Exploring Alternatives to Workflow Software

Red spider lily in Seoul South Korea (near Soedaemun hiking trail)

Are there better alternatives to workflow software? The temptation of a novel new system may be in conflict with common sense. Let's make sure that we can't use the office software we already own.

  1. Online Marketplaces
  2. A spreadsheet
  3. Bookkeeping software

1. Online Marketplaces Like UpWork

What about offloading the workflow, bookkeeping, and banking to UpWork?

UpWork marketplace as an alternative to workflow software

UpWork is an online marketplace used to connect clients with contractors. The UpWork marketplace takes a commission for using their system. They've evolved a workflow process and handle the banking. Their services include collecting and reporting sales tax to the tax collector.

All of the members on UpWork start by paying around 20% of their rate to UpWork. For my Australian client, UpWork adds the 10% GST (Goods and Services Tax) to the invoice to the client. As an example, I bill out in $61.11 AUD an hour. The client pays $67.22 AUD to UpWork and I take home about $48.88 AUD per hour.

UpWork is one of the alternatives to workflow software because it eliminates my risk of holding debt (unpaid invoices in accounts ageing) when the client is slow to pay. UpWork's system replaces the time I would spend doing bookkeeping and banking.

Our client, the ad agency contracts each assignment to us through UpWork. This idea didn't work because the client would have to enter the assignment data. To manage the writers, I need access to the client's login to manage the assignments. The agency and I thought we could streamline the process to be less than 20% fees, too. (More on that in the future.)

2. A Spreadsheet

The simplest solution is to list assignment details a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet is one of the good alternatives to workflow software when it’s a basic list.

A spreadsheet as a simple alternative to workflow software

The spreadsheet contains the assignments, the deadlines, the writers, and payment history. I enter updates for the dates:

  • The assignment is offered to the writer
  • The writer accepts the assignment
  • The deliverables are received (with the writer's invoice)
  • The payment to the writer
  • The invoice to the agency
  • When the agency pays the invoice

The risk of using a spreadsheet is creating a lot of data entry. Another risk is making a mistake in the data entry or not completing the data entry.

3. Bookkeeping Software Like Xero

For the last two months, I have been using Xero in combination with a spreadsheet to track assignments and payments.

Using a purchase order to track work

Xero can track deadlines as due dates in a purchase order or an invoice using the Bill function. However, Xero alone is not one of the good alternatives to workflow software. The bookkeeping functions are great -- but using bookkeeping functions as workflow software creates excessive data entry. And, the data is harder to customize.

Xero has workflow plugins to streamline the process for a mid to large sized business. The real way to use Xero is to use the WorkFlow Max or KissFlow plugins.

The trick with managing workflow recognizing when the business grows big enough to need real workflow software. The setup and connections to other business systems is justified when there is a large amount of activity.

Choosing Alternatives to Workflow Software

Time and labour are more valuable in the early stages of a business. The amount of data starts small when managing the writers' workflow.

The bigger struggle has been to maintain the cash flow. The workflow tracking can fluctuate between nothing and enough content to keep 4 to 5 writers very busy. The amount of available cash to pay the writers strains as the number of assignments grows.  assignments can go between nothing and enough content to keep 4 to 5 writers very busy.

I also had an unplanned issue in the early stages of this workflow. The bank transaction fees and Xero subscription fees increased in proportion with the increased work.

Pixabay stock photo, key and box

Meeting Goals with Alternative Workflow Systems

The goal of managing a content writing team is to delivery copy, not so much to develop a business system. The purpose of managing workflow is not to develop a business system, but to use workflow to ensure regular deliverables, roll out and all income for the work rolls in.

Many small modifications are being made to my content management process along the way. Recently, the writers discussed being consistently available -- if there is the right balance of work. The writers want enough pages in the assignment to make it worth their time. They will trade me a discounted fee for a longer deadline.

My goal is to have a stable group of experienced writers. I want writers to enjoy their work and like the routine. Predictable workflow tracking and reliable payments are critical to keeping good writers.

