Working as a technical writer is an enjoyable and high paying job. In fact, it’s a job where you’ll be going over lots of technical specifications and details about some electronic item, home appliance or even complex machinery and communicating with others in a simple, easy to understand manner on how to use such stuff.
Additionally, technical writer is also a prestigious job to have. You can work for a company or start your own freelance technical writing business.
If this sounds interesting and you would like to work as a technical writer, continue reading. Because in this article, I will be writing about how to become a technical writer in 10 easy steps.
What Does a Technical Writer Do?
Have you ever bought an electronic item, mobile phone, computer or any home appliance such as a washing machine?
Surely, these things would have come with an instruction or operating manual. These manuals give specific directions on how to use that stuff to get the best performance.
And these manuals that you found so easy to read and understand are actually written by technical writers.
As I mention earlier, a technical writer’s job is to simplify technical terms and put them across using various mediums such as text, voice or videos to laypersons like you and me.
Let's move forward to understand “How to become a technical writer without experience” The below mentioned 10 steps will not only help you in tech writing but will also get you good technical writer jobs.
10 Steps for How To Become A Technical Writer
Now surely, you might be wondering how do I become a technical writer? Simply follow these 10 easy steps to make your career as a technical writer. It’s also one of the topmost careers to follow.
1. Complete a College Degree
There’re several degrees that you can do to become a technical writer. However, a college or university degree is important to become a technical writer.
You can do an engineering course and become a technical writer. Over and above, you can do an online course separately on technical writing. Generally, engineers find it easy to work as technical writers.
However, if you’re not interested in an engineering degree, there’s nothing to worry about. You could do a technical writing degree which is also valid to work as a technical writer or a degree in journalism and writing.
However, if you’re taking a degree in journalism and writing, it’s also important to do a side course on technical writing.
A lot of technical writers are also graduate in English literature and do a separate course online or offline to learn technical writing from technical writing classes. Therefore, you have various options to study to make a career as a technical writer.
2. Get Certifications as Technical Writer
Now comes the trickiest part of becoming a technical writer. And that’s getting certifications as a technical writer. To get these certifications, you’ll have to take membership and an exam from the Society for Technical Communication.
Getting the certification itself isn’t difficult. However, to get them, you’ll have to pass an exam and prove that you’ve excellent technical writing skills to the society.
Therefore, the best thing to do is practice technical writing at home or take online technical writing classes to learn before applying.
A lot of educators claim that such certifications aren’t really necessary if you hold a degree in technical writing or are qualified as an engineer.
I personally believe that such a certification could help you find superb jobs as technical writers, since you have that added advantage over others that don’t.
3. Develop Your Software and Technology Skills
One thing you should remember is that technical writers don’t make manuals only. Instead, they communicate through various mediums such as designs, diagrams, pictures and images as well as in some cases, videos.
Therefore, you will require skills to prepare such designs, pictures, images and videos too.
Additionally, you’ll require excellent knowledge about various software that goes into technical writing. These include but aren’t limited to C++, Python, Microsoft Office, FrameMaker, Adobe Creative Suite, Lotus Notes, Madcap Flare and Microsoft Viseo, among others.
You can also learn Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw to add these software skills on your Resume since these are also expected of a technical writer. The more the software skills that you include on your Resume, greater you chance of finding a superb job as a technical writer.
Normally, a technical writer works solo. Meaning, you might not have any assistants while doing technical writing. In some instances only, you’ll be working in teams.
4. Find Internships for Technical Writing
Like any other job or career, an internship for technical writing is very important. You can easily find positions as intern technical writer from college on-campus hiring or through internship websites.
Job boards such as Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com and ZipRecruiter.com among others also advertise vacancies for technical writer internships.
An internship is necessary because it will give you a lot of on-hands training on technical writing that would prove useful for your career.
You’ll be working alongside experienced and qualified technical writers. This provides another excellent opportunity to learn new skills and fine-tuning your own in the field of technical writing.
Retain copies of the work you do during internships, since those will be vital when you actually start looking for jobs as a technical writer. Obviously, you might require the permission of the organization where you’ll do the internship, to keep copies of your work.
At the same time, develop superb relationships with your seniors at the place where you do internship. That’s because you could have them as references when it comes to looking for jobs. However, take their permission to use their references on your Resume.
5. Start Own Technical Blog
The best way to showcase your skills as technical writer and do some self-branding is by opening a technical blog. Setting up own blog is fairly inexpensive. You can buy a superb domain name and hosting for as little as $9.99 per month and start blogging.
Create own technical articles that you can show to prospective employers during an interview. You can also give the name of your blog on your Resume for employers to view your skills on their own, if necessary.
