Technical writing jobs for beginners

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April 26, 2021
5 minute read

Technical writing is a growing and lucrative field for freelancers. Technical writers are masters at making the complex simple, and they improve the quality of our lives tremendously. They create the documentation that helps us use the software, products, and services we all rely on.

As more people transition into this niche, it’s important to understand what types of technical writing jobs are available for beginners. This article outlines what technical writing is, what’s required to become a technical writer, 23 writing jobs you can try as a beginner, and tips to help you find your first job.

What is technical writing?

Technical writing is a form of communication that focuses on documenting processes. The goal of technical documentation is to explain complex information in an accessible way so that the reader can take appropriate action. A technical writer explains how something works to a specific audience.

There is a huge range of technical documents. The most commonly known ones are user manuals, help guides, white papers, and software documentation. Technical writing has also expanded to include marketing and business development roles such as copywriting, business plan writing, and grant writing.

How can I become a technical writer?

The requirements to become a technical writer vary greatly depending on the industry you want to work in and the types of companies you work for. Technical writers can come from both a technical background or a writing and communications background. You don’t need to have gone to school for writing to get technical writing jobs, but you will need strong writing skills.

Technical writing is a lucrative niche that’s growing at a faster rate than other occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, employment for technical writers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. As of 2019, the medium annual wage for technical writers was $72,850. Many high-tech professionals are switching to a career in writing. And due to increasing demand, many writers are pivoting toward a technical niche in order to capitalize on its profitability.

Skills required for technical writing

Regardless of your background, you’ll need excellent communication skills to be a freelance technical writer. Technical writers are master communicators. Strong writing and editing skills are essential since clarity is of utmost importance in technical writing.

User research skills are also highly valued. Technical writers have to do a great deal of research, including user research, to be able to do their job. They enjoy becoming subject matter experts on whatever it is they’re writing about.

If you’re a strong communicator, enjoy working with a team, and have a willingness to learn, you might love a career in technical writing. You can learn more about technical writing and how to become a technical writer here.

Technical writing jobs for beginners

There are a wide variety of technical writing jobs available for new technical writers. Depending on your background and existing skills, you’ll gravitate toward some more than others. As a beginner, you’ll likely have to experiment with a few types of jobs in order to find the best fit for you.

Here are 23 jobs you can try as a new technical writer:

1. Instruction manual writer

Many of the products we purchase come with instruction manuals to teach us how to use them. User manual and documentation writers are responsible for creating these. They work with product developers to detail the exact operating instructions for products like coffee makers, cameras, dishwashers, and even software. Companies that produce these kinds of products always need writers to help them create instruction manuals.

If you have a technical background or are extremely detail-oriented, precise, and able to empathize with a layperson, this could be a good fit for you.

2. Help guide writing

Help guides are used for both digital and physical products. They can also be printed or shared online through a company’s website. Help guides assist users in troubleshooting common problems they might face while using a product. They provide instructions and address frequently asked questions. Help guides are often visual, so writers work closely with an illustrator or a design team to bring the project to life.

If you're a person with a technical background who enjoys collaborating, and you like the idea of being able to provide someone with precise instructions exactly when they need it, this job may appeal to you.

3. Technical book & ebook writer

Technical books and ebooks are essentially long-form help guides. They provide extensive detail about a product's technical information for users who are interested in mastering it. Technical books are often required for software and technology products. They are becoming increasingly popular to help explain complex emerging fields, such as cryptocurrency. The goal of this type of writing is to create the definitive guide on something.

Writers of books and ebooks must have a deep understanding of their subject matter. You’ll likely need to be an expert on the topic to do this type of writing.

4. Technical editor

Editing is just as necessary as writing. Technical editors work with writers to make sure their content is clear and easy to understand. They are responsible for checking grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and overall structure. Editors are a vital part of any technical writing job.

Editing jobs are a great way into the field for beginners with a previous background in writing or editing.

5. Research paper and report writer

Technical research papers and reports are used to help people stay informed on a topic. A research paper dives deep into a particular subject in order to explain a methodology and outcome to the reader. Similarly, reports provide analysis, instruction, or recommendations. Readers use both to help them make informed decisions in their own work.

If you’re a strong researcher that’s able to work well with others, this may be a good job for you.

6. White paper and case study writer

White papers and case studies are used to highlight successful areas of a company’s business. It shows potential customers how their product or service helps them achieve a specific goal. White papers are often used in business-to-business (B2B) marketing to help a company educate its audience and sell its products.

Anyone with a previous background in marketing communications and writing may find that this is a natural way to enter the field of technical writing.

7. Medical and science writer

The fields of medicine and science have a huge demand for technical writing. The research and innovations in this field can be incredibly complex, so we rely on technical writers to help us understand what’s happening. Other professionals in the field as well as the general public use papers and other written resources to learn.

