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Recording Secretary: A Market to Consider
by Linda Perret

When you think of writing markets, very few people consider their Homeowner's Association (HOA) as one. But after attending a meeting for a friend, that HOA hired me as their freelance Recording Secretary. And that one meeting, five years ago, mushroomed into a career that is continuing today.

Every HOA is required to have regular Board and Homeowner Meetings, and minutes are a necessary part of those meetings. A lot of people believe that minutes are a transcript of a meeting, but this is incorrect. Minutes are a record of Board action and direction that was taken at a meeting. It's a BRIEF summary of what the Board did and will do. Minutes shouldn't include discussion or debates. It's not unusual for a 20-minute discussion to be reflected by one sentence in the minutes. A typical two-hour meeting would equal about four pages of typed minutes. If your minutes are eight pages or more you may want to go back and edit.

As a Recording Secretary it is your job to be a non-biased witness to the proceedings. Your job is to write down all motions, who made and seconded them and the vote outcome. Occasionally you will be asked to read a motion back to the Board prior to voting. It is also up to you to note the time a meeting is called to order and when it adjourns. You are not responsible for running the meeting or for moving it along. You don't offer an opinion or make recommendations, which sometimes can be the hardest part of the job. You simply record everyone else.

Most meetings take place at night Monday through Thursday. There are some groups that meet in the morning and a few on the weekends. In the five years I have been doing this, I've only had one morning meeting and three weekend meetings. A typical meeting runs two hours, but can go longer.

Getting Started

The first place to start is at your own Homeowner's Meeting, if you belong to one. If you don't, don't worry I've don't either. Attend a meeting and talk with property manager. Find out who does the minutes at your meeting. Talk to this person. Let her know that you are interested in doing minutes. Chances are there are going to be times when she is unavailable for a meeting and having the name of a replacement can come in handy. Last month there was one evening when four of my regular accounts scheduled meetings on the same evening. I handled two but the others had to scrabble to find a secretary.

Talk with the property manager. Inform them that you are available if they can use your service. Give the property manager a few of your business cards, so he or she can pass them out at the office. Contact other property management companies. Get the word out that you are available.

Do your homework before starting. Purchase a copy of Robert's Rules of Order. This book outlines parliamentary procedures that most associations follow. Becoming familiar with the way a meeting is run is helpful.

It goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway, you want to be professional. Show up on time, be prepared to work, and supply the minutes to the property manager in a timely fashion. It sounds so simple, but you'd be surprised how many people forget this. I just recently acquired a new account because after two months, the previous secretary still hadn't gotten the Board a draft of the minutes. Being professional and responsible will impress a property manager, who usually does the hiring, more than anything else.

Fees

The most important question is what do you charge. The fees for this writing may vary from area to area so you may want to check with a few Recording Secretaries in your area to see what they charge.

My fee is $60 an hour to attend meetings. I have a minimum fee of one hour and then charge by the quarter hour after that. At first glance $60 seems steep, but this fee includes all the typing of the minutes, revisions, and final copy once the Board approves the minutes. I invoice the HOA through the management company and payment can take anywhere from two weeks to two months.

I currently have twelve regular accounts, which meet once a month. One meets every other month and two accounts meet twice a month.

There are aspects of this writing that I truly love. One is the stability. Over the years this job has grown into a steady income. When I started doing this I was a fulltime comedy writer. I adore writing comedy, but I never knew when or if I would get a paycheck. As a recording secretary I know how much will be coming in each month. Another advantage of this market is it allows me the flexibility to pursue other avenues. I spend my days doing comedy and my nights, four days a week, recording. I usually do all my typing of the minutes for the week in one morning.

I have noticed that the minutes writing has improved my other writings as well. Minutes need to be concise, clear and brief and these traits have begun to carry over to over venues.

If you are like me and want a way to make ends met while pursuing your writing goals, you may want to consider becoming a Recording Secretary.

© Copyright 2003, Linda Perret

Linda Perret is a full time comedy writer. She supplies material to comedians, magazines, and services. In addition she publishes a monthly newsletter, called Round Table, for comedy writers and performers and runs a yearlong email course on comedy writing. You can reach her at RTComedy@aol.com

Other articles by Linda Perret :

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