Paul hosted a great meeting at The End Cafe on Commercial Drive last night. 9 contractors showed up, and we met from 6:30 until about 9 PM.
We talked about the upcoming changes to the chapter, and heard from people about their thoughts on the subject. Pam has a guest speaker from Adobe lined up, possibly for the September chapter meeting. There was a lot of enthusiasm about using the Wiki as a way to connect with resources in the community when we have a problem, for example with a bug in FrameMaker or Word. Although there are listservs out there already that do this, the enthusiasm is about connecting with our own local community of writers.
The writers who attended vary in experience: some are new to contracting, and others have been flying solo for 13 years or more. But all who attended have been involved in writing, whether business and marketing writing or technical writing, for quite some time. It was fascinating to share with others who are in the same wild position of not always knowing where the next pay cheque is going to come from.
We talked about estimating project hours, rates to charge for different types of work, impressions from recent writing conferences that some members have attended, incorporating your business, income tax, CPP, GST, and WCB issues, and a little bit about experiences going through agencies.
Paul composed an agenda of items for our next meeting, the second Tuesday, June 10, again at The End Cafe, 2360 Commercial Drive, at 6:30. The topics were suggested by the writers, and are about sharing more of our experiences with each other.
The group size really worked, because we were all able to hear each other and it was small enough to mostly use the format of only one person talking at a time, so that the whole group is involved in the conversation. As the chapter moves into a virtual mode, I think having “pod” meetings like this one would be a great way for people in the chapter to connect with each other in a more impromptu way, without the need for a heavy time commitment from the programs team.
One other topic we discussed is why people join the STC, and what they are looking for. Theresa has previously suggested that when there’s a lot of work for tech writers in Vancouver the chapter membership and attendance isn’t as robust because people are so busy working and don’t have time to volunteer and attend meetings. I think that the other part of this equation is even more relevant: when there isn’t as much work available, people are motivated to do something to drum up business!
For me personally this has been true. In times when I have steady contracts for year after year I tend to let my STC membership lapse. When things are slower and I am looking for work, I renew my membership in order to have access to the job bank, and am willing to put out the effort to start networking more. Which is why I attended this fantastic meeting!
It seems the chapter serves several important functions: a resource for people new to the business to connect with experienced folks and get advice; a venue for networking for people looking for work—whether new or more experienced—and for people who seek connection with the tech writing community (through gatherings, the job bank, and the newsletter); and a professional organization that promotes awareness about tech writing in the general community, through our volunteers on the SFU and Douglas College advisory committees and the Julia Broderick scholarship fund, as well as the web site resources for employers. It also gives us professional recognition, both through being part of an international professional association and through the opportunity to win awards in the documentation competition.
I am very excited about the changes that are happening in the chapter, and look forward to seeing what unfolds as we become more virtual. I’d like to thank Paul for organizing the contractors meeting, and Theresa for shepherding the chapter into a new form. And I’m really looking forward to meeting with the contractors SIG again next month!
Monkey Valley Enterprises Inc.