Every Black Friday, all of the major companies have incredible discounts for their professional software. Everyone is in school for at least a year and can plan for one of these sales! Yet many people don’t know they exist, or they don’t take advantage of them. This alone saves you 2-3K. It is a costly mistake to buy a machine or software full price. You can buy machines used all the time, throughout the year, but the software, you have to invest in it around Black Friday for a fair price.
As a new reporter, make sure you ASK what the going page rate is from at least five people in your area. Also ask the reporters what they get for appearance in court and in freelance.
Not asking is not the biggest mistake you can make, though it’s close. The absolute biggest mistake you can make is working for one firm at first. It will be tempting to sign on with one big firm. They can offer guaranteed checks in two weeks, complete handling of production, and a full schedule, but here is why you should NOT do this:
1. A firm who can offer payment every two weeks will have lower rates. Bigger firms generally cut deals with clients and other firms to get as large as possible. You will hurt your profession by working below a certain amount.
2. If you work as an employee for any firm, whether captioning or freelance firm, they own you. This is the reality. An independent contractor can ask for the holidays off, the weekends off, can control the work flow for the most part. Once you are an employee, they have the ability to schedule you on any job and any day they see fit without asking you, even if you’ve requested off or even if you don’t feel comfortable with the job. If they want you to do realtime and you’re not qualified or if they want you to give out drafts for free, they can. How can tell them you’re busy?
3. You become babied and stick with what you know. If you work under a big firm, they do all the production for you and offer in-house proofers at low, low rates, pay for your mileage, and UPS. There’s only one firm’s rules to remember. Taxes are easier because everything is online for you to refer back to. So if things are not going well, you are less likely to leave because you have to purchase your own printer, your own realtime equipment, find your own proofer and pay for all the things you weren’t paying for previously (like mileage, UPS). It is good to start out working with multiple firms so you can figure out what you like and what is worth it and so that you can control your schedule to prevent from becoming overwhelmed.
If I could only offer two bits of advice to a new graduate, I would say, do NOT work for just one firm at first and do NOT start without finding out what is a fair rate. These two bits of advice, while simple, will save you thousands of dollars. Just put yourself out there! Don’t settle for one firm in the first year.
(1) Buy software during Black Friday sale.
(2) Ask reporters from various firms in the area the going page rate and appearance rate is.
(3) Don’t work for one firm initially.
Outside of these three points, not practicing every day is probably the most expensive thing, along with not investing in varied dictation, but I will save these topics for another post because they apply to students only.