In my next article, I will expand on the issues of managing the right types of writing assignments. We will look at using briefs in an easy-to-repeat system. I will share how to use feedback from writers to build a better system.

Workflow Software Comparison

Masts on STS Leeuwin II tall ship in Perth, Australia

In a workflow software comparison -- should you start with the tasks, where the content is published, or the accounting? The amount of work you need to track should fit into an easy workflow management system.

Let’s look at how three different types of management tools work:

  1. KissFlow – online forms using a workflow process to manage data
  2. CoSchedule – a tool built for agencies, their content writers, and content managers
  3. WorkFlow Max – an account management tool that connects to Xero bookkeeping

1. KissFlow

KissFlow task based workflow

KissFlow is an online form builder tied to a workflow function. KissFlow provides templates -- or you can create a form from scratch. The workflows are easy to learn by looking at the templates. I was able to customize the workflow after looking at one of the templates.

Once I have customized my template, I can duplicate it for each new account. KissFlow allows me to keep my own data in a separate form. I can track the pay rates, deposits, and invoices in the same record as the writer. The writer accesses the brief, deadlines, and deliverables. But, the writer cannot see the financial fields (unless I change the permissions).

A workflow function can guide a person through multiple forms in a sequence. The workflow allows me to enforce the writer completes a step before progressing. KissFlow ensures privacy between writers. The writers cannot see each other's assignments without permission.

From the manager's side of a workflow software comparison, the workflow flags writers who have deliverables coming up. The manager approves the deliverables. Fields can be used to track the delivery of the files to the agency or when the agency pays the invoice. The KissFlow data can be connected to Xero bookkeeping software as the volume of work grows.

One final note, the KissFlow data can be connected to Xero bookkeeping software as the volume of work grows.

2. CoSchedule

CoSchedule creative workflow system

Right up front, CoSchedule exceeded the scope of my needs. This is an incredible tool – for agencies. CoSchedule allows the creative managers to hook into their clients’:

This is a content management tool publishes content on a calendar schedule. CoSchedule is also excellent for assigning writers to tasks with deadlines. The workflow originates with marketing campaigns. But, it is not a tool for tracking the bookkeeping. It does not track banking, either.

CoShedule did not match my Scope Of Work. My SOW is to write text content for the agency to load and post. CoSchedule had too many automatic publishing features that I could not use.

3. Workflow Max

Workflow Max project management software

Workflow Max is a financial workflow tool. The structure is ideal for tracking complex accounts. Many people from account reps to writers log their billable time or their overhead activity. The activity is tied to a client, a project, and a task.

Agency managers can compare hours or costs on projects, or time spent by staff member. The managers can compare profitable tasks and losses by project or client. The hitch is the agency needs to create enough data to use the reporting functions.

WorkFlow Max is financial project management tool more than a workflow system. To use the system a significant amount of time needs to go into setting up the data fields. Garbage in = garbage out. WorkFlow Max is only useful when it is connected to well-developed Ledger of Accounts in Xero.

WorkFlow Max allows a busy agency to break down the times and costs. The Account Codes are associated with tasks. The tasks can be grouped. Optionally, groups or tasks can be added to job templates. The agency staff can log time to the template, to the group, or one task at a time in a timesheet.

Finance drives the workflow. A purchase order can be required to open a job or log an expense. In big agencies, salespeople access different parts of the system from the creatives.

WorkFlow Max is best used with advice from an experienced accountant or bookkeeper. It is an exceptionally powerful for agencies with many clients.

WorkFlow Max is too sophisticated for the level of financial and creative work I am doing.

The Outcomes of the Workflow Software Comparison

My limited type of work drives my workflow software needs. Each writer in my content team needs to perform several similar short assignments each week. The writers and I only need to track the start to finish of text documents. We do not publish the content.

The financial workflow is repetitive with slight variations. The writers are paid a flat-rate per piece. The agency pays a flat-rate per piece with my management fee as part of the rates the agency pays.

The monthly subscription fees for the workflow software were not discussed in this article. After reviewing the software I realized I negotiated the bulk-pricing with the agency down too low. It was based on my current costs before having workflow software.

