Four Things To Look For In A Freelance Technical Writer

You’ve decided to take on a freelance tech writer but you aren’t sure what to look for. Many employers of freelancers think that their project is too complicated for a writer to come in and understand it. However, you should keep in mind that this is what writers are trained to do; come in cold turkey and learn enough about a product to document it for users. In my experience with the exception of highly technical products, experienced freelance technical writers have little trouble mastering the technical end of things. Here then is four points where I think you should put the emphasis when looking for a freelance writer.

1. How many years has he been in the field? If the writer has managed to make a living as a freelancer for more than two years then you can be confident that he has more than a basic understanding of what it means to be a freelance technical writer.

2. Ask about specific experience-before interviewing the writer go to their website and see if there is a client list. If so ask what specifically they did for these clients.

3. Ask to see samples of their work. Keep in mind however that the final product is often a function not only of the writer’s talent but also the time and budget allotted to the project and the client’s input (or lack thereof)

4. A technical writing project is a cooperative enterprise. You, or somebody from your company is going to have to work with the writer. Speak to the writer for a few minutes, not necessarily about your project. How are his people skills? Do you think that he’ll be able to successfully interview subject matter experts? how will he respond to feedback?



Statistics and Freelancing

I just finished listening to a book called The Drunkards Walk. A very interesting and highly recommended book about statistics in everyday life. One of the points that the author makes is that the difference between being a success at what you do and being a failure is persistence. If you have a satisfactory amount of talent your chances of success will increase the more you hang in there, from a statistical viewpoint. As an example he describes how some of the best selling authors sent their first manuscripts to 20-30 publishers before being accepted for publication. If these same authors had given up after being rejected 5 or 6 times we would never have heard of them and they would have to have stuck with their daytime jobs. How does this apply to making it as a freelancer? Marketing. The more marketing methods you use the greater your chance that one of them will pay off. For example, I had a website, blog, adsense and other avenues in place and was considering whether or not to sign up for Linkedin. I finally decided why not? and signed up. Several months later I found one of my better clients of the last few years through one of the Linkedin groups.

Another thing that reminded me of the connection between statistics and being a freelance happened last week when I was about to finish a project and it occurred to me that I had very little left on my plate. During the next two days I got two new projects from previous clients that sent me new projects after not hearing from them for around a year. It occured to me that the longer you are a freelancer, the greater your chances of getting work through returning clients.
The hard part is getting started and having the financial backing to be able to hang in there until you reach the point where the business is self-perpetuating.

How Long Is Your Commute?

This article caught my eye:

Extreme Commuting

More workers are willing to travel three hours a day. But what is the long-term cost?

For the last leg of their five- and sometimes six-hour, door-to-door commutes, the working moms who call themselves the “Bus Buddies” of the Adirondack Trailways’ Red Line run usually talk about one thing: How can I get off this thing? How to end the exhausting odyssey from New York state towns such as New Paltz and Woodstock, waking up at 5, 4, and even 3 a.m. to board a smelly long-hauler to Manhattan, where the salaries are 70% more? On the trip home, the Bus Buddies bring out their neck rolls to avoid “commuter nod” and use their pashminas as blankets, brainstorming exit strategies over the dueling aromas of Chinese food and Kentucky Fried Chicken. When a Bus Buddy does manage to leave behind her seat — such as Jennifer Pickurel, who traded in a big finance job for one at the local Chamber of Commerce — the Bus Buddies erupt into applause. “We’re jealous,” says Terry Rust, a broadcast TV business manager who lives in New Paltz. “But we cheer them on and say: ‘Yeah, you made it. You’re off the bus.”‘

via Extreme Commuting.

One of the big advantages of working from home is the absence of a commute. If your commute is 30 minutes each direction that means you spend approximately 20 hours per month commuting or 240 hours per year. In other words every year your commute is the equivalent of driving night and day for 10 days.

Here in Israel, a small country approximately half sparsely-populated desert, a commute of an hour is considered a long commute. This morning I timed my commute from my house to my little office in the yard–30 seconds.
So how long is your commute?