Freelance writers have a lot of writing opportunities. One of the biggest resides in the…
How to Become a Technical Writer in 4 Simple Steps
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Do you have a flair for communicating complex or technical information in a way that’s simple and easy to understand? Then a freelance career in technical writing might just be perfect for you.
“Technical writer” refers to people who write about technical subjects and processes in a way that is designed to be accessible and to convey information.
A technical writer can cover a wide range of niches. You could write about IT and computer programming, or you could discuss the mechanisms behind online games, like the book of ra.
Whatever the case, technical writing can be a lucrative and satisfying freelance career. It also has minimal entry requirements and allows for a high degree of upward progression and flexibility.
Keep reading and find out how to become a freelance technical writer.
Although you don’t need to match specific technical writer education requirements, there are a few important moves you should make if you plan to make this your career. We’ll break these down into four easy steps that will help speed up your professional trajectory. Here’s how to get started and what you need to know.
Technical Writer: Definition and Skills Breakdown
As we’ve noted before, a technical writer uses their technical knowledge and writing skills to convey information.
This can include things like writing technical instruction manuals for products, helping to write legislation on technical or industry regulations, or writing educational material, among other things. You can be a freelance technical writer, producing work for a variety of clients, or work for one company that specialises in a certain field. Both are perfectly plausible ways to make money technical writing.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Technical Writer?
Technical writers need a variety of skills. One of the most important tools in your technical writer toolbox is your ability to communicate clearly and simply. Technical writing involves condensing complex ideas into straightforward language for an audience of non-experts. Having a strong grasp of how to formulate clearly is vital.
Technical writers must also have excellent technical knowledge in their chosen field. To describe something simply, you must first know it inside out. This means that technical writers must have a high level of understanding and be an expert in what they’re writing about.
Technical writers, like all freelance writers, must also have good discipline and networking skills. Meeting deadlines and being self-motivated are essential if you want to work for yourself or build a new career with a company. You must also know how to sell yourself and be in the right place at the right time to meet the right people. If you’ve ever studied any type of marketing, this could really come in handy.
4 Steps to Technical Writing
Being a technical writer, obviously, involves writing. Lots and lots of writing. So, it’s best to get as much practice as you can, either in your field or elsewhere. When learning how to perfect technical writing, focus on brevity and accuracy. Always see if you can make your pieces just a little shorter and your content a little clearer, as this is what most clients look for.
Start churning out and submitting some articles to blogs on your selected subject. Or just write about technical processes as practice for yourself. Getting eyes on your work is really valuable, however, as feedback is key to improvement. Try sending out some technical text examples to blogs that take unsolicited work. This is a great way to find out whether or not you have the necessary marketable skills to start your career.
Build a Portfolio
Once you’ve started practicing with a few writing examples, you should start to build a portfolio of your strongest ones. This portfolio can be sent to prospective clients, be featured on your writer’s website, or be a prop you take to job interviews. Make sure you select pieces that show off different elements of your skillset and try to tailor these to make them relevant for each client.
Get a Technical Writer Certificate
There are lots of technical writer courses you can take and certificates you can earn to prove your credentials to clients. For instance, you could study with the Society of Technical Information and earn a certificate this way. Alternatively, you could get a certificate that’s specific to your field, such as through the Institute of Science and Technical Communicators or the American Medical Writers Association.
Having a degree or other qualification in your chosen field will also help. These qualifications will help you prepare for technical writer job interview questions or plug gaps in your CV. This will make landing jobs even easier and is a great way to kickstart your career.
Networking and developing a presence in your industry are two things that are inextricably connected. If you hope to be a freelance technical writer (meaning you rely on finding clients yourself), you will need to build these skills. If you’re new to freelance writing, why not start with some easy stuff? Make a profile on LinkedIn or on other professional networking sites.
Having a dedicated website or online portfolio is also a great way to start. You could also join online communities in your field or participate in forums where clients advertise. With the internet at our fingertips, communicating with potential leads has never been easier. Make the most of this, and be sure to get your name out there from the start. This will stand you in good stead as your career develops.
Your career as a technical writer begins as soon as you take these first steps. Remember, quality, conciseness, and networking are key elements of a freelance writing career. With this in mind, you’ll have everything you need to build your technical writer business.
Want to learn more about freelance careers? Enroll in my free 7-lesson mini-course Get on the Right Path to Freelancing here.
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Scott Carrion is a freelance writer and analyst focusing on business and marketing. His Master’s degree in Business research from Curtis L. Carlson School of Management has given him a broad base from which to approach many topics. He works closely with B2B and B2C companies providing useful and engaging content that can convert viewers into customers.
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