Work Online Success Story 3- Meet David, The Captioner

Last updated on July 11, 2020

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Don’t we all love to hear the success stories of other people who are working online? This blog post features David Mbugua, a video editor and captioner who has been working online from April 2012. He also has an amazing blog… amazing I tell you, and you can see all the good stuff he has to share right here. He tells us more about his journey. Enjoy!


You are a freelancer who works as a video editor & captioner? Please tell us, who is a video editor and who is a captioner?

In the simplest explanation possible a video editor is someone that edits videos and in my line of work this is mostly videos that clients send and they need cleaned up, cut, merged etc. A captioner is someone who subtitles videos. Subtitles are text that are displayed at the bottom of the screen, usually in films, documentaries etc.

How did you get started and what challenges did you experience initially?

I started out on video editing in mid-2012 and it all started out as a trial and error venture. I was not sure whether I would get paid but I decided to give it a shot. Luckily I landed my first job from a lady from Singapore that was so simple it took me less than 10 minutes to work on. From then on, I felt confident that if I bid on more jobs, I would land more contracts.

As a newbie, I faced challenges from all corners. Firstly, I had a mini-laptop but I had no stable internet connection. Internet is key when it comes to online jobs and especially with video editing, unlimited internet is crucial.

Secondly, I was not as skilled as I am today – video editing software was and still is very expensive.

Read: Success Story One- Joyce, the article writer.

Thirdly, my parents wanted me to look for a job. I know many online workers will identify with this. People think online jobs are not real jobs!

Lastly, my mind was all over me, playing tricks. I had plenty of uncertainty and that almost made me quit freelancing.

As a freelancer who is into captioning jobs, what does your work entail?

My work – captioning-  entails I accurately type out my captions with minimal or no wording mistake, ensure that the captions synchronize correctly to what is being said (i.e. the text does not come on screen too early or too late after the dialogue), and most critical is that my captions always need to be on screen in logical phrases for the audience to follow with ease.

Interesting stuff! So what skills are needed, that is for a video editor and for a captioner?

For a video editor all you need is a good understanding of what your client needs. Period. It is always important to take note that one needs to have taken some classes on video editing. I taught myself by watching videos on Youtube before I could afford a course.

As for a captioner the skills required include listening skills since you’ll be dealing with different accents, synchronization skills of the captions to ensure that they are palatable to the viewers and above all delivering quality captions that adhere to the Federal Communication Commission rules and regulations.

Awesome. What do you like most about your job?

I love the flexibility of the jobs I get. My jobs range from simple video edits to full blown instructional design gigs.

You work a lot on Upwork [formerly Odesk] Do you prefer hourly or fixed rate jobs? And why?

Yes I do work a lot on Upwork. Practically, 70 % of my gigs are through Upwork. I prefer hourly type jobs with a description of long term as I am able to get 3 clients to hire me at a favourable rate (between $7-$13/hr) for a minimum of 20 hours per week. I also work on fixed price jobs especially jobs that I know I will be able to outsource or will not take a lot of my time.

How much money can a captioner make per month?

Money! Money! This depends on where you get your jobs. One of the best sites to work on as a captioner is and one can make $240 – $1570 per month. This all depends on how active you are.

Read: Success Story Two – Chandi, the academic writer

Personally I get my captioning gigs on Upwork as I prefer dealing with the client directly.  I get clients who pay me $5 to caption a one 1 minute video, all the way to those who pay $40 for the same. It all depends on the client.

What is most challenging about being a video editor and captioner?

The most challenging experience as a video editor is the size of the videos one needs to download and edit. Some clients have videos ranging from 1 GB to 20GB per clip and it is pretty stressful to download videos of this size and upload videos of similar sizes to clients.

Also, some clients are not conversant with captions and so I end up spending a considerable amount of time explaining the process.

What advice do you have for newbies who want to work online as captioners and video editors?

The time is now. I repeat, the time is now. Stop procrastinating. Start bidding for these kind of jobs on freelancing sites such as Elance, Upwork, PeoplePer Hour etc. Bid objectively.

Learn new skills and build up on your current skills. These will come in handy in helping you land more and better paying contracts.

Above all be patient and objective in all that you do. Never give up.

Any last word for newbies?

Every process has a growth curve and I was once a newbie. Take time to learn, grow, network with other freelancers and diversify your income streams on the internet.

There we have it! Did you enjoy this? Learned a thing or two? Well … comment,comment,comment!


About the author

Virginia Nakitari is a work from home mom passionate about making money online. She's here to show you legitimate companies offering full-time, part-time and remote jobs from home! Stay tuned!

  • Very impressive I can’t believe the payments on Rev per month. I have a delayed date to attend classes as a captioner, but the time is now and now.

    Thanks Sheeroh for this.

    For David keep the fire burning bro.

  • I wonder how long it takes for one to become a fully trained captioner/editor. Downloading a 20gb video! – now, that’s a challenge. Great piece done by a wonderful lady about a awesome guy.

  • Very nice and informative article. Thanks Sheeroh for doing this piece. Thanks Dan for sharing your story.

    • Sure Winnie. Have you gotten into transcription fully? You can make up to $500 per month and more…

    • You are most welcome Ren. And a big thanks to our buddy David for sharing what he’s learned about online work.

  • I’m really impressed,convinced and motivated by your posts,your attitude towards advising others…… I think I’ve found what I was looking for. I’m just organizing myself and gathering the mental energy to go. I’m a good writer and I know my English is good because I have been writing official and legal letters for my acquaintances and they have always stood out. I am sure of my ability to be noticed by any scrutinized out there and you just stoked the fire in me. Thanks and watch me.Be blessed.

    • Keep that fire burning Andrea. Freelancing is a great career and online writing is all the craze. People need content – for their blogs, for ebooks etc. You are on the right track.

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