Journal: News & Comment

Thursday, July 12, 2001
# 9:38:00 PM:

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9. What are the greatest pressures and strains in your work?

Having to learn a lot of new things quickly. Depending on many others to provide source material -- sometimes later than I should really get it. The self-discipline required to set my own schedule and pace my work so I'm not overwhelmed at the end. Paperwork that isn't real work, and isn't billable.

10. What do you like about your job? What do you dislike about your job?

I like the flexibility, the self-determination, and that I get to work with words and explain complex things clearly. I like being able to use almost all the skills I have (well, usually except the drumming) in a single, focused project. I like learning new things all the time, meeting new people, and all the techie toys I get to play with. I like being able to write off so much of my computer and other hobbies as business expenses. I like that people pay me to write, and compliment me on my work. I like being a stay-at-home dad who still works.

I dislike the administration and paperwork of running my own business. I don't like the sometimes frustrating and incomprehensible muck I have to wade through to understand the things I'm writing about. Although I enjoy researching, outlining, and structuring documents, it often frustrates me in that middle phase when I have little concrete to show for considerable effort and time. I hate it when technology lets me down and erases work I've spent time on -- even though I back up and save copies regularly. That said, whenever something gets lost, the next version I do is better for the work I did before.

11. What is the occupational outlook in this field?

People who have skill with words are always in demand, and you can always adapt to changes in the marketplace. I think things look very good.

12. Who are your typical clients?

Software and hardware companies, non-profit organizations, other corporations looking to contract out work, individuals needing writing or editing assistance. All over the map. See:

13. Who are your competitors?

There are other technical writers out there, both individual freelancers and smallish companies, but there seems to be a lot of work around, so I rarely encounter them as direct competitors. Those I do talk to are usually helpful and collegial more than competitive. I have more opportunities than I can take, so it's certainly not cutthroat for me.

14. Where do you see this firm in 5 years?

Probably much the same as where I am now, but maybe working more onsite and more hours in the week, since my kids will be in school. If a good enough full-time position comes to me, I might take it then. Or I might not. Freelancing seems pretty good to me now.

15. What is the dress code?

Generally, tech writing is about ability, not appearance, at least once you get working.

When I work at home, no clothes at all are required. :) But I do prefer to wear something, both for comfort and so I can answer the door if there's a package for me.

When going out to work, I follow the dress code at the companies I work for, which is usually very casual. I try to dress just slightly better than average for the workplace (polo shirts instead of T-shirts, but rarely ties) just to make an impression. When meeting clients for the first time, I _might_ wear a tie and possibly a jacket until I can suss out what their attitude and expectations are.

I went to a private school with uniforms, so I feel comfortable enough in jacket and tie, but I avoid them if I can. I usually have the option to wear whatever I want.

16. What is the peak season in this industry?

Year round. I haven't seen any strong pattern, but things do slow down very slightly in August, just because so many people are on vacation, and around Christmas, for the same reason.

17. Where can I get more information?
18. Who else do you recommend that I speak with?

There are many resources online, as well as organizations for writers and editors. Here are a few recommendations:

If you find this stuff interesting, you may be on the right track for a career:

I hope that helps!


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