Because Summit 2016 was conveniently located in Anaheim, California, I made sure I went to the annual conference of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).
While at the conference, I decided to focus on the business side of being a technical communicator. This article provides an overview of what I learned while attending several educational sessions in the Independent Consulting track.
How to Write a Statement of Work
Jack Molisani of ProSpring Staffing Solutions and LavaCon said he always learns something new from his educational sessions on writing statements of work (SOW) because other consultants share their experiences and tips.
During his talk, he emphasized the need to get everything in writing to protect yourself (and your client) from misunderstandings, mission creep, and additional work created through change orders.
You also need to protect yourself from becoming liable for items not specified in your SOW. Therefore, do not sign any contract provided by another company if you or your legal representative does not feel comfortable with any of its statements.
How to Wear the Three Hats of Independence
According to Rich Maggiani of Solari Communications, self-employed technical communicators are not contractors or freelancers. We are consultants who must wear three hats simultaneously to be successful: expertise, marketing, and finance.
We wear our expertise hat easily because it’s what we like to do and we do it well. However, the other two hats—marketing and finance—are just as important. Otherwise, our consulting businesses will suffer when we do not balance with one another.
How to Work Like a Pro Once You Have a Signed a Contract
Teresa Stover of Stover Writing Services discussed how we can get repeat business and referrals by the way we manage our projects once we’ve signed a contract. We have to fulfill our commitments and meet our deadlines. We also have to build relationships by communicating properly with team members and leaders.
After you complete your project, Stover said you need to close out the contract, making sure there are no loose ends. You also need to ask for permission if you want to use any content in your portfolio. Don’t forget to ask for referrals and send thank-you cards to all the people you worked with.
How to Get a Freelance Project
Alisa Bonsignore of Clarifying Complex Ideas talked about all the hard work you have to do before you ever sign a contract. You have to eliminate objections by presenting yourself professionally, both online and in-person.
You also have to find a prospect by applying both in-person and virtual professionalism. Because they have already been vetted by trusted sources, the best prospects come from referrals.
Once you have found a prospect, you need to take the time to listen to their needs, pain points, time constraints, budget, challenges, and scope of work. Only then do you have enough information to submit a detailed proposal.
Finally, Bonsignore said negotiating a contract can be scary. However, the more you practice negotiating, the easier it will become.
I feel the advice given in the Independent Consulting track applies to anyone in technical communication, regardless of your employment status. You have to:
- Be detailed in defining your projects with an accurate SOW
- Make sure you have buy-in from stakeholders; that is, have a binding contract before you start working
- Follow through on your commitments and meet your deadlines
- Communicate properly to build solid relationships
- Find quality job leads by asking for referrals at the end of every job
- Give equal attention to your expertise, finances, and brand
By following these guidelines, you position yourself for professional growth and sustainability.
Bonsignore, Alisa, Closing the Deal: Getting that Freelance Project
Maggiani, Rich, Three Hats of Independence, http://schd.ws/hosted_files/technicalcommunicationsummit2016/f8/Your%20Three%20Hats.pdf
Molisani, Jack, How to Write Statements of Work, http://schd.ws/hosted_files/technicalcommunicationsummit2016/51/How%20to%20write%20SOWs%20and%20Contracts%202016.pdf
Stover, Teresa, The Client Said Yes. Now What?, http://schd.ws/hosted_files/technicalcommunicationsummit2016/1f/IC-TheClientSaidYesNowWhat-Stover-051616.pdf
To purchase taped educational sessions from Summit 2011 through 2016, visit STC Summit Playback at http://stc.sclivelearningcenter.com/index.aspx?PID=6676.