How Much Does It Cost To Write a User Guide?

I write all types of technical documents. This is one of the services I provide to clients that works the best for me over the web. One of questions I get asked most every week is something like, ‘how much does it cost to write a user guide?’

How To Price A User Guide

There are different ways to do this. I send a Project Estimate spreadsheet to clients when they ask this question and gather as much information as possible. This helps me scope what’s involved and also see if the project is worth the investment for both of us.

The simplest way to get a handle on how much it will cost (i.e. estimate the budget), is to send them the spreadsheet and then go thru the answers with them over Skype.

Here are some of the questions I ask:

1. Documentation Format – How do you want the documents delivered e.g. as Online only, Printed, or Printed and online?

2. Documentation Types – What type of documents do you want created? For example:

  • Annual Reports
  • Business Document
  • Context Sensitive Help
  • Management Documents
  • Online Help
  • Procedures
  • Process Maps
  • Reference Guides
  • Reports
  • Technical Guides
  • Tutorials

3. Existing Documentation

Is there existing document we can use to get started?

4. Training Requirements – Will users need training to use the documents, for example, with complex business processes?

5. Style Guides – Do you have an existing in-house style guide or set of technical standard that must be followed? If not, do you want us to create or recommend one?

6. Localization – Will the documentation be localized and/or translated?

7. Operating Systems – What OS does your software run on? For example, Windows (what version?), Apple Mac, Linux or Others (specify).

8. Software Purpose – What is the purpose of the software you need to be documented?

9. Number of Pages and Screens – what are the approximate number of screens that need to be documented?

10. User Types – Are there different types of user, for example, system administrator, operators, end-users etc?

11. Issues – What are the main problems users have with the software? This will help when developing FAQs, Reference Guides and other types of user materials.

12. Task Analysis – Has any task analysis on the user needs been performed?

13. Online Documentation – What online formats do you want?

  • Adobe Air
  • WinHelp
  • HTML
  • WebHelp
  • Adobe PDF
  • Other:

14. Authoring Tools – Do you have a preferred authoring tool? Do you want the source files when we’re finished?

15. Context Sensitive Help – Do you required context-sensitive help, for example, when you click F1 or Help to open get help?

16. Budget – What is the budget for the project?

Conclusion

These are some of the ways I estimate the cost for writing tech docs.

What else have I missed?

Download these templates to start

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan