Re: $ per word - quantifying TW

Subject: Re: $ per word - quantifying TW
From: Win Day <winday -at- IDIRECT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996 08:46:46 -0500

At 07:44 PM 1/17/96 -0500, Dennis Hays wrote:

>Bottom line: it's not fair to the writer or the employer to trade word for
>dollars. Either one or the other feels they haven't got their money's worth
>at the end of any day. It's never worked for me. Nor has flat
>rate--especially with the amount of change orders I need to document.

My first contract as a freelancer was a lump-sum project. It was a
financial disaster for a number of reasons (I won't explain here, as some of
the personalities involved follow this list).

My opinion of lump-sum work hasn't changed from my engineering days:
lump-sum contracts are adversarial from the start. Either the contractor
builds in so much contingency that the client gets cheated, or the client
chooses the lowest bidder, who hasn't built in ENOUGH contingency and
therefore gets cheated.

It's difficult to track minor scope changes (the major ones are usually
obvious). Who's responsible if the first draft has to be scrapped? Did the
clients change their collective minds (I worked for a committee; I don't
recommend it!), or did the contractor misunderstand the requirements? Who
pays for the extra time when revisions are far more substantial than
originally estimated?

When the client is a committee with members in several locations, who
consolidates the review comments? Who resolves conflicts between reviewers?
And who pays for the time involved?

Unless the project scope is EXTREMELY well-defined, and you're comfortable
negotiating extensions or fees for extra work, avoid lump-sum projects.

And don't get paid by the word, or the page. Who covers the cost of the
time you spend THINKING? and planning? and fruitlessly trying to track down
SMEs who travel a lot? and babysitting the printing house who messes up
your layout if you don't watch? and transferring files by modem when you
finally do track down your SME, only to find she's half a continent away and
not coming home till a week from Tuesday?

Gaah! What a mess! At least I charge by the hour, not by the word.

Win Day
Technical Writer/Editor
Email: winday -at- idirect -dot- com

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