Why your business needs a technical writer (and how to hire one)

Technical writing makes complex concepts simple and engaging
Lee Patten @leepatt3n
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for Why your business needs a technical writer (and how to hire one)

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A good technical writer can save your customers from frustration, and save you from bad reviews

If your business needs to convey complicated technical information, if you want to engage with users, clients or customers about technical matters, if your company has a need to provide instruction in any form, you need technical writing.

Technical writers can be a very useful aid. Companies who sell technology based products can benefit greatly from their skills. In the modern era, technology advances at a fast rate. More niches present themselves to business every day. Work suited to technical writers increases as technology develops.

In this article, I want to look in some detail at the role and specific skills of the technical writer. We’ll examine how a technical writer can benefit your company communications. We'll also look at how they can help increase sales of technology based products and services.

The role of the technical writer: What exactly do they do?

Technical writers are the professionals tasked with making difficult topics easy. They take complicated subjects and expertly break them down into accessible steps or chunks.

Technical writers use texts and diagrams and often a combination of both to illustrate the features of products. They also explain the interfaces of systems and equipment. In the age of the internet, technical writers work in more interactive ways too. They can be a great addition to a team developing a technical app, for instance. Their work often forms the help features within apps, games and websites.

With the dawn of online teaching and training, technical writers are even busier. They also work to write and compile effective online learning tools and platforms. They’re trained to optimize for transfer of information, but keep things simple at the same time.

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Spreading the technical word, accurately and concisely

Technical writers have seen employment in the publishing sector grow. The rise of e-books and online journals sees more of them required to promote and educate. Technical writers can easily teach technology professionals and educators. They specialize in writing about the latest products, software and services on offer.

Today sees avenues which make technology information far easier to spread more widely. With that comes an increased demand for the people most qualified to do the spreading.

While creative writers aspire to be artistic or expressive, the technical writer’s goal is accuracy. They take pride in making their work as accessible as possible. They produce concise work, high in clarity. The technical writer doesn’t target expression or transmit their personality. They work only to transmit information, in as clear a way as possible.

Technical writers: Hire permanently, or use a freelancer?

It’s the age-old question; should I hire, or should I try an experienced freelancer? The good news is that a change in the way people are working means a far larger pool of freelance talent than ever. Things are improving in all fields.

Roles such as technical writer can be difficult to recruit for. You often find yourself with only a sporadic need for technical writing. The freelance marketplace is a great arena to take advantage of all the selling attributes of a technical writer. You can use their skills with no commitment beyond the project at hand.

In permanent employment, an experienced technical writer can expect to earn around $90,000 USD per annum. That’s no joke if you’re not a massive manufacturing company. Salary can be a barrier if you can’t keep a technical writer gainfully employed all year round.

Freelance is flexible, and it doesn’t have to mean short relationships

Many companies these days are turning to the freelance marketplace. Technical writers who work on this basis have less overheads because they tend to work from home. Freelancers work on a broad range of projects. You’ll often find a freelance writer has more varied experience, which is wider than somebody who’s spent several years at one company. Employees tend to spend their time working within one narrow field and can be less flexible.

The beauty of freelancers is you can hire one for fixed price projects. They’re far easier to budget for than time. Once you find a good freelance technical writer, develop a relationship. It can become every bit as solid as an employer-employee relationship – and the flexibility works very well for both sides.

Will my clients gain from the work of a technical writer?

The battle with any technical product is to make it as user-friendly as possible. People and clients want the benefits that software and technology products bring. They want them to solve a problem in a convenient way, but they don’t want to have to study a science degree to use them. The target markets of technical product sellers have many groups, one of the largest being people who want to have a good experience straight-out-of-the-box.

Technical writers are experts at communicating information in the simplest way possible. It’s what sets their profession apart. A good technical writer can be a conduit for effective instruction and bridge gaps between technology companies and their clients. Technical writers can take on the task of teaching customers and illustrating the advantages of products. They often produce results which become a new selling point. Enhancing a product's market appeal.

Will a technical writer add value to my business?

Look at any product review on Amazon. Frequently, products get marked down by frustrated customers provided with substandard instructions. There’s no doubt that this aspect of customer relations is often overlooked. To sell a product or service well, you really have to make a user aware of all the features you’ve bothered to build in. A great technical writer can improve a product by opening up its true worth. They can show the full extent of its usefulness to a consumer.

Providing adequate support increases the cost of selling technology based products or services. One option is permanent employees manning phones and answering digital queries. Another is outsourcing support and hoping for the best. One thing is certain when it comes to confused clients: you’ll have fewer if you supply better information. Make a relatively small investment in a good technical communicator before you launch. You’ll likely enjoy big savings on the cost of providing ongoing support.

The evolution of technical writers: From World War II to the worldwide web

Technical writers were traditionally used to write instruction manuals and teaching materials. Their past was more about constructing user-friendly diagrams and texts. Technical writers are a young breed. When compared to their creative counterparts, their niche is in its infancy.

Technical writers began to appear as recently as World War II. Advances in weaponry and technology required literature. Not surprisingly, the nineties saw a spike in the need for technical writers. That upward curve has continued, driven by the tech revolution. The internet is the logical modern habitat for logical modern technical writers.

Technical writers were once employed to provide accurate troubleshooting guides and assembly instructions. Their task was largely limited to making products easier for users to understand. However, in the internet age, their role is expanding.

It’s not all diagrams and manuals: Technical writers and marketing

E-books and white papers are popular tools which companies use when marketing online. If you make an e-book useful, it’s a great way to reach out to potential customers and to open up new areas of a market. Guides and books are a great way to market technology products or services. It’s essential you use a good technical writer to compile guides, white papers and e-books. Well written, understandable texts impress and attract potential customers.

A technical writer transforms the boring details of a technology product. And that’s never going to hurt a company that wants to improve how it communicates. It’s essential to shout about the great things you do, to both existing and potential new customers.

Technical writers: bridging the age gap, breaking down barriers to early adoption of innovation

Less tech savvy consumers don’t adapt early to innovation. Usually because of a fear they won’t understand. This can be generational, or merely a reluctance to try new things. For progressive startups and companies, the early adopters can come easy. Yet, negotiating the “chasm” and appealing to a wider market can stop growth in its tracks.

The innovator’s mission is one of converting the masses to a new way of working and living. It’s about removing those perceived barriers to sales. There are few more qualified, to reach out to that reservoir of potential new customers, than the technical writer.

If you’re a progressive company, you need to teach older dogs new tricks. Technical writers can translate apps, software and technology, making them more accessible for everyone. Modern technology requires the most modern of the writing disciplines. The task of selling tech is easier with writers who understand the language of tech.

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