Something I never thought I’d ever tell people is that I was a teleprompter operator for 3 ½ years. But it’s true, and honestly it was the best side hustle I’ve ever had!
How I Got Started
Teleprompting was definitely something I fell into. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree in film production in 2009, and man was that a terrible time to graduate. The recession was in full swing, no one was hiring, and I was desperate to make some money to start paying off my student loans.
After working a 4-month contract job in the summer, I made sure to spread the word that I was looking for work to anyone and everyone. My dad, being the guy who always wants to help (especially when it comes to his family) said he would pass my resume onto the hiring department at the news station he worked at. Not thinking that it would lead to anything, a month later I was called in for an interview, was hired on the spot, and started training to be an on-call teleprompter operator later that week. Once I got a full-time job 6 months later, I decided to keep it as a second job to supplement my income.
What is a Teleprompter Operator?
For those of you who don’t know what I mean by teleprompter operator (which is probably most of you, it’s an odd job to be fair), it just means being the person who literally scrolls the script for the news anchors to read during a telecast. That’s pretty much it.
It sounds simple (and it is to a certain extent), but it’s also unbelievably stressful. Every show I worked on was live, and when you made a mistake it was very obvious.
What Were the Pitfalls?
Although it was a great job to have to make some extra cash, there were quite a few pitfalls. As I mentioned, making a mistake as a teleprompter was not like making a mistake at any other job. The scripts that got loaded into the teleprompter system were always full of typos and mistakes. Eventually I learned to spot these things, but as a trainee I was making mistakes left, right, and center.
For instance, although most of the anchors I worked with were seasoned pros, there were one or two who would read every single word on the teleprompter (just like Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy). I’m pretty sure a lot of the footage that ended up on the station’s blooper reel was my doing.
Another big pitfall was the hours. All the shifts were at night or early in the morning. At first this was great because I could take shifts and they would never conflict with my regular 9-5 job. But working 8pm to midnight shifts during the week and 7am – 3pm on weekends definitely took its toll after a while.
What Were the Perks?
Well, the biggest perk was definitely the money! Because it was a union job with a set pay scale, I actually got paid more per hour as a teleprompter than I did at my full-time entry-level job. How much exactly? $20 per hour. Since I worked on average 16 hours per month I made an extra $4,000 per year before taxes.
Over the 3 ½ years I worked there, I banked an additional $14,000 on top of my regular income. Not too shabby! Some other perks were that I got to actually meet some of the anchors I had grown up watching on TV in person. Plus I sure knew everything there was to know about local and world news during those years!
How to Get Started Teleprompting
Although I’d love to be able to share some advice on how you can become a teleprompter operator too, I just can’t. You see, teleprompter operators are going the way of the dinosaur and will soon be all but extinct. At the beginning of 2013, the news station I worked at started phasing out teleprompter operators in order to install newer equipment.
The sad truth is my job was replaced by a foot pedal that the anchors could control themselves. I was disappointed to leave, but in the end I knew had a good run. I was able to save up enough for a few vacations, my wedding, and most recently my big move from Vancouver to Toronto.
Now onto the next side hustle!
Jessica blogs about personal finance, traveling on a budget, and leading a frugal lifestyle over at JessicaMoorhouse.com/. She currently works full-time in marketing and advertising, but instead of teleprompting she now makes money on the side as a freelance writer.