Re: software question
Maybe the climate is different in Sarah's neck of the woods, but I can assuredly state (esp. after writing 11 books for publishers all over the globe) that understanding packages such as Framemaker is an absolute if you want to consult. Most of my publishers also use Frame in production. I think that attests to the strength of Frame.
While understanding FrameMaker opens up new areas of consulting, I would have to say that a majority of companies I've worked with use Word, or either PageMaker or InDesign. (Yep, there are still a lot of PageMaker based companies out there.) Most of these are smaller and while they understand the need for documentation, they do not have the resources to hire a TW full time and they want the end product in a format that they can update through the product's life cycle.
The cost of FrameMaker is also a disincentive for many smaller companies. A former employer was Word and PageMaker based and has since migrated to InDesign because the cost and steep learning curve for Frame was not cost effective. They moved to InDesign because it could be used by both the TW and the Marketing Department, and the learning curve was relatively shallow.
A lot of companies are also using online (or disc based) documentation (PDF or Help) which can be accomplished using programs such as Doc-to-Help. Since virtually every Windows-based computer system comes with Word, it allows companies to have the engineer write up a draft description in Word, then hand the package off to a contracting TW or Help developer. So, you can do quite well without FrameMaker; however, having FrameMaker skills will definitely open up doors to those larger companies (and subsequently, more lucrative contracts).
Additionally, as a JD grad. if you need contract help go to an attorney, don't just willy-nilly add stuff to an existing contract. Platform issues should never be part of a contract, but should have their own Exhibit in your contract. Just my judicial opinion.I totally agree with Michele. Trying to be your own lawyer will only get you in trouble. If in doubt, spend a few bucks to have a lawyer look over your contract, including any additions/deletions you wish to implement.
Al Geist, Geist Associates
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