KissFlow is the workflow software that fits our future needs.

I am working with the writers and the agency to forecast the points at which we can afford to upgrade. The risk is that I will need the upgrade at a point that the income doesn't cover that additional expense. I'll share what I learn about forecasting costs. Let's see what the actual financials in the future

Who has the Best Workflow Software?

Swing ride at the 2017 Del Mar Fair

Finding who has the best workflow software depends on the scope of your business. Repetitive workflows should be like a ride that everyone lines up for, right?

This is a four-part series, where I research which is the best workflow software. I am looking for the best solution for coordinating writing tasks. Here's what to expect:

 

  1. The scope of work, especially the work requirements (this article)
  2. A comparison of three workflow software systems
  3. Testing alternatives to workflow software
  4. Summarizing working with or without workflow software

Coordinating a Group of Writers

My Scope Of Work (SOW) ranges from writing for ad agencies to writing for businesses.

Typically, I work as a sole trader. I refer fellow writers I trust to my clients. My fellow writers work in parallel with me on busy jobs. Each writer has a contract with the client (the agency or the business). This means each writer sends their invoices to the client. The client pays each of writer.

I coordinate the writing assignments in the group.

The agency retains both the creative control and the financial control of the work. The agency's account manager or the creative director lob writing briefs “over the wall”.I do the creative planning (topics, keywords, and timing) for the business clients. With a business, I take on a small portion of the creative work.

From flying to fishing with Shauna McGee Kinney

Managing Production of Content

This quarter, I caught a big fish. One of the agencies asked me to switch roles to become the team lead for a group of writers.

The first iteration of the idea -- I would manage a team of writers and bill a management fee. This takes me from flying to fishing. My work would be catching administrative tasks instead of writing.

I become the gatekeeper balancing the assignments between the writers. My work moves into providing quality assurance and paying the writers. The writers would work under a standardized contract with me. The contract is flat-rate per deliverable. There would be no timesheets. The writers would invoice me.

My work consists of sorting the information from the agency. There would be 4 to 7 accounts with blogs, email, and social. The agency will load content into the social media channels, email marketing, and websites.

What is the simplest method for tracking the creative assignments related to the billing? The goal is to be efficient. How do I spend the least amount of time with data entry, bookkeeping, and banking?

 

Agency and Writer Benefits

Why would the agency and the writers want to organize content production?

The writers like the idea of having a regular flow of assignments. The flow might vary slightly over time. For example, there is more content to produce when a new project is started. Extra content is written before the holidays. The writers have no assignments during the holiday break.

The agency gets the ease of not having to recruit and manage writers. The billing is consolidated for each client’s deadline. They can focus on client-facing work. The agency doesn’t have to employ another manager or give up their time to manage. The arrangement also reduces their risk with paying a number of individual writers.

San Diego Air and Space Museum first wings

The Best Wings for the Workflow

Watch the upcoming articles, as I fly over several workflow solutions:

 

  1. A customizable online database - KissFlow https://kissflow.com/
  2. A creative management tool - CoSchedule https://coschedule.com/
  3. An account management tool – WorkFlow Max http://www.workflowmax.com/
  4. An existing freelance marketplace – UpWork https://www.upwork.com/
  5. A shared spreadsheet – Google Sheets or Excel
  6. Existing functions in a bookkeeping tool - Xero https://www.xero.com/

 

Did you catch the visual pun of promoting the book “Scaling Up” and the picture of me next to the oversized fish?

Am I Really a Technical Writer?

Han River looking westward from Apugjeong

This is part two of an article that started on LinkedIN, “Review It: 'Real' Technical Writing?” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/review-real-technical-writing-shauna-mcgee-kinney). I'm caught between marketing and my career identity. Help me answer, "Am I really a technical writer?"

I’m asking my fellow technical writers and my clients who hire technical writers to help define what they expect. Tina M. Kister got me thinking when she said,

“… I identify as a technical communicator because I love the fundamental principles behind technical communication, which include creating documentation that can be USED for something. …”

What I’m Doing is Not Tech Writing?

