If you’ve ever wondered how to become a technical writer, this guide will give you all of the tools that you need to understand what the typical day of a technical writer entails, as well as technical writer jobs salary and how to ultimately be successful at the job. Technical writer jobs can be challenging but fun work.
Before you make the decision to leap into freelance and/or remote technical writer jobs, make sure that you have a steady nest egg of income and a plan for success.
This post may have affiliate links, meaning we earn a small commission on purchases through the links (at no extra cost to you). This does not change our opinion but does help support the site. Thank you!
What Does a Technical Writer Do?
Technical writing differs from creative writing because it’s often used to describe the processes for how things get done. Technical writer jobs involve working with diagrams, instructional manuals, and technical journal articles to break down complicated instructions so that people can digest them easily.
Although technical writers might write for a variety of different audiences, the objective is always the same. A good technical writer’s job description might involve the writer’s ability to distill down complicated information into easily accessible and actionable steps. This means that the writer has to have an excellent foundational grasp of their subject material and stay away from fluff.
How To Become a Technical Writer
Since technical writer jobs take a lot of effort and skill, you need to have some knowledge base to be an influential technical writer. Although having a degree helps, it’s not mandatory all of the time. Some entry-level technical writer jobs prefer you to have a Bachelor’s degree in either technical writing or the discipline that you’re writing about. Others prefer you to have experience.
If you want to set yourself apart in the field and negotiate higher rates, consider taking some technical writing or business writing classes. Also, even if a company says that they require a bachelor’s degree, understand that it’s not always the case. If you have a robust portfolio, you are often qualified for most jobs.
How to Start as a Technical Writer
The first thing that you need to do is assemble your portfolio. It’s essential to identify your niche early on. This niche will be your specialty and allow you to show potential clients that you have experience writing about and working in a specific area.
At first, you might not be able to command the types of rates that you can get later on. That’s okay. Building a portfolio is a process. As you grow your professional network and make your portfolio more robust, you will undoubtedly be able to get better clients down the road.
Make it your business to be constantly learning. This means reading technical journals and staying up-to-date on the latest business trends. Try not to burn bridges as well. Turn in your work on time and fully researched. If you get positive feedback from a client, you can go ahead and ask for a referral.
Referrals are gold for any technical writer. With cold calls, you have to prove your skill set. When a third party vouches for you in the form of a referral, you’re bypassing this step and gaining trust right off the bat.
1. Skills Needed To Be a Technical Writer
The first skill that you need to have to be a technical writer is expert writing skills. Even though technical writing is slightly drier than more creative types of writing, it still requires a certain level of proficiency.
Having a Technical writer job means you need to be able to work with tools of the trade, specifically graphs, and detailed charts. You will need to seamlessly incorporate them into your piece without making it seem forced or clunky. Excellent research skills are a must. Technical writing is detail-oriented and precise, and there is no room for errors.
Although people make mistakes from time to time, you should try to be on top of your game for the most part. You don’t want to get a reputation for being the sort of writer who often makes mistakes and misses essential details. Instead, put your due diligence into researching thoroughly.
You need to be systematic as well and be able to work within a team structure. Those who have Technical Writer jobs need to be excellent communicators and have thick skin when criticized.
2. Salary of a Technical Writer
A technical writer’s salary offers reasonably good money. On average, they make $74,650 per year, which breaks down to about $36 an hour. Just like with any other kind of job, the pay varies depending on your experience and client base.
What Is an Average Day for a Technical Writer?
Unlike many other kinds of writers, technical writers actually spend a substantial amount of time researching their subject material. Since it’s so important to be precise, technical writers will often do hours of research before even setting their pen to paper.
Many technical writers will do their research when their minds are sharpest. Everyone is different, so the time of day really doesn’t matter as much as the writer’s mental state. After researching, most technical writers will spend a fair amount of time outlining their documents. This is especially important for writers who are working on longer pieces or detailed manuals.
Although most writers piece together an outline before working on a project, technical writers tend to take this step to the next level by forensically detailing what element of the work goes where. They also might need to consult with any members of the team, or experts, to clarify certain aspects of the document.
After this is finished, it’s time to write. Technical writers tend to write in a drier style than creative writers, and there isn’t any room for ambiguity. Although technical writers and creative writers differ in style, they still use similar tools, like Grammarly, to ensure that their writing is grammatically and stylistically correct.
After the document is completed, technical writers send off their draft to the client. Sometimes revisions or clarifications are needed, and it’s good practice to send those back in a timely fashion. After the day’s work is done, it is time to do more prospecting for clients.