August 28, 2012

Hourly Rate for Freelance Technical Writing Project


 How to estimate per hour rate for freelancing project?


This is one of the very tricky question that comes in the mind before taking any technical documentation project. There are many calculators available to calculate per hour rate for freelancing project, but I firmly believe that you are the best person to judge “What should be your rate”. 

Yes, there are many parameters which you should take into the consideration before you fix your price. Right price can win or lose you a project.

Read "Pros and Cons of Contract Technical Writer Work" consider the points mentioned in it before doing any math for your rate. 

Simple math you can do is take your monthly gross salary before deductions, round it up to an even number, and divide by 176 (the average hours per month,22x8)Hope you get a rough estimate but before finalizing the rate consider the few points also.

  • How many of your daily working hours are billable?
  • How many days off do you need for holiday.s, sick days, and personal days each year?
  • How much vacation time do you want each year?
  • Number of visit and duration of meetings
  • Travel cost, phone bills, and courier charge if any.
  • Investment on hardware, software, electricity, Internet bill even on coffee or water.
  • Insurance cover, EPF, marketing, promotions, taxes etc.
  • Be ready for the negotiation, so always have Negotiation buffer.
  • What kinds of writing you will be churning out? Online help, Print docs, Web articles, Newsletters, Website content etc…?
  • What kind of skill set is required? General or Rare?
  • How desperately you want this project. Is it going to be an entry for you in new line of business? If yes, quote less.
  • Your existing or future relationship with the client.
  • What is your expertise and experience level and how client value that.
  • Always keep adjusting your fee:-) 
PayScale.com reports the median salaries by experience for the United States.Click here to read more.

August 23, 2012

TOC highlighting in the RoboHelp



In one of the forum i noticed a similar question which i posted almost couple of years back and that time i was answered by one of the Robohelp guru Rick (Captiv8r).It helped me then so i think it must be relevant today also in new version of RH.Sorry in my latest project i'm not using latest RH,so can't test :-(

Question-When i click on the hyperlink it navigate me to the correct page,but in the TOC  the topic which is displayed doesn't highlighted.Instead the page from where it is clicked remains highlighted.

Answer:

It is assumed CHM is the output .

First, open the Project Set Up pod and expand the Windows folder. Then edit the properties of your CHM window and ensure the option to synchronize the TOC has been enabled.



Once you have done this, edit the Single Source Layout properties and click the Edit... button. This should open another dialog where you would click the TOC Styles tab. Ensure you enable the Always Show Selection option.


 Do not forget to assign topic to the TOC :-)

August 20, 2012

Pros and Cons of Contract Technical Writing

Challenges of Freelancing Technical Writing 


I believe pros and cons are the respective word, what are pros for me can be cons for you and vice verse. It is up to you decide what is going to be pros for you and cons.

Most of us believe that staying home and working is the best job in the world. It can be, but everything has pros and cons attached to it, including freelance tech writing. When you decide to work from your home there will be good and bad things about it, but there are good and bad things when working in a brick and mortar office too. Things will not always be smooth and problem free, that is just part of life.

List of pros and cons  I can remember doing contract/freelancing technical writer:


  • You will have to do sales and marketing job as well i.e to keep getting contract to keep you fully occupied. This may include writing and replying mails, some cold calls, reply to the calls etc..
The big challenge for contracting is the uncertainty of getting the next contract. But in some situations, having a so-called "full-time job" really isn't much more secure than contracting. Who the heck has secure jobs these days?                                        

  • You will have to be a Doc manager also to negotiate important factors like cost and time. The client will always love to get work done at minimum cost in minimum time with the best quality.
  • You will have to manage your taxes or hire a good consultant for calculating your business related expenses and taxes.
  • You will have to be your legal manager. Read carefully consulting contract and before signing MOU and NDA be sure contract build is not one-sided.
  • Many time requirements of product change and so the product. Sometimes you may have to do lots of re-work without pay, if your contract is not in place. Try to get a freeze version and any charge for anything diverting from it.
  • Sometime client may ask you to use your hardware and software for authoring, so have a licensed version of hardware and software what normally used for authoring.
  • You will be Moving from one company to another frequently is interesting but has its challenges. New people, new industries, new technologies....
  • You may get a chance to work on  varieties of projects  the same day, you may end up working for the different company on different tool for different kind of write-ups. So you can gain more knowledge.
  • Some time payment may be delayed so have a sufficient backup.I must say have at least six month backup.
  • You need to maintain good PR, be courteous and professional, have a good sense of humor, be flexible, and always give more than is expected.
  • Higher pressure as you are paid by the hour. You don't work, you don't get paid.
  • For every client that pays you a reasonable hourly fee, there will be ten who expect you to work for pennies (or worse, for free).
  • Sometime contract terminate in between there can be many reasons for that, so better be prepared for this kind of situation as well.
  • Your work can imbalance your work and personal life if you allow.
  • To avoid communication problem get very specific and detailed instruction from the client.
  • There is no one who tells you to start working when you not feel like to. So you need a lot of self-discipline.

