About agencies...

Subject: About agencies...
From: JPG3 <jpg3 -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 1994 08:02:02 -0400

OK, time for me to come clean. A few years ago, I actually worked for an
agency. They specialized in tech writers and course developers, and I was
the project manager for the contract writers. I would investigate the
projects, estimate jobs, and work with the sales people to help match
clients & contractors. I did this for 2 reasons: I needed the job, and I
was interested in learning all I could about the contracting field. Learn
I did.

I found that most of the people are OK. They're honest, they work hard for
their money, and they don't rip people off. There are exceptions. Some of
the people in this field have few if any scruples. But the bad ones don't
tend to last. If you know of an agency that's been in business for a few
years, then you have a clue that they're worth talking to.

Writers need to learn that you have some leverage, but not much. The
client has a budgeted amount for documentation. They go to an agency who
charges $45/hr to the client, and pays $25 - 30/hr to the contractor. Both
sides make out OK. Most writers learn that they can go after the same
types of jobs directly, without going through an agency, after they've
learned the ropes, made some contacts, and gotten a good reputation. Then
you get the $40 /hr yourself.

The rules of ethics are pretty strong. It's considered unethical for a
contractor to go to the client and negotiate the agency out of the picture
on a job that the agency placed the contractor. If you do this, you will
lose the agency as a future employer, and, since the industry is fairly
close knit, other agencies will learn about it and you could be unlisted
from them, too. On the other hand, if an agency places a contractor in a
position in a large company, and the contractor, on his/her own, learns of
another opening in the company - but in a different department - that
comes up as his/her contract is expiring, it's generally accepted that the
contractor can apply for that job directly. It's also not uncommon to see
the writer go to the agency and tell them that he'll go through them at a
better rate for the job. This keeps you in everyone's good graces.

John Garison (jgarison -at- zdi -dot- ziff -dot- com)

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