How to Make Money Proofreading Transcripts for Court Reporters
Work from Anywhere
If you're like me, you love flexibility in the workplace. Being able to take a nap when you need to, a long lunch if you want to, or be able to make an emergency trip to the grocery store-- working at home offers many benefits. You create your own schedule and each day offers a new challenge--you'll notice when you've got your hands in a bunch of different things, the weeks fly by, too!
Proofreading transcripts at home--or anywhere--for court reporters is a great way to make extra income. If you have an eye for error, love reading, and want to make a real income or just extra money doing something in which you're truly skilled, proofreading legal transcripts may be for you!
This comprehensive hub will cover:
- What a transcript is
- What a court reporter is and what they do
- How much money you can make proofreading transcripts
- Recommended equipment for efficient proofreading
- Lots of tips for proofreading transcripts
- How to bill court reporters for your work
- Where to get the necessary training to learn the skills
What is a Transcript? What is a Court Reporter?
In a lawsuit, there is any number of legal meetings that take place to gather testimony and evidence for the case. These legal meetings can take the form of a deposition, hearing, case management meeting, compulsory medical examination, and more. More often than not, an attorney that's party to a case will hire a court reporter, or court stenographer, to take down, verbatim, everything that is said inside the deposition or hearing. They use a steno machine with a very strange looking keyboard that allows them to type shorthand very quickly.
The record of words exchanged throughout the legal meeting is called a transcript. The court reporter uses a variety of computer-aided transcription (CAT) software to transcribe his or her notes from the meeting into plain English. Just like your English teacher may have told you in high school-- have someone proofread your essay! It is very easy for court reporters to miss lots of mistakes in their transcripts, so they hire on a proofreader to read each word of their transcript, very carefully. Now we'll discuss what makes a good proofreader and what skills you need in order to make money proofreading for court reporters.
Skills You Need to Become a Proofreader
Not everyone has what it takes to become a proofreader. In fact, once people find out what I do for a living, a surprising number of them say, "I should do that!" -- and I've even tried to train a few of them. It shocked them when I showed them how many errors or inconsistencies they missed. Many folks have a true weakness when it comes to reading and recognizing when spelling or grammar is incorrect. However, if you've got a knack for picking out errors, spotting inconsistencies, and have the willingness to learn how to specifically proofread court transcripts, this might be an ideal side job (or career!) for you.
- Advanced grammar and spelling knowledge. You need to recognize when things have been spelled incorrectly. If you proofread a transcript from a computer or iPad, highlighting the word and pasting it into Google will help you determine if a spelling is correct if you're not sure. Ideally, your grammar, spelling, and eye for detail should be so accurate that you find yourself proofreading anything in print--even on television! It should annoy you to find typos in books and on printed materials. Having this kind of eye for error makes proofreading fun and you can work faster.
- A rock-solid attention span. Some transcripts can be VERY long and intense. And they're not always interesting. The majority of transcripts are workers' compensation, court hearings, bankruptcy cases, and other non-exciting things that can make some people go cross-eyed and crazy. Being able to concentrate and recognize when it's time to take a break is important to being a good proofreader. Especially when starting out, expect headaches to come your way when reading a large volume of pages--this is all part of the "training" process.
- A flexible schedule. If you already work a 14-hour day, taking on reporters to proofread for may not be the best decision for you. Court reporters are often very busy and sometimes transcripts are ordered on an expedited basis, meaning they will need you at a moment's notice. Taking more than two business days to return a transcript is too long. You need to leave your schedule open to allow time to proofread thoroughly.
How much money can you make proofreading for court reporters?
How much money you earn proofreading transcripts depends largely on what the rate is in your area. Once you've connected with court reporters in the area, ask them what rate their current proofreader, if applicable, is charging. At least meet their rate. Proofreaders commonly earn 35 to 65 cents per double-spaced page of 25 lines. This can add up to anywhere from $35 to $65 or more per hour, depending on the type of transcript, how quickly and efficiently you read, and the turnaround speed required (regular or expedite/rush). Workers' compensation transcripts that have a lot of short, yes-and-no answers with 3-4 words per line are the easiest and quickest.