For technical writing service and training contact ApraDocs Information Developers, New Delhi.Call 7840741999


Few related links:

August 12, 2012

Appropriate Books for Technical Writer

Books for Technical Writers



Recently I saw a very informative and interesting discussion "Appropriate Books for Technical Writer" on one of the Technical Writer Forum started by Quan li ,a student from China. 

This is one of the frequently asked questions on the different forum in different way, so thought to compile comments for myself and visitors of my blog for future references.

I have posted the comments as it is because i fear by simply listing the books name i may lose the essence which is created by complete discussion.

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Hello, everyone. I am a technical writer and trying to know more about the career. I've collected some books for technical writers, but I don't know which one is better, could you give me some suggestions? 

The books are as follows:
1.BBC - New Writing Style Guide
2.English for Writing Research Papers
3.Grammatically Correct The writer's essential guide to punctuation spelling style usage and grammar 1997 1
4.Microsoft Press - Microsoft Manual Of Style For Technical Publications 3Rd Edition Microsoft 5.Technical Writing - Manual Of Style
6.The Chicago Manual of Style. The Essential Guide for Writers Editors and Publishers 15th ed 2006
7.The Online English Grammar
8.The Web Content Style Guide. An Essential Reference for Online Writers Editors and Managers
9.Writing In English A Practical Handbook for Scientific and Technical Writers

10 "How to Write a Computer Manual: A Handbook of Software Documentation" by Jonathan

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John Sarra •Qian, I would suggest you do a search on Amazon.com for "Technical Writing". The books you list are mostly references. There are a number of books, such as "Technical Writing 101" that will also give you "how to" information. Read the reviews and see what others say. That will point you to books that may interest you.
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Elizabeth Emerson •Definitely, if you have to select one, choose this one:

*Microsoft Press - Microsoft Manual Of Style For Technical Publications 3Rd Edition Microsoft

This is a standard style manual and a reference book that should be available in every technical writing department.

Now 4th edition is also available. 
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Adria Quinones •I also like Sun's "Read Me First," as a contrast to Microsoft's Manual of Style.

Note that Microsoft published their 4th ed. earlier this year.
http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/book.aspx?id=150532
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Robert Lauriston •Clear, concise, correct, and comprehensive.

Is there a book that will teach a new writer why you need a style manual?

I use Chicago, which is excellent, comprehensive, and available online. Since I'm in the software industry, I use the Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th ed., which you can get in a PDF, it's not in the same league as Chicago but it's the best and most comprehensive and up to date for software documentation (though useless for anything else). Neither will teach you anything about tech writing as a career.

Don't use a UK style manual (such as BBC) if you're writing American English and don't use a US style manual (such as Chicago) if you're writing British / International English.
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Craig Cardimon •"The Insider's Guide to Technical Writing," by Krista Van Laan (XML Press, 2012), discusses tech writing as a career. I highly recommend it for describing the ups and downs of tech writing.
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Zvi Eynan •I would recommend "Handbook of Technical Writing" by Alred/Brusaw/Olio
I little bit old fashioned but mostly useful
Go to amazon for more tittles
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Delio Destro •As a general guideline I like "Developing Quality Technical Information"
ISBN 0131477498
and of course, the bases of the basics: "The Elements of Technical Writing" ISBN 0020130856
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Ed Mikula •Once you are comfortable stringing words together, you might read "Dynamics in Document Design" and The Elements of Typographic Style.
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James Barakaat •As a former Professor at Kaplan University, I recommend:

Kaplan Technical Writing: A Resource for Technical Writers at All Levels [Paperback]
Carrie Hannigan (Author), Carrie Wells (Author), Carolyn Stevenson (Author), Tanya Peterson (Author), Diane Martinez (Author).

Also, Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Documentation, Second Edition [Paperback] Alan S. Pringle

I studied Technical Writing and Technical Editing at Miami University with Paul V Anderson who wrote: Technical Communication by Paul V. Anderson, 7th Edition.

