Take Advantage of the “Down” Days

We are all so busy, so married to our work calendars – when do we have a reporting assignment, when is this one due, that one due, when is our next software training, annual convention, etc – that sometimes we forget to schedule ourselves in. Time off is critical to our longevity in this field. I’ve seen many reporters get burned out in their first 2, 5, 10 years. We need you too much, so please don’t let this happen to you!

I had a “baby” court reporter that I mentored and she said that she would always schedule “off” Day 8 from the day she took a deposition to be sure that she would be able to produce it if she hadn’t already gotten it finished. While this may not work for the heavy hitters out there (who are hopefully using scopists and proofreaders!), for someone who is just starting out in this business and learning the time management skills, I found this a really great option. She found a way to slow herself down in case she needed to. And, if she was caught up, she could either take an additional assignment or just have the day to do what she needed or wanted to do.

This life is supposed to be about balance. I said “supposed” to be because we all know that sometimes we get bogged down in pages and can barely come up for air. This is unhealthy. I’m minded of the scene with Jack Nicholson in The Shining (“all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”). Nor am I saying that I am very good at this; I’m still trying, 24 years later, to figure out the balance – but I *am* getting better at it!

So if that job cancels for next week, don’t fret. Instead, take it for the gift that it really is. Maybe go see a movie or get a pedicure. Take time to call a friend and meet up for a cup of coffee or a walk along the greenway.

When your friend calls and says she’s coming to town for a visit, get out your calendar and block off the day. When there’s a show that you want to see coming in, buy the tickets. PUT THE EVENT ON YOUR CALENDAR. If something comes up (an assignment), you have the right to say, “No, I’m sorry. I’m busy that day.” They don’t need to know WHY you’re busy, just that you can’t cover that assignment. It’s OKAY to say no. Your first duty should be to yourself and your own well-being.

This business is fast paced and sometimes your body clock needs to hit that reset button. Listen to your body. Take a nap, run some errands, sit by the pool. Don’t worry; the work will still be there when you get back. And you will feel refreshed after taking the down time.

Traveling for Work

I love to travel. Being able to travel for work is amazing. I’ve got some great clients who actually bring me with them to assist in their work. I’ve been able to see some great places (the Peace Palace!) and do very interesting work.

The hardest parts of the travel for work are the long days and the inability to really move much. We’re up early for breakfast, and then to set up our room (or re-set) and get the outputs ready for the day. Then it’s eight or nine hours of on-record time. Then it’s another three or so hours to wrap up the final transcript. By then, dinner, well, usually it’s room service or from the in-hotel restaurant.

Doing what we do, we’re seated all day. There’s really little opportunity to get up and move around much, and even though many places we travel to offer the opportunity to walk around, well, at night, it’s a little iffy for a foreigner.

I find myself adding a day on the end of the trips to just recuperate after a long assignment, to take in the flavor of the locale, and, frankly, to sleep in a bit. There’s usually a pretty long day of travel between me and my home, and that can be challenging too.

The best part of the down day is just the lightness of spirit – knowing that we’ve done a great job and that there is nothing on my plate that needs to be done NOW! I only have to relax and enjoy the locale.

This time it was Paris. City of Light. I had one day to wander about the 5th and savor the sights, the sounds, the smells of a city I really enjoy. Although I’m not TOTALLY refreshed, I’ll be in a much better frame of mind and body to take on that trans-Atlantic flight.

I hope you get a chance to travel for your work. It’s a challenge and a true gift.

A Full Weekend

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the NCVRA spring meeting in Cary.  About 30 professional reporters from across the state gathered to be educated on technology, ethics, and the rules about being a Notary Public as they apply to court reporters.  It was a great meeting with a lot of information imparted.  I love interacting with my colleagues.  I always get such a good feeling from a conference to take back with me and inspire me.

On Sunday was the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon and Half Marathon.  I walked the half marathon.  It wasn’t my best time, but I did finish.  It was a beautiful day for a walk in Raleigh – the weather FINALLY cooperated for a gorgeous sunny day.

