Why I love court reporting: Aimee Edwards-Altadonna

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna is a freelance reporter in California and a CCRA board member. She recently posted this in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Students, I want to talk to you about how quickly your life can flip into an amazing place once you are certified and out there busting your butt as a court reporter. There is so much work out there, and it’s just crazy. I could work every single day, multiple jobs a day if I chose to. Instead I choose to work about 8-10 jobs a month and am comfortably making six figures by my fourth year reporting in California’s Bay Area and Central Valley. It’s a true story, and I promise you it’s there for the taking if you work hard.

I am about 4 1/2 years into working now, and in that short period of time, my family’s lifestyle has been able to change dramatically for the better. We went from living paycheck to paycheck as a family of four as I struggled through the end game of certification, finally passing all three legs of the Califonia CSR after winning my appeal on the skills portion and overcoming a pretty horrific ankle injury on the night I qualified for the CSR. We were so strapped, my dad had to help sign for the loan for the $2,000 upgrade to professional software. He even paid for my $1,000 local CSR prep class since I could no longer travel for school with my busted ankle — we were financially spent and had nothing else to give to school — but I didn’t give up. Thanks, Dad. I tell you this to give you perspective. We have been the family living on $26 for over a week until the next check came in and just hoping nobody got sick or broken or any other unforeseen event that can happen with a young family with no safety net.

And yet today I am writing you from the Airbnb in Venice on leg two of an epic 25-day trip to Italy! Worry-free because I just worked extra hard last month and billed out twice as much, so I was set to not work this month. We did a long layover in London and are going all over Italy and Sicily and Cagliari for Intersteno so I’m writing off a portion of this awesome adventure.

This career allowed us to plan and pay for this amazing trip. My kids had never been on a plane, let alone a plane to Europe, and my husband and I have waited 21 years to take this trip. At 9 and 12 they will have such a broad world view, and it will change them at their core for the better for having been explorers in another country. This is a profession that can give you the freedom you’ve dreamed of and can take you places you can’t imagine and didn’t even know you wanted.

When you’re feeling stressed or wondering how long it will take before it’s your turn, just remember that the other side is a magical place of freedom and release and all the amazing things. Even on the ickiest day, this is still the best job ever, and we can’t wait to help you get to the other side. On the dark days, I hope this message will inspire you to keep going. I promise the other side is so worth all of the struggle.

Keep going. Just keep going!

NCRA member gets investor for online system for court reporters

NCRA member Lauren Lawrence welcomed her first outside investor to her tech startup, Stenovate, according to the July 5 Startland, a news site that reports on Kansas City innovators. Stenovate is billed to be an online platform for court reporters, scopists, and proofreaders that simplifies organization and collaboration.

Read more.

New Professional Spotlight: Amanda Harwell

Amanda Harwell

By Selana Scott and Michael Hensley, RDR

Amanda Harwell is a graduate of MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill.  As a new professional court reporter, she has started her career with gusto.  Providing coverage for the Chicago area, she handles many different types of proceedings.  Ask anyone who has worked with her, and they’ll tell you she is a force to be reckoned with. She recently spoke to the court reporting students at MacCormac College and gave them advice on how to handle the constant questions from families about when they will be finished with school. When her family was asking, she said she corralled them in one room and made them listen to a recording of someone speaking at a rate of 200 WPM, while she transcribed the recording for them all to see. Needless to say, no one questioned her again about when she’d be finished with school.

JCR |How did you become interested in becoming a court reporter?

AH |I became interested in becoming a court reporter for many reasons. I knew coming straight out of high school I wanted to go into the legal field, but I did not want to commit to the years of necessary schooling. After winning multiple typing class competitions, my typing teacher in high school encouraged me to look into court reporting. After some research, school visits, and talking with seasoned reporters, I was aware this was the career for me.

JCR | Where did you first start working once you graduated/certified?

AH | Immediately following certification I started my employment with Planet Depos.

JCR |What do you love most about being a court reporter so far?

