My New Career

(Post 41 of 193. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr! Unfortunately, only one quarter of our goal was met, so I have decided to leave the campaign open for the time being.)

In December, I revealed that I spent 2019 completing a course that would let me shift my career in a new direction, transcript proofreading for court reporters.

There are a few steps to creating a legal transcript. This process is generally the same for all the jurisdictions in which I’ve worked in the U.S., Canada, and even the UK, with some regional variances, of course.

1) A court reporter goes to a deposition, trial, hearing, or other legal proceeding and “writes” what is said using stenography.
2) That stenographic record is machine translated into English.
3) A “scoper” goes through the machine-translated document to make sure the translation is perfect.
4) A proofreader receives the scoper’s transcript and reads it without the audio to catch any egregious errors, like transposed words, formatting issues, typos, and punctuation issues that could affect the meaning of the transcript.
5) The court reporter does a final review of the transcript and certifies it.

Some court reporters do all these steps themselves, but the good ones know to outsource.

Scoping is where there is the most money and work, but it is done exclusively in a Windows environment (never again) and involves sitting at a desk listening to audio. I’ve been doing that for the better part of a decade, so that doesn’t interest me. The proofreading is appealing because it is increasingly done by annotating PDFs, so you can work from an iPad. But I also do a little “scoofing,” where I proofread to the audio in Word. This is usually for “digital reporters” who transcribe from recordings, what I’ve been doing all these years.

When I went to Europe in ’16-’17, I brought a backpack full of equipment — a laptop, a laptop charger, headphones, a foot pedal, a mouse, and more — in order to be able to run my business. In Oaxaca, I worked a full week, doing everything for my business, including responding to emails and doing all my bookkeeping and order tracking on… this, a 2019 iPad Mini 5! I have had it exactly one year, and it is my third iPad and the first that I could really say was bought for business use.

I caved and bought myself an Apple Pencil at the start of the year. It’s an amazing tool that lets me annotate more quickly than with the cheapie stylus I was using before because it is so precise, plus it lets me take handwritten notes.

To my surprise, I found a beautiful, functional, and good quality case to hold my iPad and my Pencil. I cannot believe it has Van Gogh’s “Almond Blossom” printed on it! I know from having seen it in person (!!!!!!) that the painting is much more turquoise than periwinkle, but I suspect the colour change is for copyright purposes.

Now, let’s put this all in my perspective. Here’s my iPad next to the little purse that I bought for going around Oaxaca. I could fit in it documents, a wallet, sunglasses, a few personal sundries, and everything I needed to run my business.

The only thing not included is the charger and brick, which are tiny. I’ve since purchased a battery pack for the iPad since the Jackery Bar I bought in England for my iPhone isn’t quite powerful enough to charge the iPad. I can’t get quite a full work day out of a charge, so the battery pack will bring peace of mind. I was surprised that the best-reviewed one I found for my model of iPad was 20% off, only 500 pesos, this week on Amazon Mexico, so it was an easy purchase to make.

Proofreading has turned out to be everything it promised it would be, and more. It pays better. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m treated like an actual professional and can set my rates (to a point). I feel so professionally satisfied in a way that I never expected to be, like I have a real career now, not just a gig that pays the bills. I’m paid to find mistakes and point them out; doesn’t that sound like a dream job to you? And I’m really good at what I do. I could do this for the rest of my life. If I get bored with transcripts, I can get a designation to move into academic or technical proofreading. But proofreading is where it’s at for me. It’s where I always knew I should be, but like with a lot of things, it took me a while to find the right path to get there.

This whole Covid-19 thing has ground a lot of businesses to a halt, but the legal system must push on. Some states are now allowing video teleconference depositions and other proceedings to occur, so court reporters who can adapt to the new technology can still work. That means there is still proofreading work. Some fellow proofreaders who only work in one jurisdiction have found themselves with no work for weeks or even months. But because I work in so many jurisdictions, I’ve been working steadily. My income had been down a full third each of the last two months, but a third of my income goes to debt repayment and savings. So as long as I can maintain at least the current level of income, I will be fine for the day-to-day and exactly where I was when all this started long-term. I’d call that luckier than most.

Since I’ve been working from the couch a lot, I have a view of the iguanas sunning themselves on the garden wall by the dining room. Today, I followed this little guy to the rear patio, where he climbed up and then appeared to do some sun salutations when he reached the top.

Finally, a bonus pic for Bast, who complained about there not being enough Bonita content. This picture is blurry for a reason — to show just how seriously and enthusiastically she takes this whole having to keep everything clean due to the pandemic thing. Either that or she was a cat in a past life!

B is struggling a bit with my new work routine. She was used to spending days under my desk, and that’s where she seems happiest. She doesn’t like to be on the couch for long, probably because it’s too hot. She hasn’t found her new daytime perfect lounging spot where she gets a breeze and mommy within sight. I’m sure she’ll figure it out eventually as she’s such a clever girl. 🙂