This is a list of the average salaries for a number of writing and editing professions. The figures represent typical scales for a mid-sized metropolitan area in the United States. Larger markets tend to pay more and smaller markets tend to pay less. Remember that these are typical salaries for people who are employed by other companies. There is a much greater income variation among people who freelance or own their own businesses.
Technical writing is one of those jobs in which you're constantly learning. New tools, new techniques, new methodologies. No one knows it all. That's especially true for the new technical communicator. If you've graduated from a writing and rhetoric course or a technical writing course, you have a pretty good grounding in craft. But you're really only at the base of the mountain. There's still a lot to learn, and if you keep your eyes and ears and mind open then you can quickly pick up what you need to know.
Passion, though, is a funny thing. It's easy to become passionate about something. But the fire of that passion can also be easily dimmed or extinguished, often due to circumstances that are beyond your control. Throughout your career, you'll definitely find your passion waxing and waning. But holding on to that passion and nurturing it will make you a better technical communicator.
So you've just started out as a technical communicator, or you've been on the job for a year or two. And you've decided that maybe, just maybe, technical communication is the career for you and you're in it for the long haul. Now what? Think about the future and how you want your career to develop.
A friend asked the going rate for author's royalties on a technical or trade paperback, so I asked some people what they received. A few wrote back with extremely enlightening and fascinating comments. I passed these notes on to other authors, and received yet more interesting reading back. I have now edited all these comments down a bit, mostly taking out the names of authors and publishers and removing publisher specific comments.
My concern for US writers is that they fail to grasp the momentum that counties like India have established and the high quality of university graduates they are now producing. In the next 10-15 years, IT jobs which can be replicated offshore/offsite to lower costs will be embraced more aggressively. US companies have little choice but to do this.
On the about page of this site I used to call myself a “developer/designer/occasional writer”. It’s a bit confusing, and I still find it hard to know what to answer when someone asks me what I do for a living. Am I a Web designer? A Web developer? A Web programmer? All of them? Neither? It really is a difficult question to give a simple answer to.
One of the problems I’ve had to combat over the years has been boredom/burnout — that feeling you get either when you’ve been on the same project for too long or a you’re on new project that just feels like exactly what you’ve been working on for years. How do you breath life into work that you’ve done many, many times before?
Information development organizations are under increasing pressure to implement single-sourcing or other automated and highly structured document development processes. Forces driving this trend include translation requirements, niche marketing, the convergence of software and documentation, and shrinking cycle times and budgets. Initially, these changes threaten to remove everything that is challenging and interesting about the technical writer’s work. However, technical writers who successfully adapt to this new environment will find more opportunity than ever to use their analysis and writing skills and to develop additional negotiation and process management capabilities.
There has been a tremendous growth in the software industry and some growth in technical writing. Most of my columns ten years ago were rants about the poor state of our manuals and our software. Today, I think the humblest of companies is producing great stuff. The reason for it is simple--globalisation and the Internet.
A DVR operating instruction manual. An assembly manual for a coffee table. A how-to guide for using the latest smart phone. What do all of these have in common? They are the results of the hard work of a technical writer. For those who are tech savvy and keep a copy of a MacBook instruction manual handy for their bedside reading, a career as a technical writer may be the right fit. Your job as a technical writer would be to translate difficult-to-understand information into layman's terms (think: operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and online help information). You may work in engineering, scientific, or healthcare fields, simplifying highly specialized information for the average Joe. Also, you'd work with computers and electronic publishing software, including graphic design, page layout, and multimedia software. Some technical writers who are self-employed or work for a technical consulting firm do freelance or contract work.
Estimating the amount of time it takes to write documentation is tricky as it relies on many differing, subtle, factors and, for many people working outside of a highly regimented and heavily project managed team, it tends to boil down to a mixture of guesswork and experience. However, it’s not impossible to come up with a more reasoned estimate as long as you don’t mind doing a little planning.
This article offers tips on breaking into the field of freelance writing—some from Alice Osborn herself, some from two of the books she recommends: "Secrets of a Freelance Writer" by Robert W. Bly; and "The Renegade Writer" by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell.
I love my job but don’t feel the managers think it’s important, partly because of the noise. I also sometimes feel that I’m just an ISO requirement. I’ve also heard from techs that customers don’t look at the manuals; they just put them on a shelf. Any thoughts?
Little has been written for technical communicators on how to identify the business goals of the projects we work on, or how to write those goals in observable, measurable terms. When we prepare goals in observable, measurable terms, we call these goals objectives. This article is intended to fill that gap. It first describes the challenges of setting business objectives for a project, next describes the three ways that a performance improvement program can contribute to the business performance of an organization, and then explains how to write a business objective. Finally, this article describes the benefits of writing business objectives.
Technical Writers compose communication from product developers for users of the products. Users include consumers as well as scientists, engineers, plant executives, line workers, and production managers. Writers must write in a concise and easy-to-read manner for consumer publications or in highly specialized language for experts. With the increased use of desktop publishing, Technical Writers increasingly are responsible for the publication process including graphics, layout, and document design. Technical Writers create product instructions, reference and maintenance manuals, articles, project proposals, training materials, technical reports, catalogs, brochures, online documentation and help systems, Web pages, multimedia presentations, parts lists, assembly instructions, and sales promotion materials.