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How to Lead a Freelance Team


How to Lead a Freelance Team

by Andrea Shields Nunez

With freelancers making up an ever-increasing percentage of the American workforce — studies estimate up to 40% by 2020 — business owners, executives, and managers are tasked with learning how to lead teams that are vastly different than traditional salaried employees.1

I recently facilitated a workshop titled “Leaders as Agents of Change” at the AAERT 2017 Annual Conference. There was a great group of participants, most of whom were small business owners who use teams of freelancers to handle much of their client work. While the participants reported that they understand the value in the approach I was sharing, the question of how to lead a team of non-employees came up again and again.

As I reflected on this question and how I could have addressed it better, I concluded that leading a freelance team requires all the same things leading any team does, but with a few important nuances.

Here are four absolute musts.

You must clarify your mission and vision. Who are we and where are we going?

Leading anyone, whether it’s freelancers, a sports team, or your children, requires a clear mission and vision. You, as a leader, must be clear on what your business is, who it serves, and where you want it to go. Every decision, every interaction, every policy, procedure, initiative, and objective must serve both your mission and vision. These are your guideposts and they allow you to be crystal clear about your expectations with everyone.

And guess what? Being able to easily and openly share your mission and vision with potential freelancers will set you apart from other people who are just looking for hired hands. Everyone wants to know what they’re doing is meaningful in some way. If you can express to someone how the work they do for you serves a greater mission and vision, they will be more energized, engaged, and loyal.

You must build relationships through empathy. What do I need to know so others feel understood?

In a traditional work environment, members of your team are often right there in the office with you every day. You have regular meetings together, you stop by each other’s desks to talk, you run into each other in the kitchen, you may even have lunch or go out after work together. Opportunities to get to know each other and create a strong working relationship abound.

With freelancers, these opportunities are significantly limited but you still must make the effort to get to know them, find common ground, and build on it. Tapping into your natural curiosity can help. Why did they decide to freelance? What do they like about it? What do they find challenging? What does the freedom from a regular 9-5 allow them to do? Everyone works better for someone they have a strong relationship with, so this is essential for creating a team you can count on.

And this is not just about you. If you have a team of people who are geographically dispersed and don’t have ample opportunities to come together and build relationships with each other, creating those opportunities can be extremely valuable. Many freelancers feel isolated and disconnected from their team members. Having a regular team call or video chat can foster valuable discussions and a collaborative environment for those who can’t stop by someone’s desk on their way to refill their coffee.

This is really about creating an environment and a culture where people are a priority. Being intentional about this will go a long way in fostering positive feelings and loyalty, even from people who serve other clients.

You must communicate and look for alignment with mission and vision. How can our work serve each other?

Freelancers are never going to be like traditional employees. They are business owners in their own right. So understanding that you each approach the relationship from a place of independence is key. If you both understand and respect this, then you can move forward into an interdependent, adult relationship that’s mutually beneficial.

One of the traps that’s easy to fall into is viewing freelancers as simply hired hands, a necessary evil for serving your clients. This is a short-sighted approach that overlooks the benefits of viewing this as a partnership. Taking the time to build relationships with each person will help you understand their mission and vision even if they don’t always express it in those terms. So you can continually assess alignment and recognize new avenues for collaboration.

You must strengthen relationships through strategic incentives. What can I do to optimize individual and team performance?

It’s vital to understand what motivates the people who do the work that supports your business. Getting to know them better allows you to know what’s important to them. It’s likely to be different for each person, but it’s nearly impossible to lead a team if you don’t know what motivates them. And the best way to find out? Ask! Create the type of relationship where asking someone, “What’s important to you?” is easy and natural, and will be received as a genuine question from someone who truly cares.

As you get to know your team members and understand what motivates them individually, you’ll also begin to see how they work as a team. You may notice that they perform great when they’re in friendly competition with each other. Or it may be that they perform best when given additional opportunities for collaboration. Or maybe it’s as simple as recognizing someone’s great work on the team call. Just as you’ll need to consider which particular incentives work best for an individual, a team personality will emerge and it’s important to understand how to incentivize on both levels. You can only do this when you’ve built strong, trusting relationships.

What we know for sure is that the former employer-employee paradigm is in a state of flux. The traditional contract is a thing of the past and all working relationships are now seen as voluntary. Some lament a lack of loyalty on both sides, but the opportunity here is to create adult working relationships, with a foundation built on common ground, where communication is open, expectations are clear, and everyone feels valued for their individual contribution.

