Grants

Commission for NSF grant application writer/editor?

Anonymous

December 1st, 2013

Hi,

Does anyone here have some experience working with a grant application editor?

I am in touch with one of them and he's asking for a commission between 5% and 10% of the grant amount (he seems to assume it's possible to raise $150K through an NSF grant).

I should also point out that he claims it's a 3-4 weeks work and he's going to give away about 2-3 weeks of work (at $1,000/week) based on my budget.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Raphael.

 

Dale Stephens Founder/CEO, UnCollege.org & Penguin Author

December 1st, 2013

A good writer should charge about $6k. I have one if you need it.

Lee Guertin Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics

December 2nd, 2013

Hi Raphael, Even in San Jose the $35/hr is steep for an internship. Hourly recruited positions will often find $35/hr for writing resources with several years of experience, so it sounds like the interns/students are pushing limits. Especially if they have no programming or technical experience. You could easily fill such with research assistantships for credit and partial stipend or credit only instead of hourly wage like that, particularly if you develop a partnership with a college or university. $50/hr isn't unreasonable for services from someone with MIT credentials, particularly if graduate level, but in the hourly resource market there even that resource would be hard pressed to get that for a writing assignment under usual circumstances in industry because the market is saturated with highly qualified resources and technical writing itself is not a highly paid skill overall. It pays less than developers, for example. Legal writing is billable at the premium rates only when the resource is credentialed. If he doesn't possess a legal credential then you cannot compare directly against a credentialed attorney. An MIT computer science resource in SJ is comparable to a Stanford or Berkeley resource. The CS programs are on similar par with each other, and in many cases have direct partnerships and transferability at the department level, so the MIT resource isn't that unusual in your potential candidate pool. If you were anywhere else but SF I would agree with you... If it helps with perspective, I know people working on multi-million dollar proposals out here in DC and in SF who don't make that per hour. But if you have a high level of confidence in the individual, that makes a lot of difference. I would recommend speaking to resourcing agencies also to get a good sense of average rates too, not counting markup premiums. You will still be required to list the resource as a contributor and specify his funding source in your application. But it sounds like you have a lot more options at your disposal now and have resources to fund a freelancer with outside of this funding effort, which is a relief I am sure! Cheers, Lee Ann Sent from my iPhone

Eric Rogness Technical Product Manager

December 1st, 2013

If he's taking risk, he needs corresponding upside. Conversely, if you were to pay him cash upfront, you may be missing out on an opportunity to incentivize him. So if you're negotiating, make sure that if you lower one number, the other number increases to compensate.

Lee Guertin Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics

December 3rd, 2013

Hi Raphael, I am glad to be of any help at all! I was just working in Silicon Valley 6 months ago. Recruiters are still contacting me with rates in those ranges so be assured that there are Berkeley and Stanford grads who are working with them... Unless everything is going offshore. Generally though, while one does want someone with domain knowledge working on grant applications, recruiters more importantly look for candidates who have successfully published against strict guidelines or who have written successful applications/proposals in the past as the first criteria and similar technical experience as a secondary. It is similar to the patent attorney in that the most important part of that equation is the legal credentials and training, with the science degree secondary but still required. (A patent attorney can have a science degree in any discipline.) It is the intelligent familiarity principle. Your best bet would be a writer with a technical background, or who has successfully written technical proposals, and not just a software engineer or computer science student. Writing earns less than coding is the norm. A good writer knows how to leverage their technical resources and how to organize technical information from the right contributors (which is what goes into the proposal if the resource is not a participating researcher themselves). That said, his rate is fair if he has experience of this type. He has written one before, correct? Software engineers who can write well or programmer writers are not the norm and can be difficult to find. But the commission is too much. He isn't writing code for you or participating in your research. It would be great to hear how it works out for you and the outcome of your proposal. Good luck! Sent from my iPhone

Lee Guertin Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics

December 2nd, 2013

Good luck with your decision. Commission is not a general expectation for a technical writer or grant proposal writer. Be aware of the risks to your application and the disclosures you need to make about such compensation to a non-standard participant, especially if they are not part of the funded research but receiving commission based on its funds. And $50/hr is on the higher side for an editor, but it all depends on the completeness, technical complexity, etc. Best regards, Lee Ann

Anonymous

December 2nd, 2013

Hi Lee Ann,

Thank you for your message, which definitely got me thinking.

I am surprised to hear that $50/hour is on the higher side for an editor, while I've interviewed San Jose CS students with no real practical programming knowledge who demanded $30/$35 per hour for a mere internship. $50/hr for a seasoned MIT alum with software consulting, patent and grant writing experience doesn't seem that high to me, especially since he is also proposing to write a provisional patent at that same hourly rate (compared to the $500/hr or more a patent attorney would typically charge).

WRT commission he's asking, thank you for pointing out the risks to my application if those costs cannot be deduced from the grant funds. That said, my company already generates revenue from an existing product, so the commission could be paid from the company's existing revenues, not from the grant funds (which would be entirely dedicated to fund R&D).

At the end of the day, I guess it all boils down to how much risk I want to bear and how much upfront cash I want to shell out for that grant application.

Thanks again to all for the insights and perspective I gained from that discussion, it's been very helpful!

John Sechrest

December 1st, 2013

I have hired grant writers for SBIR grants at this level. there was more to it than just the writing. finding a good grant writer can make a significant difference. focus on the understanding they have of the agency you are targeting.

Jeffrey Cary Senior Project Manager at netPolarity, Inc.

December 1st, 2013

The best that I've worked with is Linda Kirwin from Kirwin Grants. Feel free to look her up and let her know Jeff Cary referred you. She is very capable, fair AND effective.

Gaurav Garg

December 1st, 2013

Raphael, I have successfully submitted and raised over $1M from the NIH in federal grants in the past. I will be happy to help you review and submit your application. Best regards, Gaurav

Javier Gomez

December 1st, 2013

$150k sounds about right. One of my previous partners had worked with the NSF on a few projects. My understanding $250k is about the max limit before in-depth and lengthy reviews.