After more than three years of providing professional subtitling services, it's time to take stock of things that helped me along the way – and see what is still on my wish-list.
1. Second monitor
Second monitor is something I've been wanting to get for ages. It's essential for other types of work too, not just subtitling.
There are plenty of options out there, including portable monitors for people who like working on their laptop on the move, or large screens that will be sufficient as a single unit. I'm currently on a look out for a used second-hand monitor to minimise my carbon footprint.
2. Ergonomic keyboard and mouse set-up
If you've ever suffered wrist pain from working on a laptop or PC, you need to get a more ergonomic set up. Trust me – it's better to be safe than sorry (and have to go do physio like yours truly).
I know there are more ergonomic set ups than mine, like a vertical mouse and a lovely ergonomic keyboard duo, but having a wrist rest is the absolute minimum. Ever since I got these (super cheap) wrist pads, the pain stopped. One day I'll invest in something more ergonomic, but for now it'll do.
3. Good headphones
No, it's not just because I share the office with a musician/guitar pedal builder! Sometimes my clients don't supply me with a script. Other times, the script isn't 100% correct.
Headphone sound quality is generally better than that from computer speakers – especially if, like me, you work on many projects for Deaf and hard of hearing audiences. Another benefit is that wearing headphones signals you're in the zone – if you share an office with anyone they're less likely to bother you. And in turn your project won't annoy them (also, NDAs, anyone?).
4. Personalised keyboard shortcuts
Each software will offer different options, but they all generally allow for shortcut personalisation. If you work with a number of subtitling programmes, it's helpful to set the same shortcuts for each of them. Otherwise it's easy to get confused.
At the moment, I mainly use Subtitle Edit but I'm thinking of investing in another software. Recently I also got onboarded by a new client who has their own software. It's possible to change keyboard shortcuts on it (first thing I checked!), so I'll definitely be adjusting them to reflect what I'm used to.
And speaking of subtitling software...
5. A software that suits *your* needs
At the end of the day, it's you who'll be working on the software, so make sure you get one that you're happy with – and one that fulfils your needs.
When I was at the university, we all used WinCaps, but when I went freelance, I found the price for yearly subscription prohibitive. A colleague recommended Subtitle Edit. As a newbie subtitler, it was perfect for me: not only is it easy to use, lets me personalise the functions and add multiple client profiles (with different character per second and line length limits, etc.), but it's also completely free. Running a freelance business can be expensive, especially at first, when you have to buy plenty of equipment and tools. There's nothing wrong with using free software if it does the job! I'm sure if it wasn't for that option, many people would have to delay entering the profession due to the cost of subtitling software.
Please note, I don't have a sponsorship deal with any software producer I'm mentioning. This post simply reflects my personal experience.