As a medical and science writer, you’ll work closely with medical professionals and scientists to document their work and make it accessible for others. If you have a technical background yourself in these fields, you can make a strong career in this field.

8. Grant and proposal writer

Grant and proposal writers help companies pitch other organizations. Grant writers work with a product team to apply for grants and funding, such as federal research grants. In order to do this, they often conduct research and communicate with multiple stakeholders at both organizations. Proposal writers help strategically outline the summary, specifications, and benefits of a given project. The goal of both types of writing is to get someone to give you funding.

This type of writing is common in the public health field. If you have technical experience in a field that requires this type of writing or a background in consulting that requires advanced teamwork and communication skills, you may excel at grant and proposal writing.

9. API documentation writing

Technical writers who specialize in documentation for developers are in high demand, especially in the tech and startup world. API documentation writing is highly specialized. You need to be able to read and understand programming languages at a high enough level in order to explain them clearly. Developers and programmers rely on this type of writing to help them build their products and businesses. API documentation is used to set up user verification, payment processing, and customer management tools.

If you have a background in development or programming, and are a strong writer, this could be a high profitable niche for you to explore.

10. Software documentation writing

Every piece of software that you buy or use comes with extensive documentation. In addition to help, installation, and quick reference guides, there’s also documentation on various specs and compatibility requirements. Documentation must be thorough in order to both educate the consumer and protect the company legally. Other professionals and employees also rely on this technical content to do their jobs. Software documentation includes product documentation, system documentation, user documentation, and process documentation.

Anyone with extensive experience developing or using software can find success as a software documentation writer. You must be an objective, critical, and organized thinker to do this kind of work.

11. Assembly guideline writing

We rely on assembly guidelines to help us build physical products. If you’ve ever purchased flat-packed furniture, you’ve likely used assembly guidelines. They are most often a combination of illustrations, photos, and written copy. Assembly guideline writers work closely with the product development team in order to write precise, step-by-step instructions. Assembly guidelines are also used in industrial settings to set up large machinery.

As an assembly guideline writer, your job is to make the process as smooth as possible for the end user. If that sounds appealing or you have a technical background, give this niche a try.

12. User interface (UX) writing

UX writers ensure that the web-based software, apps, and websites we use every day are easy to navigate. As we become increasingly reliant on technology, the demand for UX writers increases. UX writers work with a company’s design team to write all of the copy we see when we use an app or a piece of software. They make sure we know exactly how to use something in order to achieve a desired outcome.

Anyone with a background in design, product management, or related technical fields can become a strong candidate as a UX writer.

13. Brochure writing

Brochures are short-form guides that help customers quickly get a sense of a product or service. They are often used for marketing purposes. As a brochure writer, your job is to highlight the key features of a given product or service so that the reader can easily understand the benefits of using it.

Anyone with a background in marketing or communications is well-positioned to get a job as a brochure writer. As brochures are often printed, you may be able to find freelance writing jobs by approaching local businesses in your area.

14. Customer support writing

Most large companies have moved their customer support online. They have entire sections of their website dedicated to sharing helpful user information. This often includes written and video guides, illustrated content, and frequently asked questions. There’s also often a community forum where users can ask questions and have them answered by a trained staff member. Companies hire freelancers and contractors to help them build out their customer support knowledge bases and help centers. This can also include writing the text for AI chatbots.

If you have a background in customer experience and support, or content marketing, this is a great entry-level position for you.

15. Technical marketing content writer

There are an increasing number of technical writers working in a marketing capacity. Technical marketing content writers work with developers to help them explain their products to their target audience. Marketing content writers make products accessible and engaging. They may write blog posts, articles, help center content, and other types of marketing materials.

Anyone with a background in marketing or content writing can more easily find entry level work as a technical writer.

16. Technical copywriter

Like technical marketing content writers, technical copywriters focus more on marketing than traditional technical writing. Their tone is more persuasive. They help a company identify and clearly communicate their unique value and selling proposition. Their goal is to help a company increase sales. Technical copywriters often write website copy, landing page copy, and even advertisement copy.

If you have a background in copywriting or marketing, this could be an easy pivot for you.

17. Technical communications consultant

Technical communications consultants are hired for their expertise and ability to think strategically. They help companies gather and develop the information necessary to write effective content. They are hired to provide overall strategic direction. They may also write content or simply advise an existing team of writers.

If you’re a strategic thinker with a technical background, or a consultant with a strong communications background, this is a potentially lucrative job to try.

18. Financial writing

Financial services such as banking and insurance have a huge demand for technical writing. Companies in this industry rely on technical writers to create informative content for both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) audiences. Financial writers write reports, white papers, forecasts, summaries, guides, and articles. They may also write press releases and other news related content.

If you have a background in financial services this is a natural place for you to start a career in technical writing. This can be a lucrative field, especially if you come from a highly specialized background such as forecasting or market analysis.

