Re: Becoming a contractor without much..

Subject: Re: Becoming a contractor without much..
From: Peter Kent <71601 -dot- 1266 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 10:46:30 EST

>>Hi: I suspect I will get many discouraging posts from this article but
that's what it's all about.I am seriously setting up the necessary business
aspects before graduating from college in tech writing. I don't discount the
possibility of going to work for industry for a few years, but I know that
ultimately I will contract. I have heard of people who have done well coming
out of school and going into contracting but mostly I have heard of people who
have flopped and the reasons why. I believe an advantage I have is many years
of contracting (I was a building trades contractor for 5 years) and a strong
work ethic. In the past, as a contractor, I would often do extreme amounts of
homework before taking on jobs that were a little out of my area. I did well
at this (falls under common sense I think!) and think it can be done in the
area of tech communication. So I have some business sense, will have 5 product
portfolio, my writing is improving daily (and I love writing), an
understanding and entry-level experience in document planning and outlining. I
am self-taught and learning in the areas of DTP, online docs and help, html,
programming. I am bilingual, believe in long work days, etc. I also plan on
continuing my education. So what do you think?<<


I think you can do it, though if I was you I'd start by working through the
technical-service agencies. Play your cards right and you'll get paid more
than you would through a salaried position. You'll also get to meet other
freelancers, so you can start to build a good network.

The problem with trying to present yourself directly to clients is that right
now you are not really a technical writer, and will have trouble getting taken
seriously until you have some experience. Nobody knows what a technical writer
is; there are no established certifications or qualifications that you _must_
have. So my theory is that a technical writer is someone who has a technical
writing job! It doesn't matter where you start from, once you've got one
technical writing job, you are a technical writer. The agencies make it easy
to get started, and once you've worked a job or two with them you will, by
definition, be a technical writer, and in a better position to do true

Peter Kent
Peter Kent: 71601 -dot- 1266 -at- compuserve -dot- com, 303-989-1869
Coming soon, an updated and revised Technical Writer's Freelancing
Guide. E-mail for more information. Comments/suggestions welcome.

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