Question about price quotes and time estimates?

Subject: Question about price quotes and time estimates?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, dvora -at- tech-challenged -dot- com
Date: Mon, 11 May 2009 14:47:52 -0400

Deborah Hemstreet wondered: <<For technical writing time estimates:
I've been taught that the standard for a new page of writing is
approximately 5 hours of work per page.>>

That's an entirely meaningless rule of thumb, and should never be used
for any kind of serious calculations, such as quoting a price. The
rate varies enormously among writers, but more importantly, it varies
enormously among topics for any given writer. For examle, a page of
text that requires careful testing followed by long discussion with
SMEs to learn the details can take an order of magnitude longer than a
page that can be written using nothing more than a functional
specification or a glance at the interface.

Though it's tempting to assume that the two types of page will cancel
out to yield an average of 5 hours per page, it would be unwise to
make that assumption. The only useful way to figure out pricing is to
learn your own productivity for different types of work, and then
apply that to a careful analysis of the nature of the job. For some
thoughts on how to do this:

To be safe, make sure you clearly understand the details of the job
before you even think about creating an estimate.

<<I was advised that the person wants 15 web pages, no more than 300
words per page, written within 15-20 hours. Does this seem reasonable
to you?>>

That comes to a total of no more than 4500 words in (say) 15 hours,
which means 300 words per hour. You can probably type that much in
about 5 minutes, but the real question is how long it will take you to
research the content for each page so you can produce those 300 words.
That can clearly take much longer than 5 minutes.

Never forget that there will generally be at least 1 revision cycle,
in which the client reviews your work and asks for changes. That can
increase your time requirement significantly. Be sure to specify that
they get 1 round of revisions as part of the original price, and that
all subsequent revisions will be billed at your standard hourly rate
of $X. It increases the likelihood of the reviews being done right the
first time, though there are no guarantees.

<<What if I am only marginally familiar with the subject matter? That
is, I know what it's about, but I would have to invest time to write
something better. I've always been told that less is more - in quality
and in time.>>

Less is indeed more, more or less. <g> But the problem is that it
often takes longer to write something concisely than it does to
blather on for pages until you've covered all the details. The problem
is that you must come to understand something reasonably deeply before
you can identify the essence -- that which is essential. Having done
so, you can then write only that essence and ignore the rest of the
stuff you might have been tempted to write. But identifying the
essence can take time, and the less familiar you are with the subject,
the more time it will take.

<<The person wants me to base everything on existing material, but to
avoid plagiarism, I would, essentially need to rewrite everything.>>

It's not plagiarism if the client owns the existing material. Of
course, if someone other than the client owns the material, then yes,
you'd have to rewrite from scratch to avoid plagiarism. But if you've
successfully written essays and term papers, you probably understand
the concept of summarizing someone else's words in your own words, so
that shouldn't be a problem. The only time this is a problem is if the
sources you're using did the job perfectly, and you'd have a hard time
doing an equally good job without quoting them. In that case, it may
be ethical to simply suggest that the client buy those words from the
copyright holder. <g>

Geoff Hart (
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Acrobat 9.0 Professional text edits a no-go: From: poshedly
Re: Acrobat 9.0 Professional text edits a no-go: From: Jay Maechtlen
Re: Question about price quotes and time estimates: From: Deborah Hemstreet

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