Can Technical Writers Write Business Plans?

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The other day, a colleague asked if I write business plans. My first thought was, “No, except for my own.”

Then, she said, “After all, it is rather technical.”

Well, of course, technical writers are perfectly skilled for writing business plans. Let’s see, what does it entail?

  • Research
  • Presenting information in a nontechnical manner
  • Designing pages that are readable.

Need I go on?

I then went to the Internet and searched “what to charge to write a business plan.” That became a guessing game. I found everything from $500 to thousands of dollars. It really depends on several things:

Are you an expert?

By nature of what we do, technical writers are experts at writing business plans. We know how to do the research, we know how to write, and we know how to present material clearly. If we are not sure how to do something, we look it up. That is how we always work.

If you are familiar with the industry for which you will write the business plan, all the better. Your credibility will allow a higher fee.

What type of business is hiring you?

For business startups, it is best to keep the fee as low as possible without putting yourself in the poorhouse. Remember, startups do not have a lot of money. At this point, it is the principal’s money. The business plan will help get the new company investment capital – that is, if you do your job in writing the business plan, the company will get their working capital.

If the company is already established, the likelihood of it affording more is higher. Although you might not need to do as much research, you can charge more for creating the new plan.

How much information already exists?

If you do not need to do a lot of research, you can charge less as the time spent on the project will be less. Many companies already have stastitics about their industry that you can use in the business plan.

If, however, the company has no research data, you must consider how much time you need to complete the research. Research could take a long time.

If the company already has an older business plan, you might have enough data to create a better, more resourceful business plan. Consider the amount of time saved if you have a document to use at the start.

Where do I find out what goes into a business plan?

There are literally thousands of web sites that talk about business plans. I found one that seems to have all the answers, including examples of over 500 business plans. That site is www.bplans.com. I found a wealth of information on the site.

I am sure there are other good sites, but this one came up on the first page of search results. It gave me everything I needed, so I highly recommend it.

OK, how do I start?

Write a business plan for your own business. See how much time it takes you. How much research do you have to complete? How long does it take you to actually write the plan?

Look at the outline on Bplans web site. It is rather extensive, but it is a place to start writing your own business plan. Then, you can figure out how long it would take you to write one for a client. Most of the information I found suggested a month if one person were to do the plan fulltime. I saw one site that said they put five people on each project and can get it done in one week. Lucky them.

How should I charge?

You need to set a project fee to write business plans. Businesses shy away from the hourly rate we technical writers tend to use. However, remember to include what constitutes a complete business plan. For example, how many edits will you include in the project? There just has to be an ending point.

Get going

OK, now get started on your business plan. See how it goes. Then, you can add “business plans” to your inventory of services

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Published in: on June 17, 2009 at 1:51 PM  Comments (5)  
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What Do You Need to Know?

A month or so ago, I posted the following on two technical writing groups on LinkedIn:

 

What Do You Need to Learn?

If you could improve your technical writing, what specifically would you need to learn? Do you have trouble starting your projects? Do you yearn for your layouts to be as professional as those you see elsewhere? Are you having trouble with proper English? Send me your specific problems.

My purpose was to start discussions, but it did not go very far. The few responses tended to come from experienced technical writers who wanted to learn about advanced tools, rather than new technical writers needing mentors. The learning needs were mostly in the programming realm (C++, JavaScript, HTML, XML, DITA, CSS). Someone even wanted to find out how to learn SAP, as there are jobs in California requesting that experience.

 

That really surprised me. Since when do technical writers need to know how to program? Is it a trend? What do you think?

 

Are there any new technical writers out there who would like someone to help them learn the ropes? Or does everyone entering the field “know it all?”

Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 3:30 PM  Comments (2)  

The 4 Cs of Technical Writing

The four Cs are clear, concise, complete, and correct writing. All four are imperative in both technical and business writing.

Clarity ensures your reader understands your communication without any difficulty. This means there are no obscure words that he or she must look up; there are no extraneous words that hide the real message; and there is a logical flow to the communication.

Conciseness is using as few words as possible to get the message across the the reader. In other words, leave out the adjectives unless they help clarify the message. Keep your sentences simple and to the point.

Completeness, of course, is ensuring the reader has all the information they need to understand the message, make a decision, and take an action. If you leave out something, the reader might make an incorrect decision.

Correctness is imperative. Do not mislead your reader. Reread your message before you send it, whether it is an e-mail message, letter, report, proposal, or any other document. Incorrect information can cost your company thousands, even millions, of dollars.

Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 7:00 AM  Comments (2)  

Hello world!

It has taken me a lot of time to get here. I finally came full circle and am back to the beginning.

I am a technical writer. I enjoy helping other technical writers and business writers improve their communication skills. That is what this blog is all about. In posts to follow, you will learn about what I call the “Four Cs of Technical Writing:”

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Complete
  • Correct

If you can ensure your writing has these four characterists, you are on your way to improved communication.

Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 8:16 PM  Leave a Comment