Re: Newbie Blues (Telecommuting)

Subject: Re: Newbie Blues (Telecommuting)
From: "Nina Panzica" <panin -at- mindspring -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 10:36:37 -0400

The advice people have been giving to recent grads about telecommuting is
very good, although not doubt discouraging for new writers who wish to work
offsite to hear. I've always had to telecommute due to the fact that my
spouse is disabled, and although the actual work and logistics of
telecommuting have not ever been much of a problem for me (the only things I
find cramping are the constant organizational meetings and the heavier
paperwork/accounting for time load--which, unfortunately, in large team
project s, cannot easily be dispensed with), acquiring good telecommuting
jobs has been tough.

I tend to wait a long time between contracts, longer than my onsite peers,
certainly, and during this bench time your level of despair tends to be in
direct inverse porportion to the figure in your savings account. You need
to be emotionally strong and really believe in yourself to weather the dry
periods without giving in to the pull of onsite or even permanent job

When I do get offered offsite contract work, I have to be very careful about
whether I accept it. I've learned the hard way that the kinds of companies
who are willing to work with you as a telecommuter are often the kinds of
companies who will not pay your invoices, who are looking for an ignorant
pawn to sacrifice in an office politics game, or who are run by near-insane
entrupeneural dictators who make very bad business decisions due to their
inflated senses of self, resulting in the loss of their clients, and
therefore in the loss of your contract with them. Over recent years, the
number of flaky clients I've had to deal has increased a lot; I suspect
that the lucrative, easy-money high-tech market has attracted many more of
these types of people in recent years. It takes a lot of time and
experience to develop a "sense" about which clients are trustworthy and
which are not. It's very easy to get fleeced out there.

A telecommuter, at least a contract telecommuter, has to get used to
frurstration and being passed over for the plum projects. Over the years,
the number of lucrative, fascinating, career-advancing, resume-enhancing,
state-of-the-art projects I've had to turn down because telecommuting just
wasn't something the client would consider probably numbers close to a
hundred. To succeed as a telecommuting contractor, you need to be able to
deal with this sort of frustration.

My advice to a new technical writer who _has_, for reasons like mine, to
telecommute is similar to what has already been offered to those who simply
desire to telecommute: find some way, somehow to work onsite for a month or
two to establish yourself and get to know people (the awareness you gain
onsite of the people you work with and corporate environment you work in
helps protect you from being the pawn in office games, too), slowly work the
telecommuting into your schedule and make sure management stays comfortable
with it, always produce more written product than expected and more than
your onsite peers are producing, submit voluntary detailed records of your
time even if the organization you work for doesn't demand this, and try very
hard, at least at first, to take offsite work only with very large national
corporations who have proven themselves to be reliable, financially solvent,
and supportive of telecommuting.

Nina Panzica
Masterpeice Media, Inc.

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