Cost and time
How much does it cost to have a document written?
Having lured you to this page, I’m not actually going to give you any hard and fast costs. I work on the principle of finding out what the job will entail before quoting a price or estimating a time to finish. I believe that my rates are competitive, but as with most things, you get what you pay for (remember, peanuts and monkeys). To put it in perspective, you almost certainly pay your vet or main dealer motor mechanic a lot more per hour than I would charge you.
I operate a sliding scale of charges, so if you are a one-man/woman business or a non-profit organisation, I will not charge you as much as if you work for a multinational corporation. I think this is fair, though the multinationals may disagree.
My hourly rates are based on those recommended by the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) and the NUJ (National Union of Journalists). For more information, please see the relevant websites: www.sfep.org.uk/society/faq.html#pay and www.nujbook.org/freelance/freeln05.shtml.
If you regularly employ freelance staff, and have your own pay scales, then I will work for your usual rates.
Cost reduction: benefits of professional documentation
Using a good author to write your technical documents will cost you money to start with, but has intangible benefits in promoting a professional image to your clients. After all, if you buy a new video recorder, would you rather have an illustrated instruction booklet that you can follow, or a piece of typewritten A4 paper with incomprehensible instructions written in pidgin English?
Which brings me neatly on to the next point. Excellent documentation will reduce your support costs. Every answer that someone finds in the user guide or the help system means one less call or email to your support line. The support team can concentrate on finding answers to real problems, rather than explaining to a customer how to switch an appliance on, or how to install a computer program.
How long does it take to have a document written?
'How long is a piece of string?' Like most projects, the answer is, 'it all depends'. The time taken depends on such factors as: the type and completeness of the source material; the difficulty of the ideas or tasks to be presented; how stable the base information is; how much time you have to spend on reviews, and so on.
The best way to give you an idea is by an example.
Here are some sample times for each stage of a recent job, but remember that each job is different:
- To produce a first draft of 150-page user guide, based on a computer simulation of the product: four weeks, including designing the layout and getting information from developers.
- To get the first draft reviewed by developers: ten days.
- To produce a second draft, incorporating comments and corrections from developers: two weeks, including resolving conflicting comments from different developers.
- To get the second draft reviewed by developers and QA department: two weeks.
- To produce a first version, incorporating comments from the second draft review: two weeks, including resolving conflicting comments from different developers.
- To get the first version approved and signed off by QA and senior management: two weeks.
- Total time taken: 13.5 weeks.
There are many factors that can delay a documentation project. In my experience the main problems are: the product is not complete so the first draft has information missing as no one knows exactly what parts of it will do; graphics are not available; developers are too busy finalising the product to review the documentation, this can mean that the first draft is not checked thoroughly and errors are noticed at a later date so another draft or version needs to be issued.
My thanks to Lois Wakeman for her permission to adapt the ideas from her website, http://communicationarts.co.uk/