AH | My favorite thing about being a court reporter is the versatility. Being a reporter, you really have to be able to adapt to a number of circumstances, personalities, and deadlines. It keeps me on my toes! I never feel bored, unmotivated, or looking for the next best thing being a reporter. I know that each day will bring different opportunities.

JCR | What advice do you have for students who are near the end of their education?

AH | Never stop practicing. The more consistent you are with practicing following graduation will only make the real world that much easier.

JCR | Why do you think it’s important to give back to students now that you are a new professional?

AH | I believe being a young professional reporter is something that not a lot of students get to see. I know when I was going to school it was difficult to feel like I could achieve this goal considering the age gap of the working reporters I had come into contact with. My ability to relate to the students and their personal educational experience provides realistic insight that is valuable.

JCR | What’s your favorite accessory (gadget) that you bring with you to every job?

AH | I do not work a day without my USB microphone extender. I swear by it. After having my audio compromised with the shuffling of exhibits and attorney notes, I realized I needed something to avoid that from consistently happening. I found a USB extender that allows my microphone to be above the table and avoid being knocked out of place. It is beautiful!

JCR | How has your NCRA certification helped you in your career thus far?

AH | My NCRA certification has allowed me the opportunity to work with a wonderful company. Having my RPR has also made it much easier for me to become certified in multiple states and broaden where I can take work.

JCR | Any other thoughts?

AH | Tell your friends! Court reporting is one of the most rewarding careers there is.

3 Reasons why you should consider court reporting as a career

Education News posted an article on June 26 citing the reasons why someone should consider a career in court reporting.

Read more.

Networking advice for students

Cuyahoga Community College’s (Parma, Ohio) Captioning and Court Reporting Club President, Todd Robie, held a “How to Network at a Conference” seminar on April 3 for all students in the program. Both on-campus and online students were invited to participate. Robie gave valuable pointers for small- to mid-sized conventions and events. As he pointed out, these are your future colleagues and people you may have the opportunity to work with or for in the future. Make it your goal to start building your network!

Here are a few tips and tricks to review and take along with you to a conference you may be attending:

  1. What’s the best thing to get out of a conference? Connections! You want them to remember you and you to remember them.
  2. Everyone expects to meet new people at a conference and to talk with them.
  3. Wear your nametag! It can be a conversation starter in itself.
  4. Remember, folks are especially receptive to students so take advantage of that while you can.
  5. Take the initiative, as that sets you apart from others right from the start.
  6. Start out in a group if you are nervous and then branch out individually.
  7. You are terrific! Keep that in mind because it takes a terrific person to take on the challenge of this career and you have a lot to add to the profession.
  8. Start by preparing and having two basic introductions in mind along with two questions to start conversations. One intro should be a quick one and the second should be two or three sentences. Good news – you can use the same ones over and over again!
  9. Remember, the goal is to turn that conversation into a networking opportunity.
  10. Check out the layout/floor plan of the convention in advance. Common areas are the best places to network.
  11. Take the time to review the schedule and circle potential networking opportunities. Most of your connections will be made outside the sessions in such places as food lines, coffee and drink stations, and breaks.
  12. Do a little research on who is attending the convention and who you would like to meet. Make a list of them.
  13. Keep a file of any business cards you receive and ask them if you can contact them with any additional questions you might have as you continue on your journey as a student.
  14. Take the time to write down what you talked about with the individuals you’ve spoken with.
  15. Of course, dress appropriately.
  16. Feel free to send the people you meet a thank-you email.
  17. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and all those you meet!
  18. So go ahead and join your state and national organizations and make your plans to attend these conventions and conferences!

Don’t miss your chance to save on 2018 Convention registration fees. Register by July 23 to save!








New captioning company in Idaho

NCRA members Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, are the owners of a new captioning company, IdaCaption, located in Boise, Idaho.  IdaCaption provides on-site and off-site CART and broadcast captioning services.

Read more.








Ask the techie: Condensing software

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a freelance reporter and thinking about starting my own business. It’s so intimidating thinking about the many facets of running my own firm! First on my list: Which condensing transcript software should I be considering? There are so many options available that it makes my head spin and I’m not sure which one to choose. Please help!

