Re: Contractors vs employees. Was: Re: Jobs Future for Technical

Subject: Re: Contractors vs employees. Was: Re: Jobs Future for Technical
From: "Bonni J. Graham" <bgraham -at- ELECTRICITI -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 1994 11:29:54 PST

It's interesting how different market approaches affect the
contractor-vs-employee (and history) question. For example, I market
myself to small software companies that need a staff writer, but really
don't have enough work to keep one busy full-time. I am, in essence, their
TW dept, I just don't work there on site or all the time. They still get
history, I still get my afternoon naps.

They're my clients, and one of the services they pay for is history. I
function there just as I would if I worked full-time for them: I come sit
in on design meetings, critique the GUI, challenge assumptions, and
generally represent the user. Then I go away (and do the same thing, or a
different part of the process, for someone else). They create an alpha
version, I write doc based on that and send it in for review (see
parenthetical statement in previous sentence). I include usability
suggestions and issues that came up as I was writing. This is an iterative
process that continues until the product is nearly bug-free and the doc is
final-copy-quality. Then we ship and start all over again, same time, next
year. Meanwhile, I'm doing the same thing at another company.

One of my other clients is a bigger company that has enough work to keep
four writers busy, just not all the time. They could either go with four
contractors and lose history (maybe, if they used a different four each
time) or have one or two overworked writers all the time. What they've
done is found a third alternative: hire one full-time writer to coordinate
efforts and do some writing (i.e., the history part) and hire the same
bunch of contractors regularly with hiatuses (hiati?) when there's slack.
Seems to be working fairly well, so far.

I think the idea that we need to sell to companies is to chose the right
solution for the job. Some places really don't need someone there
full-time (some of my smaller clients only work me about two-three months,
total, out of the year -- and that truly does satisfy their documentation
needs). Some really shouldn't rely solely on contractors for many possible
reasons. Contractors and full-timers are like standard and Phillips head
screwdrivers -- you really do need both.

Bonni Graham
Manual Labour
Director, Region 8 Conference
bgraham -at- electriciti -dot- com

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