Tired of giving out technical advice for free?

Subject: Tired of giving out technical advice for free?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 09:07:40 -0500

Emily Berk reports: <<When I became a consultant, I also took up freelance
writing of articles for technical magazines. Although writing for magazines
is not at all profitable, I thought that the exposure might help me get
better-paid work and I enjoy calling up important folks in the industry and
asking pointed questions.>>

Sounds awfully familiar. <g> I write for the love of it, and for the
fascinating conversations it often leads to when I meet people at
conferences (or via e-mail once the article appears). Only recently have I
begun making any money from it. And while the money is an incentive, it's
not why I write.

<<But, looking back after 20 years of writing for peanuts for magazines, I
realize that I have not once found paid employment as a result of an article
I've written. I do, however, continue to get lots and lots of calls and
emails asking for additional information that did not appear in the
articles. Can you suggest some polite way for me to reply by saying, "I'm so
glad you liked the piece I published. Wouldn't you like to hire me as a
consultant so I could feel good about answering your question while also
feeding my family?">>

I think you should respond exactly the way you indicated, though with the
text polished a bit. When I get such questions, my usual response is "here's
the principle you need to understand... the details are up to you to figure
out". If I actually have time for new freelancing work, I usually append
something like "If you want more assistance, you can retain me as a
consultant. Call for details." It's more work than simply deleting the
message, but less than providing a full solution. And I look upon answering
the questions much the way I look upon techwr-l: a great way to stretch my
mental muscles by thinking about different problems than I face in my day

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Every man is a damned fool for at least five minutes every day. Wisdom
consists in not exceeding the limit."--Elbert Hubbard, author, editor,
printer (1856-1915)

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Office or RoboHelp Enterprise. Hurry, this offer expires February 28, 2002. www.ehelp.com/techwr

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