Recently, I read a couple good articles questioning whether I should perform tasks outside of tech writing. I've been working with small to mid-size businesses. When I work for smaller projects, am I really a technical writer or more of a website help desk? Sometimes my tech writing work morphs into non-tech writing support-tasks. These tasks can take up 90%-100% of my billable time and past work has included:

  • Updating the document control data (research & data entry) beyond the documents I have worked on
  • Running IT change control management meetings while the P&P that I documented is in an internal audit
  • Working on the clients' website with edits or writing marketing copy because I know their business after editing their end-user training & help files
  • Editing a client's online store inventory so the data is in the correct fields and unique after I document how the business uses their customized store
Bridge near Oksu train station in Seoul

Conflict Between Tasks & Identity

David L. Peterson spelled out the differences between earning income and building experience when he said,

“Best place to gain experience writing is for yourself. Once you have been in that position, your other writing benefits from the experience. In the past, all my writing was associated with other work I wanted to do. No one to say no. Once you have done that to make your own work shine, you have a lot to offer. My work is still doing things for myself, like publishing technical articles and writing proposals for causes I am passionate about, but it gave me what I needed to earn bread by writing, which is an entirely different thing. …”

Lessons Learned or Habits Repeated?

I’m at an age where I look back at my career and begin to wonder if I am learning (and applying) lessons learned. Or, am I repeating old habits.

In 1992 my career found me while I was studying Architecture at USC. My evening and weekend job was to set up people’s home computers and teach people how to use their software. By the time I was up for my Architecture thesis preparation and thesis, I was making more money in computer training than I would make if I finished my degree. Between 1992 and 1994 I worked part-time for myself and part-time as a temp as my business got started.

Looking eastward down the Han River in Seoul

Once again I find myself doing useful work that is mostly writing and software, but not work that fits the traditional definition of technical writer. Have I learned to read my clients’ needs and delivery the services that support my tech writing? Or, have I allowed my career to veer down a different, easier path?

What Do You Call the Person You Need?

What do clients look for when they are searching for my service? I’m finding that my clients need a person to:

  1. Draft a set of terms & conditions based on the business’s procedures
  2. Update a website or the data on a website to fit how the software runs
  3. Connect a client to a consultant or subcontractor for specialty work
  4. Network a client with potential customers (yes, I do business development)
  5. Write blog and marketing copy combined with social media text
  6. Research and summarize competitors & similar markets

The introspective side of me wonders if I am misusing the title technical writer. The sincere side of me wants to deliver fair quality across all these diverse services. In the past, I used to write the training manuals, the help files, and the procedures. I’ve tried on the titles of copywriter and trainer. I called that past work tech writing, but now am getting reasonable push back from the other industries I overlap with.

Could Multitasking Be Unfair?

Part one of my article on LinkedIN quotes two industry experts and makes a brief mention of other professionals who feel a technical writer should be a specialist.

Two of the articles I quote come to similar conclusions that a technical writer should be a focused expert. One author suggests that marketing and technical writing require different types of experience. A previous article on my blog by Calvin Yee describes how the current market for tech writers requires a high-level of specialization in the topic, not just the technical documentation tools.

Shauna with Iron Man at the Four B Bagel in Seoul

My current clients are happy with my variety of services. I'm happy delivering the services. Given my current business, how does promoting my business as “technical writing” help or hurt the new clients that find me? I’m happy with my current projects, so I wonder, “Am I really a technical writer? Or, would my clients find me under a different title?"

Active membership matters to your business

Speed hump in Fremantle E Shed parking lot

How Active Membership Turned My Career Around

Active membership in a variety of groups is key to a strong business. The benefits are the difference between joining a club and actively participating in group. "If I only signed up and paid my dues, I would have been wasting my money." I frequently make this statement when people who ask me why I am so active in groups.

 

 

Investing Time in People

The real benefits from investing time in a club is you are investing time in other people. My initial motivation for joining was to turn my career around. The lessons I learned actually came from being motivated to give my time to the other people in the club.