Concerned About Condensing


Dear Concerned:

Congratulations on taking the next step in your career! Indeed, there are many things to consider when starting your own firm. Glad we are here to help get you started on the right track.

There are several options available for word indexing and condensing. Here are our suggestions.

Cheri Sullivan, RPR, of Memphis, Tenn.: We selected YesLaw after meeting them at the convention in Nashville in 2013. The customer support team has always been great to work with. It is easy to link exhibits, insert a signature/notary seal, insert a picture of the witness, and even place “original” or “copy” on the style page. All eight of us have been happy with YesLaw overall.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Portland, Ore.: We have ReporterBase, a.k.a. RB, for calendaring, transcript production, and invoicing. We produce the transcripts with RB. With it, we can digitally sign, hyperlink exhibits, and create bundles that include full size, condensed, and word indexes. We create these paperless PDF bundles for all clients. We still have clients that want paper and Etran as well.

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, of Nashville, Tenn.: For cross-CAT platform use, our company uses Min-U-Script.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Wayzata, Minn.: After testing several programs, we decided that YesLaw was the best program for our needs. It’s easy to link the exhibits, and the transcripts look great. An added benefit is the transcript generator software integrates with their video synchronization tool so it is a good program to have in case you ever decide to try video/transcript syncing.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Mobile, Ala.: I use Min-U-Script Pro. It’s easy to use, and the final product looks great! Support is available and very helpful as well.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, from Memphis, Tenn.: I use Min-U-Script and absolutely love it! The exhibit linking is another great feature of this particular software. You may add in multiple users, along with their signatures and notary seals for electronically signing the transcripts. I can’t say enough good about it.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark.: I currently use YesLaw for all the reasons already mentioned: It’s very user-friendly, and they have good customer service. You can link exhibits, provide a link to the attorneys for them to download the transcript in every imaginable format (although you have to manually create and include the ptx version, which I would love to see YesLaw incorporate like Stenograph did in their CaseCAT), and all the attorneys have to do is click the link to download/save to their computer. It also has lock-out restrictions if needed, such as to send for read/sign only.

Send your questions about realtime and technology to the technology committee members at jcrfeedback@ncra.org.








PROFILE: Catherine J. Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS

Catherine Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS

Catherine Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS

Freelance court reporter
Currently resides in: Ocala, Fla.
Member since: 1988
Graduated from: Jones Business College, Orlando, Fla.
Theory: I truly do not remember, but after reporting for over 36 years, I call it “Cathy’s Theory”

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an NCRA certification?
PHILLIPS | Personal satisfaction, plus I had just opened a freelance firm and my
business partner and I felt it would help market our firm being certified.

JCR | You have been involved with some of NCRA’s committees. Can you tell us a
little about what you’ve done and how it affects your perspective about the profession?
PHILLIPS | I have chaired NCRA’s National Committee of State Associations; chaired Constitution & Bylaws Committee; chaired the Committee on Professional Ethics; been a member of the Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (or CAPR); and served on the Nominating Committee. I have learned from every committee I have ever served on within NCRA. I have never been just a dues-paying type member. I am one to always be involved. Being involved helps you to become a better advocate for this profession. It keeps you current on the changes in the industry and how to keep yourself viable within the industry. It has also allowed me to network with a lot of reporters, and I have made many lifelong friends.

JCR | Do you have any advice for students in school and people who are just getting out of school?
PHILLIPS | My one piece of advice I cannot stress more to students and new reporters is to learn time management. If you are not an organized person, get organized. This business will provide enough chaos, and if you are organized (if only in your professional life), you will be ahead of the game.

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn the RMR certification?
PHILLIPS | After receiving my RPR, the next natural progression was to attempt the RMR. It is important to me to challenge myself to improve my craft and aim for the next level.

JCR | Why do you think professional certification is important?
PHILLIPS | I believe it’s important to keep achieving the next level. Even if your clients don’t know what your certifications mean, other reporters definitely will, and they respect your level of achievement.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering professional certification?
PHILLIPS | I received my RPR 10 years after I started reporting and received my RMR 9 years after that, so 19 years after I first started reporting. I encourage reporters that you don’t have to have just finished school to attain these advanced certifications. Just practice, and you will reach your goals.

