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6 Tips for Starting Out as a Technical Writer


Deciding to work for yourself at home takes some consideration and planning, particularly when your goal is to become a technical writer. Being any kind of freelance writer takes self discipline and commitment. Being a technical writer will require that you work within deadlines and develop good working relationships. If this is your goal, read these tips before you begin.

What is a Technical Writer?

A technical writer is someone who deals with technical documents. This can encompass designing, maintaining, creating, writing or updating technical documents, in part or in whole.

Some examples of common technical documents are:

  • a user guide for a certain product 
  • an online help page
  • manuals for software
  • engineering specifications for construction projects


Tip #1 - Develop a Strong Skin

When entering the field of technical writing as a freelancer, you must be prepared to accept some constructive criticism. If your tendency is to take criticism personally, you will have a hard time. Technical writing takes time to learn efficiently, and you must have the ability to accept and act on given feedback.

Tip #2 - Have a "Team" Attitude

You are usually working as part of a team when doing technical writing, even if you are a work-at-home freelancer. The documents you create always have to be edited and are most likely published for public or business use. This means that you will definitely be working with others to create a finished product. If you have a hard time working with a team to complete a task, technical writing isn't for you.

Tip #3 - Have Excellent Communication Skills

When you are creating a technical document, you are trying to make the document readable to the intended reader. This takes excellent communication skills and some knowledge of how to effectively get a point across in a user-friendly manner.

Tip #4 - Good Grammar is a Must

You will not succeed as a technical writer without good grammar, spelling and clear writing. The whole point of a technical writer is to use writing to communicate a precise direction, information or guide.

Tip #5 - Have a Desire to Teach

In most technical writing arenas the goal is to teach the reader something new. If you have a passion for education, this will come through in your writing (as well as if you don't). This makes it much easier for the reader, or learner, to process and use the information.

Tip #6 - Make Sure You Have the Appropriate Education and Experience

If you are applying to create a guide for industrial machinery, it's vital that you have some knowledge in the area you are writing about. It will be apparent if you do not, and your credibility as a technical writer will be tainted.

Technical writing is a diverse field, and there are many directions in which you can apply yourself. Make sure that you are applying to those areas which are a good match to your education and experience level.

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