RE. Salary?

Subject: RE. Salary?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "'Beth Friedman'" <bjf -at- wavefront -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 08:43:46 -0400

Beth Friedman is <<...currently in a job where I work on salary, and I'm
trying to negotiate a raise based on the fact that my job requires (although
it doesn't consist entirely of) technical writing. Unfortunately, I'm having
difficulty finding any salary statistics that justify what I'm asking for.
The 1999 STC salary survey gives the median salary in my area of the country
at $46,000 for technical writers, and the mean salary for writers my age or
with my level of experience at about the same.>>

That's not a bad rate at all, at least by Canadian standards, but I have no
idea what the cost of living is in your area and thus whether it's a good
rate by local standards. The key thing to remember is that if you're on
salary, you should also be receiving benefits (pension, medical, paid
vacation, office and computer, etc.) that you'd have to pay for yourself if
you were freelancing. These benefits are often claimed to cost the employer
as much as 50% of the dollar cost of your paycheque in addition to that pay,
though again, this varies strongly depending on how lucrative the benefits
package happens to be and what local taxes are. So if your freelance hourly
rate is (to make the numbers easy) $50, and you work fifty 40-hour weeks per
year, the equivalent wage (including benefits and coverage of ongoing costs,
which presumably are included in your hourly rate) would be $100K. The
paycheque (i.e., excluding the benefits) that would pay you this would be
ca. $67K per year (i.e., add 50% to this and you'll get $100K). Reduce the
numbers in direct proportion to what your actual hourly wage is, how many
weeks of vacation you want, and the actual cost of benefits in your area.
Also reduce it by the fact that as a freelancer, you can't always bill
$50/hour, and can't guarantee that you'll be working 40 hours per week all
year.

The downside to this calculation, apart from the fact that it's woefully
imprecise and simplistic, is that the market may not support that kind of
price. But given that the _median_ salary in your area is $46K, and that
(from what I've seen) you've got more experience and skill than the average
bear, you should feel comfortable asking for a salary at least one standard
deviation above the median. Whether you'll get it or even come close is
another story entirely, and depends on your employer's budget and your
negotiating skills, among other things. I could likely bump my salary up by
20% if I jumped ship for the high-tech sector, and though that's sometimes
attractive, I would work much harder and enjoy it much less, so I'm staying
put. Is that a factor in your situation?

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer




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