JCR | What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
PHILLIPS | What I love about court reporting is my work experiences change every single day. We are exposed to so many different things that I never even knew existed; or if I did know about them, I’ve learned more about them. Some days are more interesting than others, but it’s always interesting.

JCR | What surprised you about your career?
PHILLIPS | In 1996 I took a leave of absence to do a home therapy program with our son. Before then, I went to work every day and pretty much was just going through the motions. During my leave, I realized how much I loved reporting and how much I missed it when I couldn’t do it. After my leave is when I got involved in my state association in Florida and then NCRA. It was then that I realized I didn’t just have a job, I had a career. I had a renewed love for court reporting.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
PHILLIPS | In 2015, I was awarded the Emily Mann Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Court Reporters Association, and I also became an NCRA Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters (or FAPR). Receiving these two distinctions from one’s peers was very humbling. For them to acknowledge all I had contributed to the profession — that was very rewarding. Of course, I haven’t done all I have done for both associations for the recognition; I do it because I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy doing it.








TAKE-AWAYS: How Firm Owners Executive Conference led two companies to a merger success

Following one of the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conferences, attendee Robin Smith decided to take steps on an idea she had earlier brushed aside. Encouraged by a comment, she decided to approach a second court reporting firm to see if the owners were interested in merging. The JCR asked Smith and business partner Gail McLucas, RPR, to take us through their process.

Smith, although not a court reporter herself, grew up in a court reporting family. She found the business side of court reporting fascinating, and with a degree in business management, became an integral part of her family’s business.

JCR | How long have you been going to the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference?

SMITH | I attended two Firm Owners conferences, one in Sarasota, Fla., and one in Dana Point, Calif. They were several years ago; and while I don’t remember anything specific, I do remember appreciating the opportunity to meet other firm owners and realizing that we all face similar challenges.

I attended the conference in Arizona last year, and Gail and I both attended this year’s conference in St. Pete Beach. I found the conference this year very worthwhile — lots of opportunities to network as well as practical and useful business knowledge. We came away with the realization of two things that we can do better and have begun to take action on them.

MCLUCAS | This year’s Firm Owners convention in St. Pete, Fla., was the first Firm Owners convention I’ve attended.

JCR | What was the impetus for the merger of your two firms?

SMITH | The economic surveys were what started everything. I’ve never been one for completing surveys, but I have completed every one of the economic surveys, maybe because of my experiences at the conferences. When you complete the survey, you receive the survey reports. And this quote from the 2011 report is what started us on this journey: “When asked about economic indicators and what he or she looks for to gauge whether business is about to pick up, he/she responded this way: ‘I am merging with another small company to create a larger company based on the Firm Owners results reported in February 2011.’”

MCLUCAS | It was spring of 2013 when Robin called me and asked me to have lunch with her. The purpose of the lunch was ultimately to discuss the possibility of merging our firms; and upon hearing it, I considered it a wonderful idea.

JCR | Can you give a little bit of history about your firm as well as the history of the firm you eventually merged with?

SMITH | Geiger Loria Reporting was started in 1950 by George Geiger (my stepfather). He was an official for Dauphin County in Harrisburg, Pa., and started a freelance firm as well. Virginia Loria (my mother) joined him in the early 1970s, and so we are a court reporting family. Both my sisters, Helena Bowes and Sherry Bryant, are court reporters. Except for me. I’ve always done the business side of things.

MCLUCAS | I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Court Reporting in June of 1974. From then until the end of 1980, I worked as an official at York County Courthouse. I started working for Geiger Loria in January of 1981. My former business partner, Joyce Filius, and I both worked together at Geiger Loria Reporting Service from 1981 until 1983. We were both from the York area, which is about 40 miles south of Harrisburg, and at the time we saw a need for a court reporting service in the York area. So Filius & McLucas Reporting began in August of 1983.

JCR | Robin, how did you approach Gail with your idea?

