(Post 62 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)
I am so sorry for those who are having such a difficult time during the pandemic. It feels almost cruel to be talking about how well things are going for me, but perhaps there are lessons in resilience to be learned from my experience. This pandemic was not the first time in my life that I woke up to the world as I knew it having ended and I’m sure it won’t be the last. You can’t grieve and/or be numb forever. There comes a point where you have to sift through the ashes, salvage what you can, and figure out how to keep moving forward.
But how can you do that when the future is so uncertain? How can you move forward when you can’t make any plans? Well, that’s the thing. No, we can’t plan on anything that involves travel or socialising with people. But you can perhaps focus on work or school or a hobby or relationships with people you live with, whatever you still have that the pandemic cannot take away from you. In my case, that’s work. I work in an industry that had to find a way to push forward and keep moving. There might not be as much work as there was, that work might take a different form, but for someone who is adaptable, there is plenty of opportunity out there. I was concerned about work in April, but by mid May I knew I was going to be fine as I saw the U.S. legal system starting to come to grips with the idea of having to operate remotely.
So I’ve been working. And working. And working. I love the transcript proofreading work that I started doing at the end of last year. I keep getting more clients for that and dropping transcription clients. When I am completely done with transcription, I will have a lot to unload about that industry. But the years in it were not wasted as they have provided me with foundational skills that I can add on to. When I started proofreading transcripts, I don’t know how people told me that I wouldn’t last a year before setting that aside and studying to be a scopist instead, as that’s where the real money and interesting work is, but I had a lot of reasons to confidently say that that would not happen.
Scopist, you ask? Think about the general publishing business. You have a writer who creates a manuscript. That manuscript is then sent to an editor who fixes issues with content, syntax, grammar. The writer then produces a final draft, or proof, that is sent to the proofreader to look for any egregious errors that were missed — typos, formatting problems, issues with punctuation. Then, the manuscript goes to print.
It’s the same thing in the legal transcript world. The court reporter is the writer, who produces a stenographic record of the proceeding. The stenographic record is then machine-translated into English and sent to the editor, but in this world, the editor is called a scopist. The scopist makes sure that the steno was correctly translated and that the transcript is accurate and formatted properly. Then, the transcript is sent to the proofreader for a final glance before being returned to the court reporter who will apply any finishing touches and send it on to the ordering attorney.
With my experience in transcription, scoping is something that I have been doing for years, just not in the specialized software used by court reporters. It didn’t take me many jobs with my proofreading clients to start getting comments like, “You should be scoping,” “You’re wasted as a proofreader,” “Don’t settle for proofreading,” “There is a huge demand for scopists with your skills.” It also didn’t take long for some unethical reporters to try to pull a fast one on me and send me work that wasn’t scoped and try to pass it off as a particularly difficult proofreading job. Thankfully, with all of my experience in general proofreading, I know where the line is between editing and proofreading. So when court reporters start to cross the line, I have resources to give them that support my saying, “That’s not what you’re paying me to do.”
So why was I so resistant to scoping, a job that I knew I would excel at and that would very likely double my income in the first year or two? And what’s changed since the pandemic?
1) Wanting More Mobility
I’m rather tired of being chained to a desk. I think back to my time in Europe and how much of it I spent in makeshift offices transcribing. The idea of being able to work from an iPad was so alluring. I worked almost a full week while I was in Oaxaca, but at cafés, parks, and restaurants. The idea of being able to travel and still work at something that doesn’t feel like work without having to carry a ton of equipment was worth the economic sacrifice of continuing to settle for less money than my real earning potential.
With the pandemic, who knows when travel is going to start up again as something that we do easily, if ever. I can’t even think too hard about never being able to travel again because I’ll probably have a meltdown. So I’m instead, I’m focused on other goals that I always put as second to travel and mobility — buying a home, paying off debt, buying a car. Instead of proofreading on my iPad from my living room and bemoaning the fact that I’m not in Morelia or Paris, I can be in my office working at getting those other things so that they’ll be set in place by the time I can start travelling again. And when I can start travelling again, I should be making enough money to be able to tell scoping clients, “I’m off for two weeks at the end of September and won’t have my laptop, but feel free to send me some pages to proofread since I’ll have my iPad.” And on weeks when I’m feeling blah and like I don’t want to work too hard, I can still proofread. So I will have the best of both worlds!
