Missoula to work at 25 miles an hour, I’m throwing a log on the fire, and I’m cuddling up with my dogs with a big grin on my face and thinking ha! I got it way better than you do. I love working from home, absolutely.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: I love owning my own business, especially if you have ever worked for somebody who was kind of hard to work for, my boss is great! She really understands me because it’s me.

Elizabeth Wiegner: You like -- yes.

Linda Evenson: Yes. So I like that part of it. I liked being able to kind of make my own schedule and also kind of determine how much work I wanted to do. Some people can’t sleep at night. You can get up in the middle of the night and work on a transcript if you want to.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: I love being able to work from different locations because, as long as you can get an internet signal, which is almost everywhere anymore, I think in the jungles of Africa you can probably get an internet signal. One time when my kids were little, I took a couple of lawn chairs and set up my laptop and worked while they were taking swimming lessons. I was sitting in the park. I worked from a camper beside a lake while my husband was out fishing and dumped our canoe over, or our rowboat, I should say.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Thank goodness you were not in that.

Linda Evenson: No, I was so glad, especially not with my computer.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: But I was sitting in my camper getting a little workout, and then I was able to go out and join him. I even have done work and uploaded, downloaded while he’s driving down the highway when we’re on our way to somewhere. Then when we get there, I’ve got my work done, and I’m still making money instead of having to give a job away because I can do it on the road. So those are my favorite parts, but working at home definitely takes the cake.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Your description of putting a log on the fire and cuddling up with your dogs while everybody is out trying to not die on the ice was -- that was perfect, Linda.

Linda Evenson: And it’s true.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh, well, y’all, if you’re thinking about scoping, which clearly Linda has -- you can just hear the joy and the energy that she has, and she brings that to her course, which kind of -- I mean, I’ve already answered my question. Linda, if somebody is interested in scoping -- a lot actually transcript proofreaders add -- learn -- go on to learn to be a scopist, and they do both. So if they scope a job and then maybe their court reporter is busy taking other jobs, so then they’ll go proofread for another court reporter. I mean, mix it up because, I mean, who has time to be bored, right?

Linda Evenson: Sure.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So if someone is considering either starting from scratch or they’ve been a transcript proofreader and they want to add some variety into their life, how -- what is the best way to learn to be a scopist?

Linda Evenson: Well, the name of my course is Internet Scoping School, and the web address is www.ScopeSchool, S-C-O-P-E, S-C-H-O-O-L, dot com. The way I set up my course is there is an introductory section called Scoping Fundamentals, which has some samples of some lessons. It talks about the progress of a transcript from beginning to end where the scopist fits in.

And then there are quite a few lessons on word usage because it’s so easy to mix things up or to get into a bad habit of the way that you use words that’s incorrect. Well, if someone likes that unit and then wants to continue, they can sign up for the rest of the course, and that is nine very intensive units that cover everything from punctuation, medical-legal terminology, how to put a transcript together, how to expertly run the software, and more. And by the time you’re done, you have a very well-rounded, very comprehensive education.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I mean, nine units is no joke, y’all. I have seen the inside of Linda’s course. It is not a joke. You are busy and working hard.

Linda Evenson: And that’s right. It’s not something that you’re going to learn to do in two weeks and get out there and make $50,000. If that’s your idea, nope, not this job. If you’re willing to put in the work and the time and the effort, it is a good career. It’s a solid career. It’s one obviously I’ve enjoyed pretty much my whole adult life. And now I’m really enjoying teaching it. How fun! And my group, oh my gosh, they’re so smart and very nice people in our little private section. People ask each other questions. They answer each other. They give each other advice. They will bend over backwards to help another person, and it has been an absolute pleasure for me to work with this group.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Well, they sound -- I mean, getting to hang out with people who are all working on the same thing and who are nice and then getting to be trained by you, I mean, can you ask for anything better?

Linda Evenson: Oh yeah, there’s lots of things I’d ask for. Still, it’s pretty good all together.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So how long, Linda -- so you mentioned this isn’t something you get in and two weeks you’re out. How long -- and I know it varies per person. Your course is self-paced, correct?

Linda Evenson: Right. People can go through at their own pace. They can do it -- I think probably the best way to get through it is to set yourself so many hours a day if you can. Say four hours of studying Monday through Friday, six hours on the weekends, whatever you want to set up. But I also have had students who have had parents get ill, and they’ve had to go care for them. Some have been homeschooling their kids. Some have had special needs children. There are other things.

Life just interferes sometimes. Well, in this case, it doesn’t matter. I’ve had people that have graduated. I think the fastest one back when I didn’t have quite as much material was three months, and I’ve had people that took two years or more just because maybe they took time off in the summer. They had other issues come up. Maybe they got sick or had to have surgery. So there’s no pressure.

You get through it at your own time. If you have questions, I’m online five days a week minimum, usually seven, and I try to be very prompt and responsive to questions. As I said, our group of students is awesome. It’s just -- it’s a really -- you know, if you can get out of going to college and incurring thousands and thousands of dollars of student debt, learn something in a few months for a small fraction of the cost that will pay you a pretty decent wage, scoping is a great way to go.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s so true, yes. I mean, if you’re -- I’ve talked to people who are in college, don’t know what they want to do, but they’re in college. But at the same time, they’re accruing debt, and it’s like -- even if -- scoping, you could have -- like you. You scoped for over 42 years. This can be your career, or it can be something that you do for a few years and then you add something else on or you move on. It’s so flexible, but you can do it without all the pressure of I just spent four years and thousands, tens of thousands, of dollars on a college education. And you can do something that’s just as rewarding. And the skills you learn are -- I mean, you set yourself up for success in life by learning how to run your own business and having scoping skills.