You can also charge the reporter more per page when the transcript is especially heavy in medical terminology, which is harder to read and takes more work and time to proofread. You can make 45 to 65 cents per page on expert transcripts. Generally the court reporter is paid more for these transcripts anyway, so it makes sense that the proofreader would earn more as well for the extra work. In addition, if the transcript is expedited, you also have the opportunity to charge more per page, depending on how quickly the reporter needs you to proofread.
As a rule, be fair when billing your reporters. If your transcript was an expedited workers' compensation deposition that you read on a Saturday when you had nothing else to do, don't bill your reporter for expedite. This is a great way to build rapport with the court reporters you proofread for.
Let's talk numbers. You can make REAL money proofreading at home for court reporters. To date, the author of this hub has been working full-time as a proofreader since October 2012. She earns on average $3,000 per month proofreading part time. The "record" amount earned in a single month was over $5,500. Real amounts earned are before taxes, of course. Hours worked neared that of a full-time job with earnings above $5,000: 30-40 hours. On average, expect to work 20-25 hours to make $3,000, assuming you work efficiently and have enough clients.
If you've been slaving away at a desk job for $15 per hour, you may be surprised how building a career can double, triple, or even quadruple the amount you can earn in an hour. You may catch yourself surprised by how few hours it now takes you to earn what you used to earn in a full day's work at your "old job"!
2014 Earnings Chart
Tips for Proofreading Transcripts
How to Write the Corrections
There are three main ways to proofread transcripts. You may encounter reporters that prefer it one way over another. One way to proofread is by printing out an entire transcript and reading the hard copy. Mark the corrections clearly with a pen, then scan in the pages on which you've made corrections to your computer. Then, email that file back to the reporter or agency. This method has several advantages:
- You don't need to sit at the computer to do it. You can take the work anywhere!
- You can sometimes catch more mistakes when you're reading a hard copy.
- No need to switch back and forth between programs on your computer to type down corrections. Sometimes a simple mark is all you need when marking on the transcript--listing corrections often requires you to describe the error: "No comma after "hustle".
Disadvantages of hard-copy reading include:
- You need to provide your own laser printer, paper, and scanner (Use every sheet of paper twice (two blank sides!).
- Scanning lots of pages is extremely time consuming.
The second method to proofread is reading directly on your computer and listing the corrections in an errata sheet, either in a Word document or an e-mail.
If you choose this method, write your corrections clearly and concisely, and make it easy for the court reporter to understand what your correction is.
Advantages to this method include:
- No ink/toner or paper needed!
- If you've got a laptop with an internet connection, you can read the transcript anywhere.
- You may miss some errors reading on a screen.
- If you don't have an internet connection, you may not have access to your work anywhere.
- If something goes wrong, you could lose your entire list of corrections if you haven't saved your work.
The third, and preferred way to proofread is using an iPad outfitted with the Branchfire app, iAnnotate. An iPad may be purchased new, used, or refurbished. iAnnotate is available for just $9.99 on the app store. This fantastic app allows you to open PDF files directly from an e-mail into the app and... that's it! Start reading. Create your own toolbox and stamps so you don't have to type out "add comma" or "delete comma" over and over again. You'll find the strike-through, highlighter, and typewriter tools to be most effective.
Advantages of proofreading on an iPad with iAnnotate are:
- Low overhead! NO paper. NO ink. One-time charge of your iPad and the app.
- Your work becomes incredibly mobile. Read in the car (when you're not driving!), read on a plane, in an airport, in a waiting room.
- Saves tons of time. No typing out explanations for errors, no printing and scanning pages. The app also makes it very quick to "pull" corrected pages, so there is no need to keep track of them in any way. Simply click the mail tool, then select "Annotated Pages Only". Done!
- "Teaching" your clients to send in PDF. There are ways to convert a .txt file on your end, but the cleanest way to do it is to have a PDF from the get-go. Have the reporters download a PDF writer from CutePDF. Then they can "print" to PDF from inside their software.
- The initial expense of the iPad -- but don't worry, you will be able to work faster and waste way less time, plus the cost of the iPad is a completely valid business expense, especially if you use it solely for work purposes.
You have a few options for billing reporters. If you only have a few clients, use a simple Excel spreadsheet to record each transcript you read. Include on the invoice a column for:
- The date you read the transcript
- The job or transcript number for the reporter's convenience (if provided)
- The name of the deponent or short description of the transcript
- The number of pages in the transcript that you read
- The rate per page charged
- The total charge for the transcript