How To Negotiate Daily Rates When Starting as a Freelance Web Writer

If you decide to start contracting, one of the hardest things to work out is what daily rate to charge. Many of the readers on this site are looking at ways to escape the 9-5 and moving into contracting is one way to start this process.

If you decide to start contracting, one of the hardest things to work out is what daily rate to charge. Many of the readers on this site are looking at ways to escape the 9-5 and moving into contracting is one way to start this process.

How much should I really charge?

I’ve heard people use different approaches to determine what to charge. Some make sense, others are a bit flaky.
For example:
Divide your annual salary by 52 weeks and then add on 20 percent. If you’re on 52k, and divide by 52 weeks, you’d get 1k per week.
Add 20 percent and you’re up to 1200 per week.
Divide this by 5 days and you get 240 per day.
I’m not so sure about this. It doesn’t take into consideration the real world, so to speak, or at least why your peers are charging for their work.

How to Work Out Daily Rates

Here’s an approach that I’d take:

  1. Look at the recruitment websites and find the type of job you want. Make a list of the daily rates across several sites. The ideal is to get an average daily rate and not rely just on one site. If you’re a total beginner to the field, say just out of college, your rates will be more towards the lower end.
  2. Contact the local Recruitment companies, explain the type of positions that you’re after. Ask them what daily rates you can expect to get based on your experience. Let’s say they believe you can get 200 per day. Now, as a rule of thumb, Recruiters add 20 percent to the rates they charge clients. In other words, if they offer you 200 per day, they’ll probably charge the client 240 per day. The extra 40 per day (i.e. 20 percent) is their fee.
  3. Once you know the average daily rates, you can go directly to a company and offer your services from 200 – 240 per day. If you charge 220 per day, then they stand to save 20 per day, 100 per week, and 400 per month. Try to highlight this when talking to them. Otherwise, they may assume that you’re rates are the same as the recruiters.
  4. Contact the HR Dept of the IT companies. Ask if they hire ‘direct’ rather than through recruitment companies. Some companies, especially large multi-nationals, have a policy of using recruitment firms only. It’s mostly for legal reasons and no reflection on your abilities. Smaller companies tend to be more flexible.

Tip: if you’re new to contracting, target local companies with less than 50 employees. These are usually more receptive to independent contractors and, even if they don’t have large 3+ month contracts, may have many smaller pieces of work. This can be a good way to build your portfolio while paying the bills.

Succeeding as a Freelance Contractor

Your success as a freelance contractor depends not only on your ability to do the job but to sell your services to prospective clients.
I can’t emphasize this enough.
Companies won’t come to you offering you work. You have to go to them. Before you do this, prepare everything in advance, from your sales pitch, writing samples, business cards, and of course the answer to their last question: how much do you charge?

Conclusion

If you have done your homework, you’ll feel confident when discussing the rates. If the person refuses you, at least you know its not because of your prices but something else.
Try to find out what that is before you hang up!
Let me know how you increase your daily rates.

7 Web Careers For Single Moms

Two of our family friends are single moms with kids. They asked me to give them some ideas of how they can get started and develop income by working over the web. One has a degree in software development, while the other is a real go-getter and can learn things very quickly. Here are some of the ways you can make money using your PC and working from home.

Two of our family friends are single moms with kids. They asked me to give them some ideas of how they can get started and develop income by working over the web. One has a degree in software development, while the other is a real go-getter and can learn things very quickly. Here are some of the ways you can make money using your PC and working from home.

7 Web Careers For Single Moms

In no order of priority, here are the different ways you can get started and make money from home:

