From creative to academic, business to technical and more, writing has many forms and each of them holds a bright future, considering their growing demand in a range of commercial sectors. Talking about technical writing, it emphasizes on writing technical concepts in the form of manuals, functional requirement specification (FRS) documents, instructional material, etc. Writing about all this stuff needs you to be a pro in this very field and even before that, you need to know how to become a technical writer.
Well! As you might have sensed, the role of a technical writer is to understand the functioning of a complicated topic and communicate it to the target audience through an easy to read document. It should include simple words to educate the readers with ease. Therefore, if you were looking forward to becoming a technical writer, you would need to put forth some additional steps in addition to having a knack for writing. Here is the detailed info:
What does a technical writer do?
As technical writer, you will have to carry out numerous tasks:
- Create professional documents like proposals, reports, instructional manuals, technical descriptions, etc., after doing a thorough brainstorming
- Make the material error free and readable for users of varied knowledge levels
- Define and outline the scope of the project followed by proper research, analysis and evaluation of the concerned topic.
- Make complex technical concepts about a particular field look easier and easy to grasp
- Write pure technical documents on medical processes, software, online tools, engineering, etc.
- Analyze the target readers and create the technical material accordingly
- Seek the help of infographics, headings, images, pi-charts, bar graphs, lists, etc. to make the document presentable
- Use upscale publishing, authoring, image editing, spell checking, and screen capturing tools to make the document more impactful.
Example of technical writing
Often, people confuse technical writing with technical content writing, where the latter refers to writing a blog or a whitepaper about a technical topic, such as web development, data science, cloud computing.
However, technical writing is about writing instructional material that could educate people about the working of a particular system – like an app, software, a website, etc.
One perfect example of Technical writing is a Functional Requirement Specification or FRS. It requires the writer to jot down the inputs of the clients in a particular format about the functionality of the product he wants your company to develop. The language should be like.
- The system should be able to open the contact form when clicked on the contact us button.
- The system should redirect the user to the payment gateway once he confirms the order.
- The system should open the dropdown list on the click of the arrow button
Is there a demand for technical writers?
Immaterial of the industry, the demand of technical writing will always proliferate. This is because for the simple reason that only technical writers can communicate important concepts to the target audiences in a lucid language; be it the employees, business stakeholders, or clients.
Coming to the main point, with the growing demand, remuneration of technical writers is also soaring high.
- As per Payscale, the Average Senior Technical Writer Salary is $85,141 per year
- The total pay estimate of a technical writer working at Google is $162,767 per year
- The average base salary of technical writer at Amazon is $88,000 per year
So, if anyone asks, “how do you become a technical writer?” just take a screenshot of these magic numbers and share with him. It will act as more than motivation for him to follow into your footsteps.
How to become a tech writer to make a living
If you are an ardent writer, you already qualify the first step of becoming a technical writer. Next, you will have to develop your written skills with respect to the technical writing domain. In addition, you should learn to have a better hand at carrying out research and analysis, design and formatting, etc.
Perhaps, a technical background or a technical bent of mind would be a bonus in your way to get into technical writing. Here are some of the noteworthy steps that will guide you further on how to become a technical writer.
1. Get your Bachelor’s Degree
Intrigued on what qualifications do you need to be a technical writer? Well, an associate degree would itself be sufficient for you to look out for a technical writing job. Nevertheless, having a bachelor’s degree in any of the following streams would further add weight to your CV.
- Technical communication
- Scientific writing
In addition, depending on the field in which you want to pursue your technical writing job, like computer, engineering, medicine, data science, you can go on to acquire the requisite knowledge accordingly.
2. Certification in technical writing
Here are a few certification course options in technical writing depending on the field that you want to join as a technical writer.
- A three-tier certification course including foundation, practitioner and expert levels from the Society of Technical Communication (STC)
- Training programs and continuing education in medical writing from the American Medical Writers’ Association (AMWA)
- Certification courses in scientific or medical communication from AMWA
3. Create a portfolio of samples
Start working on small gigs for your acquaintances until you get your first break. It will help to keep improving your technical writing skills. If you wish to have a full-fledged freelance career in technical career, your portfolio will act as a staunch bulwark to support your cause.
A technical writing portfolio allows you the opportunity to showcase the vividness and variety in your writing abilities, your complementing skills, your thought process and much more. For sure, it could help you land your first big break as an employee or even as a freelancer in the technical writing domain.
If you are an experienced technical writer, you already have a lot to display as your portfolio. But make sure that the content you use in your portfolio is not NDA protected, paywalled or proprietary, as it could cause copyright or breach issues. As a resolution, you can ask your employer if you could remove the confidential details from your work before using it as your portfolio.
If you are a newbie, you can go on to contribute to several open-source projects on your own or through curated programs like Google Season of Docs, Outreachy, etc.
4. Grow your professional network
Extend your professional network around you and over the web.
- You can join several technical writer associations operating on the national and international level.
- Attending conferences, seminars, networking events on technical writing would be a great move.
- Interact with the experienced people in your groups and communities to get deeper insights about technical writing
- Use your network connections to find out if they could help you get technical writing projects.
- Pitch your skills on social media in order to get lucrative projects straight from the clients, without the involvement of any intermediary.
5. Keep upgrading your professional knowledge
It is always great to keep yourself abreast of the latest updates in your respective niche and with technical writing, it’s no different. Knowledge about the new tools, medical inventions, scientific researches, and so on, will help you appreciably in your technical writing endeavors. It will leave a good impression on your prospective employers and clients as well.
6 Tools for Technical Writing
You will need the assistance of various tools while accomplishing your technical writing tasks. Here is the categorization followed by the respective tools:
- Publishing Tools: Document 360, Adobe FrameMaker, RoboHelp
- Authoring Tools: Microsoft Word, Notepad, Google Docs, Markdown Editor
- Screen Capturing Tools: Snipping Tool (built-in with Windows), Demobuilder TechSmith SnagIt, FireShot
- Photo Editing Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Canva, GIMP
- Instructional Designing Tools: Articulate Storyline 360, UserGuiding, Adobe Captivate
- Spell Check Tools: Grammarly, Ginger
The foremost prerequisite to become a technical writer is to have an unlimited fondness for writing. Once you are sure about it, your road to get into technical writing will become easier. To start your career in this very domain with a lucrative salary, you would need to possess a bachelor degree in journalism, scientific writing, or any other stream of your choice, followed by some certifications.
Your practical knowledge about the concerned technical subject also holds high importance. Once you master the art of technical writing, success is just a formality. So, if you are also boiling with the zeal to make it big in the technical writing arena, act today.