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Whether they’re creating a manual, the help page on a website, or an annual report, technical writers are always in demand. If a company has a product or service of any kind, and needs to explain it to the public, it needs technical writers.
“If they’re not experts at everything, they still need to be expert technical writers,” says Scott H., president of a marketing and PR agency in Southern California. “This means learning how to do quick but in-depth research. It’s crucial to get up to speed quickly, no matter what you’re writing about.”
Most technical writers are college graduates, sometimes with a major in a technical field, but their degrees are more typically in literature, advertising or journalism. The work environment can be very fast-paced, so a high value is placed on experience in writing, as well as familiarity with the fields being written about.
According to Scott, there is only one operating speed for a full-time writer, “and that’s full speed ahead. You’re never finished, really, since you have so many things going at once. Even when one project is done, there are others at various stages.” A writer at his agency might finish up a news release for one client, be in the middle of writing brochure copy for another, while making yet another set of “final changes” to a radio spot. “There is a lot to juggle,” he says, “and you need to switch gears seamlessly to keep from dropping things.”
At his company, Scott leads a creative crew that produces everything from magazine and newspaper ad campaigns to corporate marketing materials, with a focus on branding. For a medical products manufacturer, he and his team needed to craft both individual product “sell sheets” as well as ads targeting three different groups of people: the nurses and technicians who use the firm’s safety products, the nursing administrators who recommend purchases, and the hospital material managers who pinch the pennies.
“It was one product line,” says Scott, “but it needed three different messages. We needed to tell the nurses that the products would protect them, make the administrators aware that the products are good, and assure the buyers that they could afford them. A good writer has to be able to get into a lot of different heads, and figure out how to be persuasive with all of them. It’s not just smarts. It’s sensitivity, too.”
One thing that makes technical writing attractive is the money. A recent salary survey conducted by the Society for Technical Communication indicates that the average salary is over $55,000, with entry-level technical writers earning an average of $42,000 and senior managers earning an average of $70,000. Even when the economy is slumping, businesses need to maintain communication with its customers, vendors and the public at large. Technical writers, as the title of the article says, will always have work.
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After founding his first security firm in 1990, Scott McQuarrie built several security-related companies into regional and national powerhouses over the ensuing years. Since 2000 he has focused his sales and marketing efforts on the Internet, which opened up a virtually unlimited, international market for his flagship product line, EZWatch Pro.