Re: What am I worth?

Subject: Re: What am I worth?
From: Tom Johnson <johnsont -at- STARCUTTER -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 08:29:46 -0500

To those of you who feel no TW should work for less than $xx/hr...

Frequently we receive questions about our worth as technical writers.
Almost always, replies include something along the lines of, "You're only
charging what! Raise your rates or you will drag the rest of us down."

This is a free market. Certainly encourage newbies to not undersell
themselves, but to demand that they demand some minimum rate smells too
much like union tactics for me. Telling someone to work for free until they
feel qualified to charge the full rate is, I think, stupid. What is wrong
with charging less and raising their rates as they go along? At least
they'll have some money in their pocket to help buy some groceries. As
their experience and prestige increases, they can start charging more.
Those of us who are in the captive market get raises, why can't
independents work out their own wage increases. Frankly, here on the frozen
freshwater coast, it will be a long time before I'll ever see the rates
those of you on the east and west coasts get. But, I'm making a difference.
Our company now sees the value of good documentation. If I had come in here
demanding some outrageous figure, they would still have shoddy
documentation. Because they would have done things as they had always
done--just enough to be able to call it a manual.

We need to let those who are willing to work for less, work for the
companies who are only willing to go to that level. When they feel like
they are ready for prime time, then they should make a move. If you're out
there pulling down the big bucks as a contractor, your reputation should
equal your self worth. If those two things are equal, people will be
beating a path to your door and they won't be looking for a cheap
imitation. You should have nothing to fear.

For those looking for advice on setting rates...

I don't see any reason why someone can't establish their own rate. If you
are getting more work than you can handle, charge more. A friend of mine, a
finish carpenter, has a rule. He sets his rates by getting 80% of the
projects he bids on. He does extraordinary work and he keeps getting more
and more business. As soon as he starts getting more than 80% success on
bids, he raises his rates a bit. I'm sure those of you who are in business
for yourselves might be able to offer some similar advice. That type of
method tells you what the market will bear. If you are good, your
reputation will precede you and you'll do well. So my advice is to start
low, get some experience under your belt and raise your rates when you have
proved yourself.

Tom Johnson
Elk Rapids, MI

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