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How To Become A Freelance Technical Writer In 5 Simple Steps

Careers in technical writing are often a mystery to those who live on the outside. What is involved with this type of job? What is the industry like for job seekers? What career path is most typical, and what challenges are faced by technical writers? Here are 5 simple steps to becoming a freelance technical writer in today's competitive market:

  1. Have a decent background in English writing: Technical writing is...well, it is very technical. It may not be very exciting to write down instructions on how to feed and burp the newest "real baby" doll on the market, but it has to be done. Basically you need to be able to break complicated information down into organized text which is easy for the intended audience to understand with the use of common language.

  2. Know the limits of your patience: Word skill is great, but writing sentences like "Choose from the above dropdown menu" can only be written so many ways. You need to have the technical aptitude to follow a process through from beginning to end. It is essential that you have the required patience to solve a problem. If you can spend all day explaining how to put together a fifty-piece product, technical writing may be the niche you have been looking for. If your blood pressure rises right after "Insert Tab A into Tab B", follow a different career path.

  3. Stay knowledge sharp: To effectively write about technical issues, you need to keep your own technical skills well-honed. Learn a minimum of three types of programs: a video capture tool, an online authoring help tool, and a graphics tool. The time you spend learning these programs will be an invaluable asset to your career. Take every opportunity to learn something new that is presented to you.

  4. Fine tune your attention to detail: Attention to detail is beyond essential for a technical writer. Something as simple as the placement of a comma can make all the difference between people being able to follow your directions, and smashing their new bookshelf somewhere between steps four and five. Support queries with be drastically decreased if instructions are completely accurate. While you won't be getting calls at stupid o'clock yourself, this can be an important metric in determining whether you get any further work from this particular client.

  5. Get involved with your local chapter of the STC: The Society for Technical Communication is dedicated to advancing technical communications. By using social media sites, help files, and web pages, they communicate through the use of technology to provide instructions for services and products.

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