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How to Get Out of Technical Writing and into Better Paid Jobs

I'm a happy birdMany IT professionals, technical writers included, have seen their salaries frozen or reduced over the past 18 months. Contractors are suffering the same fate as short-term projects dry up.

However, several of my colleagues have managed to move out of technical writing and into other, better paid lines of work. Here’s a roundup. Continue reading How to Get Out of Technical Writing and into Better Paid Jobs

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Why use Master Templates in Adobe FrameMaker?

Master templates let you control the format and positioning of every component in your FrameMaker documents. They are very powerful when they work correctly, but be careful. If you make a mistake, it will take many an hour to clean the documents. Continue reading Why use Master Templates in Adobe FrameMaker?

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Where are all the tech writer jobs?

Doug Davis from ProEdit asks some interesting questions about the state of the tech writing industry, in particular, the demand for new writers.

“You sit in your favorite comfy chair and open the Sunday newspaper. The economy is steadily improving. Good. Unemployment rates are down. Nice. You’ve seen all the data. You’ve read the reports. So, where are all the jobs?”

http://www.stc.org/pubs/onlinePubs01.asp

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Demand for Business Writers increases

I’ve been tracking the number of hits on Google for Business Writers recently and noticed that the demand, or at least the number of hits, has increased in the past six months.

Right now, Nov 2006, Google shows the following hits:

Technical Writer – 2.34 million webpages
Business Writer – 1.6 million webpages
Proposal Writer – 1.25 million webpages

I’ll keep an eye on this over XMAS and see if there is an increase over the holiday period.

Many IT companies have stopped hiring for 2006 but will restart in Jan. as new budgets are released to HR Depts.

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What technical documents does a Java banking project need?

I was recently asked

how to start documentating for a Banking solution which is been developed in Java on Open-Source platform. What kind to documents should i write for this project?

Now, there isn’t much to go on here, so…

It depends on what the client actually wants.

Here’s what I’d do:

1. Ask the person in charge which activities are most important, for example, installing the servers, updating the databases, teaching users and so on.

2. Once you have a list of the most essential activities, discuss with him/her what you believe are most necessary…

3. then you can write books that support these tasks,

Without knowing too much else about the project, I’d say that you need to produce:

  • Admin Guides
  • User Guides
  • Release Notes
  • Training Documents
  • Installation Guides

If you let me know more abour the project, I can give you more concrete answers.

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How to Write Effective Selling Proposals

Alan Rigg

Depending upon how much you enjoy writing, writing sales proposals can be a joy, purgatory, or something in between. However, if you sell a complex product or one that involves the delivery of professional services, learning how to write
effective selling proposals can be critical to your success.

Some proposals are written in response to an RFP (Request for Proposal) or RFI (Request for Information). Organizations that go to the trouble of writing RFP’s want to receive highly structured proposals, as this makes it easier for them to compare responses from various bidders.

Some proposals are “Boilerplate Bombs”. These proposals tend to be long, boring, and tedious to read. Often these proposals are written under the assumption that “bounce factor” (how high objects on a desk bounce when the proposal is dropped on the desk) is what makes a proposal effective.

The proposal category that is the focus of this article is EFFECTIVE SELLING PROPOSALS. These proposals are lean, highly focused, customer-specific documents that are written to sell anyone that reads them. How can a written document accomplish this feat? Through text that invokes EMOTION and provides COMPELLING REASONS that support a buying decision.

Before we go any further, let’s review the single biggest mistake in proposal generation – lack of proper opportunity qualification. Companies waste incredible amounts of time and resources preparing proposals for poorly qualified opportunities. These proposals have little chance of producing sales.

When you are armed with the necessary opportunity qualification information and you have made a conscious decision that the opportunity warrants the investment of time and resources required to generate a quality proposal, you are ready to write an effective selling proposal. To aid you in this undertaking,
here are brief descriptions of nine suggested proposal sections:

1. Opening

This is usually a single paragraph where you thank the people that provided the opportunity qualification information and set the stage for the proposal. The last sentence of the paragraph should list the primary value the prospect will receive by making the proposed investment.

2. Background

Your prospects know a lot about their own companies. They don’t need you to provide them with a chronological history or a bunch of unnecessary facts. The bulk of this section should focus on selected facts concerning the SPECIFIC business functions or departments that your solution will impact.

3. Current Situation

This is where you really start selling. In this section you lay out the prospect’s business problems and the impact of the problems…in painful detail. Your goal should be to invoke your prospect’s NEGATIVE emotions (fear, frustration, pain, etc.).

4. Desired Results

Your goal for this section should be to invoke your prospect’s POSITIVE emotions (relief, joy, satisfaction, etc.) by helping your prospect visualize the “desired state” for their business.

5. Business Impact

This is where you justify the acquisition. What impact will your solution have on your prospect’s business? How will their operations and financial results change for the better?

6. Decision Criteria

If you don’t have a comprehensive list of the criteria that your prospect will use to make their decision, you probably shouldn’t be writing a proposal. List all of their decision criteria here.

7. Decision Process, Time Frame, and Budget

The purpose of including this information in the proposal is to make sure you and your prospect share the same expectations.

