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Technical writing involves providing detailed information on a particular subject for your readers. It is writing instructional, verified, and clear content that explains how to perform a specific task, technical processes, and information unique to certain fields e.g software engineering, robotics, consumer electronics, biotechnology, etc.
A technical writer explains complex processes and official information to readers. The information communicated may include how to perform specific tasks, technical information in the medical and technological fields as well as information centered on communication using the internet. The documents that a technical writer writes may vary from simple articles, blog posts, how-to-articles, reports, journals, instructional manuals to even white papers.
The earliest example of technical writing was seen in the works of the great philosopher Aristotle. As far back as between 384 to 322 BC, his dictionary of philosophical terms and a summary of the "Doctrines of Pythagoras" were written by Aristotle. Years later, archeologists were able to recover these short samples.
In 1949, Joseph D Chapline wrote a user manual for the BINAC computer. He would become the first technical writer of computer documentation. In 1952, he wrote a document for the UNIVAC computer, explaining its functions. In 1960, the surge in the development of the aeronautical, electronics, and space industries led to an increase in the demand for technical writers.
It was in 1996 that the professional title "technical writer" was first documented under the code number 8214 in the German Federal Labour Office. The first seminars for technical writers started in 1983, with private training programs and study programs being set up in the 1990s. Since then, with the growth of many industries, the demand for technical writers has risen enough to make many people consider a career in technical writing.
It was reported by the Bureau of Labour Statistics that in 2020, the average pay of a technical writer was $ 74,650 per year and $35.89 per hour. In addition, there were 52,300 jobs for technical writers with a job outlook of 12% which is faster than average. These reports establish the fact there are many opportunities for you if you want to be a technical writer and that the pay is good.
The requirements for the job of a technical writer vary from organisation to organisation, but for most entry-level full-time roles you need a bachelor's degree in English, Journalism, Technical Communications, Engineering, or Computer Science. Some employers may consider you if you have work experience in technical writing. You could volunteer as a technical writer in an organisation near you or do some internships in technical writing to gain experience and build up your portfolio.
The pandemic has made most organisations consider remote work for their employees: remote entry-level jobs for technical writers are also a good opportunity for you. Most of these job applications may not require much experience, but your portfolio, cover letter, and resume are key to securing the position.
You can write on tech blogs or sites like HackerNoon to gain visibility and put yourself out there. Online courses in Technical Writing may also be helpful: listing the certifications on your resume will help convince your employer that you are the right candidate for the position.
If you are a student, stay-at-home parent or you just do not have the time to commit to a full-time 40-hour position, freelancing may be the best option for you. You can choose your clients and work at your own hours while doing the job that you love. You can find gigs on work platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Guru, etc. On these platforms, you will need to create a proposal that is sent to your prospective client before you can start working.
Alternatively, you could reach out to organizations near you and write for them at an agreed fee. For organizations not within your location, sending cold emails will do the trick. Job boards like LinkedIn, RemoteWritingJobs, Dice, Indeed, and Glassdoor also share contract, part-time and freelance positions. You can apply for these positions with your resume, writing samples, and cover letter. The good thing about freelancing is that you can make as much money as you like: you can set your own rates.
There are many opportunities for technical writers: freelancing and full-time technical writing are just a small portion of the opportunities available. For example, you could do an online masterclass for people interested in technical writing. People interested in learning technical writing can pay to attend your class. You can also teach an online course on Technical Communications and Writing: there are many paid online course options available for interested learners.
Blogging about technical writing and the opportunities it provides is another way to make money and impact people. You could make money by running ads on your blog or from guest blogging. This will also help increase your reach as a blogger and provide assistance to others. You can also set up a writing firm where you link clients to freelance technical writers or a job board where employers of labour pay for job ads. With technical writing, the opportunities are endless. You can start your journey to becoming a technical writer today.