A local marketing company approached Jean Rollinson (www.authoring-services.co.uk) to see if she was interested in occasional copywriting for them. Their previous copywriter was one of the company directors (now retired), so they had no experience of paying for copywriting, and they asked her to suggest a suitable rate. Jean asked whether she should charge more, less or a similar rate to that which she charges for technical writing.
Peter Finch (www.opensecret.co.uk) replied that he does a modest amount of copywriting as a change from technical writing and to keep his creative juices active. Normally, he charges a project price based on a rate of £30 to £50 an hour plus expenses. He added that it is important to obtain a very clear brief of what the client wants and how they are going to use it. Copywriting is more subjective than technical writing. A committee can approve a technical manual, but if you try to get a committee to approve some copywriting, you could end up with trouble. He recommended that Jean makes sure that only one person signs off the work.
Advertisements containing poor rates and unreasonable job requirements are a source of irritation for many technical communicators who are looking for their next assignment. Our president, Gavin Ireland, has pledged to complain to agencies and employers if we tell him about such advertisements.
In general, the response so far has been less than positive, with replies ranging from 'the client sets the rate and we can't complain' to 'thanks for your interest, but the position has now been filled'.
On the other hand, there are exceptions. One of our members forwarded a copy of an advertisement from JobServe (www.jobserve.com). The client was looking for a Junior Technical Author in London. The pay ranged from £8 to £12 an hour. Gavin contacted the agency and suggested that such a position should justify closer to £18 an hour if they wanted a suitable candidate.
The agency, Badenoch & Clark (www.badenochandclark.com), replied saying, '…your advice was very useful. I have given your feedback to our client and we have now revised the rate to offer the candidate a minimum of £18 an hour.'
What a refreshing change to come across a responsive and responsible agency!
Andy Smith (www.wingedfeet.co.uk) thought about joining a union as a freelancer because of some of the benefits such as legal advice and access to other services such as cheap insurance. He asked for our advice on unions that cater for the self-employed.
Geoff Lane (www.gjctech.co.uk) suggested that alternatives to unions were organizations that provide those services to freelancers, such as the Professional Contractors Group (www.ipse.co.uk). Also, there are websites that offer the same services without needing to join an organization; for example, Shout99 (www.shout99.com) offers free advice forums in addition to offering tax and insurance packages. Jane Funnell found the Federation of Small Business (www.fsb.org.uk) to be excellent.
David Cooper wrote that many unions cater for the self-employed because freelancing is a way of life in some trades. (1) The National Union of Journalists: 'The NUJ Freelance Directory is the biggest and most reliable listing of media freelances in the UK and Ireland, covering writers, editors, sub-editors, designers, illustrators, photographers, broadcasters, scriptwriters, web designers, translators, trainers and researchers' (www.nuj.org.uk). (2) The Writers Guild of Great Britain, which is media orientated (www.writersguild.org.uk). (3) The Society of Authors, which is for published authors (www.societyofauthors.org).
Pay-per-click web advertising is a big industry. Geoff Lane (www.gjctech.co.uk) directed us to the article 'Yahoo Implicated In Spyware Click Fraud' (www.webproworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=62397 [Editor's note 2008-11-22. This URL is not currently available]). Allegedly, the problem stems from Yahoo partners working in consort with spyware vendors to generate commission for the partner. I read around the subject: if you are thinking of using pay-per-click (or indeed, if you already do use it) it is well worth taking the time to look at the issues before you part with your money.