SMITH | You know how you have an idea and you think it’s great at first and then you talk yourself out of it? That’s exactly what I did: I talked myself out of it. It wasn’t until I was working with a business consultant and mentioned that I had this idea once and dismissed it. Well, he didn’t. He encouraged me to set up a meeting with Filius and McLucas and, as scared as I was, I did.

MCLUCAS | I was kind of curious about the call for lunch from Robin; however, we would see each other every so often at PCRA luncheons or events. But there was never an ongoing meeting with each other outside of that. But when the idea of a merger was presented to me, I was absolutely thrilled about the whole idea. I knew my business partner, Joyce Filius, was looking to retire and I certainly wasn’t ready to make that move in my life. I, too, have always been a firm believer in there’s force in numbers. So the idea of bringing two firms of comparable size together seemed to be a wonderful idea to me.

JCR | What were some of the issues that you had to work out to make the merger happen?

SMITH | Everything! After a lot of discussion, we decided to start from scratch, create a whole new company with the four of us as owners (myself, Gail, Helena Bowes, RPR, and Sherry J. Bryant, RPR, CRR) and wind down operations of our current companies. Then things became easier to figure out. There are so many things to consider and so many things you didn’t think to consider. It was a very hectic time.

MCLUCAS | I think the initial decision that needed to be worked out was whether there was actually going to be a purchase of assets by one company or the other or a mere “merger” of the firms without the exchange of purchase money. When we discussed the assets that each company had accumulated over the years, we found that we had enough to put together two “households.” After all, a merger is almost like a marriage. We had enough to comfortably supply two office spaces (one in Harrisburg and one in York). Each partner put a small amount of capital into the firm to get it up and running and applied for a line of credit to initially cover payroll and some of our start-up costs. Of course, a name for the new venture is always a consideration. And although it’s a mouthful, we decided to keep the two names of the firms and just run them together because they were well-recognized in the area for over 30 years.

JCR | How long did it take to merge the two firms?

MCLUCAS | We started talking in the spring of 2013 and were hopefully going to have it culminate in September 2013. At first, we had a business consultant involved. But we were not getting answers very quickly from him, so we took it upon ourselves to make the merger happen on our own. That, of course, involved a little more time, and we actually began the merged company, Geiger Loria Filius McLucas Reporting, LLC, on January 1, 2014.

SMITH | From that point, I feel it took two years until everything started to gel. The first year is just a blur. We had to put out a lot of fires and just hang on for dear life. The second year, things started to even out, and we could begin to focus on the bigger picture. 2018 will be our fifth year together, and it’s gone really, really fast.

JCR | What are some of the benefits of merging?

MCLUCAS | I feel the benefits of merging were immense, although scary at first. We were bringing the reporters of the two firms together for the first time, who had been with each of us for 15 to 20 years. Like a marriage, we weren’t too sure how all of our “children” were going to get along. But the benefits have outweighed our fright, and overall the merger has given us a bigger and stronger firm than we both had separately. Also, because I’ve always been “just a reporter,” I really appreciate Robin’s business acumen and her contribution in that respect to the newly-formed company. I always enjoyed the client contact and reporting aspect of the business, but not so much the financial side and forethought that it takes to run a truly successful business.

SMITH | We are stronger together. Together we have more resources, and that helps us to handle the ups and downs of not only day-to-day things but the ups and downs that are inherent in any business and industry.

JCR | Were there any obstacles that you had to deal with after the merger was completed? Were those things that you knew about in advance and had been prepared for, or did they take you by surprise?

MCLUCAS | As with any new business, there are always obstacles that you are presented with and have to deal with on a daily basis. The biggest initial obstacle was we moved not only the Harrisburg office, but we moved the York office (and may I say three times) before we were finally settled in. We were lucky enough to keep the office manager that was with F&M for 22 plus years, and that was sincerely a stabilizing factor for both of us. The building we moved into in January of 2014 didn’t have a permanent space for us until the middle of February. So we moved in February to a space, only to find that within a year we quickly outgrew that space and needed to move to a larger suite in the same building that we have been in since.