If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But this is what will separate those with efficient, enjoyable, and energized teams from those who just have a bunch of contractors they need to pay. As a leader, you get to decide which route you want to take.


Andrea Shields Nunez is a consultant with The Genysys Group, a full-service change management consulting firm. She has over a decade of experience in executive recruiting, and a background in operations, management, and education.





By Betsy Ertel

AAERT has labored in the past to offer robust opportunities to our members for required CEUs to retain certification privileges. Suggestions have been approved and recommendations have been suggested as viable options. To those contributors who have participated in this initiative in the past, we say thank you! Realistically, we live in a digital world where the work force has migrated to onsite and cloud platforms. Thus, a more strategic need presents itself for the convenience of our members.

The Education Committee for AAERT has been diligently working on behalf of the membership. Last year in June during our face-to-face Board meeting in Phoenix, we unanimously voted to merge our current AAERT website software platform. This unique platform accommodates the administrative needs of the Association through Your Membership (YM) with our new Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS contributes toward the long-awaited access to CEU education resources for our members and nonmembers. After extensive due diligence on the part of our administrative staff, the features and functionality of the LMS have been mastered with multiple creditworthy videos currently uploaded for viewing.

These videos contain presentations of previous AAERT conferences. Each video consists of a one-hour long presentation accompanied by questions at the end to review the material presented. Once you have completed each video and answered the questions satisfactorily, your credit will be applied to the Your Membership portion of the platform and assigned to your Personal Profile. The YM (Your Membership) section will contain an automatic running tab of all acquired CEUs. No more wondering which video you completed or watched! The system will document it all for you. At the end of your 3 years or 30 units, i.e. 10 units per year, a final tally will be visible to you and to AAERT. Additionally, this will help Administration to keep all your achievements in one place that will be accessible to you instantly.

The LMS will also house online courses to encourage professional growth. The courses will be accessible in like manner as the videos using the same link found at Each course will follow standard creditworthy guidelines with questions at the end. The verification of completion will go into your My Profile portion as the appropriate CEU amount acquired.

This information and further explanation is available at Read the AAERT LMS box description, and click on the “Learn More” button to access the page as a member or nonmember.  We encourage you to check out our new continuing educational fulfillment each time you are searching for new CEUs.

Click this link  and you will see the same instructions posted as below.

AAERT LMS for Continuing Education Units (CEUs)

In order to access our online courses in our AAERT LMS, you will need to be registered and logged into your AAERT account.

  • If you are not already a member of this site, it will only take you a few minutes to complete your free registration (Learner Only) and start taking control of your CEUs. Once completed, return to this page and click on the member link below.
  • If you are already a member, please log in to access your courses.

Our LMS provides you with an online, centralized learning platform enabling you to easily manage all of our training programs.

Additionally, using our LMS will also assist you in:

  • tracking your CEUs
  • finding approved courses for your recertification needs
  • ability to package courses at a discounted rate

For the purposes of this site, Continuing Education credits are measured in minutes.  Sixty (60) minutes is equal to one (1) hour of training or .1 CEUs. Some learners will complete a course in more or less time than that estimated for the course.

Upon successful completion of your online course, please be sure to print the certificate that applies to your specific needs. Active AAERT members will also have their completed courses and CEUs automatically transferred to their Professional Development area of their profiles where they can have access at any time.

Our online courses for CEUs will be updated each month with new topics and sources.

We trust you will find this new opportunity to be a convenience as well as an educational tool for future achievement of your professional goals. Be sure to sign into the AAERT website as a member to receive our member pricing. The AAERT Educational Committee continues its efforts to serve the membership. We will always strive to raise the bar of our profession through education, training, and professional guidance in a forum that is easy for members to access. Stay tuned for future additions to online education including informative webinars and training classes for your continuing education with AAERT. We trust you will appreciate what you experience.

Education Committee Chair





Professionals Finish Strong!




Analysis and Advantages of Digital Court Reporting and Recording in the Courts, Deposition, and Administrative Hearings Markets

Wilmington, Delaware – November 28, 2016 – This paper is being published by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT). The Government Relations Committee of AAERT composed this paper to address the questions concerning the use of digital court reporting in the courts and freelance court reporting markets.

