Re: Learning time billable?

Subject: Re: Learning time billable?
From: Win Day <winday -at- IDIRECT -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 14 Feb 1999 11:39:21 -0500

At 08:51 PM 2/13/99 -0800, J. David Hickey wrote:
>> However since I don't have much experience in the type
>> of technology that his company is related to, I have to research and learn
>> about it. We agreed on an hourly rate before I started and my question is:
>> Is the time that I spend learning billable?
>The time you spend learning about a product is research, so it is definitely
>billable time. After all, when a developer reads specs and cracks open a new
>section in his C++ guide, this is also research and he wouldn't think twice
>about charging it.

Product research, yes; technology research, no. To use your analogy, the
developer might charge for cracking open a new section in his C++ guide; he
wouldn't (I hope!) charge for learning C++ in the first place.

I contract to a number of small engineering firms. I charge them for time
I need to research their product and its market (audience). I do NOT
charge them for learning about their industry or a particular technology
within that industry. If I want the job, I research the field myself. If
I don't want to pay for the learning, I don't apply for the job.

That's why employers advertise for writers with certain experience. You
can debate whether you think it's fair for an employer who manufactures
specialty pumps for the petrochemical industry to require a contract writer
to understand what pumps are and how they work, at least in general.
Personally, I have no problem with the requirement. That's why I don't
apply for contract positions in with telecommunications firms -- it's not
my field, and they shouldn't have to spend money to bring me up to an
acceptable level of understanding.

Permanent employment would probably work differently. Because you're going
to be around for a while, an employer might be willing to train you in
basic familiarity with their industry.

The fact that this is a friend you're contracting to might influence your
thinking. I'm not sure it should.

Win Day, Technical Writer
Mississauga, Ontario

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ds- sty(CMS) fs(Arial) fp(Times New Roman) sp(Canadian)
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