Are you a detail-oriented person who also loves to write? Do you have the ability to break down complex procedures into steps that are easy to follow? If so, technical writing could be a great option for you. This field allows for the perfect blend of creativity and critical thinking, and it can also help you bring in the moolah.
If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out how to become a technical writer in four steps.
Simply put, technical writing is a form of communication that requires comprehensive knowledge of technical concepts usually found in manuals and other forms of technical documents.
It is a highly valuable skill that is essential for anyone involved in any tech-related field or business and for engineers and scientists whose goal is to communicate their technical knowledge.
Technical writing is not as simple as understanding and documenting technical information, however. This is because it involves taking high-level information and conveying it in a more digestible form so that your intended audience can understand and appreciate its value.
According to the Society of Technical Information, technical writing is a form of communication that exhibits any of the following qualities:
The writing style used in technical writing covers any kind of text that aims to explain detailed information. A technical writer’s main goal is to communicate technical information so that its intended reader can understand and use the said information for its specific purpose.
This is the kind of information you see in user guides or manuals that come with your new iPhone, your Tesla car, or the medical procedure your doctor has recommended.
Given the demands of technical writing, becoming an accomplished technical writer requires a certain set of skills, and below are some of them.
Having years of writing experience will definitely come in handy if you’re an aspiring technical writer. You don’t even have to be writing about technical stuff to be qualified though.
Someone who knows how to write knows his or her way around text. He or she knows how to put the most complicated ideas into simple words, knows which words to use best, and knows how to structure a document so it appears more readable.
Anyone who has been writing for quite some time knows how to these things, making writing an essential skill if you’re looking to become a technical writer someday.
When writing technical documentation, it’s not just how it’s written that deserves proper attention. The content itself should be accurate and factual because you’re trying to give detailed instructions.
That being said, a good technical writer should have good research skills as well. He or she should have good attention to detail as well as the patience to conduct hours upon hours of research to ensure that what they are writing is correct.
And even if you feel pretty confident about what you write, we must accept the fact that we live in an ever-changing world where failure to double-check can cost a lot.
When you think about it, documenting something, be it software or standard operating procedures, is a system.
User guides and help articles can become overly complex and without a structure in place, they can lose their significance if not their purpose – that is, to provide people with data they can easily attain and digest.
We’re not just talking about the possible effects it may have on your intended reader though because, without a system, the writer is also at a disadvantage.
Because coming up with a well-written and accurate document isn’t easily achievable without a system. If you want to be a successful technical writer, you need to always plan ahead and put a structure in every documentation you put together.
While the term itself can be considered quite broad, there’s no denying that critical thinking is one of the most crucial skills a technical writer should possess.
But what is critical thinking, anyway and why is it that important?
Critical thinking is defined as the ability to make reasoned, informed, and clear judgments. Being systematic is just part of the equation because technical writing also requires information gathering and analysis.
It’s also safe to say that critical thinking is something you gain from experience because the more you are on top of getting and processing information, the clearer and more accurate your output would be.
As obvious as it may be, this is another skill that is considered a “must-have” not just as a technical writer but as a human being, for that matter.
So, how does common sense figure in all this? Well, for one, common sense helps you identify whether what you’re doing is right or wrong, plain and simple.
It serves as your guide so you can determine how best to describe a certain topic. Does it need more screenshots? Will it help describe the steps in bullet points or can people understand better if they were written in separate paragraphs?
Reality checks are essential in technical writing. This is also the reason why it’s important to ask around for other people’s opinions if you’re not certain.
Keep in mind that the reputation of the company you write for is on the line with every documentation you put together.
Now that we’ve established the important skills you’ll need to become a competent technical writer, the next step is to start making it happen.
So, how does one become a technical writer?
Though anyone with writing experience can get into technical writing, having a bachelor’s degree sets you apart from other candidates.
Companies usually prefer someone with a bachelor’s degree in fields such as journalism, scientific writing, and technical communications. You can always earn yours by enrolling in colleges and universities that offer technical writing classes or degrees.
The good news is, some offer such classes online, giving you more options to choose from. Technical writing can be highly competitive which is why having impressive credentials is a must.
Another effective way of separating yourself from the competition is by getting a technical writing certification.
Though this option is purely optional, getting certified through the Society for Technical Communication (STC) definitely looks great on anyone’s resume.
If you specialize in medical writing, the American Medical Writers’ Association (AMWA) offers continuing education and training programs that can increase your career prospects.
As with any other profession, the best way to gain a client’s trust is by showing them samples of your work.
This may be a bit difficult if you’re just starting out which is why it is good practice to take on small projects for some of the people you know.
Make sure to treat each of these samples as you would any professional technical project. Collect each of them in a work portfolio so you can use them as proof of your technical writing skills.
Building a professional network is essential regardless of whether you’re considering going in-house or freelance.
There’s no denying how powerful a tool professional connections can become so make sure to attend networking events, join a professional association for technical writers, or connect with fellow technical writers on social media.
Network connections can help you find and get more projects that can help build your professional portfolio and earn you the much-needed experience so you can become more competitive.
Becoming a competent technical writer doesn’t end with these steps though. If you are to improve your chances of getting hired and working on more projects, you need to stay up to date on the latest trends related to your industry.
Always keep yourself informed on the latest research, software, and technology so you can keep your knowledge bank full. The more aware you are, the better the chances of getting hired over other candidates.
More and more people are getting drawn to technical writing as the gig economy continues its unprecedented rise and can you blame them?
With the comfort of working from home while earning a more lucrative salary as its perks, it’s not surprising why people would want to know how to become a technical writer.
The steps provided should be an excellent guide for anyone who would like to break into the technical writing industry but just like any other huge endeavor, it will require patience and hard work for one to get started.
If you want to learn about other ways to make money writing online, check out our blog post on how to become a copywriter.
No minimums. Fast access to top US and international talent. Rated 5 stars on TrustPilot.Start Hiring