Subtitle writing, either as a full-time role or a side gig to complement other writing work, can be a satisfying and fulfilling way to make money. As such, we’ve taken the time to explore what’s involved, how to get started and how you can make additional income by offering specialist services such as multilingual subtitle writing for video translation purposes.What is a Subtitle Writer and How Can You Be One? Click To Tweet
What is subtitle writing?
Subtitles provide a written version of the dialogue and other relevant sound effects in a video file. They are written for films, TV shows, instructional videos, adverts, video games and many other kinds of video presentation.
There are different kinds of subtitles.
Two of the most commonly used types are general subtitles and subtitles written for the hard of hearing, which are referred to as closed captioning in the United States. Subtitles for the hard of hearing include more descriptive elements than general subtitles, such as “(sighs)” or “(door bangs).”
Subtitle writing is the process of taking the transcript of a video (or working directly from the video itself) and turning it into abbreviated versions of the dialogue. Word-for-word transcription can’t be used, as it takes the viewer so long to read that they miss out on the visual experience of the film.
Professional subtitle writers usually use specialized computer programs to undertake their work. The software can help them to time stamp their subtitles. This is an essential part of the subtitling process, as it allows the subtitles to be paired with the relevant sections of the video to avoid the written and spoken version of the dialogue getting out of synch.
Why is subtitle writing important?
Subtitles can open up videos to whole new audiences. They allow those who are deaf and hard of hearing to follow the read what is being said instead of listening to it. They are also an invaluable tool for those watching a video in another language. In Portugal, for example, many English-language films are shown at the cinema and on television with Portuguese subtitles rather than being dubbed with Portuguese voiceovers. Thus subtitles can open up entertainment to many other countries.
Subtitles are also useful for those who are learning a new language. Reading subtitles in another language while you hear the audio in your own language can help with the acquisition of words and phrases. Reversing the situation and listening to the audio in the new language while reading subtitles in your own tongue can also be beneficial.
Whoever the intended audience is, subtitler jobs require high levels of linguistic accuracy. If grammar and spelling aren’t your strong points, then subtitle writing isn’t for you!
How to establish yourself as a subtitle writer
Establishing yourself as a subtitle writer is much the same as building a career as any other type of writer – you need to build your skills and experience while networking to find the right subtitler jobs that pay the right rates to suit your needs. You also need to make sure that you have the right equipment for the job – so bear in mind that there will be a cost implication when it comes to getting the right software.
Related: 10 Freelance Writing Jobs You Might Not Have Considered
Working through an agency can be a good place to start in order to build your experience. Applying for subtitler jobs through online freelancing marketplaces is also a good way to win new clients when you first start out. Be sure to highlight your previous writing experience to showcase your skills and accuracy levels.
Subtitle writing for translators
Writing subtitles doesn’t have to be limited to just one language. If you speak two or more languages fluently then you are in an excellent position to translate subtitles. This is an excellent way to supplement subtitle writing work with additional income, as you can provide the client not only with subtitles in the video’s original language, but also in a second language (or third, or fourth for true polyglots).
If the video in question contains legal or medical terms, producing multilingual subtitles can become an even more lucrative undertaking, as the work will require more specialist knowledge in order to be completed accurately.
Writing subtitles is an excellent option for those who love language and display a high level of focus and accuracy in their approach. It is a detailed task that rewards those with a committed approach. For some, it is a fulltime occupation. Others prefer to use it as a means of topping up income from other writing activities. Either way, subtitle writing is an important role that opens up a wide range of video services to those who would otherwise be able to benefit from them, meaning that the job comes with the added satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference!
Louise Taylor is the content manager for translation agency Tomedes. She writes on anything and everything related to the translation industry, from the importance of human translation to the latest industry trends.
Rafa Parks says
Good article but more details would have been helpful.
“You also need to make sure that you have the right equipment for the job – so bear in mind that there will be a cost implication when it comes to getting the right software.
Give us some examples: name some software and the prices.
“Working through an agency can be a good place to start in order to build your experience. Applying for subtitler jobs through online freelancing marketplaces is also a good way to win new clients when you first start out. ”
Give us some examples: are there particular agencies in the subtitile industry? Again, are there in particular “online freelance marketplaces” that specialize in subtitle work?
Pascale Duguay says
The same questions as Rafa popped through my mind as I read the article. Also, what are the going rates for this type of work?
Margie Rubio says
I absolutely agree with Rafa and Pascale! WHICH is the right equipment and/or where can we find more information about it?
OK. I consider the expense I will have to make… but.. could you give me any ideas about HOW MUCH?
Will they take “newcomers” to the industry of subtitling?
Agreeing with Rafa and Pascale, this article was very generalized with limited details. Perhaps the author could provide an update after viewing all of our comments. I am more lost than anything. Rates and places to apply are also my concerns in addition to other questions that I would like to pose.
Claudette Parmenter says
I’ve often thought I could do well with translating dialogue for video games, because I usually see spelling errors, wrong descriptives, etc while playing them.
Would love to see more info on available software, or best internet places to research.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated suggestions.
Aashish Dongre says
Hi Claudette, This is Aashish, I am going through the same, I have an experience of 14 years in transcription industry, I believe I could do really well in subtitling, as I notice the same errors. I live in Pune, India. I have tried searching everything for any training programs in Pune but could not find any. Could you please help?
I agree with all the opinions about
the article written by Mr. Rafa. He should have been more up front and
foward about the software and agentcies involved plus the overall cost to us newbies whom he was apparenly addressing. Write to inform well or not at all. Thank you.
Hi Radhi, This is Aashish, I am going through the same, I have an experience of 14 years in transcription industry, I believe I could do really well in subtitling, as I notice the same errors. I live in Pune, India. I have tried searching everything for any training programs in Pune but could not find any. Could you please help?
Rama Krishna R. says
Hello Radhi, I agree with you fully, With lot of Enthusiasm i have tried to reach here, but not much of the Information is available here; Please provide us the appropriate and more information regarding the Subtitle Writing Art, Iam from a small District: But iam Passionate guy to prove and Excel myself in this Art of Writing Subtitles.