Re: ethical consulting practices? (Long--but with a possible solution)

Subject: Re: ethical consulting practices? (Long--but with a possible solution)
From: Eric Ray <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: William Lewis <wmlewis -at- attictech -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 06 Dec 1999 07:10:37 -0700

> Finally (if anyone has bothered with my tirade this far), what I wish for is
> a kind of New Deal--where we don't have this antagonistic, competitive
> contracting environment. It is possible. Something close exists with two
> agencies in my area. If the writer takes charge of FINDING their OWN work
> (should be easy these days, and we can probably do it quicker than waiting
> on the sidelines while the recruiters run around town like Keystone Kops!),
> the agency handles the W-2 paperwork, never takes more than $5 per billable
> hour, and all three parties, particularly the writer, come out ahead.
> Perhaps best of all, you don't have to sign over your rights to do business
> with the client company (YOUR client!). Nothing is done in
> secret--everyone's cards are on the table. This works for the agency because
> it doesn't invest in a big sales overhead. One or two people run the office
> and their primary expense--payroll accounting--is outsourced!

And, in some cases, this makes sense. For example, RayComm
once went to the trouble to become an official "contract agency"
to Digital Equipment Corp. (Note that Raycomm isn't any sort of
an agency, but that was the easiest way to get paid as a
corporation, which was beneficial to us for tax purposes.)
Had a writer come to us and asked if they could work through us
(as an agency) so they could pick up on a contract at DEC,
we'd probably have gone for it, and likely charged something
along those lines.

That said, if we were _selling_ the service, finding the jobs,
finding the writers, and doing the whole deal, we'd have
(rightfully) expected more than $5/hour. And, if we were
expecting to keep the business doors open at $5/hour, we'd
have to keep 10 people busy all the time (assuming _minimal_
overhead and one cheap staff person), or likely many more
people to cover all of the other unexpected issues. And
would those 15-20-50 people come to us? Or would we have to
find and screen them? Would we have to find gigs? If someone's
contract ends, so does our money, so we either have to find a
new gig, or tell the staff member to take some extra unpaid
time off. All of which indicates that we'll be selling services
and putting in additional time, and all for, say, (assuming a 3
month contract) $2400. Subtract out taxes, overhead, and
you're quickly at the point of breaking even, at best.

Lessee, assuming that it takes one person 1 day (total) to find a
gig, find a writer, set up interviews, do paperwork, and make it all
happen, you're looking at breaking even only for contracts that last
a month, and that assumes that you get all the contracts you submit
people for. If the $5 system is the only thing bringing in money,
it's a losing proposition in my book.

In general, this isn't a simple equation, and recruiters aren't
out (as a rule) out to screw contractors--it's not in their
enlightened self interest do to so, and most of them are
regular people, just like tech writers.

Steering back to technical communication...the more experience
I get, the more I think that tech comm programs should require
business classes to graduate (just as business programs often
require basic tech writing to graduate).

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