Originally published in Keyword, Vol. 8, No. 1, March 1998 (Journal of the Australian Society for Technical Communication)
Making Money in Technical Writing, by Peter Kent, Macmillan, 1998, ISBN 0028618831
Reviewed by Jean Hollis Weber
Making Money in Technical Writing is subtitled Turn Your Writing Skills into $100,000 a year. If that sounds a bit optimistic, consider that it equates to a contractor earning $50 an hour, working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks of the year.
Kent begins by saying that because there are so many lousy technical writers in the marketplace, if you can get a reputation for doing a good job, you should have no trouble getting repeat work. He acknowledges that it’s often hard to get started (everybody wants people with experience), but offers some suggestions to overcome that problem.
He follows this pep talk with an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of employment, contracting, freelancing and consulting; a discussion of how to calculate pay rates and expenses (and why you’re unlikely to be able to bill 2,000 hours a year); and a suggested course of action to move from employment to contractor (working through an agency) to freelancer (without the agency). He covers the pros and cons of using agencies versus freelancing, and the transition to consultant or to writing magazine articles and books.
Some of the details (particularly those regarding taxation issues, health insurance, superannuation and so on) are specific to the USA, but the questions intending freelancers should ask themselves are much the same world-wide.
I found Making Money to be full of good ideas and practical suggestions, some of which I have already put to good use. Included are contact information for a range of services, both online and offline. Experienced freelancers may think a lot of the material is obvious, but I can certainly recall that when I was an employee, many of Kent’s points would have been quite eye-opening. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, I recommend you get a copy of this book. If you’re an experienced freelancer, I think you’d still find it of value, as I have.
Making Money is now a bit dated and long out of print, but you can order it from resellers at Amazon.com.
Last updated 23 September 2007.