As a rule, a superb technical blog never fails to impress employers. Hence, I strongly suggest that you open a blog.
Write engaging and interesting yet relevant articles on technical stuff and support them with own diagrams, images and pictures. Because that’s what would be expected of you when you work as a technical writer. Also take own pictures of the technical stuff.
One of the best ways to blog is by writing Do-It-Yourself manuals on various common appliances or electronics and support them with diagrams.
You can also write product reviews of technical stuff by simplifying technical jargon to language that laypersons would understand easily.
Technical writing, as I mention earlier, is all about simplifying complex technical words to simple language that people can understand, through various mediums.
6. Create Killer LinkedIn Profile
Nowadays, having a killer LinkedIn profile opens doors to excellent jobs. Therefore, create a superb LinkedIn profile as a technical writer.
You can read LinkedIn’s article at this link on how to create an excellent LinkedIn profile, by simply following their steps.
As a matter of fact, at least one jobseeker gets a job offer every six seconds on LinkedIn. And there’re top notch companies that look for excellent technical writers through this networking platform for professionals.
Therefore, you too can leverage the power of LinkedIn easily.
To create an amazing LinkedIn profile, get some superb references. Members of faculty where you did a technical writing course or senior officials at the organization where you did an internship can prove to be excellent references to showcase on LinkedIn.
Also, one of the ways to showcase your skills on LinkedIn is by uploading your resume on LinkedIn and posting daily posts on your profession. These posts reach all LinkedIn members. And some decision maker could find your post interesting, start following you on LinkedIn and offer a job.
At the same time, grow your professional network through LinkedIn by adding other technical writers. Generally, LinkedIn displays profiles of others in the same profession or industry. You can send them a connection request.
7. Find Your Technical Writing Niche
Technical writing is a very broad field. It includes almost everything from complex computers used in the aerospace industry to that simple blender in your kitchen. Obviously, you cannot specialize in every field as a technical writer.
Therefore, the best thing to do is define your niche or select the field in which you wish to work as a technical writer. That would help you find better and more lucrative jobs.
Finding your niche isn’t really difficult. You can become technical writer in the same field as the company where you did your internship.
However, if you’re interested in another field, study a lot about it and create technical content that you can upload on your blog. As I mention earlier, a blog is a superb resource to showcase your skills.
Writing about technical stuff in your niche also gives you the much-needed practice to work as a full-fledged technical writer.
8. Join Technical Writers Associations
One of the best ways to get more knowledge about technical writing and find superb job opportunities is by becoming a member of any of the technical writers’ associations around the world or even in the US.
These associations enable you to network with other technical writers, and that too in diverse fields.
Often, these technical writers’ associations hold lectures, seminars and other events where you can participate to grow your knowledge and network.
As a matter of fact, such associations are a vital resource for your career growth in the field of technical writing. You can join one or more such associations, depending upon your budget for membership fees and other considerations.
9. Look for Freelancing Opportunities
Generally, most technical writers do freelance technical writing. However, I wouldn’t advise you to begin your technical writer’s career as a freelancer because finding good assignments can be impossible without any previous work experience.
Therefore, the first thing to do is find a superb fulltime job as a technical writer. And learn a lot of new skills while honing existing ones. This way, you’ll be ready for the freelance work market.
When you have enough experience, start by freelancing as a part-timer during your spare hours only.
Freelance technical writing assignments can be hard to come by. Therefore, never leave your job to enter freelancing.
Instead, working as a part-time freelance technical writer can provide you enough experience and help you build a portfolio of articles to show prospective clients.
You can step into fulltime freelancing once your income starts exceeding that you get from the fixed job.
10. Keep Your Skills Updated
Keeping your technical knowledge and writing skills updated is a must for every technical writer. And you could do this in several ways. One of these ways is to take latest online courses to learn a new technology or newer skills of technical writing.
The other is by reading articles in the industry, that would be available from the technical writers’ associations of which you’re a member.
Writing skills never go redundant. However, for a technical writer, the story is different. While the writing skills remain intact and improve over a period of time, technology changes rapidly.
Hence, you need to stay abreast with the latest technologies since you might have to write about them someday, for your job or as a freelancer.
It’s best to upgrade your skills both, in using software for your technical writing and the latest technologies in the niche of your technical writing job.
The above 10 steps are time-tested and proven ways to become a superb technical writer and make a profitable career. On average, a good technical writer in America earns $74,650 per year.
And freelancers can earn more than $100,000 per year as technical writers. Therefore, don’t take your career as a technical writer lightly.
It can open doors to riches and a wonderful life. Becoming a technical writer does require efforts and dedication, but you can become one easily.