Subject: $/word
From: scot <scot -at- HCI -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 14:28:32 +1100

>> Tech Writing paid by the word. Yeeeehaaaa!
>[snip the gory details ;-)]

>> Have any of y'all EVER come across such a billing method in
>> tech writing?

>Of course this sounds ridiculous, but it raises a question in my mind:
>isn't getting paid by the hour a little silly, too? If we answer this
>question "no," is our response prompted simply by the fact that much
>TWing *is* done for an hourly wage? Getting paid by the word might
>encourage some to be more verbose, but isn't there a similar temptation
>if you're paid by the hour? Getting paid by the word might be
>detrimental to the more efficient writer, but isn't the case the same
>for those paid by the hour?

But hourly rates of paid are the only sure-fire way to measure your
workload. Seriously. As well as writin' there's researchin' abd meetin' and
negotiatin' and the list is endless.

Simple, concise writing takes -extra effort- to produce, just like simple,
concise programming.

If your employer doesn't think you are productive (as compared to the
'average writer' one supposes) then they can fire you.

If they simply demand an unreasonable amount of productivity, then that
employer isn't worth working for anyway and I'd be walking outta there
before I'd manage to get fired (unless I thought a actually getting -fired-
over the issue was warranted). And I'd tell them -exactly- why I was resigning.

>So what ever happened to the simple notion of getting paid by the job?
>Clients (in *any* industry) must have an idea of what a particular task
>or assignment is worth to them; why don't we just negotiate that value?
>Have any of you worked on that basis?

Sure, we will do work for a fixed price. The 'fixed' price given is a large
percentage above the original estimated time in the doc plan. I tell the
writers, "take EXACTLY x hours to do this part, not a minute longer", which
is to say, everything gets written to a budget, not to an end-user need.

I would also -insist- on documenting only ONE version of the software (ie
'fixed price == document version of software as it is TODAY, if the software
is not finished, I would add 100% contingency fee or tell the client to wait
until the software IS finished), --AND-- I would tell the client exactly
WHO would be reviewing the document and in what EXACT time frame I expect
them to do so. Additionally, my first task would be to re-estimate the
project and lock down absolutely EVERYTHING ELSE LEFT. I would have the
client sign every single page of the plan. I would have the client sign
every single page of the first draft. After the first draft I would NOT let
the client review ANYTHING BUT TECHNICAL ISSUES. Drafts reviewed by
non-approved reviewers or returned after the cut off date would simply be

If any overrun was my fault (or my writers) of course I would wear the extra
cost. BUT in my experience MY writing teams are always BETTER than the
'average' productivity, so if we're running over it's the client's fault (eg
changed scope, major product revisions, etc). That's why I'd go to all the
trouble above (and of COURSE the cost of doing so is built into the fixed
quote price!).

Which is to say, the final, FIXED price is much more expensive (and much
less flexible, and hence, much less VALUE) than the original variable
estimate (which we ALWAYS get within 10% of given the absence of
client-initiated contingencies as described above).

hope this makes some sense.

HCI Consulting, GPO Box 4846 Sydney NSW 2001 Australia.
#include std.disclaimer

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