2) Not Having the Money or Energy to Study Scoping
My proofreading course took ages because I was so tired at the end of the day. I certainly couldn’t afford to cut back on my hours to study either. The course itself was quite expensive, over $1,000USD, but doable, especially as a tax deduction. Scoping school, however, was $2,500USD + about $2,000 in software + a way more rigorous curriculum.
The proofreading course opened me up to the industry and I quickly figured out that I don’t need to go to scoping school; I just need a couple of continuing education classes to learn how to read stenography and how to use the software. So I contacted a few scoping schools to see if I could just take the modules I needed. The school I ended up going with reached out to me first from a Facebook post (!), was my second choice, and made me a great deal of $500 to access just the modules I’m missing. They also said they would try to get me a discount on the scoping software, which alone is $1,600USD, but I need other software too (more on that below). Even if I don’t get the discount, I’m looking at about half of what the full cost would have been a couple of years ago.
Moreover, now, I am well-enough buffered that as soon as I sent the payment to the scoping school, I dropped one of my transcription clients to free myself up some time to work on the course. I know that as soon as I get the software, even if I don’t feel comfortable scoping in it just yet (the software is super complex), I should at least be able to proofread in it. So I’m going to start getting a return on my investment pretty fast.
3) Lack of Ambition/Laziness/Misanthropy
I don’t know how much of this is just my personality and how much of it is this Canadian mentality of settling for good enough and not asking for too much out of life, but I’m not very ambitious and I’m pretty lazy. I do want work that is challenging and that pays well, but I don’t want the responsibilities or effort that go with that, so I’m happy to settle on work that is not challenging and pays just okay. I also don’t want anyone making demands on my time that I can’t control. The more I advance in my freelancing career, there is more expected of me and the less control I have over my time — I have client meetings regularly, taxes and bookkeeping are more difficult, I’m mentoring, and I’m now the final eyes on a transcript instead of the first so I can’t just dial it in. I can’t be an office drone anymore; I’m a professional and I need to start acting like one or scale way back.
I’m over that Canadian mentality of settling for good enough and not asking for too much out of life. I snapped at the last person who talked about my house buying plans and said, “Of course, you don’t need anything as big or nice as what you have now.” You know what? I might not need it, but do want it. I want a big house on a lovely lot with a pool. I want nice car in the driveway. When I leave the house, I want to be in clothes that come from a department, not thrift, store. I want someone to do my hair and nails every month. I want to sometimes go out for a meal that costs me a thousand pesos. I want to fly first class. I want a full-time housekeeper and maintenance person. And I want a job I love and that I’m excited to get out of bed for that will let me have all that in a number of working hours a week that gives me plenty of time to enjoy everything I’m working for. Living out this pandemic in my current house has made me realise just how important it is to live in a place that you love and that nourishes your soul and lets you explore your full potential.
4) Loathing of Windows
And now we come to the crux of the matter. I loathe Windows. I have refused to work in a Windows environment for years. I have turned down so many potentially great and lucrative contracts because I would have needed to work in Windows-only software. I hadn’t found a job or a situation that could make me envision going back to Windows from MacOS. I joked that I would do it when the apocalypse came.
The apocalypse came. And I found the job and am in the situation where working in Windows makes sense. It helps that there are now a lot more people in my situation than there were just a few years ago. I’ve found a whole support community of Windows-loathing Mac users who make it work. Most importantly, there is now software that would let me run Windows and the scoping software as essentially an application on my Mac. I wouldn’t actually be working in Windows. I would have Windows and the scoping software open alongside my Mac applications and would not use Windows for anything else. That was a game-changer, especially since I had the foresight to really over spec my Mac mini when I bought it two years ago, so I can effectively run both operating systems simultaneously.
So on top of the scoping software, I need a Windows license and a license for the software I will use to run Windows on my Mac (probably Parallels). I know it’s going to be a mess, but having like-minded people who are in the same situation to go to with questions eases my anxiety a little.
That’s the latest scoop. Soon, I will have reached the top of the transcription food chain, short of being a court reporter, all in time for my 10th anniversary of going into business for myself, which happens July of next year! I’m not settling just for that, though. Oh, no. I’m done settling! I joined a professional organization for editors and those in related fields, so I’m taking classes through them to brush up on my Chicago Manual of Style skills, which I used in that proofreader contract that paid for my European adventures. So I definitely want to continue doing general proofreading as well. I’m no longer a transcriptionist. I’m an editor and proofreader. It’s what I always wanted, but I just didn’t know how to get there. Somehow, against all odds, I made it!
Before I sign off, I promised pictures with these sponsored posts, so here are a few things from the last month.