This is the second post in my ‘technical writing prices’ series. Last time, I looked at how much technical writing costs. This time, I’ll explain why technical writing can be so expensive.
Here are 10 reasons to explain why freelance technical writers charge what seems to be a lot of money.
- Office costs and insurance
- Software and hardware
- Admin and marketing
- Client communications
- Editing and proofreading
Office costs and insurance
Some technical writers also pay for professional indemnity insurance (PII). It isn’t often that claims are made for copywriting failures, but responsible writers will often insure themselves all the same.
Software and hardware
This can be an expensive endeavour in most lines of work, and technical writing is no exception: the last MadCap Flare software & support bundle I purchased cost me £1300.
But even that is small fry when compared with the costs of the hardware on which my little empire runs.
Freelancers therefore have to ensure that their productive time is paid at a rate that allows them to take the occasional holiday.
A rested freelancer is a happy freelancer.
A happy freelancer is a productive freelancer. A productive freelancer is someone you want on your team.
Unlike employed office staff, freelancers aren’t entitled to sick pay. This has to be taken into account when freelancers work out their rates.
Payment protection insurance can help in some situations, but, of course, that’s another expense.
Admin and marketing
And then there’s personal marketing. Freelancers have to forge their own brand identity. That means they have to create and maintain a website, blog and social media presence. All of this takes time and drags them away from being productive.
Workshops, online courses and exams all cost time and money. There are also expenses associated with continuing professional development (CPD) – attending conferences, paying for professional memberships, reading industry blogs, listening to podcasts, watching webinars.
(Hiring a writer who isn’t in touch with the latest developments in the field is a good way to waste your money.)
Although most emails might not take too long to write, don’t forget that your chosen technical writer will be a one-stop shop for everything related to the job.
They will attend conference calls.
They will make site visits.
They will hold meetings with your product managers, support team and any other relevant stakeholders.
Although some travel expenses can be reclaimed, the whole process still takes up time and money.
Time has to be spent planning and researching the work, and often this period will be the longest part of any writing project.
Here’s some more about researching technical writing topics.
Expertise is built through a combination of innate ability, study and experience. Just as any consultant would charge for their expertise, so too does a writer. Remember: you’re paying for someone’s value, not just their time.
While attending an advanced software training workshop, I listened to an interesting exchange that went something like this:
Delegate: ‘I don’t think I’d charge anything if that [software process] took me only five minutes.’
Instructor: ‘Why? You’ve spent time and energy learning that skill. It might take someone else a week to find out how to do it. I’d charge full whack because the client is benefiting from my expertise. They’ve got a problem and I’m solving it for them. I’m just doing it quickly.’
Everyone got the message: we should value expertise and not be afraid to charge for it.
Editing and proofreading
Most writers will do their best to leave a little time between writing a draft and editing it, so that the content appears fresh when it’s reviewed.
But this adds to the time taken to produce the content, and that adds to the price.
An alternative approach – one that I particularly favour – is for the writer to engage the services of a professional editorial consultant.
This is someone who can provide an independent review of the text before the client sees the final version.
So long as there aren’t any non-disclosure clauses preventing this sort of activity, seeking editorial help is the best way for technical writers to improve the accuracy and consistency of the content they produce.
And, you guessed it, this also adds to the cost of the job.
There are plenty of reasons to explain why freelance technical writing services can be so expensive.
Freelancers pay for their own setup and training. They’re responsible for their own marketing and accounts. They take on the many costs of doing business, and it’s only reasonable to expect that they reflect this in their charges.
Catch up with the other parts of this series here:
- How much does technical writing cost?
- Why is technical writing so expensive?
- Do technical writers need to do research?
- How do technical writers charge?
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Who wrote this?
John Espirian – the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter
I write B2B web content, blogs, user guides and case studies – all aimed at explaining how your products, services and processes work. I also offer LinkedIn profile critiquing and rewriting.
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