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  • Part time career/business ideas? Need flexible schedule

  • Nina Staum

    May 11, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Picture this family situation: A mom, a dad, two kids, and a teeny tiny apartment in a high cost-of-living area. Dad makes enough money to cover the bills, but just barely, so Mom needs to bring in a little money (without incurring daycare expenses) to cover swimming lessons, holiday presents, emergencies, and savings. Let’s say that Mom has a broadcast editor’s skill set and does NOT want to work in the kids’ clothing store in the mall or sew crafts to sell on Etsy.

    Now here’s the catch – Dad works til 7:00 every weekday, and is gone all day Wednesday and one weekend a month, and the apartment is way too small to set up a proper edit suite…a Mac and a set of headphones in the corner of the kitchen/living room is the best case scenario. What would you do?

    Here are options that I’ve come up with so far:
    1. Try to find freelance editing/assistant editing/VTR Op work 3-4 weekends a month.
    2. Buy a Mac and come up with a home business that won’t involve clients in session or unexpected deadlines…like transferring peoples’ home videos to DVD or encoding for web, or shooting and editing weddings.
    3. Supplement #1 or #2 with tutoring people in Final Cut Pro or iMovie.


  • Bob Zelin

    May 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    1) Move out of Manhattan or San Francisco. Manhattan is no place to raise a small child.

    as per below –
    . Try to find freelance editing/assistant editing/VTR Op work 3-4 weekends a month.

    REPLY – IF you are able to find weekend work (IF), you have to be on THEIR SCHEDULE, not your schedule. And you have to work as long as the job requires (overtime if necessary) because weekend work is usually emergency/deadline work. You can’t say “I have to go, my husband has to go to work tomorrow, and has to get some sleep”. With more and more tapeless work, there is less and less “VTR Machine Room Tape Op” jobs. Back in the stone age in NY, I did weekend shifts at MTI in Manhattan, and there was never a tape op for the session (and this was big online days).

    2. Buy a Mac and come up with a home business that won’t involve clients in session or unexpected deadlines…like transferring peoples’ home videos to DVD or encoding for web, or shooting and editing weddings.

    REPLY – again, you are at the mercy of your clients schedule, and deadlines, not at the convenience of your family. “I have to take my kid to school/doctor/swimming lessions” does not take priority to your clients- well, it does if you are a mom, but doesn’t cut it if you have to show up to shoot a wedding rehearsal, or deliver a client DVD, because you have to make your husband dinner. You could be looking for part time work as a plumber, house painter, air conditioning tech, cab driver, toll collector – you have to SHOW UP ON TIME and do your job – no one cares if your kid has swimming lessons. I understand your situation, but when someone is paying you, you have to do the job. AND you have to spend time looking for this work, because there are full time working people looking for this exact same work.

    3. Supplement #1 or #2 with tutoring people in Final Cut Pro or iMovie.

    REPLY – again, if you MOVE OUT OF THE CITY, you could certainly find assistant teaching positions (I think of Full Sail in Orlando), where you could make $15 per hour, at weird shift hours. But will you be able to find this kind of job at NYU or New School ? Probably not – (but maybe). As far as putting an ad in the Village Voice (Final Cut Pro lessons at my home or yours $20 per hour) – who knows.

    No one knows better than me what it is like to live in a tiny apartment in the city, where you have no time for yourself, to do anything. Add the responsibility of a kid to that – I can’t even imagine.

    Bob Zelin

  • Mark Suszko

    May 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    FWIW, doing wedding edits and montages from home should work out pretty okay for a stay at home editor-mom. If you have a really good high speed connection, you can FTP the files around and not worry about messenger deliveries until the final DVD is ready. You can pull away from the computer to feed or diaper or snuggle a kid, then go back to the work when the immediate situation is over. And many times, just being close by is enough to “solve” a lot of things when parenting. Wedding edits I’m familiar with usually have a one-week deadline, so the product is ready to view when the couple returns from the honeymoon. That could be enoguh time to make it doable for you.

    You might be able to hook up with several wedding shooters and get steady work that way, particularly building montages for things like rehearsal dinners. That’s pretty simple work, if tedious, and can be handled with Fedex and FTP.

