In the United States and elsewhere, there is a tremendous demand for closed captioned videos. Originally, videos needed closed captioning because of a lot of deaf people. They obviously couldn’t hear the audio portion of the video or TV show, so they need closed captions.
However, as video and recorded entertainment and content got distributed across many different channels, there’s a big demand for closed caption text even from people who could hear. By reading certain portions of the video, they can keep track of what’s going on better.
Also, a lot of audiences do not speak or understand English. Closed captioning in specific languages has definitely improved the market reach and commercial appeal of videos. For these reasons, a lot of companies pay home based freelancers and workers such as yourself a decent amount of money closed captioning.
How do closed captioning services work?
Closed captioning services act as middle men. They operate a platform where freelancers would apply to caption any available video. On the other end, the platform would recruit video producers who are looking for captioning services for their content.
The orders would come in and the platform would notify caption freelancers of the projects available. Freelancers log in, watch the video, type out the captions and send their report. The operators of the platform will then make sure to line up the caption with the right frames of the video to ensure accuracy.
Once the video is complete and the closed caption operators work has been verified, payment is released.
The big challenge to making money closed captioning videos
As recently as 10 years ago, closed captioning videos on a freelance basis was a good way of making money online. YouTube’s automated transcription technology wasn’t all that sophisticated. You could play a video and YouTube can probably only transcribe a small portion of the video.
Its artificial intelligence software was nowhere as sophisticated and robust as it is now. Fast forward to today and the vast majority of English language videos uploaded to YouTube are actually automatically transcribed by YouTube’s software.
In fact, the transcriptions are quite scary in their accuracy. It’s as if a flesh and blood human being actually listened to the audio portion of the video and typed out the captions in real time.
Given this high level of accuracy and volume transcription, is the market for closed captioning videos dead?
You can still make money closed captioning videos even with YouTube auto transcription technology
The good news? YouTube’s auto transcription technology, as powerful as it is, can not catch the nuances of the video.
In fact, if you play a video on YouTube that involves a discussion among 2 or more people, you can see the weakness of its closed captioning system.
Also, when a person is speaking really quickly or nervously, the transcription system doesn’t quite catch all the words and in many cases, badly transcribes the words the subject is saying. None of this, of course, means that YouTube transcription is bad technology.
It definitely has a lot of room for improvement. My point is closed captioning videos are still in high demand by certain types of companies. There might not be demand in YouTube because the technology is already there and for the most part, people watching YouTube videos don’t pay to watch such videos.
Where is the demand for closed captioning video work?
The demand for this type of freelance work comes from companies who charge their audience members a membership fee. Maybe they charge once a month or per quarter or even daily. Obviously, these people would come up with the cash because they think that the content is very valuable.
That’s where the opportunity is. If you join a platform that recruits companies that makes specialized membership videos, there will be steady work for you. These video membership sites are all about providing maximum value to people who sign up for their content memberships.
These customers have very high standards. They’re not the typical YouTube audience. On YouTube, people would take whatever they can get because they’re not really paying anything to watch YouTube videos.
Obviously, this is very different from a video membership site where the audience members actually had to pay $20, $30 or even $100 month after month to access specialized videos. Given the fact that they’re paying a premium for this pre-recorded video content, their standards are very high and this extends over to the accuracy and clarity of closed captioned videos.
What do you need to do as a video closed caption freelancer?
First, you need to be qualified. Here are the basic qualifications or a closed caption specialist.
Basic English skills
The first thing that you need to have are basic English skills. In other words, you can tell English words apart, you can understand English words in context and you also have to have a very good vocabulary.
None of these skill sets make you an excellent English speaker or writer. These are just the basics. Accordingly, people who speak English as a second language tend to face a lot of challenges when it comes to video captioning because of the extent and depth of their English proficiency.
None of this should be interpreted to mean that you need to have some sort of advanced degree or even a college degree to do video captioning. As long as you have basic English skills, you are pretty much good to go.
Great listening skills
Most people think that they are great listeners. As long as they nod their head while they’re paying attention to their friend, they think that they are listening well. That’s no quite the skill set you need for closed captioning videos.
You have to be an active listener. This means that you have to pay attention to the content that you are listening to now and tie this in to what you just heard.