8. Next Steps

There should be specific next steps (and related time frames) that are expected to take place after you submit your proposal. List them here to make sure you and your prospect are “on the same page”.

9. Closing

Close with a final paragraph that summarizes why your product or service is the best solution for your prospect, plus a positive statement of expectation.

Do you see the power of this type of proposal? Do you see the benefit of eliminating volumes of boilerplate that do not address your prospect’s SPECIFIC and IMMEDIATE needs and concerns? Do you see how an effective selling proposal can influence the thinking of decision makers and influencers, even if you have had limited (or no) personal contact with them?

If you construct your proposals in this manner, you will maximize your return on proposal writing time and resource investments.

About Alan Rigg

Alan Rigg is the author of How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling: Why Most Salespeople Don’t Perform and What to Do About It. His company, 80/20 Performance Inc., supplies specialized sales assessment tests and consulting to help organizations build top-performing sales teams.

For more sales and sales management tips, visit: http://www.8020performance.com Copyright © 2005

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Need Inspiration to Write Articles? Check Your Stats!

Charles Essmeier

One of the best ways to promote a Website inexpensively is to write articles about your Website s topic and submit them to free content sites. These sites are easily found; just type submit free content into your favorite search engine. Each article you write will have a resource box that includes your name, a brief bio and a link to your own site.

These articles are shared with other Website owners to publish them, and soon, your name and links to your site will propagate throughout the Web. The system works well, since search engines respect incoming links to Websites as indicators that the site is important. The more links you have to your site, the more highly the search engines regard your site.

Many authors realize that writing articles will generate links, but most write a few articles and then give up. The reasons vary, but most authors will probably say that it simply becomes tedious to spend time writing articles without direct compensation, only to !

Give them away with the faint hope that Website traffic will come about as a result of the work. It is indeed difficult to maintain the discipline to continue writing articles day in and day out, but there is one thing that motivates me on a daily basis readily observable statistics that show that writing articles is generating traffic for my sites.

There are several easy ways to check if publishing articles is generating incoming links and traffic.

One way is to go to Google and type in link: name-of-website.com (without quotes.)

Google will return a list of sites that contain links to your own site. Usually, these links will come from your published articles, and you can browse through them to see how your articles are weaving their way through the Web. It s fascinating to see how your articles appear on Websites you ve never even heard of!

If you do such a search on a daily basis, you will almost certainly see the number of linksincrease daily. It s a great source of motivation to see that the site that had 20 incoming links yesterday now has 200 today.

Each of those links represents a place that someone can click to come to your site, and 200 links is nice, but why not 2000?

The more the number of links increase, the greater the incentive you have to write more articles. More articles yield more links, and more l!inks yields more traffic. I started writing articles about eight weeks ago and I ve been astounded at the results. One of my Websites went from zero incoming links to 1000 incoming links in just ten days!

Once I saw how quickly the links were increasing, I vowed to write at least one article per day. I begin each day by using a link popularity check software tool to count my incoming links. Such tools are freely available; Link Popularity Check is one such tool.

These tools show link counts for several different search engines at once. I ll also check the stats through my Web host to see where the incoming trafficto my sites is coming from. More often than not, the visitors came from a site with a published article!

Once I see the day s link and visitor count, I am usually motivated to find a topic and write the article for the day. Writing articles is a great way to generate incoming links to your Website, and the results can increase daily if you just keep up with it. It only takes a few minutes per day to write an article, and the time is well spent.

About The Author:

Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing.

Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including http://www.structuredsettlementhelp.com, a site devoted to structured settlements, and http://www.lemonlawhelp.net, a site devoted to information regarding automobile lemon laws.

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Crafting a Request for Proposal

By Basil Tesler
Crafting an RFP takes a lot of time and effort. Responding to an RFP is an expensive and time-consuming piece of work, too. Only a comprehensive RFP will make it easy for potential vendors to draw up their proposals and save your own time in the long run.

Crafting a Request for Proposal (RFP) takes a lot of time and effort. Gwen Hannah, President of Trillium Employee Services, says, “Writing an RFP can be a daunting task. Because of this, many people don’t devote enough time and energy in preparing an RFP. However, it’s very important to detail your requirements in this document so that vendors will know your needs and you will be able to quickly identify from their responses whether you want to schedule demos and continue discussions with them.”

It’s no secret that responding to an RFP is an expensive and time-consuming piece of work, too.

If you craft your RFP in too general a fashion, you’ll create a formidable challenge for unfortunate vendors who will have to go back and forth asking you to make the questions more specific and then answering these questions. However, analyzing your needs in detail and making sure all your requirements are included in the document isn’t enough, either. Only a really in-depth, comprehensive RFP will make it easy for potential vendors to draw up their proposals and save your own time in the long run. Below are the Top Ten things you should include in your RFP.

1. Information About Your Company
The description of your business should help a vendor see whether their service will fit your needs. Begin your RFP with the information about your business, including but not limited to:
the history of the company;
a brief description of the company and its position on the market;
the goals of the company, particularly those that made you search for a vendor;
the problem(s) that the new system/software is supposed to solve.