You can get them at Amazon.com
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Naci Simsek •If you have an apple device, you can also check for technical writing courses from ITunes U or either you can check wikiversity for the same topic.
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Dick Miller •For a focus on usability and the user experience (not often taught in tech writing classes), see STC Usability and User Experience Community's Usability Bookshelf at http://www.stcsig.org/usability/resources/bookshelf/index.html.
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Mark Baker •All the best books for technical communicators to read are not about technical communications. I recommend:

* Politics and the English Language, George Orwell
* Everything is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger
* Too Big to Know, David Weinberger
* Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath
* The Social Life of Information, Duguid and Brown
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Saul Carliner •If you are looking for books to strengthen your skills, you'll need different books for different purposes.

(1) Start with a general book that provides an overview of the process. Paul Anderson's, Mary Lay's, or William S. Pfeiffer's books provide excellent introductions to the general field of technical writing, whether writing as a full-time professional writer or a technical professional like an an engineer or scientist who writes as part of his job.

(2) Expand into books that provide an overview of technical communication from a communicator's point of view. Although older, Barnum & Carliner's Techniques for Technical Communicators still has some value.

(3) Go deeper into writing, with books like Strunk & White's Elements of Style and Williams' and Columb's lesser-known, but equally useful, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grade, the IBM book mentioned earlier, as well as books that focus on specific writing in specific genres (such as the book mentioned earlier on how to write a user manual or Horton's or Carliner's books on designing e-learning programs) and media (such as the second edition of Janice, Redish's book on writing online content)

(4) Develop skills in editing--including skills in using a style guide. Rude & Eaton's book is the main book in this area, but by no means the only good one. Judy Tarutz's book is a classic, as is Ann Judd's book on copyediting. They'll tell you how to use a style guide--and you can choose which one is appropriate to your means. (See other comments on using style guides appropriate to America, British, or some other variant of English.)

(5) Learn to communicate visually. Robin Williams' Design for Non-Designers is a classic but written for general audiences. Pair that with Kostlenick & Robert's Designing Visual Language, specifically intended for technical communicators.

(6) Read about the production process--usually a throw-away thought in most formal training programs but a fundamental part of all jobs. Some possible choices: Kenley's 2004 book, Getting It Printed: How to Work With Printers and Graphic Imaging Services to Assure Quality, Stay on Schedule and Control Costs (Getting It Printed) 4th Edition and .Bann's, 2007 book, The All New Print Production Handbook.

(7) Having mastered the basics, move onto books on more advanced topics. Wait until you have completed your first few projects before starting these books.

Start by reading the trade publications to learn more about what's going on. STC's Intercom magazine is superb. But also check out KeyContent.org and boxesandarrows.com, both of which offer broader, more comprehensive views of designing complex information projects (primarily for presentation online).

Then, learn more about structuring complex information through books like Information Architecture (Rosenfeld & Morville's book on the subject is a classic). You might also do some reading on the subject of knowledge management.

(8) Read about the technology of publishing. Ann Rockley's content management book provides a great overview. Follow that with a book on DITA (she's also written a book on that, too!).

(9) Learn how to design usable content. Start with Donald Norman's classic The Design(Psychology) of Everyday Things, which sensitizes you to the subject, then proceed to a book that explains how to design usable content--like Barnum's 2010 book on usability.

(10) Then read about managing projects, technical communication staff, and the technical communication business. JoAnn Hackos' 2007 book on management provides a great overview, as does Richard Hamilton's 2009 book on management.

If you complete those readings--and have 5 years of work experience--consider applying for the Certified Technical Communication Professional credential, which externally recognizes knowledge and experience. www.stccert.org for more information.

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Eric ArmstrongSecond Saul's motion: Joseph Williams, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Absolutely brilliant. Style in the service of comprehension. Simple, easy to read, and elegant, like the principles espoused. And for software, as many others have mentioned, the MS Style Manual--the product of a lot of document usability research, if I'm not mistaken.


Few suggested Links on this topic:

http://www.writerswrite.com/cgi-bin/wwbookstore.pl?storesearch=technical
http://idratherbewriting.com/2010/09/10/40-foundational-books-for-technical-writing/
http://www.robertwisbey.com/books.html
http://technicalwritingworld.com/forum/topics/list-of-books-every-technical 
http://www.cherryleaf.com/blog/2015/04/a-2015-book-list-for-technical-communicators/


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