Summary of advice about setting a fee

Subject: Summary of advice about setting a fee
From: "Porrello, Leonard" <leonard -dot- porrello -at- COMPAQ -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 8 Sep 1998 14:11:37 -0700

Following is the advice I got regarding negotiating a price.

To everyone who contributed: Thanks!!!

If anyone has anything else to contribute, or would like to add to the
thread a bit of wisdom about how captives might negotiate for higher
salaries, please do!!!

Leonard Porrello
Compaq, Telecom Network Solutions
Pubs, Omaha
402.384.7390


(1) Kudos, a large agency in the UK has several documents in PDF format on
their web page:
> Guide to Contracting - general info on contracting, using agencies,
> financial and legal matters etc.
> Guide to Customers - taking on contractors, project evaluation, management
> etc.
> Information Reviewing - reviewing, scheculing, checklists etc.
> Lost Among the Dingbats - an A-Z of contracting.
>
(2) The right question is, "Where do I feel comfortable?"
As you grow in experience and ability, the whole curve moves upward,
so ask yourself if you're comfortable doing what it takes to become
a more valuable resource. This can mean working at a lower rate,
struggling with a new subject matter area, getting along with
"impossible" colleagues, or investing in training.
As you grow in experience and ability, the whole curve moves upward,
so ask yourself if you're comfortable doing what it takes to become
a more valuable resource. This can mean working at a lower rate,
struggling with a new subject matter area, getting along with
"impossible" colleagues, or investing in training.

(3) I 'm a contractor [in Australia] and I base my rate on the following:
Full-time Senior Technical Writer salary (say $50K) = $25 per hour approx.

Add 13% for lost sick days, public holidays and annual leave = $28.50

Allow the added time spent in running your business (as a contractor you
are now 'in business').

This is usually around an hour a day i.e. add another 12% (approx.) = $32

As you can be sacked without notice (usually), you need to allow for a
period of notice normally given to full-timers i.e. around 8% which takes
your hourly rate to $35 approx.

Add to this another 25% to cover for periods when you might be out of a
contract.

This takes you to $43.

In Australia we also have to pay 7% of salary into a superannuation fund so
adding 7% takes you to $46.

Now add any specific business expenses on top.

This figure is now the equivalent to a Senior Technical Writer's (STW)
salary in contractor terms.

You now need to ask yourself "why did I become a contractor?"

If you did it to earn the equivalent of a STW, then charge (approx.) $46-$50

per hour.

If you did it to provide a future for your kids etc etc you have to treat
it as a business and earn MORE than a STW.

$45 - $55 is common in Australia. Contract Technical Writing firms charge
$60 p/h.

I do not always get the rate I want, but I always get close.

Work out where you fit in and charge accordingly. If you deserve it, you
will find the work.

(4) Peter Kent's book, Making Money in Technical Writing, discusses this in
some detail, including a chapter that will help you figure out what your
hourly rate must be in order to equate to your permanent salary
(accounting for taxes, benefits, etc.). There is a lot of discussion of
rates in general and how to approach this very problem. You may find it
helpful -- good luck!

(5) Range of which I'm aware in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area of
North
Texas (which is quickly becoming a technology boom area) for 1-3
years experience is roughly $25 to $35 per hour.
There's also a magazine called Contract Professional which has ads for
hundreds of agencies looking for tech writers. I poll agencies for
ranges when I'm looking.

(6) Same way you get the lowest price when you buy something, best estimate
when you build something, etc.
Shop. Speak to multiple agencies, talk to others in the field. Read
this
list. When a contractor says they are getting $35, 40, 45, or 50 per
hour or more, use it as a guideline...maybe they are. I've been
criticized in the past when I would discuss my rates, as if it was
supposed to be kept a secret or as if it was a subject that "nice people
just didn't talk about." It was EXACTLY for this reason....so those
just getting in could gather information.
Don't take the first job that comes along.
There is no concrete and specific information. Education, experience,
luck, timing, guts (how much can you ask for and who blinks first),
etc., all contribute to the rate.

(7) When I was called about my current contract and asked what my salary
requirements were, I gave the minimum and said I would prefer $5 - $10
per hour more. That's the usual response for me. Later, I couldn't
remember what salary had been agreed upon and waited curiously for the
first pay day to roll around. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw I
had gotten my top figure.
Don't know if that helps you, but I guess you just have to be brave and
up your base rate, taking the chance that you will miss out on a few
contracts because of it. (The low rate I gave was what I had made on my
previous contract, and I had learned that for a senior writer with as
much experience as I had I was asking way too little...and so I climb
the salary ladder.)
Just look 'em in the eye and say, "I want the world, and I'm worth it."
N.B. It is absolutely essential that you don't flinch as though waiting
for an explosion after this little declaration. If they think you
believe you're worth it, they'll be more inclined to believe it, too.

(8) If you become a true expert at a particular
in-demand job, i.e., developing online help, that can also help you move
up the salary scale.


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