Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 15 Jul 1996 to 16 Jul 1996

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 15 Jul 1996 to 16 Jul 1996
From: Dennis Meier <boisemeier -at- EXECU -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 09:43:08 -0600

On Tue, 16 Jul 1996 Martin R. Smith <martins -at- NEWAGE -dot- OTSUKA -dot- COM> wrote
>Hi. Is there anyone on this list who works as a private contractor in the
>Denver/Boulder/Greeley/Fort Collins area? I am the one technical writer for
>a Fort Collins manufacturer of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
>Last December--when I was already knee-deep in
>alligators--I obtained a bid from a Denver-based technical writing company.
>They wanted $1,200 just to perform a light edit on one manual (roughly 250
>pages). This price did not include the indexing. In an environment where
>books are updated twice a year, this price was too high--perhaps by as much
>as a factor of 10. Management did not find the value-added improvement of
>catching a few typing errors to be worth the $1,200 expense, given the
>book's six month shelf life.

Speaking as an engineer I'd guess that your NMR equipment costs a heck of a
lot more than $1200. I suppose you can find somebody willing to do an edit
for, say, $120 if the only thing they are looking for is punctuation and
grammar. But assuming that this equipment is being sold for medical use (or
industrial?), I can think of absolutely no reason why your management should
not pay for a complete and thorough edit. Your company's reputation is on
the line after all, perhaps even somebody's life. I would not want to know
that a piece of equipment was used incorrectly because of a mistake in the
manual that could have been corrected by a more diligent review. If your
manual was for a game program I'd feel less strongly about this.

Sight unseen, here's how I would estimate the work: 250 pages/divided by
12 pages per hour is about 20 hours. I charge $45/hr as a free-lance
technical writer/engineer. 20 x 45 = $900. Add to that any costs for meeting
beforehand to define project objectives, resolution of questions during the
edit, and review of the results. $1200 sounds like a good estimate to me.
You can probably get somebody to just "edit" the document for $120--the
figure your management was hoping for--but I wouldn't want to touch it
unless I was also doing a bit of a usability analysis as I proceeded.

Dennis Meier, owner
Technical Communications Consulting

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