In other words, you have to stay on top of the logical connections of the content you are captioning. This isn’t always easy especially when there’s a lot going on in the video. There are many video captioning jobs that involve an actual debate or some sort of fast paced argument among participants.
It would be great if these arguments broke out only among 2 people. Sadly a lot of the times, this involves some sort of verbal free for all where 3, 4, or even 10 people seem to talk at the same time. How do you caption that? How do you make sense of that?
This is where active listening skills come in because you would be able to logically keep track of what’s going on so as to anticipate what they’re going to say. Without clear and powerful listening skills, you’re going to be captioning at a snail’s pace.
That’s the bottom line. It’s just simply going to take you too long to caption content of any decent length. This is going to be a problem as far as your earnings go. Remember, with any kind of freelancing, you are essentially trading in your time for money.
So the longer it takes for you to caption a video because of the different speakers and confusion involved, the less money you make on a minute by minute basis.
I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re going to make money as a closed caption specialist freelancer, you have to invest in the right earphones. There are a wide range of headphones on the market, but a lot of them are geared towards mobile devices like smart phones or music devices.
Generally speaking, a lot of these earphones should perform well enough if you’re doing closed caption work. But if you really want to catch every word, you need headphones that are specifically designed for spoken content.
They have to have the dynamic range to properly output the clear sound waves that you need to do a good job closed captioning videos. There are specialized equipment available out there. You need to be aware of them and invest in them to take your closed captioning skills and work product quality to the next level.
I wish I could tell you that if you are a native English speaker and you have been exposed to the English language for a long time that you would be able to caption any kind of video produced by any kind of source.
Sadly, that’s wishful thinking. As you probably already know, different people in different circumstances from different backgrounds speak English in different ways. All these differences do add up and it can take quite a long time to figure out what they mean.
In many cases, you would either have to slow down the audio or listen to it many times for you to accurately get the caption down.
How do you prepare for a closed captioning job?
Just as freelance writers can adequately prepare for applying for freelance writing work by reading, you can do the same for caption work by listening to a lot of audio. Here’s the trick.
You shouldn’t listen to audio that you are comfortable with. You shouldn’t just focus on listening to audio that you can make sense of. In other words, don’t just listen to clear audio. That’s not going to help you.
Instead, you should seek out audio that is particularly hard to listen to. I’m talking about video and audio recordings of people slurring their words, eating their words, mumbling.
Once you’re able to get the hang of accurately captioning such audio, you need to go to the next level. How do you level up? Caption videos involving 2 people speaking. Believe it or not, just simply multiplying the number of speakers by 2 is enough to take the difficulty level of your captioning work much higher.
Even if these 2 people are speaking in a very clear and deliberate manner, the fact that you have 2 people talking and often interrupting each other or talking over each other makes your captioning work that much more difficult.
Once you get used to that, look for audio of people in an actual verbal fight. They’re talking really fast, they’re speaking out of turn, they get all heated, sometimes their words get slurred or they shout out certain words or they talk under their breath.
All sorts of things could go on and these present great opportunities for you to master the different nuances of verbal communication. Once you get the hang of that and you reach a certain level of accuracy, level up by seeking out video or audio of people who are in a free for all argument with many other people.
That’s how you know you will be ready. And believe me, all this preparation would be worth it because video captioning freelance work isn’t just there for the taking.
I know that a lot of people think that they can just go to a platform, apply, fill out a form and all of a sudden, they would get a link to an audio that they can download and listen to and caption or transcribe. It doesn’t work that way. You have to pass a screening test.
What kind of screening is involved for closed captioning videos?
As you can well imagine, there’s probably a lot of people who think that since they speak English as their first language that they can automatically do closed caption work. The demand for freelancers is actually quite high.
Many video captioning companies have created a series of screening tests to weed out people who simply don’t have the skills for this kind of work. What kind of skills will these tests filter for?
The ability to follow English instructions
I know this sounds so simple that it’s almost insulting. But the sad fact is a tremendous amount of people out there, born and bred in the United States simply can’t follow basic English instructions.
They can’t do things in sequence, they can’t start a project on time, they can’t follow a certain series of steps, they can’t format the outcome of their work a certain way.
Not surprisingly, a lot of video captioning platforms present a simple English instruction test as the initial filter for applicants. What’s really eye opening about such simple test is that a large chunk of applicants actually fail out at this level.