Independent studies conducted by the Federal and State Courts as well as national court reporting associations point out several problems with the court reporting and transcription process. Included in these are budgetary constraints in the courts, the lack of qualified personnel, and possession of and speedy access to the record. The traditional method of stenotype reporting is expensive while at the same time, the pool of qualified stenotype reporters is dwindling. Access to the record can take a considerable amount of time causing delays to the trial and appeals processes.
Since 1992, AAERT has advocated education, certification and networking opportunities for the digital court reporting and transcription community of court reporters. AAERT also promotes best practices to be used when providing digital court reporting and transcription services.

The Government Relations Committee, chaired by Rick Russell, researched these issues. The following document includes surveys of several of the current electronic recording equipment vendors, the compilation of the salaries paid to digital court reporters versus stenotype, and supporting documentation from industry studies and papers.

The conclusion of the paper demonstrates that digital court reporting is a more economical means of preserving the record. That when best practices are used, this method of court reporting and transcription is reliable as well as accurate. Finally, the digital reporting community is capable of filling the growing demand for court reporters in the courts and the freelance markets.

For more information about AAERT, contact Mike Tannen, Executive Director at or visit AAERT website for a complete, free copy:






By Leigh David, CET

Which headphones make sense for transcription? In the ongoing quest for the best headphones for transcription, I have learned that articles and reviews of the multitude of choices are almost entirely geared toward listening to music and that the “experts” in these articles are not addressing the use of headphones to hear the audio/digital recordings for the purpose of verbatim transcription. I wish that I had the expertise to design evaluation procedures expressly to evaluate headphones for that purpose. In my reality, I quickly become lost in the quagmire of variables sound, intensity, frequency, clarity, to be controlled in the sound source and in the listener and am at a loss how to design such a study. However, I can share with you some of the variables and how you might approach the purchase of headphones for use in transcription.

For an actual study, we would need to have subjects as listeners who would actually transcribe predefined samples from the various headphones. Additionally, we would need to define the standards to be used in the evaluation of the headphones themselves.

The ability of the human ear to hear all of the frequencies varies widely. The frequencies that can be detected in young people is generally defined as a range of 20 to 20,000 kHz. As we age, this range decreases particularly in the higher frequencies.  Generally, men are more affected by this decrease than women. The frequency range attributed to speech is 500-8000 kHz. We evaluate hearing to find the intensity level for hearing in this frequency range from 500 to 8000. Our threshold (loudness level, decibel level) for hearing various frequencies varies and that is normal. The range from 2000 to 5000 kHz is the most sensitive; these would be the frequencies that we perceive at the lowest intensity.

This brings us to look at the intensity or loudness of speech. In combination with frequency, we discover that different frequencies can be discerned at varying thresholds or loudness levels measured in decibels (a logarithmic measure). This threshold must be exceeded before we “hear” any given frequency. The range of intensity heard by the human ear (transcriptionists included) is from zero to 120 decibels. It is not that we can’t hear over 120 decibels but that is the threshold for pain. It hurts, and if sustained at those high levels can permanently damage our hearing, in other words, noise induced hearing loss. Again, the range from 2000 to 5000 kHz is the most sensitive; these would be the frequencies that we perceive at the lowest intensity.

It is true that some sound that we may not perceive through our ears could be perceived through vibration. If you have ever turned your stereo up all the way (or for that matter, your upstairs neighbor has played their stereo at full volume), you know all about sound vibration. However, that is not of any import in this particular discussion.

I went back to review the voice qualities that comprise spoken speech, timber, resonance, pitch, tonal range — if all you want to do is purchase a solid pair of headphones these considerations quickly become a bit overwhelming.

There is a value referred to as clarity that applies to the headphones sound transmission as well as to the sound source. It is often explained in terms of clarity of sound in music but also would or should be defined in terms of the clarity of a given speaker.

Here is a list to consider when purchasing headphones for transcription. It is not comprehensive, but it is a good start.

  1. Frequency range: Range should be at least 500 to 8,000 MHz, the speech frequencies. However, I think the more range the better because we do not know what those higher or lower frequencies add to the overall comprehension and color of the speech.
  1. Intensity: Can you make the sound loud enough for your ears? Further, is that intensity balanced among the frequencies? Do you need an amplifier in order to get the sound loud enough to suit you? This is related to the impedance rating of your headphones. Sennheiser makes a pair of headphones that has rave reviews, the HD600, open circumaural headphones. The open design is described as making the sound seem more like you are there in the studio, but the sound leaks from the headphones. That is the nature of open headphones. You will be unable to use them with other people working around you (and keep friends anyway). The other caveat is that to get the ideal intensity or loudness output from some high-end headphones would require an investment in an audio amplifier that can easily cost, again, what the headphones cost.
  1. Connections: Do the connections and wires from the headphones to the computer or stereo or iPod add static or extraneous sounds to the transmission of the audio? In standard PCs, there can be unwanted transmission of static from stuff inside the computer. A way to circumvent that is the addition of a USB Sound Pod so that the audio does not go through your computer. These can be relatively inexpensive, $50 or so.
  1. Character of Transmission: Consider the character of the transmission of the sound by a given headphone. It may be very heavy in the bass as many are for ideal transmission of music. Or it may be relatively flat desirable for musicians editing a recording. Mushy or tinny are very subjective words. You must listen to know what they mean to you.