There are 3 types of people you want to invest your time helping:

  1. People leading the monthly or weekly activities
  2. People organising special events
  3. People who share your needs

 

Active membership is regularly working within the group

How to Spot the Right People

You need to know how to spot the right people in a group. They aren't the loud people fighting battles with last year's president or organising a campaign to fix the club. Today's story is the summary of a series articles started from a post I shared on LinkedIN, "Do It: How STC Turned My Career Around." The series of stories are written by and about the "right type of people" I met:

  1. Calvin Yee - active in the monthly running of the club. He is the the volunteer who is setting up and maintaining the club website. Here's Calvin's story of how STC shaped his career.
  2. Rebecca Feinstein - active in special events like judging a competition or writing a review of a guest speaker. Rebecca's story is of the good fate that landed her in STC and the changes that followed.
  3. Raymond Urgo - active as a coach and presenter helping technical writers who need to develop their careers. Read about Raymond's coaching and technical training services on his website, Urgo Consulting.

The Best Types of Groups

The best types of groups grow your industry skills, knowledge and connections. However, there are other types of groups that will grow your business. Choose 1 to 3 groups that you have colleagues, clients or friends in. Or, simply choose a mix of groups that you are interested in. 

Be ready for a quick try-and-buy, where you take advantage of a free trial and commit to a membership. Don't worry about the group not working, because you have the power with your active membership to stimulate activities you need. Groups with paid memberships and groups that are part of national associations tend to have a larger number of higher-quality opportunities and benefits.

 

Real People Share Value

Active Immersion

I have gained the most from a mix of active membership in:

  1. Trade or industry group
  2. Co-working space
  3. Community service group
  4. Sports clubs or hobbies

There are pros and cons to each group, and you have to have a budget in mind for the groups you join. For example, a membership in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry was very expensive and the size of the jobs within the group were larger than my sole trader business could handle. The co-working space in contrast fit my small business. The space was filled with startups and growing businesses who would pick me up for work -- and likewise I could hire out my fellow co-working businesses.

Budgeting Your Time

Manage how much time you put into your groups. Set a minimum time commitment of 1 meeting per month. Be open to increasing your time when you workload is light, and be willing to reduce your time to the minimum if you need to protect your time. 

Here is my example the minimum time I spend with each group:

  1. STC professional meetings - 2 to 3 hours at each meeting 1 to 2 times a month
  2. Co-working space - 6 hours on 1 day each week
  3. Community service - 4 hours a month over 1 to 2 days throughout the month
  4. Sports - 4 to 5 hours each week (time permitting)

My time estimate has been padded with my travel time, meals and that time you lose to socialising before or after the group. This is all valuable time to account for. Consider separating your weekend time for your hobbies and sports, but keep track of it with your business groups.

Need More Time?

I find that I need more time when I start working with a new client. When I need need more time, I take a leave of absence from 1 of my hobbies or sports AND I take a leave from 1 of my business groups. Having too many activities can be a stress. As your work changes, gradually change your group activities, but don't make major changes.

Your "life-stress balance" is important. Giving up your hobbies completely can leave you without an outlet for your stress. Hidden behind your community service or hobby is also a mindset that you gain by being of service and belonging. You will be a better consultant, owner or employee by carrying that good mental state into your work.

 

Grow a Service Mindset

Rotary Club of Perth International Exchange Student

You're Not Alone

Shauna near a brass statue in Fremantle

Too Late to Join a Group?

 

When is it too late to join a group? I've had a few slumps in my business since 1994. I have had large clients who've been very slow to pay or jobs that never started. I've had long-term jobs cancelled months before the forecasted end date. At these times, I've felt too broke to join a group. Other times, I've felt I'm too late to join a group. I felt I needed the time and connections within the group to have the money to pay for the membership!

This too late or too broke mindset is a fallacy.

Instead of joining many groups when you are in a desperate situation, pick 1 group. Expect to put a few months of active work in the group before you will reap major business benefits. The hardest part of investing your time (and money) into a group when you are struggling is you have to be giving to others before you take for yourself. This service before self and pay-it-forward vision needs to stick with you even after you are successful. You will hurt your reputation if you stop participating in the group once you get business out of it.