  1. Product Reviews – setup a blog reviewing expensive technical products, such as digital cameras. Write reviews that are over 700 words and possibly over 1000 words. These will be picked up very quickly by the search engines. If you do this right, you’ll be asked to write (and get paid) by others sites.
  2. Screen-casting – with the explosion of video technology, you can help software and educational companies with their training materials by developing screens casts. You can also branch out and develop services that help others to do this. You’ll need Camtasia or other Screencasting software to do this.
  3. Software Testing – not every company has dedicated software testers but need people who can test software at all stages of the development process. If you have skills with computers, the ability to write reports, and analyze software, then this can work very well. You can promote your services with a niche site that talks about software testing and the benefits of outsourcing this task.
  4. Virtual Assistant – I use oDesk all the time for project work that my Virtual Assistants can do faster than me. I’ve found two that are very reliable and use them most every week. So far, I’ve spent over $2,000 dollars this year on Virtual Assistants. If you can provide a high-quality reliable service, then register with oDesk and develop your profile. Link it to your blog and get as many endorsements as you can. Focus on one area, such as bookkeeping, design, finance, coding, typing and nail this.
  5. Market Researcher – if you have good writing skills and like to gather information, then Market Research is for you. Who do you target? Any company that develops products, especially mid-size ones that may not have dedicated Market Researchers. You can work with the Sales team and use Social Media, Google and other tools to gather data on trends, brands and customer expectations.
  6. iPhone app developer – this is a very lucrative area if you have software skills or know how to develop new products. For example, you can learn how the process of developing iPhone apps works and then offer to do this for other companies. Most businesses want to be on the iPhone but don’t know how to start. If you can solve that problem, and have the development team lined up, then you’re in business. Your development team is out there on oDesk 🙂
  7. Translator – one of the big surprises when I lived in China was the number of US and European students coming there to learn Chinese. Some of these were charging 50 USD per hour to do translation and interpreting work, which isn’t bad for a 20 year old. I got to know two of these and they made very good incomes teaching other English over Skype and doing translation work. If you have language skills, then target the business sector and you’re setup.

Conclusion
One of our friends is half Spanish and now works with clients translating documents over Skype. There are almost no setup costs. She gets paid very well as these are business documents, such as Request For Proposals.
The other helps small companies setup Facebook pages. She’s used Facebook for years now and has it inside out. Why not monetize what she knows? She charges $299 to setup a new Facebook account with pages and links it into their Twitter account. She works when the kids are off in bed and restarts before they begin their work day.
What other careers can you do online?

100 Words You Need To Speak Any Language even Chinese and Ancient Greek

100 Words You Need To Speak Any Language Even Chinese & Ancient GreekDid you ever wish you could speak French and read all those great novels? Or maybe Spanish, so you could travel to South America and have more than Buenos Dias? Or Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese.  Most of us never start. It’s too hard. But, if I told you that all you need is 100 words and then you can get by – would you give it at try. Continue reading “100 Words You Need To Speak Any Language even Chinese and Ancient Greek”

12 Steps To Getting Started as a Business Consultant

Most people think it’s difficult start a career as a business consultant. I used to think the same in my early 20s when I started in IT. In retrospect, I should have made more efforts to establish myself as a consultant earlier; the benefits certainly outweigh the downsides. As luck would have it, I was forced into a consultancy role when I lost my 9-5 job. Time to learn to hustling and bring in business.

richard bransonMost people think it’s difficult start a career as a business consultant. I used to think the same in my early 20s when I started in IT.
In retrospect, I should have made more efforts to establish myself as a consultant earlier; the benefits certainly outweigh the downsides. As luck would have it, I was forced into a consultancy role when I lost my 9-5 job. Time to learn to hustling and bring in business. Harvard Business Review refers to it as The Hustle Strategy. More on that later. Continue reading “12 Steps To Getting Started as a Business Consultant”

STC Increase Fees: Is the STC still value for money?

STC LogoSarah O’Keefe (Scriptorium) discusses STC’s new dues structure: Dues are going up; Printed publications are no longer included in basic dues; No chapter or SIG membership are included in the basic dues.
She adds that while reaction is largely negative, she finds value from her STC membership and gives some examples and reasons to join/stay with the STC. I have to confess that I disagree her on most all points.
STC gives Sarah a channel to attract new customers; many prospective customers find her at STC organized conferences. For example:
“During an STC conference a few years ago, I was approached by representatives of a government agency to discuss a major project. (I found out later they had attended my session to see if they wanted to talk to me. I apparently passed that test.) That meeting resulted in a new customer and over $250,000 in revenue for Scriptorium.”

Why join the STC?

