So I got a call the other day from a colleague. She was worried that she was asking for too much. I’ve had this call off and on throughout the years. I’ve even received judgment from fellow court reporters on my practices of actually asking what the rate is and turning the agency down if the rate is too low or asking for “too much.” The term “greedy” has even floated past my ears along with the B word.
I think we need to get rid of this notion that we are being greedy when we ask for more than they’re offering. That’s kind of an insane concept if you ask me. On the whole, I think that most court reporters are too eager to sell themselves short. They’re afraid that they’ll never work again, so oftentimes they’ll accept the first job offer they get and don’t bother to check the rates.
Or they hear the rates, but don’t realize that it is very low or they’re desperate for work. The agency will call and say, hey, I got a great job, there will be tons of copy orders and there’s going to be 20 depos, I’d love for you to cover them. BUT the rate is going to be lower than what you’re expecting. We had to give them a “good deal” so that we could get all the work. Hmmm. Let me think. I’ll be working harder and making less. Sounds awesome. Let me sign up.
STOP RIGHT THERE. Is this great for you? How will this impact your industry? Is this a downward spiral? Well, we told them that for this case, they’ll be getting realtime and rough and a five-day turnaround for one low, low price. But you’ll still be getting volume and making a ton of money.
I feel that I am being sold a used car, and they don’t want me to check under the hood. I feel like this is how the OC ended up being in the state it is with regards to page rates.
But back to my main point. Asking for more is not a crime. It is not something that you should be afraid to do or feel that it will reflect badly on you. In fact, let’s get rid of this term “asking for more.” You’re not asking for more like Oliver Twist asking for more pudding. You are “negotiating.”
You are a businessperson and you are negotiating your rates. The agency has their rates. You have your rates. Sometimes you will accept their rates; sometimes they will accept your rates. And sometimes you two will negotiate to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. Sometimes you will not come to an agreement, and then both sides will walk away. No harm, no foul. Just because you asked for more does not make you greedy. Just because they didn’t meet your rate doesn’t make them a “bad” agency.
If you hear the agency say, we just can’t pay your rates because they’re too high. STOP. Do not take this as a reflection on yourself that you’re “asking for too much”. It is a reflection on the agency that their salespeople did not properly negotiate a rate that takes into account that they will need to hire a third-party independent contractor who actually has to do the work and that we have worth. That’s not your fault. You don’t need to “help” them out to cover the job. The agency can look around for someone who will do it cheaper (yes, there will always be someone.) Or you guys can “negotiate” a rate that will work for both of you.
Here’s a secret. The reporters who ask for more are never the reporters without jobs. Wow!! Whoa!!! That seems entirely counterintuitive. If you’re asking for more, aren’t you working less? Nope. If you ask for more, you can work less, and still make the same amount of money.
The reporters who take the lower paid jobs never seem to quite be able to make ends meet; right? Think about it. They have to work five days a week to make the same amount as the reporter who negotiated a higher rate. They’re maybe doing less lucrative work. They’re having to produce more pages to make the same dollar amount. Of course, I am assuming that you are a decent reporter and that you have agencies who call you and ask you to cover jobs for them. If you only work with one agency or never take overflow from other agencies, it’s very hard to negotiate.
I mean, there’s always the chance you’ll price yourself out of the market, but I have not seen that happen yet with any of the reporters that I know. And I know many of the “high-end” reporters. In fact, I know some reporters who are raising their rates this year. I even know one who says they raise their rates every year. Wow!! They get some push back at the beginning. But then the agency still comes back to them. That’s because they put out a great product and the agency knows they can depend on them to cover the technical cases.
So you need to build that into your rate. When you are negotiating your rate, they’re not only paying you to sit there and take down the depo. They’re paying you to control proceedings, interrupt when necessary, have a certain skill level in terms of vocabulary and expertise in order to take the material down, provide realtime, provide a rough, get the transcript out. Remember, you spend more time out of depo than in depo. Plus you must pay scopists and proofers. You have to factor in your costs into the rate that you are negotiating.
Just like the expert witness depo they’re taking, they’re not paying the rate they do because he’s a nice guy. They pay it because of his expertise. We are professionals and should also be paid for our expertise. I think you rarely hear of an attorney or doctor or expert witness saying, well, you’ll get to work on 20 surgeries or 20 cases, but we’d like you to drop your rate because we have to give the client a really good deal. I think most doctors and expert witnesses would laugh their heads off. Most of the expert witnesses I know raise their rates.
The goal here is not to work more, but to make more.