Start Your Growth by Finding a Group

Start your search for groups by asking previous or current clients, co-workers, and friends which groups they are active in. Search the web for events that you can drop in on. Add the word "association" to the name of the industry you want to work in. Imagine what your active membership in that group would look like. Would you update the website or organise events?

Did you notice I haven't mentioned networking events and online events (like free webinars)?

Be protective of your time. Many networking events are filled with other people looking for work than with people looking for workers. Choose networking events where the advantages match your needs and or the people are invited because their businesses fit. For example, a tech writer may be at a loss at a networking event that turns out to be a hairdresser, fitness coach, air conditioning installer, and a florist.

Think about why the event is offered and what access you will have to fellow attendees. Online events throttle your ability to immerse yourself freely interaction with fellow members of the audience. Often, formats like webinars limit the attendees to focus on the presenter and the presentation. Many webinars are also sales funnels where the host has no incentive to get you regularly meeting with the other attendees at the online event.

 

Turn to Your Group for Help

Use active membership like an ecosystem that you and your business live in. Choose the people that you've witnessed are effective. By participating regularly in groups, you learn how a person does business by playing sports with him or her. You may learn that the guy sponsoring the club races is actually a shady business person, competitively proud to gouge his customers.

Conversely you may discover a fellow business is quite thorough at followthrough. Or, a lawyer is much better at estimating legal work and has truly happy clients. You may have no idea how sales training is useful until you overhear the sales trainer walking a client through starting a sales call.

 

Lawyer, Sales Trainer & Coach

James, Diana, & Kathy from co-working space

Who You Gunna' Call? Co-workers!

Use your active membership in groups to recruit suppliers and consultants. Find out from your group who you can rely on. You are likely to find a smart, reliable bookkeeper by being around the person in a co-working space -- or from a referral from your fellow Rotarian. Or, a fellow member of your professional group is more likely to share important, sincere advice on working with a supplier than a person you met at a networking event.

  1. Industry group - backup or collaborative people
  2. Co-working space - complementary or extension of services
  3. Community service groups - reputable referrals
  4. Sports clubs & hobbies - transparent qualities of people

For the Love of Community

(Pictured, above.) I found my lawyer (James Irving), sales trainer (Diana Simich), and client & coach (Kathy Tierney) through a year at the Nestspace in Victoria Park (10 minutes from the Perth CBD). We've kept in touch over the years. James and Diana are now at different co-working spaces and Kathy is at a professional shared office. In addition to buying services from these people, I trust them to take care of my best clients.

The relationships took months to evolve. Most of our interaction was passive and in the form of conversations around the coffee pot. People like Diana and James organised free presentations to our co-working community. There were fellow writers who might have been considered competitors, but in the co-working space we became collaborators and backed each other up.

How STC Shaped My Career (by Calvin Yee)

How STC Shaped My Career

Starting a career in technical writing?

For those of you who may be considering a career as a technical writer in software development, I can share a few insights that could be helpful in making a decision based on my career.

I became a software technical writer mainly because of my curiosity in learning how things work. Initially, I was curious about what makes television and radio possible. This led me to a brief career as a TV and radio newswriter. While it was exciting to report on dramatic and late-breaking news events, I became dissatisfied with the lack of depth for each news story that I wrote. The problem was how much could I explain about a new technology (such as the Internet) within 30 seconds? At that point, I decided to explore other career options where my intellectual curiosity could be satisfied and I could help the reader understand the technical details.

My exploration consisted of checking out a dozen professional organizations to see which one would best help my career. At the end of my search, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) stood out. I felt that technical communicators were less ego-driven and more willing to share their knowledge with others. Having chosen STC, I immediately joined the local chapter in my area (San Gabriel Valley STC) and volunteered to build the chapter’s first website. By chance, Shauna was also in the chapter. So we learned HTML together and launched the first version of the chapter’s website in 1997.

