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?


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

What else have I missed?