Technical Writing is a Hot Job!
Can you explain complicated subjects in short and simple words that any audience will understand? Can you write about it? A technical writer gets paid to do just that.
Technical writers create documents that take complex subjects and technical jargon and communicate the ideas in easy to understand terms. The goal of technical writing is to present information that creates simple solutions for audiences.
In the United States, around 50,000 people work as technical writers. According to US News and World Report, it is one of the best careers of 2011.
Technical writing is a growing part of every industry – science, engineering, law, medicine, technology, robotics, finance, and all the others. Technical writers may write a how-to article about waxing a surfboard, instructions on the latest Microsoft software, or the annual report for Apple. They create documents such as manuals, annual reports, user guides, white papers, resumes, instructions, textbooks, help files, how-to articles, workbooks, catalogs, technical journal articles, and troubleshooting guides that help people solve problems and figure out solutions. If you’ve been looking for a writing career then this could be your path to follow.
To be successful technical writers need to be knowledgeable about their topic. They typically work with experts to learn the nitty gritty details. Then they determine what documents need to be created and who the audience will be – co-workers or consumers. Performing good research and gathering appropriate information is critical to truly understand the task. Chatting with SMEs (subject matter experts) is necessary to understand technical jargon and complex topics. It is a good idea for technical writers to get hands-on experience with products to see how they really work.
Next they must take all that useful information and turn it into clear, concise terms for the audience. The writing must be an easy to follow recipe that any dummy can comprehend. Accuracy is mandatory. The best technical writing is error free and easy to grasp.
Technical writing is more than just well crafted writing perfection. It must be attractive and easy on the eyes. Technical writers consider page layouts, images, headings, paragraphs, fonts, charts, tables, graphs, and diagrams. Visual cues help make complicated topics universally understood.
If you want to become a technical writer build an impressive portfolio for clients to browse via email or Internet. There are plenty of freelance jobs online at sites like Guru or Upwork (formerly Elance), but a specialized technical writer can easily find full time work with publishers, corporations, or the government.
Technical writing is a very competitive job. Many people claim to be writers who are not and lots of work is being sent overseas. Even so, a qualified technical writer can stay busy writing about cool topics such as adjusting ski bindings, canceling insurance policies, or outlining corporate manuals. Whatever the project, efficient communication and simple directions are key.
For some, technical writing is a portable career – one where you can work from the beaches of Thailand or the mountains of Alaska. It all depends on the project, the employer, and your level of understanding of the subject matter. Some technical writers work on a per-project basis, while others are salaried professionals. Technical writers typically make $36,000 to $97,000 per year, but most average $53,000 per year for creating documents on a computer.
If you think that you could be a technical writer, study up on a complex subject and create a few how-to documents for fun. Let your friends tell you if they make sense. If they do, get your portfolio together and start writing. Just remember the acronym, K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple).
Quick Facts About Technical Writing Jobs
Job Title: Technical Writer, Technical Communicator
Office: Behind a computer
Description: Create documents that take complicated subjects and technical jargon and communicate the ideas in easy to understand terms
Certifications/Education: Writing experience and portfolio
Necessary Skills: Able to make complex things simple, mastery of language, writing skills
Potential Employers: Publishers, corporations, freelance, government
Pay: $36,000 to $97,000 per year, average is $53,000 per year