You've secured the budget to produce some badly needed, high visibility deliverables. Part of that budget includes funding for contractors. To help manage and guide the communications between your contractors, your staff, and your management, you want to use your company's best practices. The best practices of the contractor or provider firm you employ should closely match your own company's best practices. Beginning on the "same page" will eliminate headaches and expenses during the lifecycle of the project. A quick comparison of practices and procedures enables you to proceed with the project confident that you are using competent outside resources.
With the decline of employer loyalty to employees and the move to outsource peripheral functions, many technical communicators are exploring the possibility of becoming an independent contractor. Although much emphasis has been given to marketing and negotiation skills, there are pitfalls awaiting the entrepreneur who leaps before looking. Among these pitfalls for former corporate employees are structuring time and dealing with isolation. Success as an independent is measured by how well he/she deals with these intangible issues.
Writers today are being advised to stop thinking in terms of building a life-long career with one employer, and instead view themselves as a one-person corporation offering specialized services to whomever is willing to pay the highest price.
Every industry veteran has his or her preferred billing method. Some prefer fixed pricing arrangements while others prefer straight hourly billing. Regardless of individual preference, each billing method has its perks, and the decision should be based on which method is in the best interest of your firm, yourself and your client.
When I was preparing my transition from employment in Belgium to employment in northern Virginia, friends encouraged me to look at opportunities as an information technology (IT) contractor for the federal government, which relies on contractors to design and deliver IT solutions. For this reason, many companies that build and sell IT systems have entered the lucrative market of outsourcing employees. Since May 2005, I have been employed by four contracting companies and worked at several government agencies. When I started working as a contractor, I discovered that very little is written about the ins and outs of contracting. What I learned came from friends and associates, and their advice helped me understand how to be successful.
It's not about what software you use, or how you organize your document, or how big the document is; but about whether the expectations the client has set, have been met. The question is, then, how do we assure we're meeting all the client's expectations? The answer is client buy-in.
Why is it that we allow ourselves to be put in a compromising position where the client tells us how to be web designers? Maybe it's because the perception among the wider public is that 'anyone' can make a website. And they're right. Anyone can make a website--but not everyone can make an emotionally engaging interactive experience that will live in the visitor's memory. (Similarly, anyone with access to a photocopier and a stapler can 'make a book,' but good books are scarce.)
This panel brings together three consultants to discuss the link between the client and consultant. Their individual papers provide the background; 'Create Your Consultant Image,' 'SmartStart Guides,' and 'Managing Client Relationships.'
During the last few years in projects, I interacted with a lot of clients. All these projects were based offshore, where client interaction was mainly through emails or teleconferences. When you do not work face-to-face with clients, communication is key to win your clients' confidence.
Since a healthy percentage of Reencoded readers deal directly with clents, it’s time we take a closer look at how to deal with them. It’s not uncommon for a client’s wants and a client’s needs to head in completely different directions. Hopefully these tips will help you draw the two back together and provide the client with a product or service that they’re happy with and that suits their requirements.
Since May 2005 I have been employed by four contracting companies and worked at several government agencies. When I entered the contracting profession, I discovered that very little is written about contracting. What I learned came from friends and associates; their advice has helped me to understand how to be successful.
The Consulting and Independent Contracting progression will focus on both beginning and advanced topics relating to independent work. Independent work requires attention to two main areas: maintaining professional standards and practices; and building a successful contracting or consulting business. As the role of contractors and consultants continues to evolve practitioners face issues articulated in the topics below. Individual topics addressed are: choosing between contracting and consulting, marketing a business, and addressing legal issues. For those already established we look at ways to expand the consultant’s personal resource network and issues of incorporation as a growth alternative.
Much like the strategic planning process used by talented communicators around the globe, consulting too is a process. It is circular because it feeds into itself, and it is strategic because it is grounded in the business and relationships. Each step incorporates multiple sub-steps. For example, “collaborate on the solution” may incorporate brainstorming, best practice benchmarking and collaborative implementation.
This article briefly reports on my very preliminary attempt to explore consulting by business academics. I began with a simple question: What lessons might BC instructors draw from the consulting practices of business academics? I interviewed three professors at the business college of a large Midwestern university who also consult on the side: Erin Dawson (a pseudonym), an associate professor of marketing; Thomas Chacko, a professor of management; and Sri Nilakanta, an associate professor of management information systems (MIS). Additionally, I leafed through the marketing plan Erin had written for her client, a local boat manufacturer. Below, I briefly discuss my main preliminary findings.
Most graduate training programs are unknowingly doing students a disservice by failing to adequately prepare them for alternative careers. Career counselors encourage students to “sell” their problem-solving skills and to portray themselves as critical thinkers, but few can offer specific and actionable advice—and none can offer the kind of experience students need to make the transition to other work sectors.
Consultants, like Life Savers®, come in flavors. Some are sweet and cloying, some area little too tart, some are bitter, some are too hot and spicy, and some like baby bear’s porridge taste just right. Clients may put up with the flavor of the month, but will he or she recommend or select it the next time around. Since referrals and repeat business are the life-blood of consulting, maintaining an excellent working relationship with a client is critical. Learning how to work with a client is the key to consulting with panache and knowing the rules helps open the door.
In the 90’s, contingency staffing (also called temporary staffing) has become a way of life for businesses that have had to streamline operations and reduce fixed costs in order to compete. Consequently, contract employment and independent contracting have become a way of life for many technical communicators who can’t — or prefer not to — find a full-time job.
The technical contracting industry provides a unique career opportunity for experienced professionals in most technical communications disciplines. It also provides a possible alternative to unemployment in view of the continuing 'down-sizing' and restructuring activity going on in today's marketplace.
Because I am working at this job through a contract, rather than as a regular employee, there are some situations unique to my position. In the technical writing industry, many writers work on a contract basis through an agency. This type of employment is called contracting, although you may also hear it called consulting. I prefer the term contracting because I associate consultants with people whose job is to advise a company on one issue or another. That may or may not describe a particular technical writing assignment.
As independent or freelance technical communicators, we typically call ourselves contractors. Our clients and potential clients, however, might consider some of us contractors and others consultants, with different expectations applied to each. The differences in perception vary from one individual to the next, but you might generalize them as differences in the level of abstraction of the technical communication product with which each type of worker is engaged.
The presenters examine all aspects of contracting from the viewpoint of both the contractor and the employer/client. The focus will be on the contract itself which provides a clear starting point for maneuvering through the critical issues, including what constitutes a legal contract and topics a contract should cover. The ensuing discussion will cover the different ways that writers work and are paid, managing the inevitable changes to a project, and a closer look at the pros and cons of working on an hourly or term contract compared to fixed price contracts, or contracts with an upset limit.