We’re talking at least 20% or more. Among applicants who speak English as a second language (usually these are people applying to captioning platforms over the internet) the failure rate is as high as 80% to 90% at level 1.
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Basic English skills testing
Once the applicants have been filtered for their ability to follow English instructions, the next step is to screen them based on basic English skills. I am, of course, talking about grammar.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to pass this test especially if you are a native English speaker. However, you have to have a high enough command of the English language to make it past this stage.
You have to know basic prepositions. You have to be familiar with correct grammar structures and be on the look out for common mistakes that even native English speakers make.
The second step of the filtering process usually involves some captioning work. That’s when you listen to the audio and write down what you heard according to the timestamp of the audio or video you’re listening to.
It all boils down to your ability to synchronize what you hear with the portion of the content that you are watching or listening to.
Remember, your close caption output is worthless if your timing is off. You may have done a great job accurately transcribing what the video or audio says. That’s not the problem.
The problem is when people see your text, they’re not hearing the appropriate or the matching segment of the audio or video.
This makes for a very confusing experience and your closed caption work, as accurate as it may be and as clear and awesome as it seems, would be worthless.
People would be wasting their time reading your captions.
A key part of the screening involves your timing. This is a key part of the formatting process. You have to format the caption work the right way to match the timestamp of the content you’re captioning.
Closed caption specialists are often given specialized pieces of software that they can use to ensure that their caption correlates with the right timestamp on the video or audio source. Assuming that you pass the initial stages, you will be also tested in your ability to use such software.
How much money can I make close captioning videos as a freelancer?
Different platforms pay out different rates depending on the length of the video, its difficulty level as well as other factors. Generally speaking, if you speak English as a second language and you are working from overseas, expect to get a lower rate than somebody from the United States.
Still, generally speaking, it’s not unusual for close captioning freelancers to earn $15 to $25 per hour. Again, it depends on the platform you signed up for. It also depends on the project.
What factors determine how much money I get paid as a caption freelancer?
Keep an eye out for the following factors. Some platforms are more likely to involve these factors than others.
The faster the turn around time, the higher you’re usually paid. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. But this is the general rule of thumb.
You can quickly tell if the source video involves an argument among many different people or a very long drawn out yet heated argument that you will get paid more for that piece. At the very least, you’re going to get paid more for captioning that video than if you were assigned a video of a single person just talking straight to the screen.
This is a no brainer. Obviously, the shorter the video, the lower the pay. This is the rule of thumb. There are exceptions to this but generally speaking, the shorter the length of the video, the less money you make.
As I mentioned earlier, some websites cater to niche audiences. These specialized audiences have certain quality standards. They also are looking for a fairly rare or specialized pieces of information.
Not surprisingly, a lot of these membership sites charge a tremendous amount of money to their very small audience to access high value videos. If you find yourself assigned to such videos, you will probably get paid more.
The downside to this is that there is little room for error. For example, closed captioning, foreign exchange or day trading stock videos, the accuracy of your closed caption work plays a very big role in the value the viewer gets.
If you screw up the captioning, they may act on the video the wrong way and they might lose money. This makes the client who ordered the captioning work in the first place look bad in front of their audience. And before they know it, their audience might disappear.
This is high stakes captioning work and it’s no wonder that this type of work tends to pay more. We’re talking at least twice or 3 times the normal rate.
Some platforms simply have a reputation for giving a larger percentage of their contract fees or contract rates to their freelancers. Other platforms take a much higher portion. But in exchange, the freelancers using that platform can expect consistent work.
Usually, there is an offset between the volume of work you get and the amount of money you make for each assignment. It doesn’t really make sense to go with the platform that pays you $200 per project but you only get a project every other month.
It’s much better to probably get a project for $30 every single day. At least at the end of the month, you’re looking at something between $600 to $900. Compare this with the 200 bucks that you get for a single project, but that project only comes around every 2 months or, worse yet, every 3 or 4 months.
How do I get video closed captioning freelance work?
Check the following 3 types of websites. Of course, these categorical sites have different specific sites that you should investigate. But generally speaking, when it comes to this type of freelance work, there are 3 categories of websites you should look at.
Freelance platforms are essentially just middle men. They would take freelancers like yourself looking to do caption work and they would advertise to get business from companies that need caption work done.
