Arco Making Money in Technical Writing

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9780028618838: Arco Making Money in Technical Writing

The only book about selling your services as a freelance technical writer. Highly acclaimed within the freelance tech-writing business. Originally published as The Technical Writer's Freelancing Guide, this edition is greatly updated -- 80% of it is new.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

From the Author:

This book is in a second edition because of the great praise the first edition received, and because after that edition went out of print I (the author) continued to receive requests for the book.

Before this edition went to print I gathered testimonials from people who had read the first edition, and those who saw a preview edition of the second book.

Those testimonials are printed at the front of the book, and are posted at the book's web site.

The testimonials contain comments such as ... "I found your book very helpful in my budding freelance career"
"I found your approach to be realistic and right on target"
"I took your advice and doubled my income overnight! I made $150,000 last year"
"I was determined to be a successful freelancer and now I am. Thanks for the guidance."
"Thanks so much for your book, which steered me in the right direction. It was the right information at the right time."

Join the technical writing discussion groups, and ask about this book; you'll find that for every one who says that the book is "out of touch with today's job market," there will be several who will praise it. (The major tech-writing group is techwr)

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 8- Finding the Technical Service Agencies

"Everyone lives by selling something, whatever be his right to it." Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94)

Now that you are ready to find contract work, you have to find the agencies. I don't recommend that you work with only one agency. Sure, the first agency you contact may find you something in a few days, but on the other hand they may not, for all their promises. "I tried to work on contract," a captive employee once told me, "but the agency never came through. They kept saying they had something coming up and they would call me, but they never did." He implied the mistake he had made by using the words "the agency." Had this would-be freelancer contacted a group of agencies, his chance of success would have been far greater.

A few years ago I gave 140 mailing labels to a friend, each one carrying the address of a local technical-service agency. My friend, a technical writer, mailed resumes to eighty agencies, and received around eight responses over a two-week period, eight agencies that had "possible" contracts. That's not such a great response, though. The last time I had used a similar list (I mailed resumes to about ninety agencies) I received about twenty responses, and began working on a new contract two weeks from the day I mailed the resumes.

But my friend had such a bad response that I began to feel a little guilty. I had assured him that this was the way to go, that he had to get his name out to as many agencies as possible. He was obviously disappointed. Then I began to consider what would have happened if he hadn't mailed to eighty agencies. What if he had contacted only, say, ten agencies? He may have got only one or two responses, or perhaps none.

My friend was looking for work at the end of October, when several local companies had laid off technical writers. The last quarter of the year is supposed to be a bad time to find a contract-companies haven't completed their budgets, people are thinking about Thanksgiving vacations and Christmas shopping and so on. I don't know how much of this is true, but many people who have been in the business long enough to get a feel for the ups and the downs say it is so. You will hear different versions. Some say the troubles begin in November, others say after Thanksgiving, and others even claim that there is a sudden spate of hiring right before Thanksgiving followed by a slump. One agent I know claims it is only December that is bad. But most contractors believe the end of the year is bad.

So, here is my friend looking for work in a tough market. Even more reason to contact as many agencies as possible! Yes, his response was low, but he needed as many leads as he could get, and his response would be lower still had he limited his search to a few agencies. Of course he should have mailed to all 140, which would have increased the response. And it didn't cost him much anyway. Sending a two-page resume and a cover letter to 140 agencies should cost about $75, a minimal expense when compared with the return on your investment.

Why You Must Contact All the Agencies

You must contact all the agencies you can find. Here's why:

1. Most Agencies Don't Place Many Technical Writers

Most agencies rarely place technical writers, if ever (though some of the larger ones always seem to have a few writers working). However, that doesn't mean it is difficult for technical writers to find contract work, it just means that they have to work with a lot of agencies. If only one agency in ten has a technical-writing position each month, there is no point contacting only five. If your skills are not needed as often as others, you must try harder to find the contracts. Incidentally, there are some agencies that place only, or predominantly, technical writers. (It often seems that such agencies don't pay writers very well-that's simply my observation of a few such agencies, though, and it may not be true of most. You can find a list of some of these agencies in Appendix C.)

2. Some Agencies Have Specialties

Some agencies have specialties, even if they don't recognize it. Some have intentionally built up business in a particular industry, and others have, just by chance, found most of their clients in one or two types of business. The problem is, though, you can't tell which agency places the most technical writers and which works mainly with airframe engineers. Only if you get your resume to all the agencies in town are you sure of getting the right ones.

3. If Business is Bad You Must Try Harder

If the market is down, you have to find as many leads as possible. You can't do that by calling five agencies and then sitting by the phone.

4. The More Offers You Have, The More Choice You Have

Some people seem to believe that a contract is a contract is a contract, that one is the same as another. Clearly that's not true, though freelancers often act as if the best contract is the first one they are offered. But contracts vary widely. While working in Dallas a few years ago I met technical writers making $13 an hour and writers making $38 an hour. One writer I know went from $13 per hour to $25 per hour literally overnight. And contracts don't just vary in monetary rewards either.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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