Re: Job Futures for Tech

Subject: Re: Job Futures for Tech
From: Barb Philbrick <barb -dot- philbrick -at- PCOHIO -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 1994 12:47:00 -0500

RJ>I've heard this also. I would be interested--and perhaps others would
RJ>also be--in learning more about the experiences of those who are
RJ>involved in contract work.

RJ> Will it provide steady employment, i.e.,
RJ>can one be self-supportive or do you need a second income from some
RJ>other source to make it?

I've been self-supportive for three years now. The first year as a
contractor was tight - I only made about $20K gross. Every year, though,
I have grown, and I am now making more than I did in my last full-time
job. Next year, I anticipate further growth, possibly even hiring
someone to help me out, at least part-time.

RJ>How do you obtain contracts? I know at
RJ>least one writer is using an online resume to obtain contracts. What
RJ>about others? Or other ways to get the word out?

RJ>How much time do
RJ>you spend marketing your skills?

In the first two years, I spent a lot of time (probably 40%) marketing.
I now spend less than 10% of my time marketing (BTW, not really a good
idea; I have contracts with several companies, so I feel fairly secure,
but it's bad business to drop out of sight).

I used a combination of contacts, cold calls, and mailings to get
business. I sent four mailings of about 100 pieces each. Each mailing
got at least two contracts, and one of each of those contracts has
turned out to be a repeat customer. This year, I got one job from a
referral, and one job from my STC contacts.

I got better results on one of my first mailings when I followed up the
letters with phone calls. (IIRC, I got four leads and two contracts,
instead of two leads and one contract.)

I developed my mailings through cold calls - before I sent out the
mailings, I called a bunch of potential clients and introduced myself
and my services (once I got through to the appropriate person). I
developed my mailing and my skills sheet based on the questions people

I developed the mailing list from a variety of sources - newspaper ads,
Thomas Regional Directory, companies that I knew hired technical
writers, and local business magazines.

I know other people that get work through agencies (job shops) - the
work generally doesn't pay as well, but you can often get benefits, and
they do the marketing for you. It's not a bad way to get started; if you
can land a lucrative full-time (or more-than-full-time) contract, it can
tide you through the beginning stages of going out on your own.

I've also sub-contracted to other, larger technical writing firms, but
my experiences there have lead me to believe that it's not a good idea.
As with all things, YMMV.

On the larger issue of experiences with contract technical writing - I
love it. I love the variety of work, people, and places. I like the
variety of tasks - you're your own office manager, purchasing agent,
marketing, and sales person. It's not for everyone, and I don't believe
we can ever replace in-house staff, but it's perfect for me.

Hope this answers some of your questions!


barb -dot- philbrick -at- pcohio -dot- com
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