The other big hurdle that I think every new business faces is finances. We had a substantial amount of start-up costs; and until all our clients settled back into working with us together, it was a little rough at first. But I don’t think any of this took us by surprise; it was just learning how best to deal with the circumstances we were dealt. And as they say, if it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger – and stronger I feel we are today!

SMITH | I wholeheartedly agree. Because we chose to start from scratch, the financial side of things probably was our biggest obstacle. We were spending money before we even opened our doors; and that took longer to recover from than we had anticipated or planned for.

JCR | Was there something specific about the situation that made it seem like a good idea to merge? Are there conditions that you could describe for someone else so that they might recognize a similar situation?

SMITH | The way we operated our firms on a day-to-day basis was very similar, our values and commitment were closely aligned, and we were in different regional markets so we each brought a different client base to the new firm.

MCLUCAS | I think the main thing that made it seem like it was a really good idea was when we compared financial information. It was like holding two identical companies side by side. But as in running two households, running two businesses is always more expensive than one good, strong one together. For me, that is what really made the situation seem real and that it was a good decision to be made.

I think the partners also have to recognize whether they will be able to work together amicably and not have one be so overpowering as to not consider the other’s opinion. As partners we’ve been able to communicate openly about all things involving the business, and there are no secrets kept from anyone about anything. I think an open and informed relationship is the only kind to have.

JCR | Is there any advice that you would offer to someone who is interested in merging two firms?

SMITH | I think it’s important if you’re going to be essentially handing over your business to someone and they are handing theirs to you and you’re going to be working together, that you like, respect, and trust that person. I’m not sure that’s something that I consciously thought of before we started down this path, and I realize now how important that was and still is.

MCLUCAS | I would say the most important factor is getting to know your potential partner as well as possible. Robin and I set regularly scheduled meetings with each other over the course of nine months before we finally made the merger happen. I hate to keep likening this merger to a marriage; but if you don’t have common goals and ideas as the person you’re going into business with, it could turn out to be a disastrous idea and will only cause heartache and failure. However, 2018 will be our fifth year in this merged company together and I couldn’t be happier with how everything has turned out for the two firms. I’m almost positive [that we] would not have been as successful if we had stayed two separate firms for this period of time.








Setting up a home office

© jnyemb

Many reporters and captioners are freelancers or small business owners, which often means working from home at least part of the time. There are many aspects to working from home, but first you need an actual place to work: a home office.

Picking the space

If you have the space, setting up a home office starts with picking the right room. “I have a third bedroom that is a dedicated office space,” said Angeli English, a freelancer in D’Iberville, Miss. “I picked the bedroom with French doors that open to a deck. Makes it very convenient to let our dog go in and out on the patio.”

Depending on the setup of your house, that space might mean a more nontraditional room, like a loft, where Sabrina Trevathan works. Trevathan, RDR, is a freelancer in Rawlins, Wyo.

If you’re in a smaller space and don’t have a whole room to dedicate, look for a good spot somewhere in your bedroom, living area, or other space. “I live in an apartment and the living/dining are one big room,” said Devora Hackner, a freelancer in Brooklyn, N.Y. “There’s a small alcove by the window that is the exact space designed for my desk.”

Legal videographer LaJuana Pruitt, CLVS, in Bradenton, Fla., found a unique opportunity for work space. “I have a side of a building that was a chiropractor’s office that was added to a home. I bought the home first, and when the chiropractor retired, his office became mine,” she explained. “Separate door, bathroom, parking, air conditioner, etc. This building is zoned professional. In 2007, I remodeled the entire building to be an office space. I took out the shower and added another bathroom where the shower was. I added French doors to the front room. The front room is big enough for a large conference table or video studio. I put in a butler’s pantry for a break area.”

After having the physical space picked out, the next step is making sure you have all the equipment, both for doing the job and for running the business.

First, furniture

Every professional interviewed for this article emphasized the need for a comfortable chair. “Invest in the best because you deserve it with how much you sit, and your body will thank you later in life,” said Donna Linton, RMR, a freelancer and captioner in Ashburn, Va. Of course, make sure you have a desk to go along with that chair, and think about what else you will need to store. You can have a simple space with shelves or turn it into your dream work space. “I had [my office] built out by Closets by Design specifically to my needs, i.e., how many computer stations, where the printer would be, cubbies for different size transcript binders, where the paper would be, and where my machine case would fit,” said Linton.

