Being hired to complete a project for a great company is a wonderful feeling. Before you ever begin, however, it's crucial that you are clear about exactly what is expected of you. Vague instructions and directions can create a lot of frustration for technical writers, and it can also result in strained relationships with editors. To maximize your productivity (and your pay check) always be sure you are clear about the following points before you start working:
Length: This is particularly important if you're working for a flat rate. Make sure you know how many pages or words the final project should be. The person in charge of the project should be able to give you a fairly exact estimate.
Content: Obviously, you want to know what topic you are writing about, but you should also know exactly what should be contained in your training manual or assembly instructions. Ask about glossaries, graphics, charts, screen shots, figures, and anything else that may result in extra work for you. If you are expected to generate and include dozens of charts, you may decide to try to negotiate a higher rate before you proceed.
Deadline: Find out when your client needs the completed document, and be sure you can deliver. If you are working on a very large project, your client may request periodic progress reports, so be sure to find out about these types of deadlines (if applicable) as well.
Revisions: Experienced technical writers know that some revisions to their work will probably be necessary. Generally, you'll want to decide how many sets of revisions you will offer your client before you begin. Many technical writers include three rounds in their estimate. If more than three rounds are required, you might decide to charge an hourly rate for additional work. In any case, make sure you reach an agreement regarding revisions before you begin. Otherwise, you may get stuck with a lot more than three rounds, which will eat into your profits fast.
Many companies will spell out these details in a contract. If they don't, it's important to clarify these points with your editor. Get all of the information in writing (saving emails in which your editor or project manager states this information is always a good idea) in case there are issues later. Being clear about your role and the exact task you have been hired to perform will make your job easier and a lot more enjoyable.
Last Updated: 05/05/2014