Creating a rate card  Clip to Evernote

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here)

If you’re a freelance technical writer, chances are you 1) have prospective clients asking you how much you charge, and 2) do more than just write user documentation. You might also, for example, do copywriting, API documentation, editing and proofreading, content consulting, and more.

You might have committed your rates to memory, but if you offer more than a couple of services that might not be a good idea. Many potential clients (and returning ones) want something tangible (or, at least, digital), to which they can refer and compare.

That’s why you should have a rate card.

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3 books that can help you tame Evernote  Clip to Evernote

Evernote logo Note: This post was originally published here.

Evernote is a useful and flexible tool for anyone, especially writers– technical or otherwise. You can use Evernote to record your research, outline your writing, hammer out drafts, collect links and citations, manage your tasks, and more.

It can be a bit challenging to get up and running with Evernote. And, if you’re like me, you sometimes overthink things and that makes the process of working with a tool like Evernote a bit more difficult. A good guide, in the form of a good book, can help.

For the longest time, there was a dearth of books in English about Evernote, even though there seemed to have been a cottage industry of books about Evernote in Japan. That’s changed. There are a number of titles in English about Evernote. Some are good, some not so.

Here’s a quick look at three of the better books (in English) about Evernote that are on the market.

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(Video) conferencing with clients and collaborators  Clip to Evernote

video conference

Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here.

These days, if you’re a freelance technical communicator then you might be working offsite with clients and maybe collaborators who are across town, in another part of the country, or even elsewhere in the world.

In that case, you’ll need to regularly keep in touch with those clients or collaborators. That could be for planning sessions, catch-up sessions, or project updates.

Sure, you can do that using email, instant messaging (IM), or over the phone. But email and IM really break down when more than a two or three people are involved. It gets hard to keep track of who said what, and about what. As for the phone, that can get expensive if your clients or collaborators are in a different city or country than you.

The way to go is with a video conference. You don’t need to have a lot of expensive gear or use a costly service to do video conferencing. If you have a computer, a webcam, and a headset you’ve got everything that you need.

Let’s take a look at some free and inexpensive video conferencing tools that can help you conference with clients and collaborators.

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What’s the perfect length for a blog post?  Clip to Evernote

blog

Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here.

It’s great to see more and more people, including technical communicators, blogging. It’s a great way to share ideas, techniques, and opinions.

One question I’ve been hearing, and have been asked, a lot lately is What’s the perfect length for a blog post?

And, to be honest, I don’t think there is a perfect length for a blog post. That goes against some of what’s considered conventional wisdom, I know.

Take, for example, what a speaker at a blogger’s meetup told the group. He said that the optimal length of a post is 1,000 words or more. Why? Those posts seem to get more reads than shorter posts.

But looking at the statistics for this blog, and my other blogs, the story is a bit different. And it’s a bit more complex.

If you’ve been visiting this space for any length of time, you’ll have noticed that I vary the lengths of my posts. Some are in the 200 to 300 word range, while others top out at more than 1,000 words.

Guess what? Both get similar levels of traffic. I won’t go into specific numbers for specific posts. I’m too lazy to dig them up, and I’m sure those numbers would bore most of you.

As I’ve written in the past, use as many words as you need to. Don’t try to stretch a 300 word post or article into 1,500 words. It will seem forced and bore your readers.

Don’t worry about the perfect length of a blog post. It doesn’t exist. Instead of focusing on word count, concentrate on making your posts as good as they can be.

Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.

Photo credit: patpitchaya

Taking a look at Letting Go of the Words  Clip to Evernote

Letting Go of the Words - Cover

Note: This post was originally published here.

Writing with fewer words isn’t anything new. For decades, writers have been exhorted to write tightly, to pare down their writing, to use words with economy and prudence.

But writing tightly has become a necessity. Many people reading on the web are impatient. They don’t want to wade through long swaths of text (hence tl;dr). They want you get to the point and give them what they want and need quickly.

That’s the main thrust of Letting Go of the Words by Janice Redish. While it’s aimed at people writing for the web, you can apply the lessons found in Letting Go of the Words to just about any form of non-fiction writing.

Let’s take a closer look at this book.

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Getting ready for a document review  Clip to Evernote

A businessman thinking over his papers

Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here.

When working in a corporate environment, either as a contractor or a full-time employee, you’ll have to go through a document review sooner or later. And the whole process can be quite painful and quite frustrating.

Regardless of what you’re writing — whether it’s documentation, marketing or communications copy, or policy and procedures — a review is important. Make that important. Not only does it give people with specialized knowledge a chance to help you improve what you’re writing, but sign offs are usually mandatory before a document can go out.

As I said, a document review can be a painful and frustrating process. It can be hard to pin down people to do the review. And they might let the review slide. Often, doing something like that isn’t the highest priority on their lists.

Here’s some advice that can help you prepare for a document review and make the review process quicker, easier, and smoother.

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