May 15, 2023
Whether you’re just starting out as a freelance technical writer or have several years of experience, a career in technical writing requires excellent critical thinking, writing, and communication skills. That’s because as a technical writer, the goal is to make complex information easier to understand for readers.
Here, we’ll clarify what a technical writer actually does as there is no one-size-fits-all job description. We’ll also share what you need to know when looking for freelance technical writing jobs so you’ll be better prepared to reach your goal of becoming a well-paid freelance technical writer.
A technical writer is a professional who can create content and break down complex information. So what exactly does a technical writer do? They create technical documentation for various purposes, such as instruction manuals, journal articles, user manuals, reference guides, and white papers. They may also create more common types of content within the technical field, including social media posts, press releases, and web pages.
Depending on who the target audience is, a technical writer can help a company better understand its performance and/or enhance the user experience for consumers.
For instance, a technical writer might break down the complexities of a startup’s technical products or services for team members. Or the writer might create templates for a company’s usability testing. Meanwhile, another technical writer might create operating instructions, FAQs, or online help manuals for end users, offering an easy-to-understand guide on properly using a particular product or service.
Technical writers are subject matter experts in a variety of technical fields, such as engineering, computer science, information technology, and information development.
The Society for Technical Communication sums it up best: technical writers are technical communicators who aim to create usable content for products, processes, and services.
Some technical writers create content for a business-to-business (B2B) target audience, such as wholesalers and manufacturers. Others write for business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations to provide online help for consumers — for instance, they might create digital instruction manuals for SaaS (software as a service) users.
Technical writers also create internal documents, such as standard operating procedures (SOPs), for employees within a company. They may also use their writing skill set to generate technical reports to update C-suite executives and other members of upper management.
Depending on the project and the purpose of the technical document, a technical writer might work on document design — for instance, adding visual aids to make technical information easier to understand.
According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 55,400 technical writing jobs in 2021. Most technical writers (36%) are employed by professional, scientific, and technical services; manufacturing (13%); administrative and support services (9%); and publishing industries (6%).
In terms of work environment, the majority of technical writers are full-time staff members who work in offices. Often, they work closely with team members ranging from engineers and technical experts to graphic designers and content writers.
That said, there are always companies looking to hire freelance technical writers either on a short-term or ongoing basis. As the shift to remote work continues, many technical writers will continue to work from home.
Not surprisingly, technical writing jobs are most abundant in regions like California and Texas where there’s a large concentration of businesses in the fields of information technology, science, and engineering.
In fact, the Austin Chamber of Commerce published a report in 2022 that stated tech industry jobs totaled nearly 17% of all jobs, compared to 9.2% nationally. Other growing top tech hubs include Seattle, Washington; Boulder, Colorado; and Huntsville, Alabama.
Technical writing remains a growing industry for those who possess the skill set for this in-demand profession. Unlike general business writing or other forms of content creation, technical writers must have extensive technical knowledge, superb writing skills, and the ability to coordinate with other technical staff members.
Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the technical writing industry can expect 6% growth from now through 2031, which is about average for most professions.
Technical writers typically need at least a bachelor's degree and can expect on-the-job, short-term training when hired. In 2021, the median pay for American professional technical writers was $78,060 per year or about $37.53 per hour.
According to PayScale, a senior technical writer makes an average of $87,210 annually in 2023. These numbers can vary depending on where technical writers work, years of experience, and the type of technical content they’re creating.
There are various ways to find technical writer jobs that suit your technical skills. One of the first places to start your search is in local media outlets. While you could go old-school by searching job ads in physical newspapers, you might fare better seeking job opportunities online for businesses in your local area.
Researching and reaching out to organizations via LinkedIn is another viable method for seeking freelance technical writing jobs. Be sure to have an updated profile, up-to-date resume, and writing samples. With a little preparation, you’ll be ready to ask for a referral on LinkedIn to get closer to the job you want.
Of course, numerous websites showcase listings of available technical writing jobs. Classic job boards such as Indeed list hundreds upon hundreds of writing jobs. Some require you to work from a specific office location while others allow remote work, so always 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 for user experience-based positions or internal technical documentation projects.
Another well-known 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.
While these resources are valuable for freelancers, we understand that it can often feel like you’re just reaching out into the abyss of faceless companies and no replies.
Fortunately, the Writer Finder offers another way to find freelance writing jobs in a more specialized, personalized, and human environment. (Yes, we are real people looking for other real people who are subject matter experts!)
Looking for technical writing work isn’t always easy. But at the Writer Finder, we're always looking for entry-level and experienced technical writers who are ready to join our ever-growing list of well-paid projects.
Simply sign up to join our writer database and we'll contact you when new opportunities match your experience and expertise. That means you don't have to spend hours combing through job listings, uploading Microsoft docs and other forms, or hoping that someone on the other end of your email will finally respond.
Technical writing is a promising profession that spans many industries. If you’re someone who’s a pro at breaking down technical information into easy-to-digest English, then be sure to sign up today. It’s fast and totally free!
And if you’re a business owner, startup, or brand looking to work with writers in this field, be sure to check out the Writer Finder’s guide to hiring freelance technical writers.