It appears that I really have not suggested what you should buy or consider buying.  You will find that you have your own preferences and that you, by necessity, must stay within a given price range.

My preferences are for either over-the-ear headphones or alternatively the ear-plug, in-the-ear-type headphones. I do not care for the on-the-ear type headphones, because I have found them to be uncomfortable and do not create as tight a seal as the over-the-ear headphones which are my preference. My latest personal fascination is with the open-style headphones that I mentioned above. It just seems as though they might be superior for speech. However, the jury is still out on that. I just do not know.

My price range for over-the-ear headphones is from $150 to about $400. I have spent considerably less for ear-plug-type headphones and been very happy with the resulting sound quality in transcription. Both over-the-ear and the earbuds, due to their construction, provide some natural cushioning that masks outside noise. I have owned noise-cancelling headphones, and they are nice. In my opinion, they are not necessary for most of us.

There are many excellent brands of headphones including, Sony, Audio-Technica, Bose, Beyerdynamic, Plantronics, Grado, Sennheiser, HiFiMan to name a few.

I recommend starting your quest by checking the articles online for the best headphones, reading and comparing the features in the reviews of the headphones they recommend. If at all possible, try the headphones before you buy. No review can substitute for your own sense of what works for you.

If you are at all like me, you will be somewhat confused but up to the challenge of trying to find that perfect headphone for you.

Good luck.


Leigh David is an AAERT-certified transcriber and holds a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology.


Has some information on sound pods that could be helpful in your research.

For the range of frequencies of the human ear

Cnet’s list of 2016 best,2817,2399261,00.asp

PC Magazine’s list of best headphones for 2016

Best earbuds for 2016

Sennheiser HD 600 Headphones


President’s Message: December, 2016



As the year comes to an end, we are all looking forward to the holidays and spending time with our family and friends. I want to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

This past week, an American hero passed away. John Glenn was the first man to orbit the earth in Friendship 7. He served 25 years in the United States Senate. He was a fearless pioneer. As members of AAERT, you also are pioneers exploring the changing field of court reporting. Court reporting is a multi-billion-dollar industry and includes officials working in the courts, freelance reporters in the deposition and administrative conference rooms, and transcription. As digital reporters, we have only begun to explore the new markets that are available to us. With that in mind, give some serious thought to exploring new opportunities for you in the future with digital court reporting. There will be more on that subject to come.

Since my last message. I am happy to recount that the Government Relations Committee, chaired by Rick Russell, has recently published a white paper “Analysis and Advantages of Digital Court Reporting and Recording in the Courts, Deposition, and Administrative Hearings Markets.” This very important document has been several years in the making. Hundreds of hours of time and effort were expended researching our industry and our profession. The goal was to inform the judiciary, court administrators, state legislatures, and the legal community about digital court reporting and its advantages. The paper referenced numerous documents prepared by state and federal courts as well as independent consultants. In each instance, the research came to the same conclusion; the electronic digital court reporting model is more economical, reliable and more accurate than alternative methods of preserving the record. If you have not done so, visit our link where you can download this paper. Offer copies to your judges, administrators, and attorney clients. Let’s spread the word about the future of court reporting and how digital court reporting will play an ever-increasing role.

The Bylaws Committee, chaired by Linda Rohman, has been reviewing our bylaws and will be recommending changes for our board members to review at the January meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Linda’s committee is painstakingly reviewing every line of this important document. This will update the rules that we use to conduct the day-to-day business of the association and lay the groundwork for the creation of a Policies and Procedures manual.

