Independent Authors SIG, autumn 2007

Professional indemnity insurance (PII)

Jill Martin asked about professional indemnity and other insurances. What level of cover do freelancers have? Which providers are worth investigating?

PII is often a contractual requirement in Steve Rickaby's case. He opts for the lowest level of cover, usually £500,000, and increases it if required. He suggests that most underwriters do not understand the technical communication profession, so you may have to opt for an insurance product designed for contractors. Quotes vary greatly; the best price he has found is on

While writing this report, I found that PCG ( has a Guide to insurance for freelance businesses. Business Link has information about insurances and an interactive tool to help you determine what insurance you should have. [Editor's note 2012-10-29: now the guide is available only to PCG members. The Business Link website is replaced by]

Website development software

Many freelancers have their own websites. Dave Leonard asked about getting started with website development. He wanted a reliable, easy-to-use, entry-level package. Two of us suggested that he could learn HTML and CSS, and use a text editor. Skills that you learn when coding manually can be useful when you use a WYSIWYG tool. Even with these tools, you will have to edit the HTML occasionally and add scripts such as JavaScript.

Suggestions from the group were:

For validation, I use A Real Validator for HTML ( and the W3C CSS Validation Service for CSS (

On the other hand, according to Steve Rickaby, trying to create stylish web content with a text editor is making things hard for yourself. He suggested starting with a shareware WYSIWYG web editor to keep costs down, and then moving to industry-standard software if you decide to do more web work.

Suggestions from the group were:

A good source of information on free HTML editors and WYSIWYG tools is

Richard Pineger suggested using an open source content management system (CMS), which many Internet Service Providers (ISP) offer. Typically, the CMS is a one-click installation, which then needs to be customized (free templates are available as a starting point).

CMS tools are often complex, noted Kim Schrantz-Berquist. For small websites, she suggests using free or cheap website creation tools that ISPs offer as part of a hosting package. Yahoo is a good hosting company, and their templates are the best that she has seen. Several ISP review sites exist; she uses

Dictionaries: online or paper?

Online dictionaries such as the Oxford Reference online (members can access this through the ISTC website) and Google's 'define: <term>' search option are convenient tools, but Jane Dards finds printed dictionaries have their own benefits. With online dictionaries, she misses all the definitions of words that she wasn't looking for, but which she happens to notice as she turns pages. This is a good way of improving one's vocabulary. From a historical perspective, old dictionaries can give new insights. For example, she looked up 'computer' in her old (1966) school dictionary and was surprised to find that it was not defined.


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