19. Business plan writing

Generally, when a business applies for a loan, funding, or investment from another company they are required to submit a business plan. A business plan outlines their current and projected financials, as well as how they plan to achieve their targets. Institutional lenders and other types of investors ask for extremely detailed information in the vetting process. A clear and concise business plan is vital. Many freelancers specialize in this niche as they find it both rewarding and profitable.

If you have a background in finance, entrepreneurship, or business communications, this is a great field to get into.

20. Policy and procedure writing

Policy and procedure manuals are used everywhere. They’re used to onboard new customers and employees in the sales and hiring processes. They’re also often found on company websites to outline the legal responsibilities that a company has for its audience and customers. The goal of policy and procedure writing is to clearly outline responsibilities and align expectations between two parties. By outlining the rules, everyone is protected legally and aware of the options available to them.

Anyone with a legal or human resources (HR) background is a natural fit for this type of writing.

21. Technical training manuals

Technical training manuals are most often used to train new employees. Companies use them to help employees learn how to be efficient and productive members of a team. They are an important part of the onboarding process as improper training leads to high employee turnover. Training manuals can also be used externally to help attract new employees or educate customers.

If you have a background in business, education, human resources, or even law, you might be a great training manual writer. Freelancers and contractors are often hired to help companies both develop and write these manuals.

22. Standard operating procedure writer

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions that detail routine processes in a business. It is used to ensure the consistent quality of repeated tasks. SOPs are created to outline things like client onboarding processes, how to submit year-end financials, how to close a restaurant each night, or how to test an alarm system. Every SOP helps a business achieve a specific goal in an optimized way.

Since businesses of every size rely on SOPs to run efficiently, there is ample work in this technical writing niche for meticulous writers.

23. Technical video game writing

While technical communication within the gaming industry may not seem like an obvious opportunity, it’s a big one. Since the video game industry is increasingly expanding, it’s a profitable niche to enter. Technical writers in this industry often work as strategy guide writers, game writers, game designers, or even web content writers. Their goal is to develop clear and accessible documentation. They work on game instructions, game design documents, and in-game user interface text.

If you have a background in gaming or are simply passionate about it, be sure to explore this writing niche.

How to find technical writing jobs as a beginner

While it might take some experimentation, there are many ways to find freelance or contract technical writing jobs as a beginner. Those with a technical background often make the transition within their current field by taking con-ed writing courses and leveraging their existing connections. Writers who want to break into this niche start with low-tech writing jobs and gradually explore different formats as their skills and technical knowledge develops.

These seven tips will help you land your first technical writing job:

1. Pick a niche

To narrow your search, pick an industry or type of technical writing you’d like to focus on. This can always change down the line, but it makes it easier to get started. Focusing on a niche allows you to develop your skills faster and build up your reputation in a given field. Since referrals are such a powerful source of leads for most freelancers, establishing yourself in a given industry is a smart business move.

2. Leverage your network

Don’t underestimate the power of your existing connections. Let people know what kind of jobs you’re looking for and send them samples of your work. See if you have contacts at any previous jobs that could help you break into the industry by giving you entry-level work. Doing a few initial projects on spec might be a valuable way to gain writing experience and build your portfolio.

3. Search job boards

While overwhelming, job boards are incredibly useful. Job boards such as Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Workana are tried and true go-to’s for freelancers. You can also browse more niche job boards that focus less on full-time jobs, such as ProBlogger Jobs, Freelance Writer’s Den, and iWriter to focus specifically on writing gigs.

Filter your search results based on entry-level or junior experience. You can also filter by location and industry if that helps you.

4. Create a portfolio

Having a collection of work will help you attract and pitch jobs. If you don’t have many professional contacts or you’re a new writer, spend the time to create a few sample projects. This lets potential employers or clients quickly get a sense of your capabilities.

5. Network with other writers

Use social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with other freelance and full-time writers in your desired field. These can also be great places to find jobs. Use these platforms to create genuine, mutually beneficial connections with others. Remember to be patient and give more than you take, and in time you’ll see the benefits.

6. Invest in your skills

Technical writers are life-long learners. They’re continuously learning more about their subject matter as well as the craft of writing itself. As a freelancer, it’s part of your job to carve out time for professional development. Look into courses and workshops that can help you hone your skills.

7. Send professional-looking quotes

As a freelancer writer, you’re in charge of managing every aspect of your business. In the process of talking to potential clients and pitching your services, you’ll likely have to send project quotes. Using an invoicing software that allows you to create branded quotes will reflect your professionalism and help you establish your worth. This will also allow you to easily send invoices and get paid quickly by future clients.

Wave offers free invoicing software for freelancers and small business owners to help you get started.

Final thoughts

Technical writing can be a profitable and rewarding job. As technical industries continue to expand and grow, so to will the demand for technical writing. Remember to continue exploring, developing your skills, and being patient with yourself along the way.

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