Technical Writer Rates

Subject: Technical Writer Rates
From: "EXT-Hornoi-Centerwall, Theodore" <Theodore -dot- Hornoi-Centerwall -at- PSS -dot- Boeing -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 12:21:56 -0800

De-lurking here.

The discussion about the illegality of setting rates raises an interesting question. What determines technical writer rates, either for sale of service/product or for hours worked, in light of the rapidly changing face of the profession? (This may have been addressed in the archives, but all the discussions I have read are about the rates, but not what lies behind them. Read on.)

Before someone says, "The marketplace," I would like to know how that works in the case of techwriters. Because, in theory at least, the value of a service or product such as what we provide is based on both some intrinsic value and a customer-assigned value. To be specific, documentation has an intrinsic value in terms of facilitating use of a software application, but well-written specifications based on customer-requested functionality, probably has a higher value.

There are web sites that list rates for technical writing. These may be useful starting points, but they do not answer the question. How does the technical writing professional determine if she is obtaining a reasonable rate for her work? It surely is not truly subjective. How is it evaluated?

And the same holds true if we are talking about time, instead of piece-work. If you are negotiating a rate, assuming such negotiation is possible, how do the usual variables sort themselves out, in terms of how they influence your professional value? Knowledge of DTP tools? Industry experience? Specialized training?

I am asking anyone who has struggled with this and found out anything that helped them handle the issue of rates and value "on the fly" -- when faced with the need to decide quickly whether they were being valued at, below, or above what is "reasonable" -- if you have done this, I would be very interested in hearing from you.

In the interest of full-disclosure, two comments:

Rates in other writing fields, such as journalism or freelance writing (as for magazines and journals), arguably have some relevance to the issue of rates for technical writers. If there is any connection, I would be interested in knowing that. But on the face of it, the connection is doubtful.

One other point -- I am not interested in any discussions about the legality of doing this that or the other regarding rates. I am interested in knowing how the value I have mentioned directly impacts rates, especially since there seem to be no standards in this area. Whether that is good or bad is another story.

I will post to the list a summary of the responses I receive.

Ted Hornoi-Centerwall
Technical Writer
CAS-CADE and CATIA Small Apps (6-6C11)
425-477-4421 7-311.1 1C13-1.2 MS 6F-06

Asking questions about your OWN work, then providing good,
solid answers for those questions is a powerful technique
for not only refining a design, but for learning a lot about
yourself and your insights as a visual communicator.
-- "Fred", DTGNews -at- aol -dot- com

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