How to bid a job
Over the decades, I’ve worked with every kind of client imaginable, from Fortune 500 corporations to small start-ups working on half a shoestring. They all have one thing in common: the desire to predict costs on any technical writing project.
Estimating what a tech writing job will cost involves a number of factors that range from the audience you are writing for to the responsiveness of the review team and the number of reviewers on a technical document. The simplest way for a tech writer to approach a documentation project when estimating costs is to start with the end product and work backward.
Something to keep in mind always when working out the content on a project is the 20/80 rule: Eighty percent of the users will use twenty percent of the features. This is important to keep in mind because this drives the amount of content to be included, which is a very important element in costs.
Another key element is the availability of subject matter experts, or SMEs. How available are the SMEs? Are they the preliminary interview subjects only, or are they also part of the review team?
Reviews are also important to consider when estimating the cost of a job. A short review lineup will always keep costs down compared to a document-by-committee review. The more reviewers stirring the doc pot, the more likely you will have conflicting opinions, which translate exponentially to extended time and frequent rewrites and rewrites of the rewrites.
When I estimate a job, part of what I do is alchemy. I’ve been doing this kind of work for so long that my “guesstimates” tend to be fairly accurate. The only area that is hard to predict for me is the review line when working with a new client.