The downside to these freelance platform sites is that they’re generalists. On that same site, you would find clients looking for writing work, online promotions, SEO and other specialized digital labor.
They don’t really specialize in video caption work. The main advantage to these websites is that they attract enough clients that you can probably find caption work listed on these platforms on a fairly regular basis.
Here’s the problem. Just because you can find such work listed almost weekly doesn’t mean that you will get that project. You still have to go through the process. In many cases, you have to bid for it. also, you have to go through a validation or verification process.
Classified sites cover websites like Craigslist and other regional classified websites in the United States. The great thing about classified sites is that you tend to get higher paying video caption work here because companies that want caption work try to reach out to a local area.
Maybe a company out of San Francisco has a new video out and they’d rather have somebody in the San Francisco bay area process their work. Accordingly, they would go to the original location of Craigslist and post the job there. If you have access to Craigslist.org, you can apply for that listing.
The downside with classified ads websites is that the listings tend to be few and far between. Companies usually post here on a fairly rare basis.
This is probably your best bet. You should look for companies that operate platforms that specialize in closed captioning work. Not only do you get a higher volume of work that you can apply to and compete for, but you also stand a higher chance of getting paid more.
The downside to these platforms is that they have really high expectations. As you can probably tell, you’re not the first person to get this idea. There are a lot of people all over the United States as well as people who speak English as a second language flocking to these sites and there’s a tremendous amount of competition.
Not surprisingly, these websites have very strong filters that do a good job weeding out the vast majority of people applying for quick and easy video captioning work. If you apply to these platforms, believe me, the money is neither quick nor easy.
However, if you’re looking for steady work, this is the way to go.
How do you make a full time income captioning videos over the internet?
If you want to turn this sideline into your full time income, you have to hustle. You need to follow the steps below and really pay attention to my tips. Otherwise, this is purely going to be side income for you.
Sure, most people wouldn’t mind a hundred dollars here and there. But if you want to make this your full time income or make video captioning cover a large chunk of your monthly expenses, listen up.
Step #1: Sign up for as many platforms as possible
Pay close attention to the job sources that I described above. Search intensively on Google for them and get a massive list going.
If you don’t know where to start, you might want to hire a virtual assistant to help you. These people specialize in online research. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just make sure you have a long list of places you can apply to.
These must be live sites. They must be actively recruiting closed caption workers.
Step #2: Get your portfolio ready
While you will be going through a filtering process, it doesn’t hurt to have a portfolio ready. You can have a link to the original audio and then a link to the PDF of your closed caption work.
If anything, this makes the recruiter’s job easier and they can filter out people who simply aren’t prepared. This makes you look good.
It doesn’t guarantee the job, but it definitely makes you stand out from the competition.
Step #3: Prepare for the tests
Many platforms only let you take the screening test once every few months. Don’t blow this opportunity. Don’t automatically assume that just because English is your first language that you would ace the test. It doesn’t work that way.
Get ready for basic English testing as well as instruction compliance. Those are the 2 main challenges you will face. Also do some advanced research on the format or timestamp requirements of the company or how time stamping is normally done.
Take practice exams if you need to. Do whatever you need to pass the test.
Step #4: Start low and slow
Considering how crucial this type of work is and how sensitive it is to quality and accuracy, you really can’t afford to drop the ball by taking on too much work and turning in substandard output.
You’re not going to work for long if that is you attitude. Instead, you should take one assignment at a time, master it, ask for feedback and then take another assignment and do it on time and crank out the highest quality.
Once you get the hang of it, then you can speed up. Don’t do it the other way around which is to speed up first and then take care of quality.
If you do things that way, you might not get a second chance.
Step #5: Focus on quality, not money
If you’re reading this, I know you’re probably short of cash. You probably needed the money yesterday. But let me tell you, by focusing too much on the dollars that you’ll be making, you’ll be doing yourself a big disservice.
Focus instead on doing a good job and everything else will take care of itself. It’s all about value. If the people hiring you can not see the value in your work, then they’re not going to pay you all that much, assuming they pay you at all.
The final word on making money online by closed captioning video
Closed captioning videos from home can be a great source of extra income. But it’s not as easy or as straightforward as a lot of people might assume it to be. There’s definitely a lot more to it than you think.
So do yourself a big favor and prepare correctly because this is one of those high stakes type of outsourcing projects that can make or break your ability to get consistent work.