Re: Yet another perspective on low wages

Subject: Re: Yet another perspective on low wages
From: Andrew Plato <aplato -at- EASYSTREET -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 08:28:33 -0700

>Here's a wake-up call for you'all:

>All tech writers make around $100,000 a year. If you are not, than
>someone else is taking your money:

You are completely out of your mind to think that technical writing merits
$100,000 a year. Of all the faulty reasons you gave for why tech writers
make less you left out the one, fundamental reason tech writers are so
poorly compensated:

Technical writing is rife with incompetence. As most companies will tell
you, hiring a good technical writer is extremely difficult. There are so
many bad ones in comparison to so few good ones. The good ones LEAVE
technical writing because it is extremely frustrating to work in a position
with no respect and no future. I interview a lot of writers and for the most
part 1 in 10 is skilled, motivated, and talented. Most are lazy, bitter,
and greedy. Last week I interviewed a woman who had basically no skills and
about two years experience. She said (I'm not kidding) "I don't really like
to work with the technical stuff. I am really a people person. But you
know, I have been writing for a long time now (since 1996) and I think it is
time for me to break out into contracting." She demanded $65.00 an hour. I
said "I'm afraid you're not what we're looking for right now. Thank you."
My BEST consultant, the one who routinely conquers the hardest jobs makes
$50 an hour and sometimes $60.

The sad fact is, tech writing is a depressed field because employers have a
bad opinion of tech writers. And for the most part, I don't blame them.
They have been burned by so many bad writers that they figure - why waste
money on someone who will sip coffee and complain all day.

I left day-to-day tech writing to start my own consulting organization. I
happen to be one of the very few writers that does make $100,000 a year.
But let me tell you something, I work 15 hours a day almost every day and I
have very little social life. The only way to make $100,000 in tech writing
is to either run your own company, have enough leads to independently
contract year-round, or hook up with a small and well-connected consulting
operation like mine.

I guaranty you that if you demand $100,000 from a company (as a full-timer)
or a contract agency you will get laughed at and shown the door. And I also
guaranty you that if tech writing unionizes, the writers in the union will
make less, get less, and eventually get nothing.

This is a free market friends and the free market is the best way to reward
the talented and punish the incompetent. I rarely meet a writer that is
worth $100,000 a year. I don't even think I am worth that much. My
suggestion for all of those that feel like they are making too little is to
learn a new skill and learn to sell yourself. For example, a writer with
SAP R3 experience is like a walking money machine. I could contract an SAP
writer for $65 an hour easily. However, claiming that "I'll never use a PC,
Macs rule" is a sure way to make $15 an hour. ( I actually had a guy show
up to an interview saying that he would never work on a PC. Well guess
what, his wish came true because he is never going to get a job with my

If you can't deliver the goods - you aren't worth the price.

Andrew Plato
President / Principal Consultant
Anitian Consulting, Inc.

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