Some attorneys tend to think we make a lot of money and are just rolling in dough; however, there are some things to consider. Being a freelancer means a lot of overhead. Someone that is a CART provider and broadcast captioner can easily get their own contracts if they’re good, and all they need to do is know how to hook up and provide technical support if their connection goes down to eliminate the captioning firm.
If freelancers try to do everything themselves, it becomes very time-consuming, so most freelancers fall under a firm. Also, firms protect you, in most cases, from attorneys that don’t pay. If an attorney doesn’t pay, you probably won’t pursue them. In my case, my firm pays us every two weeks, whether they pay or not. We have a lower page rate because of all the luxuries of being under such a great firm, but I would rather that than make a great page rate with all the stress of handling every aspect and spreading myself thin, only to worry if I will be paid and when. I like stability.
Your firm will take anywhere from 25-40% in most cases. Taxes will take a good chunk, more if you’re successful. This is why broadcast captioning is extremely appealing. You make less, so less is taken away. I’d rather lessen my desires than increase my income. I remember making $5,000 recently in just two weeks, and taxes (keep in mind, we have no income tax) took out over 1K. Ouch.
So besides the 40% the firm will take out and the 30% taxes will, you have these estimated costs:
replacing machine every 10 years $500
updating laptop every 3-5 years $100-$165 (based on a $500 laptop purchase)
software support contract $300-$600
keeping up with CEUs (attending seminars and the like) $300 a year at least
NCRA dues $250
miscellaneous equipment (UPS packing, paperclips, ink, paper)
food in town, on occasion (because far from home)
pursuing higher certification (optional)
purchasing and replacing netbooks (for realtime)
This is on top of the 13,000+ that you will spend on JUST equipment to get into the field and on top of student loans.
It is expensive to be a freelancer, and attorneys only see what they pay the firm without the overhead, taxes, and firm’s cut being taken out. In the end, we only pocket about 30% once everything is take into account, so keep that in mind. We work hard for every dollar. Attorneys appreciate us here in TN, but I know it is not like that in every part of the country. It is important to have a good support system – your firm, your family, your spouse, other court reporter friends.
Please note that these costs might be significant at first, but as you advance your skill and become realtime, they won’t matter much, if at all. As a first year reporter, you will be tackling your student loans, initial equipment costs, and the ongoing yearly cost to be a freelancer. It’s overwhelming. As you eliminate your student loans and advance your career, the 3K will become negligible.