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.
Subject:Re: Payment by percent ownership From:sheldon kohn <sheldon -dot- kohn -at- MCI -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 2 Feb 1999 15:58:42 -0500
I dealt with a similar situation several years ago. At the time, I needed
some experience with desktop publishing software. Through a somewhat
synchronic process, I ended up doing some contract work for a small software
company that had practically non-existent documentation.
The product, like the one you wrote about, was software for a specialized
market. The President of the company assured me that they had major deals in
the works and that they needed the documentation to complete the package. I
signed a contract obligating me to develop the documentation for the
product. In return for editing, formatting, and writing additional text for
three 500+ page manuals, I got $1000 each and 3% of gross sales. I was
thinking that this would end up being a lot of money.
I spent weeks working on the documentation, constantly reworking text as the
developers (who also owned the company) made changes. To make a long story
short, it turned out that the project was a custom development project for
one particular client. I am not sure if they ever intended to market it
outside the one client. I eventually got a check for $750 dollars, so I made
about $1 per page. This was a learning experience, and it seriously
challenged my belief that people are basically good and trustworthy.
Be careful in these types of arrangements. If you have spare time to do the
project and want to do it for its intrinsic interest, then that is one
thing. If you expect to make some money, then you have to approach it as a
professional activity and negotiate appropriate compensation. I see a red
flag in that your potential partner already said that you have to do more
than "merely" document the product. I would be concerned about entering a
partnership with anyone who has such an attitude about my skill set. You may
want to let him look on the market to see how much it will cost to develop
documentation before you enter an agreement.