Are you missing out banner

STC Has Been Instrumental in My Career

STC has been instrumental in developing my career in so many ways. From its monthly magazine to international conventions, and its job board, I’ve benefitted from being involved with fellow members. It has given me the skills to work for startup companies that went successfully to IPO (Selectica, Inc), large public companies such as Cisco Systems, and also a few that went defunct (they shall not be named).

The two big lessons I’ve learned about software technical writing are:

1) Be Flexible

Because the technology space changes so rapidly, it’s important to adapt to the changing conditions of the marketplace. That’s where flexibility helps you survive the twists and turns that occur daily in a software development house. I’ve seen people who have had to leave the technical writing field because they did not get used to new methods of software development (such as going from a waterfall model to an agile/scrum).

2) Keep learning

Continuous learning is key to your ability to not only survive but also thrive in the current workplace. In the past 20 years as a technical writer, I’ve had to learn about almost a dozen authoring systems (including FrameMaker, MadCap Flare, Confluence, DITA XML and Sphinx) along with at least a half-dozen code repository solutions (such as CVS, Subversion, Perforce, ClearCase, Git). To increase your chances of getting hired and also staying hired, it pays to keep up to date with the current technology in the documentation field.

STC is More than a Society

STC is more than a professional society. STC is the group of people that I could go to shape my career, answer questions and learn how to apply skills. I have taken selected friendships and lessons from my time in STC forward with me in my career.

How STC Shaped My Writing Career (by Rebecca Feinstein)

Purple Columbine in Seoul South Korea

A Writing Career Found by Fate

Well, to be honest, STC (the Society for Technical Communication) didn’t really shape my writing career, fate did. Or rather, fate gave me a BIG push (and by ‘push’ I actually mean shoved) in that direction.

The Blessing of Maintenance Manuals

I was blessed (and sometimes cursed) by an inquisitive nature as a child and teenager. I believe I actually stormed out of the house when my father refused to teach me about car maintenance for my 1981 Toyota Corolla. In his mind, it was ‘his’ job; and that I would just make a mess of things. I would get the last laugh on that topic as years later, I began my tech writing career as an editor for a company that created engine maintenance manuals for, you guessed it, Toyota, as well as other manufacturers. I not only learned about how to do car maintenance, I was pretty good at it and showing my other girlfriends how to do things like change a tire.

Pink Azaelias in Seoul Korea

No Teacher Like Life

They (the powers that be) always say there’s no teacher like life. I went to college to get my degree in journalism. I’ve always loved words (Scrabble anyone?) and loved learning things and getting ideas across to other people. I figured my life to be in public relations. And as I mentioned, fate had other plans in store, like a car accident the summer before graduation. I did graduate, but was desperate for a job and took one as an administrative assistant to VP of Development, Design and Construction of well-known restaurant chain.

A Clue

My main task(s) were to write reports with graphics showing development projections; writing policy and procedure manuals; as well as create job descriptions. Needless to say, I could do the reports, no problem; but the other stuff, I hadn’t a clue. A class at Orange Coast College caught my eye on an introduction to Technical Writing taught by Don Pierstorff. This lead to my getting the certificate in Technical Writing. In turn, things lead to my student membership in STC (Society for Technical Communication).

The Confirmation

In the beginning of my career, STC confirmed that I was on the right path, doing what technical writers should do and I was doing it well.

Yellow Columbine in Seoul South Korea

Most importantly, STC has allowed me to:

  • Develop new skills and keep current with tech changes (FrameMaker)
  • Learned new technologies (WordPress)
  • Got some very good advice (job-hunting)
  • Networking where met some really great people (I’m talking to you, Michael Opsteegh)

I met Shauna McGee Kinney (then she was just McGee) at the FrameMaker training seminars. Shauna actually turned out to be not only a terrific friend but an awesome resource as well. And bonus points -- I reconnected with an old friend and a college friend when I served as an STC chapter secretary.

My only regret is that in moving to be closer to my job, I had to leave the great people at the Orange County, CA chapter and --- wait for it, there is no chapter in the area where I live or where I work.