Hourly Wages for Tech Writing?

Subject: Hourly Wages for Tech Writing?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Khizran Kaleem <khizran -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 13:43:01 -0500

Khizran Kaleem wonders: <<I am planning to take up some freelance work on an hourly wage. I will be working on help file (.chm) for an application. I know quite a few people who haven't really had a good experience with being paid per hour. Let's say if the writer has put in 3hrs to work on a User Manual, the client might not agree that it was actually a 3hrs task which often causes problem during payments.>>

All such details must be specified in the contract, and the contract must be written and signed by both parties if you want it to stand up in court. (Verbal contracts are equally valid--it's just much harder to prove who said what. Same for e-mail: it's valid, but easy enough to forge that you could have trouble proving your point.) If the client agrees to pay you an hourly wage, they must pay you that wage-- no questions asked. If they're not satisfied with the work, that's a different story--I usually guarantee my clients one rewrite based on their feedback (more if they're prepared to build that extra work into the contract price), and after that, they pay by the hour.

Clients who aren't comfortable with an open-ended hourly rate often request a fixed price. In that case, you need to narrowly define everything that you'll be doing for that price and what constitutes a new task for more money (e.g., more than one rewrite, in my case). You might be interested in my article on the topic:
It's a bit simplistic, because whole books have been written on estimating jobs (Hackos' book is the biggie in our field), but it's short and sweet, and will help you understand how to develop a more realistic system that meets your own needs.

In my editing work, I offer my clients a compromise. I always offer them a maximum price (based on many years of my statistics on worst- case editing times), and give them two choices: they can pay the maximum, and no more, no matter how long it takes me, or they can pay me by the hour, with a cap on the price at the aforementioned maximum. If they opt for a fixed price, I earn considerably more than my usual hourly wage on most jobs; if they opt for a capped hourly rate, I still earn my minimum hourly wage in most cases.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca

(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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Hourly Wages for Tech Writing: From: Khizran Kaleem

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