Having the right stuff

The essential equipment is obvious: steno machine, computer, printer. “I’ve transitioned to captioning in the last year, so I have a TV now so if I’m captioning a show that I have on my television, I can watch my captions,” said Tammy McGhee, RMR, a captioner in Bellville, Ohio. Beyond that, think about potential arrangements and additions. For example, Hackner has a “glass desk with a pullout drawer for an external keyboard and mouse” as well as “a docking station that I just hook my laptop up to, and then I work on a beautiful 29-inch monitor.”

Don’t be afraid to try a new configuration if the original setup isn’t working for you. “I ended up rearranging the space three times to get it right!” said English. It may take time to figure out the best way to organize the space. “I definitely learned how to work more efficiently and what supplies I needed to keep within reach,” said Trevathan. “I’ve got awesome storage space in my office; we planned it that way when we added this portion onto our house.”

Since Pruitt has more space, she’s organized the rooms as a more standard office and a production space. “One is my office with the standard equipment. I have a desk, credenza, bookshelves, chair, fax machine, scanner and printer as well as anything I can’t find a place for,” she said. “The other room houses the production room. It contains computers, a robotic printer, DVD recorders, mixers, cameras, tripods, bags, etc.”

Working from home means being able to run a business, so make sure you have all the necessary software and supplies. Consider having a word processing program like Microsoft Word (or the entire Microsoft Office suite) and accounting software like QuickBooks, and of course, make sure you have up-to-date CAT or captioning software with tech support. Think about cloud or digital storage along with physical storage. Pruitt also uses Wondershare and Adobe Premiere for video editing and has projectors, screens, and lighting.

Trevathan lives in a rural area, so she needs to make sure she has access to all the supplies she needs – it’s not easy to just run to the store. These include binding combs, transcript covers, index and exhibit tabs, copy and printer paper, a schedule book, address labels and different sizes of mailing envelopes, and extra toner. Linton has two whiteboard calendars, a speakerphone, and a fireproof safe to store exhibits. And don’t forget the basics like pens, paper clips, a stapler and staples, etc.

The tax element

If you work from home, you may be able to claim your home office on your taxes. “My CPA figured out a percentage of how many square feet my office is and writes off that same portion of my utilities,” said McGhee. Your accountant should have a formula to determine how much the write-off actually is, and don’t forget to ask about additional spaces like an adjoining bathroom, storage space in another part of the house, or any other area that’s designated as work space.

Make it yours

Since you’ll likely be spending lots of time in your home office, think about what would make it a comfortable space for you. “I’ve got my NCRA certificates and notary certificate framed and on the wall,” said Trevathan, along with her family’s schedules. “I wanted to be able to look out the window, so I had the desk location configured that way,” said Linton. “I wanted it sunny, so I painted it yellow.” English uses Longaberger baskets and “pretty stackable boxes with positive sayings on it” as storage, and she also recommends having “pictures of loved ones to remind you to be grateful.”

Pros and cons

The positive aspects of having a home office are pretty clear: “You can work when you need to,” said McGhee, and Pruitt said she “can cook, clean, launder, and have my animals under my feet.” Trevathan likes that she doesn’t “have to go out of the house to go to an office to do my editing and binding.” Linton added: “If I go to sell the home, anyone who doesn’t want an office can easily turn it back into a bedroom. They might even like to use it as a craft room or a homework space for the kids.”

However, having work nearby in a home office is both an advantage (can’t beat the commute) and a disadvantage. “Sometimes you feel like it’s hard to get away from work,” said McGhee. Trevathan echoed this: “I always feel like I need to be working and never leave work. I’ll run upstairs to the office to return a phone call and end up working on transcripts for an hour before I even realize it.” Perhaps English has figured out the trick, however, to maintaining boundaries. “You can walk out and leave the work behind,” she said. Having a dedicated space for work can mean literal help with compartmentalizing, so when you close the door, you leave the work at work.