    Another thing that might work, but has shorter turn-around, is building graphics packages for a local TV station. You would get the specific assignments in the morning and need to have stuff built by noon or maybe 2PM, depends on what cast it is for. Packages for feature pieces and promos may have longer deadlines. You live in a good time period for this kind of work to become a viable option: bits are bits, and where you push the pixels means less these days than it used to, long as they show up where and when they need to. And that’s only going to accellerate with time, as better bandwidth keeps commoditizing post production and graphic design services more and more.

    The main problem I see for you is that you don’t really have the time to market your services and DO the service, while taking care of the kids and yourself. So networking thru wedding planners and established shooters would be a logical first step, before trying to strike out on your own with a business from scratch. They won’t pay awfully well, but the flexible hours can make up for that, plus the volume of work. My wife did much the same in graphic arts and design freelance work during her first pregnancy, and that was back when a mac workstation, laser printer, and a copy of Illustrator cost about as much as a compact car. We also chose not to chase two full-time incomes just to throw away all the second income to pay for some strangers to raise our own kids.

    FWIW, IMO I think you’re on the right track philosophically to do a better job raising your own kids your own way, while keeping home expenses low and bringing in the freelance jobs when and where you can. It’s not forever; they DO grow up eventually and as they do, you can free up a little more time all along the way to expand the freelance work and transition yourself back into the maintream again. Never let it be said you’re not doing the most important work RIGHT NOW anyway. Regardless of gender, parenting has to be the first priority. Paying for it, well, you manage it one way or another, and freelance as you are wanting to do is one way to keep the career on life support until you can devote more resources to it. Use the time you DO get to perfect new techniques and keep current.

    Also, check into online spots like to see where you can pick up or bid on jobs that suit your style and resources.

    Best of luck to you. Hang in there and remember that the time is really flying by, even if it doesn’t feel like it some days. I just blinked, and my first kid is already learning to drive with me.

  • Nina Staum

    May 11, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I guess my initial post was really not that clear. I think my real question is: would it be worth the $3K or so to buy a shiny computer on the hope that it could maybe make some money, or should I take my chances as a freelancer with low availability?

    This also wasn’t clear: I would not try to freelance or run a business with no childcare, just no paid childcare. Thus, I would be available 25+ hours a week late evenings and weekends when my husband is not working, and he can make his own dinner if I am saving him daycare costs by scoring work on the side, thank you very much.

    For the record, I have freelanced before as a side gig to my f/t job, and no it was not all emerg/deadline (just probably the good paying stuff.) When I freelanced lots of it was lo stress but stuff that no legit editor really wants to do or merits the budget for the day shift. Stuff like loading, conforming, transcribing, archiving, cutting the piece of garbage that the client shot on VHS, or indie stuff if you’re lucky. Given that we’ve had a recession I would believe that this work is less available now, so if anyone can speak to that I would appreciate it.

    I actually did not realize there was such a thing as a VTR Op in a post facility, I was thinking about trying to get some casual VTR/master control shifts in a TV station. I have exp & connections locally so it might not be totally farfetched. Once again, not fun work – but when you’re done, you’re done.

    The idea of working through established shooters is a good one. I do know a couple people who might be up for that. Also good to know that the standard deadline is a week. That does seem very do-able. Question about doing montages though…that crossed my mind, as it would be unbelievably easy…how can you be paid or advertise your services when everyone would want copyrighted music?

    1) Move out of Manhattan or San Francisco. Manhattan is no place to raise a small child.
    Nope. I’m in Canada and life is just not that simple.

    Has teaching come shockingly down in price? $20/hour, really??? When I did FCP workshops @ the filmmakers’ co-op I made MORE per hour than I made editing…and I charged LESS than the other guy in town because he’s Apple Certified and I’m not. (Unfortunately had to give up this gig per the contract I had at my full time job.) I also used to get paid ridiculous money to tutor one-on-one or set up peoples’ home systems. Now I know there’s not a ton of this type of work available so probably not an issue either way, but $20??

  • Nina Staum

    May 11, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Sorry I also meant to say that the idea of doing gfx for a station is awesome…if I could find a gig like that it might pay enough to justify part time childcare. My husband thinks I should try to do live closed captioning. I thought most of that stuff was done in-house (hehe or in Toronto, where I don’t live) but I could ask around, you never know.

  • Mark Suszko

    May 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Closed-captioning and subtitling work could be perfect for you. What you want to do is contact government media departments, because with any video project, state, local, whatever, that has a connection to FEDERAL money, their videos must be fully compliant with all the accessibility standards, so they HAVE to caption it, but often lack the manpower, resources, or time to devote to that. That’s where YOU could come in.

