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My company has done extensive recruiting of technical writers since
1983. In the last five years, the number of companies recruiting
technical writers has grown exponentially. Unfortunately, it seems to us
that the ethics of both recruiters and writers has declined in inverse
proportion to the increase in recruiters and tightening of the job
In the 1980's and early to mid-90's both writers and recruiters were
careful to maintain long-term relationships by honoring verbal
commitments on rates, interview attendance, and availability for
projects. Since about two to three years ago, we've noticed that writers
are pretty casual about committing to a project for a certain rate and
project start date, only to renege at the last minute because of a
better offer. I suspect that new recruiters in the field were the first
offenders and that many writers became cynical about commitments because
of being abused many times. If either party breaks commitments, it still
causes damage either to the writer or to client relations.
To recruiters I say, keep commitments to writers and don't treat them
like cattle or, eventually, they will not want to work with you; and,
right now, it is a seller's market. To writers I say, it's a seller's
market now, but this can change. Recruiters that you leave high and dry
now, may leave you high and dry later. Hey --karma, "you reap what you
sow," "what goes around comes around."
Regarding gross margins, most service companies need between 40% and 50%
gross margins to cover selling/marketing costs, costs of blown projects,
bad debt, and administrative and equipment costs, plus bank and lease
interest. Hopefully, there's some net profit left too. Some very large
brokers may have lower margins (30%) because of the volume of business
they do and economies of scale. None of this is a plot against writers;
it's just business--buying at wholesale, selling at retail.