Monthly Archives: March 2014

What Makes Technical Writers Successful?

Success comes to technical writers in many ways. Each of them requires focus, writing expertise, and work.

For some writers, writing is difficult, so the road to success is hard work. For others, writing is fun, so the work is easy, almost like play.

There are as many paths to success in the technical writing field as there are writers. Here are 6 of the most common.

1. Choose a field to specialize in, for example, hardware, software, semiconductors, scientific analysis, and more.

2. Work as a generalist in several fields where technical writers are needed.

3. Select a particular type of documentation to write: user guides, internal documentation, academic research, white papers, to name a few.

4. Teach. You can leverage your expertise in a particular technical field to teach others about it.

5. Consult only with startups.

6. Consult only with a particular type of company: local, national, or international corporations.

I’ll expand upon each of these technical writing fields in future posts. Until then, remember that whether you consider writing hard work or play, the road you travel on your journey to success is your choice.

Sometimes it’s crowded. Sometimes it’s the road less traveled. Dip your pen into the Inkwell and tell us in the comments below about the road you’ve chosen to travel on your journey to success.

Should You Ever Lower Your Rate?

At my Business of Freelancing workshop, I recommend that each freelance writer or editor set their rates based on research and on the number that feels most comfortable to them. I still set my rate this way. Why?

You must feel comfortable with the rate you are charging. By comfortable, I mean you must feel and believe that the rate you charge is right for you and fair for your clients, as well as competitive in the marketplace.

But what do you do when a potential client asks you to lower your rate just for them? This is something every freelance writer and editor deals with on occasion. The solution is simple. Let me give you an example:

Over the years, there have been times when potential clients have challenged the rate I was charging. Some presented strong, but usually selfish arguments for lowering my rate, such as they only wanted to spend a certain amount or they thought that because theirs was a non-profit they should get a discounted rate.

On the few occasions when I granted a potential client’s request to lower my rate, I struggled to complete those jobs. Why? First, I felt that I was not getting paid a fair rate for the work I was doing. Consequently, my self esteem and my self confidence faltered. Second, those clients proved to be extremely high maintenance.

Comparing notes with other freelance writers and editors, I’ve found that if a potential client does not want to pay the going rate, which is fair and competitive, they are more likely to be a high maintenance client, which means the writer or editor will be working harder for less pay.

If you are charging a fair rate, one that is competitive with other technical writers and editors in your field, and if you are good at what you do, there is no reason for you to lower your rate. In my opinion, to do so shortchanges both you and your client—it short changes you because you don’t get paid what your services are worth and it short changes your fellow technical writers and editors because it sets clients’ expectations that prices are random and can be lowered upon request. In other words, it under values the services offered.

In addition, the almost inevitable high maintenance factor results in you getting paid less than the project is worth because you have to spend a lot of time dealing with the drama created by these high-maintenance clients.

Shortly after those experiences, I realized that I was quite comfortable charging clients my current going rate. I am also quite comfortable ending the conversation when a client presses me to lower my rates. I calmly explain that the rate I charge is fair and competitive and in line with the experience I bring to each project. I then suggest that they may be more comfortable working with someone whose rates are more in line with their budget and I politely close the conversation.

As a result, I enjoy my work and my clients, which makes my workdays worthwhile.

Dip your pen into the inkwell and tell us how you deal with clients who ask you to lower your rate.