June 5, 2019
Technical writers use their writing and communication skills to make complex information easier to digest. They are essential to running a technologically focused business and can help companies better understand their performance and enhance the user experience.
Do you want to be a technical writer? We've put this guide together to clarify what a technical writer is. You'll find out what they do, how they do it and learn where you can find technical writing job opportunities today.
A technical writer is a professional writer that communications complex information. So what exactly does a technical writer do? They create technical documentation. Examples of technical writing includes things like instruction manuals, product descriptions, memos, user manuals, journal articles, tutorials, quick reference guides, technical material, software documentation, and white papers. They may also create more common types of content including social media posts, press releases, and web pages.
Essentially, technical writers break down complex technical products into easy-to-understand guides that help the end-user understand how to use the products and services. They are subject matter experts that often have an educational background in technical fields including engineering, computer science, information technology, and information development. Technical writing is a type of writing that involves a specific set of writing skills — particularly being able to translate complex topics into simple terms for users. Most technical writers are adept at transforming graphs, headings, charts, and using tools such as excel and other programs to increase usability. Many will also have certifications or have taken technical writing courses and they may have a background in software development or a related technical field.
Technical communicators endeavor to create documents that help individuals understand how to use a certain technology. They may write for a target audience for B2C businesses or they may write internal documents for employees to use or create products. They can also use their writing skill set to create technical reports to update C-Suite executives digest the company's performance. According to the Society for Technical Communication, the vast majority of technical writing is used for in-house purposes rather than to target a consumer audience.
Over the years, technical writing has experienced a dramatic shift. Today, technical writing involves producing technical information as part of a larger content management plan. Technical writers work closely with team members including graphic designers, content writers, document specialists, and industry experts to create technical documents. They may also work with fellow writers to develop their business writing skills depending on the project and document type.
For most projects, technical writers use the following steps:
Technical writing remains an increasingly common industry and one where professional writers are highly sought after. The skillset of these writers goes far beyond good spelling and grammar. These writers are required to have extensive technical knowledge that everyday writers do not possess. They also must have excellent writing skills and the ability to coordinate with other technical staff members. As such, the job outlook for technical writers remains positive.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—an organization that is part of the U.S. Department of Labor—the technical writing industry can expect an 11 percent increase between 2016 and 2026. That's faster than average for most professions. Technical writers will typically need a Bachelor's degree and can expect on-the-job training and short-term e-learning when hired. In 2017, the median pay for American professional technical writers was $70,930 per year (1). According to PayScale, a senior technical writer can make upwards of $115,000 annually (2). These numbers can vary depending on where technical writers work and how experienced they are.
There is also an increasing need for freelancers including technical writers and medical writers as more and more businesses build an online presence. The work environment is typically self-driven and many technical writers can choose to work from home or the office.
There are various ways to find technical writer jobs that suit your technical skills. One of the first places you can start your search is in the local newspaper. Companies often advertise job opportunities in the daily papers and on boards outside community centers.
You can also use a variety of websites for online help when looking for technical writing jobs. Classic job boards such as Indeed list hundreds of writing jobs that you can choose from. Some require you to work from a specific office location while others allow remote work so be sure to check the job description for details.
If you're looking for remote-specific technical writing jobs, check out sites such as Guru and FlexJobs. These sites can help you find full-time and part-time opportunities for technical communicators. You can also use these job boards to filter opportunities to user experience based positions or internal technical documentation projects.
Another great site for remote or freelance technical writing work is Upwork. The site features filters that allow you to browse by specific subject areas or job titles. You can also narrow it down to specific skills such as familiarity with Microsoft or Apple. The best part about this marketplace is that payment is conducted over the platform so you never have to worry about getting scammed.
You can also use an agency to find technical writing work. At The Writer Finder, we're always looking for entry-level and experienced technical writers. Sign up to join our database of writers and we'll reach out to you when new opportunities arise. That means you don't have to spend hours combing through job listings.
If you're looking to hire a good technical writer, we can also help. When you use our service, we'll send you a list of 3-5 writers with technical writing skills. You'll see writing samples from each applicant so you can assess their writing style and skills and how they approach the technical writing process. Plus, we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. That means if we can't find you the right technical writer, we'll refund the finder's fee.
Technical writing is a promising professional career that is essential for businesses. If you become a technical writer, you'll help people understand how to use technology products and improve business performance by providing decision-makers with valuable reports.