RE: Advice seeking newbie

Subject: RE: Advice seeking newbie
From: "Humbird, Len - CFC" <Humbird -dot- Len -at- cfwy -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 1999 14:52:57 -0800

Boy, you do sound like you're a novice!

Please clarify these two terms: polemics, informatics. By informatics, do
you mean the use of computers?

For software, learn MS Word. At least 80% of your clients will want that
experience. The next program would be FrameMaker. That takes care of another
60%. The remaining 40% will want web development experience, like FrontPage,
Java, ASP, C++, or something bizarre like Doczilla. Yes, Virginia, there
really is a Doczilla.

You'll need to know the basics of documentation project management: how to
start, how to plan, estimate, gather information, coordinate, etc.

You'll need some writing experience ... or at least fake it somehow: learn
to organize the information, to verify it, to present it (print, online,
techniques of presentation). Also graphic design skills come in really
handy. Learn some simple business graphics program, like Visio.

Your background in teaching and journalism will help, but your lack of
technical experience will hinder you. I don't know how much you should
charge, but generally speaking, you can take the annual salary you could
earn if you were an employee there, divide it by 1000, and charge that
amount per hour. For example, if they hired you at $40,000/yr, you could
theoretically charge $40/hr for the same work as an independent contractor.
Your actual rate will be *significantly* lower than this example due to your
lack of experience. For your first project, perhaps half that or less. When
you are highly skilled, you can charge much more than 40.

As far as hours charged, try to stay close to 40 hrs per week, or whatever
is reasonable and customary where you are. But bill for the time you
actually spend on the project, including meetings, travel, sitting on your
butt problem-solving, etc.
Keep a work log or a diary so you know what you did on a given day.
When invoicing, record the total hours worked, and a brief summary of what
activity was performed. Include any and all related expenses.
Bill on a weekly (recommended), biweekly or monthly (not recommended unless
you have a good rapport with the client) basis, or whatever is reasonable
and customary in your area.
Ask to be paid within 10-15 days of billing.

Hope that helps!

-----Original Message-----
From: Dragan Jonic [mailto:djonic -at- mail -dot- ru]
Sent: Friday, November 19, 1999 6:34 AM
Subject: Advice seeking newbie

Hello all,

I'm completely new in the Technical Writing and am beginning from the
scratch, meaning that this job here (in Russia that is) is a fairly new
stuff and the market is still undevelopped. I'm about to get my first
job these days, so that I want to know some more things on the issue.

My questions are:

* what software is the most appropriate for a beginner who starts from
point zero (I apologize in advance for any potential polemics this
question could trigger)?

* taking into account the market properties (in a sense that Russia
today, as to informatics, is where the States were 10 years ago), what
should I ask my potential employer? Maybe some of you have experience
working in pre-informatic societies?

* the job I'm about to get is on contract basis and I'm offered an
hourly payment rate. If I don't work in the office, how to calculate the
time? What inputs do I include in the calculation?

I have no Technical Writing education, but I have experience in teaching
and journalism (plus some talent to describe *how* something works), and
of course, what is here called "a working knowledge of English". My
"to-be" employer is a software making company and at the present moment
I have no idea about what I'll be supposed to do there.

Though I've been reading this list for two weeks already and have found
very helpful information, I'm still wandering around.

Any suggestions? Please reply off list.

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