Sarah gives several reasons why you should join/stay with the STC.
Here’s my thoughts:
1. If STC succeeds, you are more likely to find jobs that pay well because your work is respected.
I honestly don’t see how the success or failure of the STC has any material impact on my career. I’ve never joined the STC and managed to work for Intel, IBM and others for almost 20 years.
If the STC closed, would technical writers across the planet get their marching orders or see a cut in salary? Don’t think so, tbh.
Re: your work is respected.
I think this depends on the company and people you work for.
STC membership doesn’t automatically earn you any respect, certainly not with the negative perception surrounding the STC, i.e. out of touch and broken.
Most HR and IT Managers are not aware of the STC and rarely if ever mention it in interviews.
2. You are less likely to be the first person laid off in a downturn.
Why?
Most HR Managers make their decisions on budgets, cutback and other factors.
It would be great if this membership gave an extra layer of protection but the reality is that if you’re going to get laid off, all the certs, degrees etc in the world don’t make one iota of difference.
3. You are less likely to find job postings that include general office work among technical communication tasks.
Not sure what this is about. Most job postings I see for technical writers don’t include ‘general office work’, which I assume means admin tasks.
You are less likely to be replaced by another, less skilled, less expensive writer.
Read this s l o w l y.

  • We made cut-backs to the technical writing dept in my last company; most of the technical writing tasks were shipped out to Poland and India.
  • These guys and girls were less skilled and less expensive.
  • Actually, the last 3 months at the place was spent up-skilling the offshore team.
  • The company needed to reduce costs, full stop.
  • The quality of the tech docs is not great but the share price is up. Analysts are positive regarding the company’s stance on ‘fiscal controls’.

4. If technical communication is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.
Now this is an interesting point. Is it valued?
Most of us who write for a living value the written word —that’s why we’re here, right? —but not everyone shares the same enthusiasm.
You could also replace ‘technical communication’ with any other job title and make the same argument.

  • If software development is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.
  • If quality control is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.
  • If network admin is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.

Links:
A mercenary view of STC: http://www.scriptorium.com
Broken STC Model http://www.idratherbewriting.com
Bill Swallow http://techcommdood.com/?p=309
Final Thoughts
Going back to Sarah’s point about drumming up work at events.
My take on the STC and other groups, for example, LinkedIn, is that their value is in proportion to what you put in.
The more effort you make, the greater the returns.
Those that make an effort to ‘use’ the STC (in the best possible way) are likely to see their careers blossom.
If you sit on your hands, then nothing is likely to come your way.
What do you think?
Is the STC value for money?

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What type of skills do Technical Writers need?

What type of skills do Technical Writers need? Technical writers often have a degree in English, technical writing, the technical field for which they are writing, or a combination of these.

Technical writers often have a degree in English, technical writing, the technical field for which they are writing, or a combination of these.
It is most important that they have enough expertise to understand their audience’s background and needs.
For example, writers who develop documentation for software APIs, microcontroller operation, and other technical subjects are often paid more than those who write guides for a nontechnical audience (for example, how to use email), because it is difficult to find good writers with advanced technical knowledge. Continue reading “What type of skills do Technical Writers need?”

5 Tips on How to Make a Cold Call and Survive!

5 Tips on How to Make a Cold Call and Survive!

Cold calls! No! I can’t do it. Yes, you can. They’re only human and won’t bite.
Here’s how I make cold calls and it works
When I started out I hated this. I’d do anything to avoid it. In the end I cut a deal with myself. I would call between 10-11 every morning for 1 hour and 1 hour only. Somehow this worked. I’d make the calls and get it over with. In time it got easier and making cold calls became more enjoyable. Yes, imagine that. Cold calls that you enjoy! Continue reading “5 Tips on How to Make a Cold Call and Survive!”

How to Interview Technical Writers

Here are some tips for interviewing technical writers, for example, if your company needs to hire a contractor to write some documentation for your next release.

Here are some tips for interviewing technical writers, for example, if your company needs to hire a contractor to write some documentation for your next release.
I’ve worked on both sides on the fence, (i.e. went to lots of interviews and also interviewed applicants for roles our Publications Dept) and picked up a few things in the process.
Hopefully, these will be of some help. Continue reading “How to Interview Technical Writers”