Court reporting and endurance events have a lot in common, and I dropped the ball on Sunday for sure.  When you’re training for an endurance event, your stamina is key.  Having a good breakfast and staying hydrated, getting a good night’s sleep beforehand, all play a role in your performance.  In reporting, you need to be focused all day long, totally concentrating, and if you’ve not eaten or had a good night’s sleep, you could “bonk” – kind of like I did in the half.

I came home from our meeting mentally drained.  Instead of eating a good dinner with carbs and protein and some veg, I had a bowl of cereal.  Then I got up early and didn’t eat a good breakfast (who eats at 5 in the morning?).  Even though I was well hydrated, I didn’t keep my fuel level up for the race and as soon as I crossed the finish line, I took myself to the medical tent, where I slammed back 750 ml of Gatorade, a liter of water, a banana, a chocolate milk, and then put cold towels on both my forehead and my neck.

My body had to recover – and it’s doing so slowly.  In a deposition, I know that if I don’t take care of my energy level, I can get sleepy AND my translation can suffer.  Yes, I’m still taking it down, but because I’m not “on my game” at the competitive level, if you will, my words will slur and there could be some interesting output.  Computers’ “brains” aren’t as savvy as ours.

I’ve learned my lesson, I hope.  Keep your energy level up at all times.  Bonking is not fun.  Instead, keep hydrated, have small snacks throughout the day, listen to what your body is telling you.  Our record is so important that it’s critical that we stay focused at all times.  You never know when a short sprint of a deposition will turn into a (half) marathon, and it’s important to keep your energy level up and your furnace stoked.

after race 2014

My New Marketing Theme

It’s been a little while since I developed my Web page and worked with branding.  I’ve now got a few irons in that fire, as it were.  I’ve recently done a mailing for my transcription business (be on the lookout!) and I’ve got my new business cards designed.

My original scoping company used black on white.  My first reporting company used green and black on ivory.  This time I’m going bold.  I believe after 20 years in the business, I want to show that I do stand out.  So I’m going with a nice cranberry color with black and white – and just a hint of “gold” as a little nod to my pretty medal.

My cards and marketing aren’t the only thing making me stand out, I hope.  I think I produce an excellent transcript and give wonderful customer service.  I hope my clients find me personable and professional at the same time.   I think my cards will represent my personality.  I can’t wait to hand them out.  See you at a deposition, or a meeting, or a hearing…

Working with a New Web Host

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a while.  One reason is that I’ve been incredibly busy, for which I’m truly grateful.  The other reason is that when we switched from using a format I was used to, I found myself putting off learning how to use the new format.  So here we are, two years later, trying to learn.


So much has happened since 2012 that all I can really say is thank you to my clients.  I’ve been taken overseas to work as a scopist.  I’ve added a couple of new reporters as as clients.  I’ve been called to cover some really great reporting assignments.  I’ve even given a program or two.  And, of course, I won that shiny gold medal.  (To this day, I’m still in shock!)

In the next few months I’ll be adding more content to my Web site, both for use as a research tool for my friends who are interested in voice reporting and also for my colleagues who would like access to some of my Power Point presentations.  This is DEFINITELY a work in progress, but now that I’m IN Word Press, I promise to take those baby steps into learning how to use it more effectively.

1099 Time… Again

How does January 31 sneak up so quickly on me every year?

I mean, really.  Before Christmas I got all – and I do mean all – my personal bills in envelopes, tallied, and ready for just the last bills.  My BUSINESS stuff, well, not so much.  There’s a pile there waiting to be filed.  And, of course, miscellaneous income 1099s and the business personal property tax filings are due 1/31 and 2/1, respectively.  Oh, my.

And, inevitably, my week before the due date is chock-full of work.  Daily copy stuff, regular transcription, my own reporting.  Somehow I will find a way to file all this stuff, run the reports, confirm my ownership of stuff.  But, really, couldn’t we just wait until February 15th?  Is it too much to ask?


