When most people think of Freelance Writing they think of writing for magazines and newspapers and maybe for the Internet. The first thing that comes to mind is NOT technical writing.
Yet, technical writing is a highly sought after and paid for skill.
Technical writers are employed to explain the details of a topic in a way that is easily understood by the readers. If it is done right, it looks easy. But if it is done wrong everyone knows it. Have you ever got a package with something you had to assemble and had to fight your way through the instructions! Have you ever said to yourself … “I could have written this WAY better”?
In todays information age, technical writing jobs are increasingly common. Your home-based technical writing company probably has a better chance for success today than at any time in the past. Business plans, technical report writing, grant writing, instruction manuals, user manuals, white papers and business correspondence are just a few of the typical technical writing jobs available. By becoming skilled with any of these (and other) topics, you can make an extremely good income.
Phone around and find out what your competition is charging. Prices vary depending on location, though you DO have access to an International market place. Set a reasonable hourly rate for yourself, such as $15 – $30 per hour to start. As you gain more experience and speed, this rate will increase. Base the estimates for your clients on this rate. Be very careful in estimating the time and resources a project will require. Your clients will expect to pay your quoted price, no matter how much time you actually spend on the project.
Prices are always a delicate issue. You want to ensure the maximum profit for yourself, but pricing your services too high could prevent a profitable, long-term relationship with a customer.
- Respond to help wanted advertisements seeking technical writers.
- Become affiliated with industry associations which may list you in their directories.
- For a fee, online services will connect you with clients offering a variety of technical writing jobs.
- Contact your competitors to see if they need backup or overflow help.
You should have a decent computer with quality word processing software installed. Access to a good source of reference material will be very useful. Technical writing can normally be done from your home office. Some companies may require your presence onsite and it may be necessary to travel to a work site for resources and interviews.
Depending on the level of technical writing you pursue, you should think about taking some additional training. Big businesses often use very specialized software to keep track of technical material and data. You may be asked if you are familiar with using this software when bidding on a job. The more versatile you are, the more contracts you will get.
- $10,000 to $200,000 (part-time to full-time)
- At first, your income will be limited by the number of clients you can find. As you build your exposure and reputation, you might find yourself with more potential clients than you can handle. At this point you can set your rates to focus on more profitable projects, greatly increasing your income potential.
There are many markets that fall under the technical writing umbrella. Some of the more common situations you will encounter are:
- Companies needing accurate and understandable training manuals for their employees.
- Manufacturers needing useful instruction manuals for their products. This can range from a small easy to explain gizmo to the hundreds of thousands of pages of technical backup material for operating an aircraft.
- Entrepreneurs needing clear and focused business plans that appeal to investors and banks.
- Researchers needing influential grant proposals to secure funding for their research.
Study and study some more. Analyze publications similar to those you plan on producing. Be critical, ask how the document could be improved.
Practice. Write a user manual for something in your home. Find a particularly bad instruction sheet or booklet and rewrite it.
Technical writing requiresknowledge of linguistics and grammatical rules. Professional technical writers often have a degree in English or some sort of post-secondary training related to technical writing. Unless you are already an expert in a technical field and limit the scope of your writing to that, you will probably be required to quickly learn the details of certain processes – even entire industries. Research and evaluation skills are important. You must know where to look for all kinds of information and how to interpret the information once you have it.
Get some specific training. There are one-off courses and whole curriculums aimed at technical writing. Upgrade your skills when you have the time and money.