TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
I recently saw an ad for an $8/hour tech writer. I also know of people
who will pay $80/hour for tech writers. In many cases, the client of
the $8/hour tech writer isn't getting his money's worth, while the
client of the $80/hour tech writer is getting a bargain.
In the marketplace, "value" is what people will pay for something. People
in the marketplace have widely differing concepts of the value of documen-
tation, the role of writers in general, and the competence of individual
The product itself plays a part. A useless product cannot be helped by
documentation. Perfect products may not need documentation. In both
cases, the value of technical writing is zero.
The environment plays a part. The same writer may do massive amounts of
high-quality work in one environment, but produce nothing at all in another.
While this may well be the fault of management, it affects the value of
the writer to the company.
Nevertheless, there are many writers selling services of varying levels of
quality, and many employers purchasing these services, with requirements
for varying levels of quality. This means that writing services are subject
to market forces, and that an employer has to expect to be willing to
pay a certain amount of money to expect to be able to hire writers of
a particular level of quality. If you're a complete cheapskate, but
want to hire a high-quality writers, the odds are that the position will
remain unfilled for a very long time. If you need to fill the position,
you'll either have to raise the pay or lower your standards.
Equity between different disciplines (such as software engineering and
writing) is an artificial concept, but is often used in large companies
where mobility between two disciplines is important. In these cases,
the company locks the pay rates together for its own internal convenience,
usually causing the people in one field to be overpaid (by market standards).
But this is unusual.
The best way to make more money is to (a) become more valuable, and
(b) seek out those employers who prefer to hire valuable people. Those
employers who are happy with mediocre talent are dead ends; those who
are happy with inferior talent are poison.
Robert Plamondon, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139 http://www.pioneer.net/~robertp