Getting back in the swing…

The last post had to do with freelancing and the freedom we have.  So much freedom do I have that I took FOUR WEEKS off.  And now, for the past week, I’m trying to get back to ‘normal’ for me.

The cash flow is off, of course, but so is my body clock.  I had to let everyone know I’m back and ready to work.  Had to do all the little things that didn’t get done while I was gone (my list is nowhere near finished, either) and get my paperwork back in order (hello, tax time!).

But I hit the ground running!  Took a dep on Friday, picked up two rush scope jobs, accepted two more dep dates from different attorneys (woo-hoo!) and scheduled all of this week.  The 1099s aren’t done yet.  Neither is the one transcript that I need to get out.  (Lucky me, my client knew I’d be gone for a long time and wasn’t in a rush for it; but it’s going out today; colleagues, don’t do this – it was DEFINITELY a special situation and a superspecial client.)

I’m glad to be home, sleeping in my own bed, working at my desk and not my mother’s kitchen table in the RV.  Glad to have my stuff around me and my crazy life back.  There is no normal in a freelancer’s life, but there certainly is familiar.  And the time off really does make you appreciate your freedom.  Back to work!

Happy freelancing.

The Freelance Life

Being a freelancer gives you, well, freedom.  It’s been a wonderful “holiday” season – I’ve had a few transcripts to get out, but I’ve been having a lovely time visiting with family and friends.  Yes, I would have been able to take time off had I been working a full-time job (say, with the State), but I didn’t have anywhere near the time I’ve taken already (since 12/23) and that I have yet to take (perhaps until the 18th?).  The liberation I am feeling is awesome!

Of course, my cash flow for February will probably take a bit of a hit, but how do you quantify the quality of life?

I’m looking forward to getting back to work – eventually.  In the meantime, I love the ability to do my editing on a netbook computer with a WiFi connection, and the ability to finalize transcripts on the Web.

Happy Freelancing!

Welcome 2012

Two years ago I set down a few of my “resolutions” for the year.  Like most people, I didn’t achieve them.  I’m not really sure why.  Were they unattainable?  Did I not make out a good plan?  Were they more like dreams than actual goals?  Not sure.  So this year I resolved to not make any New Year’s Resolutions.

Instead, I have decided to look at the direction my life and my career is taking and evaluate if it is still the direction I wish to continue in.  What pieces of my old life can I shed?  What facets of my career no longer serve?  What goals do I see that I can attain and what are the steps to take to do so?  What are the things I’d like to do, just for me?

So here they are, in a nutshell.

I’ll still be a court reporter for my clients, but I’m not going to be the whirling dervish I have been in the past, working for different agencies all over the place.  I’m going to continue to work in my scoping business, but I’m going to develop a daily-copy client base (based on the west coast would be awesome, especially since we know I’m not a morning person).  I’m going to make myself available to travel with my daily copy reporter(s) – esp. if they need to go overseas!  I have my passport, it’s current, and I’m so willing to see new places!  I’m going to train a couple of new scopists so that my client base doesn’t have to feel left in the lurch.  I’m going to LEARN how to use the other software that I purchased so that I can be as proficient on it as I am on my main software program.  Oh, that just makes me more versatile.

I’m going to, along with my spouse, clean out the clutter – from our garage, from our closets, from our kitchen cabinets – and really focus on the important stuff.

The lifestyle changes I started at the tail end of 2011 will continue, I hope.  Better eating habits, more exercise (I really am enjoying the yoga), more local stuff, and hanging out with friends.

It won’t be horrible if none of these come to pass, but I’m not as daunted by these as I was by the others (giving myself a deadline to take a test and pass?  Sure way for it NOT to happen).

I hope your resolutions/challenges/promises/changes, whatever, are meaningful to you and that you succeed in the direction in which they point you.

New Website

Things are looking a little different around here!

At Pittman Stenography, we want to make sure our clients get the best service possible. To make your experience with us even easier, we’ve partnered with Redwood Productions to bring you a new and improved, easy-to-use website.

What do you think? Find us on Facebook and tell us about it!