Linda Evenson: Yes, and that brings up an interesting thing. We just added a new unit on running a self-employed business. So after you graduate, people sometimes felt like, what do I do now? I have all this knowledge and I have these skills, but they weren’t quite sure how to start. And so that unit will be covering the bookkeeping you need to do, how to get set up with clients, how to keep clients --

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh, that’s huge.

Linda Evenson: -- how to communicate professionally, just a myriad of things you need to know to run your own business.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Y’all, so if you get in now, you’re going to get that coming up because that is -- that’s my favorite part. Like when I teach proofreading, the first two phases are on all the skills you need to know, like the background you need to know, the practice, getting the experience, the grammar, all that good stuff. And then phase 3, which is the grad section is how to manage your business, and that is -- I love teaching that part because then you get -- that’s how you’re making money, and you feel -- all your hard work comes to fruition. And so, y’all are going to love that section of Linda’s course. That’s going to be -- I’m glad you’re adding that. That’s going to be so good, so good.

Linda Evenson: I think so too.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Excellent. Well, Linda, is there anything else? We’ve covered a lot today. Is there anything else that you would want to add, anything that -- clarify, anything at all that you want to say to anybody thinking about scoping before we sign off?

Linda Evenson: I do have a link on my website that tells you about how much money it will take to set yourself up to do scoping --

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh, okay, good.

Linda Evenson: -- which includes a computer, obviously the training. There are a couple of reference books, which I should circle back to computers. It used to be that you had to pay $2- or $3,000 to get a decent computer. That has come down so much. Now, you can get a pretty serviceable machine for $500.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, which is so nice.

Linda Evenson: So your outlay upfront really isn’t that bad. Then you -- of course, you need to have a decent internet connection. High speed is preferable, and of course, dependable is also very important. And then you do have to buy the court reporting software that allows you to work on the files. But all together, you can set up your business for maybe just a little bit more than $5,000, and that’s everything. You think if you were to start a retail store and had to buy all that inventory, how much money you’d be in. For maybe around $5,000, you can have a brand new career. You’re your own boss. You own your own business, and I just don’t think it gets a lot better than that.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That -- you know, it can seem like if you just focus on the initial cost of what you have to do to invest or the cost of the training, it can be like, okay, well, I now have to think about that. But when you think about how much money you’ll be making and how quickly you’ll make that back and how in-demand scopists are, it’s a no-brainer.

Linda Evenson: It is. We also have payment plans, so if someone can’t afford the whole outlay at once, which is many people, they can make pretty reasonable payment plans. And what was the other thing I was going to say? You know, I haven’t had that happen to me this whole time, so I’ve done really well for being old and brain dead.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I think you are doing awesome, Linda.

Linda Evenson: Well, whatever it was, I’ll tell you next time.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Well, you do have on your -- and, y’all, I will link to this inside the show notes so you can just click on it and go there. I’ll link to Linda’s website. You do have a -- you have your Scoping Fundamentals, which is a foundation, which you do not have to purchase the court reporting -- the software that you’d have to use upfront, which is to take Scoping Fundamentals. Is that correct, to see if you’d like scoping?

Linda Evenson: Right, and it’s also very inexpensive. It’s only $197.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Perfect.

Linda Evenson: And it’ll give you a good feel for whether this is something that you feel like you might be good at or that you even want to do. So it’s a good place to start, doesn’t cost you much to stick your toe in the water and see if you want to jump in.

Elizabeth Wiegner: And it’s so worth doing that instead of having in the back of your mind, nagging you, like well, I wonder if scoping is the right thing for me? Well, you can give it a shot without all -- any upfront -- a whole lot of upfront costs, like having to get the software or learn the software and then decide you don’t like it, kind of thing. You can get your feet wet and see what it’s like.

Linda Evenson: That’s right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Very good. Well, Linda, this has been so much fun. I mean --

Linda Evenson: Me too.

Elizabeth Wiegner: This was so good. Y’all, I will put the links in the show notes so that you can just click on them, head over. And Linda -- I’ve known Linda for years. She is so responsive to her emails, and she’s personally responding to her emails. So if you have questions about it, if -- she has lots of information on her website. You have this podcast. You can always reach out to her, and she’s -- as you can tell, she loves what she does, and she is always happy to help people, and she’ll be honest with you. If she thinks you’re a good fit, she’ll tell you. And if she doesn’t think you’re a good fit, she’ll tell you too. So you have a great resource.

Linda Evenson: Nicely.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Linda Evenson: I try to be polite, but I have had to tell people I don’t think you’re cut out for this. But there’s lots of other home-based businesses out there. You do need to have good word skills or aptitude anyway.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, and you take -- I mean, if you bring the willingness and the desire, then Linda will meet you and help you with the rest. So what more could you ask for?

Linda Evenson: Well, I do give it my best shot.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Well, Linda, thank you so, so much. You’ve been wonderful.

Linda Evenson: Thank you.

Elizabeth Wiegner: And this has been lots of fun. I appreciate it.

Linda Evenson: Well, thank you so much for having me.

Outro: Thanks so much for joining me today. Make sure that you’re subscribed so that you get the next episode that comes out. And if you know somebody who is interested in proofreading or starting their own side hustle, make sure to share this podcast with them. And I will see you next time here on The Proofreading Business Podcast.

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Meet Elizabeth

Elizabeth Wiegner is a work-from-home proofreader and business coach who teaches other readers and typo fixers how to build a life of freedom as a proofreader. Her energy, love, and personalized support are second to none in the proofreading world.