Betsy Ertel, chair of the Education Committee, will be releasing the first of our CEUs through our Learning Management System, LMS, on our website. This project is in response to members’ requests to have easy and affordable access to CEU material. The first units will be available in December of 2016. Additional content is being compiled so that members can fulfill their CEU requirement through our website. Betsy comments, “The Education Committee has been working hard for you this year. We now have the LMS system up and running…YAY! This has been ingeniously conquered by our administrative staff through many weeks of a learning curve. We are now beginning to add material content to supply your CEU requirements. You are going to love this AAERT membership perk. Earning CEUs from the comfort of your own home, or wherever you may roam will easily keep you up to date for your credentialing needs. As we move forward working together, there will be much more content to choose from. Stay tuned because it will only get better.”

On the education front, Tonie Wallace, past AAERT Director and Education Committee Chair, informs me that Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, Virginia will begin classes in January. This is the first AAERT-approved curriculum based on our standards being taught at an accredited institution. This is a six-week program teaching digital court reporting and transcription. Included in the program is preparation and sitting for our certification testing. Online classes will also be available at a later date. The culmination of this project has been several years in the making. Way to go Tonie.

You have been receiving our newly updated newsletter. Gail Armstrong, Communications chair, has increased the number of publications of The Court Reporter from a quarterly to monthly publication. Each edition will be shorter, but will keep you up to date on industry news. A new addition will include a short update from a committee chair. This will create visibility for each committee and let the membership know that the chairs and committees are working diligently to accomplish the multiple goals that are part of AAERT’s mission. Gail’s committee was also instrumental in the editing and distribution of the white paper. Thanks to Gail’s hard work and the assistance of her committee members, the Communications Committee is stronger and more effective at spreading the news about AAERT than ever before.

K.C. Corbin’s Certification Committee has compiled the Reporter and Transcriber Digital Exam and Retake Exams. Testing are taking place in November and December, 2016.

Arrangements are in the works for our annual conference this June in Atlanta, Georgia. If you are a transcriber or court reporter considering working in the freelance court reporting field, this conference will be a must-see. Mike Tannen, Executive Director, and his team with Tteam Management are working to provide an excellent program. Plan to attend.

As I mentioned in my last President’s Message, the largest segment of the court reporting industry is in the freelance reporting field. This accounts for 72% of a multi-billion-dollar market. There is a projected shortfall of 5,500 court reporters nationally by 2018. Recent articles have been written about the shortage of court reporters in South Dakota and Texas. Our community of digital reporters and transcribers are best suited to fill the growing demand for court reporting in this market. Educational programs are becoming available for digital court reporting and transcription. Our certification programs are easily accessible since we have moved to regionally-based testing centers. These two essential components provide the tools necessary to quickly grow our profession and meet the demand for certified, digital reporters. I ask our transcriber members, is becoming a court reporter in your future?

Lastly, I want to ask each of you to consider serving your association. John Glenn said “We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves”.  Participation is not only fulfilling, but extremely educational. Reach out and become an active member and volunteer today.

Geoffrey L. Hunt, CVR-CM-M

President, AAERT






Released today: AAERT’S 2016 White Paper:
“Analysis and Advantages of Digital Court Reporting and Recording in the Courts, Deposition, and Administrative Hearings Markets”
Download your free copy:

Finding Your Representative



By Rick Russell, AAERT Government Relations Chair

In AAERT’s January, 2016 newsletter, the article Monitoring Legislation shared information on how to find and track legislation that impacts our industry. If you find a pending bill in your state or on the national level what’s your next step?  First of all, let us know ( so we can mobilize the association members and resources.

Next you’re going to want to contact your elected officials to request that they support you and your industry by voting for or against the pending bill. The first step in this process is to identify who represents you on the state and federal level:

State Level

Here are a couple of resources to help you identify your state and local representatives:

Open States  (

Common Cause        ( )

Simply enter your complete address and your local, state, and in some cases, federal representatives will be listed along with links to their home pages which you can use to contact them.

Federal Level

To find your U.S. representative and senators you can use the site (

To find your representative you will need to know in what congressional district you live.  Go to the “Find Your Representative” page ( and enter your zip code. If your zip code contains more than one congressional district you can use the map to determine your district or enter your Zip+4 or full address. Your representative will be listed with a link to their official website.

To locate your senator using, look at the top right section of the page entitled “Contact Your Member” and click the “Senators” button. Use the drop down button to select your state and your two senators will be listed with links to their homepage.

Give this a try and find out who is representing you at the state and national level. It’s important to know who is representing you and your interests in the process of making law and determining funding. If you have any personal connections with state or federal officials please let us know.

The next step is to contact your representatives with a well-crafted message in support or opposition to the issues that are important to you. I will cover that in the next article.

Rick Russell serves on the AAERT Board of Directors and is Chair of the Government Relations Committee.

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