One of the most common questions we get asked is for advice on becoming a freelance Technical Author. To help address that question in depth, we written an ebook, which you can purchase via the Cherryleaf website.
This guide answers the key questions people have when considering a freelance career as a Technical Author. It is focused on starting out as a freelance Technical Author in the United Kingdom, and in the IT and medical equipment sectors. However, many of the sections will also be applicable to other countries and other industry sectors.
Editor’s Note: Introducing a new guest blogger to Cherryleaf’s blog: Dr. Tony Self of HyperWrite.
Where are all the technical writers?
I have often wondered why there are so few technical writers in the world.
In my country, Australia, the Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates there are over 2,000 technical writers within the total workforce of 11.65 million people. The Australian Government groups technical writers into a category called ”Journalists and Other Writers”. That category of writer has shown little growth over the last decade, and in 2011 represented just 21,400 people.
Class is one of those aspects of life that still seems to cause a lot of fuss in the UK, and the BBC has generated a great deal of interest today with The Great British class calculator:
Traditional British social divisions of upper, middle and working class seem out of date in the 21st Century, no longer reflecting modern occupations or lifestyles.
The BBC teamed up with sociologists from leading universities to analyse the modern British class system. They surveyed more than 161,000 people and came up with a new model made up of seven groups.
The BBC Lab UK study measured economic capital – income, savings, house value – and social capital – the number and status of people someone knows. The study also measured cultural capital, defined as the extent and nature of cultural interests and activities.
The new classes are defined as: Elite, Established middle class, Technical middle class, New affluent workers, Traditional working class, Emergent service workers and the Precariat (or precarious proletariat).
So which class would Technical Authors come under? It’s likely to be Established middle class or Technical middle class, but you can test yourself on the BBC site.
The bookshelves here at Cherryleaf are double stacked, and we’ve received another book this week to read and then store.
So it seemed like a good time to mention which books we’d advise Technical Authors to read.
This most recent book was published by XML Press, and their publications are well worth looking at. We have quite a few books from them. Some were review copies (i.e. free), and others were ones we bought.
Most Technical Authors use style guides, and both Microsoft and IBM publish style guides you should consider buying. Style guides help you make sure you’re using the right terminology. They can also help your manuals complement the big vendors’ documentation.
Cherryleaf offers a couple of Kindle books for a just a few pounds.
With the recent media attention on Yahoo’s announcement that it is banning its staff from “remote” working, we thought it might be useful to look at the case for and against Technical Authors working from home.
The case for allowing remote working
They can do their jobs more productively without interruption from others. When Technical Authors are writing (which is approximately 50% of their time), it can often help their concentration if they can work in a distraction-free environment.
There’s less need for office space and related costs (telephones, desktop computers etc).
“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”
Being a Technical Author is one of those roles where remote working can work well. However, it’s best to be able to have both options available – to have people who can come into the office within a short space of time, should there be an emergency. There’s a great deal of value in meeting people face-to-face, and to be part of a company culture (especially within startups), but it can help enormously if you can write in a distraction-free environment.
If you do work from home, you need to have a productive working environment, and be able to be self-disciplined.
This is an opportunity to join a friendly team of authors, working for a large and progressive company. Our client needs a technical writer to join its team of writers who can write user guides, Help files and workbooks for scientific instruments.
You’ll need to have at least 2 year’s experience in technical writing and, ideally, a science (esp. chemistry) background. It would help if you have some experience writing standard operating procedures in a regulated environment.
You need to be skilled in using:
Authoring tools such as Madcap Flare, RoboHelp, FrameMaker or Adobe Acrobat.
Graphics tools such as Corel Photo-Paint, CorelDraw or PaintShop Pro.
You also need to be experienced in user-centred design writing techniques, such as user personas and task-based writing
You’ll be working on-site, at the client’s offices in South Manchester.