The Unpaid Invoice

254 pages of a grueling child custody case, silence, an unpaid invoice, and a scopist who was left feeling a myriad of emotions: Violated. Deceived. Confused. Cheated. Inadequate. Angry. Angry at myself and angry at her.

I’d love to say that I’m not sure what I was thinking when I took a 250-page transcript as my first scoping job, but that would be a lie. I knew what I was thinking. I was timid, scared, and dealing with depression. I was desperate to be given a chance to prove myself. And, to make matters worse, I was incredibly naive. 

To be honest, it never even occurred to me that I should protect myself by taking a small job. And, more importantly, I was in complete denial about the importance of contracts. I just wanted to get my scoping career off the ground. But my eagerness to hit the ground running nearly ended my career before it even began. 

It was a terrible feeling to work my ass off for someone, miss quality family time I can never have back, only to be left feeling disrespected and used.

Her communications went from helpful and understanding to incredibly upset, and finally silent, leaving me guessing as to if she would ever pay me. Spoiler alert: She didn’t.

Months later, I finally came to terms with the fact that she was never going to pay me, and I found myself believing the lie that maybe I just wasn’t worth being paid.

But really, in the end, it wasn’t solely about the money. It was also about respect.

But instead of implementing policies that would protect me from similar situations in the future, I just came to the inaccurate conclusion that something was wrong with me, and that all I needed to do was be good enough and somehow the problem would be solved. Oh, how wrong I was. I’ve since come to learn that insecurity held me back and, to this day, has never served any positive purpose in my life.

Scope a Small Job and Wait for Payment

While there are many ways I could have protected myself, if I could go back and tell past me two things, they would be: Take a small job, i.e., nothing over 50 pages, and wait for payment before you accept another job. Sure, it may not have prevented the inevitable, but getting stiffed for $50 isn’t quite as bad as losing $250, let alone the days of work.  It’s easier to protect yourself from the start than to spend your time and energy trying to chase them down later.

Another important reason for taking a small job is the fact that you’re able to evaluate if said reporter is a good writer. This alone will save you time, money, energy, sanity. The list goes on.

As you can probably tell, I’ve been that scopist, and “frustrated” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt working with a bad writer. I was constantly thinking of how I was missing out on life, losing my much-needed energy for other jobs, and essentially losing money. I’ve since learned to only take small jobs, evaluate if I want to work with that client again, and then continue or abruptly end the business relationship. Keep in mind, you may hear rude and downright disrespectful comments if you share that their writing is the reason you can’t continue, but the alternative is so much worse.

However, it’s not purely for selfish reasons either. It’s for the reporter’s protection as well. Their time is even more valuable than a scopist’s. Just like a lawyer’s time is more valuable than a court reporter’s. I’m not saying one is worthier than the other, simply that the line “My time is just as valuable as yours” is inaccurate. Try to remember that reporters have very little time to lose, and be sure to always respect their time by taking a small job when first starting out. There are too many reporters out there lamenting about the amount of scopists that are just terrible and not worth the trouble. It’s hurting our profession and just causing all-around frustration and chaos.

So while taking a small job may not protect you 100 percent of the time, it will help minimize your risk.

I debated ever making this public, but I hope that by sharing my story and creating awareness, this will help someone else avoid going through something similar. Because, like I said before, I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy.

I now know I’m not the only who has felt this wave of emotions, but back then, I didn’t have anyone to tell me otherwise. Joining support groups and networking has been invaluable for me. Just knowing that there are others out there who completely understand, empathize, and can offer helpful advice, is priceless.

I wish getting stiffed wasn’t such a common occurrence, but it is, so let’s find ways to avoid it together.

Has anything like this happened to you? How do you avoid being screwed over?

Leave me a comment down below!


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  2. Natalie
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