Re: job negotiation for beginner (long)

Subject: Re: job negotiation for beginner (long)
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 12:30:34 -0700

At 11:13 AM 10/18/96 -0700, Su-Laine Yeo wrote:
>I think this is both an excellent learning opportunity, and way over my head...

[snip the details on an offer to become "The Lone Writer"]

>I'd appreciate any and all advice. I plan to ask to be paid, as I can
>think of more worthy causes which could use some writing help. Is this a
>workable situation, or should I concentrate on getting a more conventional
>entry into the field? Should I insist they hire an experienced tech
>writer at the same time to keep me on track (if I had skilled mentoring and
>feedback, I wouldn't mind working for free)? Turn the whole thing over to
>a contracting company and let them handle it? Draw up a contract for the
>least possible commitment and see how it goes?

From the sounds of it, Su-Laine, you've found a way to cram about five
years experience into two (at most). Yes, it's an enormous challenge.
But I'm a firm believer in jumping in with both feet and learning how
to swim in the process. ;-)

Yes, definitely ask to be paid. A modest salary for a full-time position
would be your best bet. After all, they need help with so many different
projects. It would probably be to thier benefit to put you on the payroll.
However, if they insist on contracting with you, start with small projects
of short duration until you get a feel for their products, their work
style, and the time it takes you to do a job. Don't sell yourself short.
They need you, and they know it. And, now don't get your feelings hurt,
but they're probably wanting a beginner so they can get the work done
cheeply. They're not gonna go for hiring an experienced writer and letting
you watch. If they wanted to spend the money that experience costs, they
would have done so already.

Once you get your foot in the door, start by making a plan. It's tempting
to just jump in and get started, but without a plan, you'll find that your
direction wanders. The first step is to decide on a "corporate identity"
so that all the various bits and pieces will match, or at least look like
they originated on the same planet, when you're done. Once your plan is in
place, whittle away at the work to be done one small piece at a time. Trying
to do too much at once is a sure road to failure.

If there's a professional organization (like STC) in your area, join it.
You'll have ready-made advisors at your fingertips. This list, too, is
an excellent resource. Perhaps you can become friends with a more senior
writer in your area who would not mind doing a little mentoring now and
then. "I'll buy you lunch if you let me pick your brain" relationships
can be invaluable to you at this stage of the game.

Cultivate relationships with vendors, too. Print houses and other vendors
you'll need to use are generally more than willing to spend time with you,
showing you their operation and explaining the process as well as what you
need to do to deliver what they need to them. Having informed customers
makes their lives easier and they know this.

Approach the experience with an air of professionalism and a "can-do"
attitude and take minor setbacks in stride. Yeah, the first time you
deliver duplicate page numbers to the printer and have to have the
entire last half of the book reprinted at your company's expense you'll
feel like two cents -- but that feeling won't last and the experience
you'll gain will serve you in good stead for a lifetime.

Best of luck! Let us know how it goes!

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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