Are Daily Rates for Technical Writers Collapsing?

Daily rates for technical writers are down to $30 per hour in some places in the Bay Area. Recent articles on other technical writing sites suggests that daily rates for technical writers is collapsing in the US, in particular the west coast, as more writers struggle to find roles that match their previous salaries.

TECHWR-L (tech-whirl), the oldest site that I know for technical writers, highlights the case of a technical writer who’s been in the industry for 10 years and been jog-hunting for six months.

When asked what he thought where the tech docs industry was heading, his reply was, “it’s a race to the bottom”.

12 months ago, he left a high-paying tech writing job to travel but returned six months later, and looked for work. So far, nothing.

Daily Rates for Technical Writing in California

His only job offer to date was for $30 an hour.

Some recruitment sites quote $40-$60 an hour as the industry standard.

I know that when I last worked in the states, late 90s, the rates were $40-$60 per hour, and that’s almost 10 years back.  It’s hard to believe that now, ten years later, and factoring in inflation etc, daily rates are almost half of this.

Daily Rates for Technical Writing in Bangalore

According to a tech writer in Bangalore, the going rate in India is $10-15 an hour. Link:

Tomorrow’s World

My concern for US writers is that they fail to grasp the momentum that counties like India have established and the high quality of university graduates they are now producing.

Also, the upturn in the recession has given a false sense of hope. Some that I’ve spoken to feel that the worse has passed and normal service (i.e. job stability) will be resumed.

As someone who works in Asia, and is seeing at first hand the juggernaut that is hurdling down the motorway, the race to the bottom has only started.

In the next 10-15 years, IT jobs which can be replicated offshore/offsite to lower costs will be embraced more aggressively. US companies have little choice but to do this.

The challenge for technical writers.

The question for technical writers and others in this industry is how to approach this.

One suggestion would be to setup consultancy services in places like Bangalore, Vietnam, and Poland where the talent is there but the experience is lacking.

Experienced technical writers, who are willing to travel and embrace a new challenge, could do very well in these countries. Staying at home may not be an option.