Contract vs. Full time

Subject: Contract vs. Full time
From: Maria Townsley <maria -at- MSD -dot- MEASUREX -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 1994 15:13:11 -0500

Subject: Contract vs. Full Time or
You get what you pay for

Don't flame me for this one. It's not a general theory, just a recent

I'm the only tech writer for my company. I'm swamped. We can't increase
our head count right now, so the only option was a contract tech writer.

I contacted agencies in town. They wanted 30-40 dollars an hour for kids
that have _no_ experience and haven't yet finished a 2-year degree at
a local technical college. In fact, one of the applicants from an agency
was a truck driver who thought he wanted to try his hand at tech writing.

After reviewing the resumes, I decided that the quality
offered was not worth the price requested. One of our managers
recommended a tech writer that she knew from a previous job. I reviewed
her resume. It looked good. She had several years of experience as a
contract tech writer. I interviewed her. She brought a writing sample
with her that was very complete and well done. She said she could start
the following Monday and the price was less than the contract agencies
wanted. I hired her.

She worked full-time for 1 1/2 weeks. Then she told me she needed Tuesday
and Thursday afternoons off to work a separate contract job. She offered to
work later on the other days to make up for it. I'm swamped and working
late anyway. I said fine.

A month later she told me she needed all day Tuesday and Thursday
off to work this other contract job. Now she would only work 3 days a week.
I thought about the truck driver who wanted to be a tech writer and said fine.

During these months I had her doing some editing, some revising, some
screen captures. These were all tasks that took time, but weren't too
difficult. They presented the opportunity to learn our
product, but didn't require it. Finally, I gave her an
assignment that required learning some of the nuts and bolts of the
product. I gave her time to learn the information, do some research, and
ask questions. I took a vacation day the following Monday. Tuesday
morning she called me and said she quit, effective the previous day when I
was on vacation. She said she wanted to do more "general" writing. The
manager that recommended her told me that she wanted to work in public

The point of this little horror story is that the advantages go both ways.
The company gains in not having to pay benefits or severance pay. However,
I invested a great deal of time in training. She gained the advantage of
flexible working hours that a permanent employee would never get. True, she
didn't get severance pay when she left, but I didn't get 2 weeks notice

Personally, I would shy away from hiring another contract writer.
I guess I don't see the motivation a tech writer really
has to learn a company's product, specifically a product
as complex as ours. I have to believe this was just a bad experience because
I am sure that I would work diligently to complete a contract.

Left with a bad taste in my mouth,
maria -at- msd -dot- measurex -dot- com

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