In a world where everything is uncertain, a career in technical writing can launch you into a life of certainty and flexibility.
A technical writer’s job role is the most strategic in any product or service-dependent organization. Not only does a technical writer need to understand a topic front and center, but they also need to break a complex subject into smaller and meaningful units.
The technical writer’s life moves around products and customers. So, you need to understand the USP of a product and explain it lucidly to your readers.
Since technical writing is intertwined with technology, it is an ever-changing field. Perhaps no other writing career can be as dynamic as technical writing. And this dynamism is what makes technical writing a lucrative career.
Technical writing salary is one of the highest you can manage in the present world without spending hundreds of dollars on expensive courses.
But, before jumping on the technical writing bandwagon, make sure you do not make the mistakes that often have a devastating effect on technical writers’ careers.
The Common Mistakes Budding Technical Writers Make
Here are the most common mistakes a technical writer makes while starting their journey in this vibrant and innovative field.
Not Understanding the Technical Writing Process
Like any other form of writing, technical writing has its own set of rules. However, some writers complain that the rules are too rigid at times. If you are not conversant with the process, you might not understand the technicalities of a career in technical writing.
Technical writing is a specialized type of writing which follows a few parameters that are unique to the nature of the topic. When you are preparing a user guide, the process will be different than a technical proposal.
Broadly, a technical writer needs to work on the following types of projects:
- Product manual
- User guide
- How-to guide
- Journal article
- Press release
- Social media blogs
- Any other writing that simplifies a technical topic
Although each type of technical writing has its own specifications, the following is the overall process that a technical writer must know.
Step 1 – The Preparatory Stage
In the preparatory stage, you discuss with the client about the scope of the project. You need to find out details like the type of the document and content, the goal of writing, the nature of the audience, and the project’s scope.
Step 2 – Analyse Your Audience
A high-quality technical writer will always keep the audience at the top of the ladder. Before writing, you must know details like the education level, demography, cultural preferences, and language style of the target audience. A good technical writer can write the same topic in many different ways, each of which will depend on the audience’s nature.
Step 3 – Design the User Experience
Once you figure out your audience’s nature, the next step is to think about the user experience. Technical writing is not the right place to show your depth of knowledge. You should never mind changing the document if you feel that it is becoming too harsh for the reader to digest.
Step 4 – Planning and Drafting the Document
Now that you know the steps, you are good to start writing the draft. Remember to get the initial draft approved by the client before proceeding any further. Doing so can save your time and ensure that both you and the client are on the same page.
Hence, before thinking about exploring a career in technical writing, you must accept that this field is a process-driven one. To excel in the area, you
should understand how things work and never hesitate to revise or redraft your work as many times as needed.
Overlook the Need for Upgrading Skills
As technical writing is a continually evolving field, you have to upgrade your skills continuously.
To start with, the following are the skills you need to succeed as a technical writer.
Being a technical writer, you have to communicate with the various stakeholders who matter. Hence, you should be an excellent communicator.
Writing should come naturally to you when you want to establish yourself as a technical writer. You must know how to simplify complicated jargon and make it concise. Sometimes, you may have to work overtime.
Every technical writer worth their mettle knows how vital research is. You need to search for new information by reading webpages and books and giving your readers the necessary information in a language they can easily understand.
While it’s true that the client will provide you with the necessary guidelines and instructions, at times, all of those will prove inadequate. At such times, you have to use your problem-solving abilities to sail through.
As a technical writer, you may have to work closely with medical facilities or engineering divisions. A knowledge about machines and equipment will be an added advantage. Sometimes, you may have to learn to code.
A technical writer works with tight deadlines. Moreover, you may have to work on more than one project simultaneously. Hence, you must have excellent time management skills.
Not Having the Requisite Qualifications
People often have the misconception that anybody can become a technical writer. But that is not the case.
To establish yourself as a technical writer, you must have specific qualifications.
Here are the qualifications you need to work as a technical writer.
A Bachelor’s degree is the most minimum requirement. It would be best if you know about business writing and scientific or non-technical writing. Additionally, you should have a knack for engineering or medical subjects.
Most companies recruiting new technical writers want the candidate to possess some technical writing certification.
A certificate proves that you have the necessary skills required to play the role of a writer. Besides the certificate, you should also try to attend as many technical writing conferences as you can.
If you are serious about technical writing, then nothing can stop you from achieving success. However, ensure that you do not make these mistakes that we discussed.
As a technical writer, you must have patience and should be a keen learner. Your writing will shape the reader’s impression of your client’s products and services. Hence, you have to be as optimistic about the client as the client is about their product or service.