    If you’ve got a copy of the new Adobe suite, it might even be able to give you a head start on converting the audio to text. Or another way to go is, you play the source file in your headphones, and repeat everything that is said, clearly, in one voice, into one of the speech recognition programs out there. You do it that way because it is easier and more accurate to “train” the software to one voice.

    So, there you’re almost live-captioning on the fly, to generate the text file. Then you can drag and drop those text files into the captioning software or the subtitle tracks of the DVD authoring software. This is the plan I have for our own shop, where we’re similarly required to caption certain things but lack affordable dedicated captioning services.

    We do have a woman on call who can do actual live-captioning over a phone connection; we feed her program audio thru a regular phone line and her keystrokes come back to us thru a second phone line and right into the cc encoder. Roll a live recording from the encoder output and bam, it is captioned in real time.

    There *are* some errors generated in that way, though, and sometimes the cleanup takes a lot of time. But her rates are very reasonable and because it is all over the phone, relatively easy to book at short notice and odd times. She’s a certified court reporter and you’d have to be one of those to be good enough to live caption on a regular basis, I should think. Many local TV stations just input the text files from their news scripts into the encoder, so only the scripted parts of their broadcast are actually captioned, but it’s free, so that’s what they do…

    But if you don’t need to do it in real-time, the method I outlined could be one way to go. You should ask the guys in the COW captioning forum for better and more detailed advice if you want to set yourself up as “the captioning lady”. But I think that could be a great niche market for you, especially if you have facility with some foreign languages like Spanish. Or, since you’re Canadian, French. Hardware-wise, you wouldn’t need the fastest or newest computer editing platform for this stuff, just a lot of reliable storage, and some agreed method of ingesting and outputting the formatted master material. Maybe a bluray burner for that, if they can’t take FTP. Ask the captioning captains.

  • Bob Zelin

    May 11, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Nina –
    doing close caption work at home is GENIUS !

    is a sponsor of Creative Cow, and this product works great. Most companies DREAD doing close caption work, and you could offer this as an outside service, and this is work that almost NO ONE wants to do. You may have found your niche ! OF course, before you spend $3000 on your shiny new MAC, and $5000 for this software, I would ask around, and solict some clients, before investing 10 grand, and then not get any work.

    bob Zelin

  • Nina Staum

    May 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Really interesting. I suspect there aren’t any decently priced CC facilities locally, because my old company got sick of sending it out of town and started doing it in-house. As I remember for 1/2 hour show it takes a PA about half a day to do the captioning, working from script (guess they didn’t know about the voice recognition software, cause I got in trouble for changing scripts all the time.)

    I skimmed the CPC site and it looks pretty awesome, had no idea you could do HD captions without hardware. I’ll have to ask around and try to find out what the other companies in town are doing…if they still send stuff out there could be an opportunity. Or maybe I could pitch my old company to hire me to work from home and free up the PAs to fetch lattes?

    A quick Google search also turned up a Montreal company with a job offer for captionist working from home. Unfortunately my written French isn’t quite good enough but lots of food for thought for sure.

  • Todd Terry

    May 12, 2010 at 3:31 am

    I have to agree that captioning might could be a viable business idea.

    The fellow we use for CC work is a one-person company. I think he maintains an office (I’m not sure, as he is in another city), but could just as easily be working from home. And he constantly just stays covered up in work.

    He does live captioning for a couple of shows at the PBS station (he’s a former court reporter, which I’m sure helps wildly with live captioning), but he does tons and tons of CC work for pre-recorded programs.

    And he’s dirt cheap… I always thought that he should raise his rates. He could triple his rates and still be less expensive than the other captioning companies we investigated. Ergo, if I were planning to start a new CC business I would definitely make sure the rates were worth my time.

    The only real downside I can see to it is that it probably is really mindnumbingly boring work.


    Todd Terry
    Creative Director
    Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

  • Rick Turners

    May 12, 2010 at 4:25 am

    I used to work at a place that did close captioning on anime shows..

    paid Closed captioner $150 per 20-30 minute episodes (how much the company was getting, I dont know)

    The boss would always talk about how EVERYONE in LA is offering CC services, so the market is very competitive.. but I’m not sure its not as bad as the editorial market.

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