Becoming a freelance Technical Author

In this episode of the Cherryleaf Podcast, we take a look at becoming a freelance Technical Author. We’ll cover:

  • Why do companies hire freelancers?
  • The benefits
  • The downsides
  • Working from home
  • Working abroad
  • The legal and tax considerations
  • Finding work
  • What to do in the quiet periods


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The risks with Technical Author certification

As part of the attempt to make technical writing similar to other professions, there have been a number of moves by different technical communication societies to introduce certification. This can be a good thing, but there are some dangers with it as well.

Certification usually involves some training and a test. Students can be accredited or certified as having reached a certain standard. This might lead, at some point in the future, to organisations only hiring certified Technical Authors, in the same way they might only hire certified accountants.

So what are the dangers?

One danger with testing is that you tend to test what’s easy to measure, rather than test the talents someone needs to have. For example, multiple choice questions are easy to mark, but they tend to only test someone’s knowledge. They can test if someone knows “which X does Y”, but they are less good at checking if someone is able to explain “how X”. This can lead to an over-emphasis on teaching topics like the legal requirements for documentation, rather than testing whether someone can actually write clearly and simply.

A second danger is assuming there is only one right way to write a user guide. Technical communication is still a relatively recent area of study. We should still be open to ideas, to challenge accepted practice, if user testing shows that method or belief to be wrong. We don’t want to be the like the Paris Salon, which refused to show impressionist works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Whistler, because they didn’t meet their definition of good art.

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

Although it’s more labour-intensive, we should ask students to make something, and then measure that against a set of user acceptance criteria: can they find the information they need?; do they understand it?; is it accurate?; is it complete?; is it cohesive? etc.

Becoming a freelance Technical Author – ask a question to our podcast team

In an upcoming episode of the Cherryleaf podcast, we’ll be looking at becoming and being a freelance Technical Author.

If there are specific questions you’d like us to answer, do let us know.

You can send us your questions on Technical Author contracting and freelancing via email.

Alternatively, you can record your questions and comments to the podcast team: use the green button below:

You can share your thoughts on freelancing, as well.

New – Cherryleaf’s single sourcing and content reuse elearning course

Yesterday we released our latest elearning training course – single sourcing and content reuse.

This online training course teaches the basic skills in single sourcing and writing content for reuse. The ten learning modules in this course contain videos of the trainer with supporting slides and images. The course includes exercises for the delegates to complete and review.

See Cherryleaf’s single sourcing and content reuse training course.


Where are all the technical writers?

Editor’s Note: Introducing a new guest blogger to Cherryleaf’s blog: Dr. Tony Self of HyperWrite.

Where are all the technical writers?

Lionel Richie Hello posterI 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.

In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were about 50,000 American technical writers in 2010.

We are living in the information age, yet the numbers of technical writers in countries like Australia and the US are not skyrocketing. Why not? Continue reading “Where are all the technical writers?”

Advanced technical writing techniques training: Next classroom course (and potential online course)

Do let us know if you’d be interested in us scheduling another public course for our Trends in Technical Communication – Advanced technical writing techniques course. We need just a couple more people for us to schedule a course date for June. Do let us know if you’d be interested in attending this course.

Interested in an online version of the course?

For writers based outside of the UK, we’re also considering offering this course in a “live and online” format over the Web. Using Google+ Hangouts, the course would be spread over a number of days, rather than delivered as a full day’s worth of training. The price of the course would be the same. The first course would be limited to just 5 or 6 delegates. Do let us know if you’d be interested in attending this course.

About the course

In this course, you’ll find out how Technical Authors in leading companies are now applying techniques from other disciplines (such as psychology, copywriting, usability and elearning) into the information they create.

Using examples of Help pages from a number of applications (including from vendors such as Apple, Facebook, Google, HTC and Mozilla), you’ll learn how to spot where these techniques have been used, and you’ll have the opportunity to practise these in the workshop.

Do let us know if you’d be interested in attending this course.

New – Technical Writer induction course

Yesterday, we launched our online Technical Writer induction course.

This online course covers the technical documentation process and the skills you need in order to be a successful Technical Writer or Technical Author. Created by the authors of the popular “How to Write Instructions” book, this 14 module course explains the technical communicator’s role in today’s environment.

For more details, see our Technical author induction training course Web page or go to