TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
> As has been said the market determines the rates but how/where does it all start. The answer to this is, I feel, it depends (again!).
Before there is any work for the TW the company hiring has to perceive that there is a benefit to using a TW instead of getting the engineer/programmer to spew something out that meets the contract requirements. This benefit may be that the 'better' docs produced will enhance the end product, that it will be cheaper to have a TW do it than a highly skilled engineer (the tech typist syndrome) etc. Whatever the reason, the company then makes a value judgement (value to them)
as to what to pay - perhaps a % of programming rate or whatever.
Once a rate has been decided they can go look for the TW. Then comes the value judgement by the TW - this may simply be a question of is this enough money but there are usually other considerations: you really need the job; pay's OK but it's a good company to work for; good atmosphere etc.
Over the years it becomes the norm (we wish!) that all writing was done by people who knew how to write etc and you then get the market coming into play - more jobs than TW = higher pay, fewer jobs than TW = lower pay. This is all very simplistic and doesn't take into account the TW experience, specific sector knowledge etc but I think the same can be applied