1. You get to translate some interesting videos – Scottish comedy TV series adapted for an American audience, Spanish red ninja series, famous Yorkshire artists, nuclear physics and particle colliders… I have learnt a lot of new and really cool stuff by subtitling videos.
2. Although I normally earn less in one day subtitling than I do in one day translating, I get much more work and offers of work for subtitling than I do for translation. I enjoy doing both.
3. Subtitling presents translation challenges unique to this kind of translation. You have to consider time and space ratios constantly, and a “full” translation is not always possible. I enjoy these challenges. I especially enjoy translating idioms, colloquialisms and jokes. They can be difficult and require more time, but it is highly rewarding when you find an idiom that will work in the target language.
4. You can wake up when you want. This is definitely a bonus. I can play football till midnight on Monday night and not have to worry about the alarm on Tuesday morning. You could also substitute “play football” with many other leisure activities… You can also go all day without a shower and wear the same clothes as yesterday and no one is going to judge you.
5. If someone randomly invites you for a coffee during the day, you can drop what you’re doing and continue working later.
1. You are never quite sure where the next job is going to come from. So far I haven’t run into an economic crisis due to not receiving regular work, but it does sometimes make you worry a bit. I also teach English so I am not 100% reliant on subtitling to survive. The advice here is to diversify, ideally not restricting yourself entirely to subtitling and translation. I enjoy teaching as it helps to solve #3 below.
2. In many cases, especially with agencies, it’s a case of first-to-reply wins the job. So you’ll be stuck to your emails and smart phone during office hours.
3. It can be a bit isolating and lonely being stuck in the house by yourself all day. I bought some fish. Fish are not the best of company although they are nice to look at. You can, however, always go for a coffee break (#5 above) with a friend during the day.
4. I end up working a lot of weekends and late evenings. I don’t have any family commitments so I have been able to do this, and I have accepted these jobs to try and increase my client base but my social life has noticeably suffered as a result. I’m trying to work on that to find a good life/work balance.
5. Although you do get some cool videos, you also get some less interesting videos to work on. A lot of my work comes from in-house corporate videos for training purposes. Funnily enough though, the less interesting the video, generally the easier it is to work on as it normally involves clearer and slower speech. There’s always something to be learned from a new video though, even if it is dull.
What do you like or dislike about being a freelance subtitler? Comment below!