Confidentiality goes above all. I mostly write about my clients’ proprietary information which I obviously do not show to the public. Neither do I show samples of manuals I wrote for the public. There is always a risk that one considers the sample as the official manual which it is not. Of course, I have an extensive portfolio to show when we meet.
There are international standards for that. I believe it is even more important to create a good topic list. First, I identify together with you what the future user needs to be able to do, based on the information in the manual. These are the action topics. Second, I check what the user should know in order to perform each action. These are the ‘knowledge topics’. All the topics together make the topic list. Each knowledge topic must be related to an action topic. By doing so, we are sure that we are not putting too little or too much information in our manual.
This applies equally well to other types of technical documentation, such as text for tenders, internal procedures, work instructions, training documentation…
Sure! I have a background in electronics, electromechanics, electronic imaging and communication technology. I have acquired knowledge of specific technologies such as railway infrastructure through experience and self-study. I’m constantly keeping abreast of the latest evolutions by reading professional literature and by attending technology fairs.
On the other hand, I come across lots of similar technologies in the field. Complex installations, e.g., use PLCs that control several systems (hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic) with a SCADA acting as a control system. Each product is unique, but the component systems are standard.
I started my career as an installation and maintenance technician. Consequently, I know fairly well what professionals need when they refer to technical documentation.
- Ideally, I like work with the product myself: hands-on, making photographs and sketches, testing…
- Second: meeting designers, users, product managers, maintenance engineers, even potential users to make the topic list
- Third, anything else helps: manuals of previous models, own research, commercial documentation, manuals of the competitors…
Yes, I only accept projects I can execute myself. The only exception is technical artwork which I may subcontract to a specialized colleague. There is no danger that you choose me because of my experience, and that at the actual beginning of the project – or somewhere down the road – another, less experienced person walks into your office.
Of course, I can team up with any existing documentation of project team.
If I’m to choose myself, I prefer the standard tools: Word, PowerPoint, Visio, Adobe Professional. When the project is finished, I give you the editable files, so you can keep them up to date yourself. I’ll be happy to give you the necessary explanation on the templates I made. They will make it easier for you to maintain your documentation.
In some cases I recommend the use of a specialized tool such as FS Pro or manual.to. In such case, you need to purchase the tool yourself and I can assist you in the use of it.
A third option is that you already have a tool at your disposal. Normally it is no problem for me to write in that tool.
I write directly in English, Dutch and French. Occasionally in German, provided I have sufficient German source material at my disposal. I’m not a translator. I occasionally translate source content I have previously written myself. Quite often, I use source content from different languages I know passively (NL/FR/EN/DE/IT/SP) to integrate into a new document.
Good question! The answer is: not necessarily. Technical writers write ‘simplified English’: limited vocabulary, short sentences, consistent terminology… Not because we cannot do better, but because we write with the restrictions of the reader in mind. The language we write must be free of spelling errors and grammatical errors – no doubt about that – but it need not be the language of a novel writer. On the contrary: native speakers are likely to use words and idioms that non-native readers do not understand!
Yes, I provide the document in an appropriate and effective layout, with photographs and artwork. For complex artwork I call upon a specialized subcontractor. Through the years, I’ve been building an extensive library of graphical elements and templates allowing me to start a project within the shortest time frame.
I prefer to work fixed price. We agree on the deliverables and I calculate a price for it. A topic list and many years of experience enable me to calculate the required labour quite accurately. It is the best solution for you as a client, as you know exactly what you will get at what cost. It keeps me sharp and it forces me to work efficiently since any overtime is on my account.
Do you prefer to work on a time & materials base nevertheless? That’s fine with me. I keep a record of my work hours and I send you a time sheet at the end of each month. I invoice you upon approval of the time sheet.
Yes, I subcontract quite often. But only on the condition that I can first – together with the person in charge at the main contractor’s side – meet the end client to discuss the details of the project. I do not work for body shopping agencies. Neither will I commit myself for a job if I do not know exactly what it entails.
€ 480/day, equivalent to 1 euro per minute, excl. any VAT or taxes. I do not charge for traveling by public transport within Belgium. Trips I need to do by car because it is not possible otherwise, I charge at € 0,4/km.
To give you an idea of the possible cost of a project: many of the fixed price projects I realized the last years where finished within 5 working days. A simple package insert can be finished within two working days.
I hope still to continue working many years. As to the succession, candidates are encouraged to contact me.