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I had been a permanent (techwriting) employee for over 7 years when I decided
to give contracting a try. So now, here I am with my first contract, working
at home, and I'm in a quandry. The previous writer of the manual I'm updating
wrote in passive voice with lots of awkward and sometimes inaccurate
explanations. And I have a compulsion to make it better.
The problem? Before I started the job, the employer wanted a flat rate
estimate. When I made my estimate, I didn't realize just how bad the old
manual was. I suppose I could just update the old one by slapping in
descriptions of the new features, imitating the writing style of the first
writer. But that wouldn't meet my personal standards of good writing.
My choice is to either compromise my personal standards or spend a lot more
time and turn out something I feel good about. The choice seems obvious to
me, and if I take the high road then the money I'm not earning for the extra
effort doesn't matter. But I know I can't continue doing this if I want to
pay my rent.
I'm not even sure the employer cares about good writing. During the
pre-contract stages, no one there said, "Gee, this manual isn't written very
well. Do you think you could improve it?" My fantasy is that my changes will
demonstrate that something better can be done.
Maybe this is a lesson I need to learn about contracting. Has anyone had a
similar experience? How do other people handle this? Of course, there's a
tight schedule, and the product hasn't been frozen yet, and it's being
produced in another country. Can anyone think of a way I can justify asking
for more money, or should I just swallow my standards?