2. IT Standards
Knowing your current IT strategy and standards, including security requirements and restrictions, is critical to vendors. Remember to warn the potential vendors up front about any anticipated integration problems.
It’s possible that the new system/software will have to integrate into the existing one and interface with other components. This is why knowing your current IT strategy and standards, including security requirements and restrictions, is critical to vendors. Remember to warn the potential vendors up front about any anticipated integration problems.

3. Reasons for Requesting a Proposal
You are supposed to explain why you have decided to request proposals from the potential vendors. This will help them understand what you expect from the future agreement. If you already have or plan any projects related to the one that is the subject of the RFP, you’d better mention them, too.

4. Project Description
This is the crucial point for your RFP. Following are some tips that you might use while describing the project:

  • describe the goal of the project and the product you need;
  • provide a detailed list of the product’s key features and feature enhancements, if any, as well as the functional and non-functional requirements with appropriate examples. If you are at a loss trying to depict a certain element, you might compare it to something you have seen in other systems/programs.
  • And remember: the better vendors understand your requirements, the less additional questions you will have to answer;
  • if the project requires that a GUI be created, you should describe the visual concept in general, and the GUI in particular. Again, any examples and comparisons will be most useful;
  • if the system/software you need is similar to something that already exists, proper links and/or descriptions could help you explain what you will require from your vendor;
  • work out in detail the hardware/software configuration of the system/software to be created, as well as the platform, programming languages, tools, etc.;
  • state whether developers will be allowed to use open source software or their proprietary software that can be customized to your needs;
  • set forth a scheme of project management;
  • indicate the approximate budget of the project and give detailed requirements on how vendors should identify the estimated cost of implementation;
  • specify the conditions of deployment, integration, final testing, and support, as well as warranty, liability, disclaimers, and waivers.

5. Time Limit
Indicating the amount of time allotted for the project and the expected deadline, keep in mind that these factors may influence the concept that a vendor will propose. You may also include an approximate project schedule in your RFP.

6. Proposal Description
Vendors will need your instructions for preparing proposals, including such details as the number of copies, expiration date and time, contact person, etc. Draw up a structure for the proposal, create a special template, and attach it to the RFP.

You have to describe the format for the proposal in your RFP. Should it be just a regular estimation letter sent as an email message, or do you want it to be formatted as a Microsoft Word document? Vendors will need your instructions for labeling and preparing proposal materials, including such details as the number of copies, expiration date and time, contact person, etc. If you have drawn up an elaborated structure for the proposal, create a special template and attach it to the RFP.

7. Requested Information About a Vendor
You need to have adequate information about your potential vendors’ expertise. Request summaries of similar work performed for other businesses and resumes of staff involved. It’s also a good idea to find out which platform(s) and hardware vendors employ in their solutions. In case a vendor is going to use the service of any subcontractors and/or secondary suppliers, request the contact information for them. If you compile a questionnaire that will assist vendors in revealing their expertise and experience, it will also facilitate your own work when it comes to comparing proposals.

8. Perfect Vendor’s Image
Decide what is more important to you: a vendor’s qualifications, the ability to meet the needs of the project, the highest quality of work, the reasonableness of cost and time estimates, or maybe a combination of several factors.

Your RFP should contain the description of a vendor that best fits your requirements. This will let vendors understand your expectations of the company you will select for your project. Working out the image of a perfect vendor, decide what is more important to you: a vendor’s qualifications, the ability to meet the n

eeds of the project, the highest quality of work, the reasonableness of cost and time estimates, or maybe a combination of several factors.

9. Criteria for Proposal Evaluation
Vendors are supposed to know the criteria you are going to apply choosing the company to work with. If the main criterion is the estimated cost of implementation or, say, the risk level, don’t keep it back.

10. Confidentiality
If your RFP contains any confidential information, you might want to prepare a non-disclosure agreement and ask your potential vendors to sign it before you send them your RFP. Otherwise, they may attach it to the proposal.

Conclusion
Crafting a good RFP means doing a lot of work that requires both time and skills. If you do it well, you won’t need much time to eliminate the proposals that don’t match your requirements and select the vendor that best fits your needs. Moreover, preparing a contract with that vendor will be nice and easy because both parties will have sufficient information about each other and the subject of the contract.

However, I recommend that you should weigh your expertise and the amount of time you have at your disposal before you begin working on an RFP. I knew a young CEO who didn’t have much experience, but who was wise for his age; after he considered his in-house capacity, he just hired a consultant who did a job that was worth every cent. Next time, the company used that RFP as a template, and it worked fine. I believe the CEO hit the nail right on the head. You may follow his example if preparing an RFP is going to cost you more than paying an outside specialist.

About the Author
Basil Tesler has more than twelve years of experience in translating, technical writing, copywriting, Web content writing, and editing. Before he settled on our Web Space Station, Basil worked with IT companies based in the U.S., Canada, and Eastern Europe. Some of these businesses outsourced their projects, and some provided outsource services. This way Basil gained knowledge of both worlds, and now he shares it with our readers.


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