The moment I realised I needed to study subtitling was the moment I realised I now activate the subtitles for absolutely everything I watch, including in English.
It’s got to the point that I feel like I can’t quite understand what’s going on if I don’t read it as well as hear it, even in my native language.
So, as a confirmed subtitle addict, I thought it was about time I learned to create them myself.
Choosing a course
Having decided 2021 was the year of subtitling, I started casting around on the internet for the right course. I wanted something practical and hands-on.
I eventually settled on the Translastars ProD+T Subtitling and Closed Captioning course, run by Kelly O´Donovan.
She also offers the same course through her GOSUB platform.
How the course worked
The course is broken down into bite-size chunks that take you through the basics of subtitling and gradually add in different elements.
It’s all English > English subtitling, because as a professional translator you’re not taking a course in how to translate – you already know that.
It’s the ins and outs of subtitling and closed captioning you need to understand. You need to learn about reading speed, line breaks, shot changes and a lot more besides.
There are assignments to complete as you go through the course to put everything you’re learning into practice.
And guess what? The videos you’re subtitling are excerpts from Finding Nemo. Which, if you’re a fan, makes practising your newfound skills feel like a treat.
I was sorry when it was over and I had to start subtitling other things!
When I first got started, I wasn’t overly impressed with it all. I found it tough to get my brain in gear and grasp all the terminology you have to learn at the beginning.
But as soon as I started having to put my newfound knowledge into practice, I found the way the course was set up clicked into place.
I signed up for the course in February 2021 when I was having a quiet period. And because it’s the rule of freelancing, that meant work immediately started flooding in.
And I don’t know about you, but I find it impossible to focus on CPD when I’ve got pressing client work I could be getting on with. I need a lull in work to be able to apply myself to learning anything new.
One of the great things about the course, though, is that you do it at your own pace.
They say you can do it in a month. If you’ve got a lot of client work and a life outside your business, that feels overly optimistic.
But you could definitely do it more quickly than I did! I did bits of it in fits and starts between February and July, then finally finished off the final few tasks in one go at the beginning of September.
By the end of it, I felt like I’d really got it.
Kelly was a really supportive, encouraging guide, gave very detailed feedback and was happy to answer any questions, no matter how daft I thought they were.
Paid subtitling training
Another thing that drew me to this course is that it includes paid training.
That was music to my ears, as I knew I’d need plenty of practice to feel confident offering my subtitling skills to clients of my own accord.
What I didn’t quite realise, though, is just how low the rates for the paid training would be.
The rates offered are so low that the hourly rate I earned worked out at practically nothing.
So I didn’t end up taking on many projects, as I just couldn’t justify it.
But the ones I did accept were a good way to try my hand at subtitling different kinds of content and get an idea of the kind of requests I might receive from agencies.
So access to this training is very helpful in its way – just don’t expect to make any money out of it. Look at it as CPD, not client work.
One huge advantage was that Kelly was more than happy for me to ask her questions about rates and terminology when I was first making contact with potential subtitling clients.
When you’re offering a new service and figuring out how it all works, having someone like Kelly to email made things one hell of a lot easier.
Practice makes perfect in terms of speed
Subtitling is normally charged per minute of video. The quicker you are at it, the more money you’re going to make.
But you can only subtitle accurately and quickly if you’ve had plenty of practice. Speed subtitling isn’t a skill you’re going to pick up overnight.
Just bear in mind that if you’re serious about using subtitling as a sustainable income stream, you’re going to need to put the hours in.
To be honest, I haven’t yet got to a point where the hourly rate I earn from subtitling matches up to my profitability for translation or copywriting.
I still need to get quicker, and I know that will come with practice.
For now, I’m just accepting that this isn’t my most profitable service, and so I’m only taking on projects that I know I’ll really enjoy or can learn from.
It’s been a slow burn with subtitling clients as I haven’t been putting in the effort with my marketing. Work has come from referrals from other lovely linguists.
It’s mainly been promotional materials for sustainable businesses, which is great. But I’ve also really enjoyed working on a few other things, including a documentary and a feature film.
And, of course, I’m more than open to any subtitling projects you think I might be a good fit for!
Just contact me to talk details.
If you’re looking to get into subtitling, check out Kelly’s courses. And if you’d like some guidance before you dive into a new specialism, the wonderful Molly Yurick offers mentoring for budding subtitlers.