Technical Writing is on the Rise
Technical Writing is a content development method that breaks down the complexity of a product or a service into simple concepts that is relevant and easy to understand. If you a freelance writer and looking to start as a technical writer or branch out into technical writing, consider making a career out of it as this is an area with high demand. Companies, both large and small, are always on the lookout for talented technical writers. So to get you started, let’s explore what is technical writing and how to become one.
What is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is the ability to dissect and process complex information or topics into simpler terms that is easy to understand by the reader. Traditionally, technical writing revolved around creating documentations for companies, both internal and external, for a variety of readers including staff or customers.
However, in recent years, technical writing has evolved into a more fine-tuned area that targets specific interests based on the target audience. For example, there are user-friendly instruction manuals to help a customer assemble a piece of furniture he just bought or a detailed guide on how to use the software. These are just a few examples of how technical writing has grown from just documentation.
Technical writing also includes areas where you as a writer need to be creative and think outside the box to develop sales copies, slogans, or catch-phrases.
Your main role as a freelance technical writer is processing technical information and breaking it down for the intended end-users is a simple and concise manner. This can be anywhere from developing user manuals, to assembling a product, product catalogs, or research papers.
Now that we’ve covered what is technical writing let’s move on to how to become one.
How can I become a Technical Writer?
To become a highly paid freelance technical writer, you need to have a certain background that will aid you along the way. Background refers to a broad term here and can be categorized into education, industry work experience or just being passionate about a topic or user of a product.
However, this is not a fixed pre-requisite for success. Many successful writers who were previously non-technical writers have successfully diversified into technical writing by acquiring certain skills.
Jobs you could undertake as a Technical Writer
It is important to keep in mind clear cut objectives of a Technical Writing task before undertaking any job. Depending on your Client, you may be required to develop technical content that is purely informative. Or write a product review and weave in a sales pitch into your content.
“Based on the end goal, technical writing jobs can be categorized into Informative vs. Sales Pitch.”
Informative Technical Writing
- User Manuals, Guides, Instructions, and FAQs: This requires an in-depth understanding of the product or service that you are going to write about as well as information processing.
As a freelance writer, you may have to:
- Attend meetings with the R&D team from the Client’s end as they will give you a briefing.
- You will have to take keynotes, highlight the features, and develop content that can be used as user manuals and as instructions for end-users.
- White Paper Research: These are reports that involve processing complex topics with an analytical tone and conclusive evidence backed by authentic research.
Some examples of White Paper Research include:
- Market research
- Product research
- Competitor analysis or,
- Interpreting product trails with customers
- Business Reports & Analytics: Here, you would focus more on processing business data and analytics and generating reports for management reviews, business growth, market growth, or case studies for internal and external audiences.
Technical writing under the business report & analytics niche requires a certain degree of managerial knowledge or management studies to understand business jargon and terminologies. Few of the commonly used reports you could be asked to generate are:
- Product presentations
- Interpreting company statistics for shareholders
- Company expansion strategy for new investors or,
- Analyzing data from the survey and developing consumer behavior metrics
- Feasibility Report: This is a document with the main intention to aid in decision making from available options. For example, a feasibility study could be a report about whether to make a business decision of expanding to a new area of a city or increasing a factory’s capacity.
Some of the industry-standard feasibility reports include:
- Legal feasibility
- Business operational feasibility
- Production and performance feasibility or,
- R&D feasibility
- Policies and Terms & Conditions: Developing content for this document requires a certain level of legal knowledge and procedures.
Imagine you just bought a brand new TV, along with it you get a user manual and the terms for warranty and guarantees. Policies could also be about a company’s internal document about work procedures and structures.
To give you a few examples, developing content for policies as a technical writer may include:
- Company handbook or operations manual
- HR Policies
- Workplace policies
- Health, safety & environment policies
- Product warranties and guarantees
- Technical Content Consultant: If you are an expert in a certain field or sector with a solid background, you could also freelance as a technical writing consultant in companies and help the client develop technical content working with the staff team.
Sales Pitch Technical Writing
- Product Reviews: Writers would be required to assume the role of an end-user and give a product review focusing on sales conversion. You would be required to talk about how the product benefits the user and why the target audience should buy into it.
- Product Descriptions and Sales Copy: This falls under creative technical writing where the writer intimately describes the product, its features, and infusing a sales copy into the content that will persuade a customer into making a purchase. There is a huge demand for this writing skill as it helps clients increase their sales online and offline.
- Business Plans & Proposals: Clients under this category mainly include start-ups and entrepreneurs looking to develop a document that will help them secure an investor.
You will be working closely with the Client to understand their business idea, their operations, and USPs and process this information into a business plan or a proposal.
- Technical Copy Writing: According to research published by Forbes, an individual is exposed to more than 1,000 ads per day. So how do companies differentiate themselves from each other? This is where technical copywriting comes in.
You would have to come up with out-of-the-box ideas and content to help clients stand out from the crowd and carve out a share of the market. Technical copywriting is mainly used in:
- Product brochures and,
- Marketing sales pitches
- Corporate Profiles and Brochures: Every company wants to connect with its customers and develop a brand relationship. This is where you come in as a technical writer to assist them in developing content for corporate profiles. You can also develop content for brochures that helps customers understand a product or a service better.
The key takeaway here is to remember to choose a niche as a freelance technical writer that will help you define yourself and become a highly valued professional. It is also crucial to identify the objectives of a technical writing task that will help you to stay focused and develop relevant content. By following these simple rules of thumb, you could become a successful technical writer and increase your client base over a short period.