Podcast 146: What is the current demand for contract Technical Authors?

In this month’s podcast, we look at the current demand for contract Technical Authors in the UK, using statistics from ITJobsWatch.net. We look at the the number of vacancies and whether this has affected the rates offered.


This is the Cherryleaf podcast. Hello and welcome to the Cherryleaf podcast. My name is Ellis Pratt. I’m one of the directors at Cherryleaf.

And in this episode, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see if we can make sense of where the job market for contractors is going with regards to technical authors and specifically in the United Kingdom. One of the services that Cherryleaf provides is to act as a specialist recruitment service. If somebody is looking to hire a contract technical author, then we have a database of candidates. We find somebody and we act like other recruitment agencies work when placing it people. Except we do it for technical authors. Part of the reason for this is that if somebody needs documentation, if they want to do it themselves, they can get a contractor that they manage; or if they want to buy in a service, we have the projects team that can do it for an agreed price. So make versus buy. We can offer both services. That’s the idea.

One of the things we’ve noticed in recent months is that there has been an increase in the demand for contract technical authors. Now I should say that in the UK we tend to use the phrase technical authors. Around the world, other people use the phrase or job title technical writers. In the UK, technical writers often is used when people are involved in doing API documentation, that type of work.

So we wanted to know, is the increase because we are doing brilliantly compared to others in the marketplace, or is the increase for us a reflection of a general trend for everyone else? That there is a greater demand for technical authors than there has been previously or in recent months and years?
How can we do this? Or one way is to look at what statistics are around. And you can do things like look at the advertisements on sites like the recruitment sites such as Reed and Monster, or look at the jobs advertised on sites like LinkedIn.

What we’ve done is taken a look at a site called IT Jobs Watch and this provides statistics on IT jobs advertised in United Kingdom. So it will give you statistics on how many job adverts there have been for programmers or senior programmers. And in our case, the one that we’re interested in is what information can it tell us about the market for technical authors and the other job title technical writers.
There are those two job titles. Technical author is ranked 514th of all the jobs and technical writer is ranked 844th. So we can see that the vast majority of jobs in the UK are advertised under the job title technical author. And looking at the statistics, we can see that there has been a big jump in the last six months in the number of vacancies advertised for contract technical authors.

So it’s not just us, it’s a general trend in the marketplace. Looking at the statistics, it’s around about an increase of 30%. And if that continues, we’re probably at the same level of demand that there was for technical authors between 2010 and 2017. After that, there was a drop, particularly around the time of COVID, but we seem to be getting back to those levels that we had in the 2010.
Now, looking at the statistics, we can also see the salaries that are offered an hourly rate and a daily rate. And strangely, although there is an increase in the number of vacancies, the actual salaries offered from the statistics has dropped compared to the last six months and the last 12 months.
Now I think what has happened there is that the statistics are being affected by the sectors where the jobs are, and also perhaps buy a few jobs affecting the mean average. Now the site does provide also statistics on median, but it’s a little bit hard to understand why the jobs advertised have gone down. Because, in our experience, the salaries, the daily rate, I should say, or the hourly rate, is the same, if not slightly higher, to reflect changes in inflation.

What about location? Well, looking at the sites and looking at the locations, we can see that there’s been a big jump in the number of vacancies where it says people can work from home. And another area where there has been significant growth compared to other regions has been in the South West. There’s still a growth in London, which you would expect. A lot of people live in London, lot of IT jobs are in London.

So I think we can also learn from the skills that are listed in the jobs. And let me pick the most popular skills listed.

No.1 XML

No.2 Social skills
Then equal third, Microsoft Office and Microsoft.
4th CAD,
5th SGML
6th security cleared
7th data management.

Now to me that sounds like these jobs are being advertised in defence or aerospace or engineering sector. Because SGML, security cleared, that does suggest jobs related to aerospace and defence.
And typically, the daily and hourly rates advertised in the defence sector are lower than those offered in the software sector.

So let’s look at the statistics for the job title, technical writer. And as I said, this isn’t as popular as a job title in the UK. I think from the statistics, 44 contract adverts in the last six months, so considerably less.

And for that, we can see from the statistics that there are fewer jobs with that job title compared to the previous six months, quite a significant drop about 65%. When it comes to the salaries, the salaries offered for contractors with that job title, they seem to be really steady. I wouldn’t say that there’s a significant growth or drop. They seem to be pretty much the same for the last 6 and 12 months.
With regard to location, the growth area is London and again Work From Home. So that might suggest that jobs where the title is technical writer tend to be more in software. And most software-related technical writing jobs tend to be in London or the South East.

And let’s look at the skills. Well, there is a difference in terms of the skills that are offered under that job title.

So there are 1,2,3,4,5 job skills at equal first. Those are: finance, stakeholder management, cybersecurity, user experience, social skills.

Then there’s two at equal, second which are workflow and HTML.
Third is JIRA.
And 4th is JavaScript and intranet.

So what can we make from that? Will that suggest perhaps the jobs are in the finance sector and cybersecurity. That they might involve doing UI content as well, and perhaps things around web development and web sites.

What I would have expected to see in that list pretty high up would have been API, but in this case for this period, no, It’s not there.

And let’s reference back to the type of sectors and skills that we’re seeing with the jobs, the contracts that our clients are asking us to fill. And in terms of sectors, they’re pretty much are government-related projects and software. And if we drill down a bit more in terms of what type of software companies? Well, we’ve seen the growth in vacancies in companies, which you could probably describe as in the e-commerce sector. And around artificial intelligence, both hardware and software.
Will this increase in opportunities be sustained or increase? I don’t know. The UK economy has been in recession. And unfortunately since, well, since Brexit, the growth in this country has been pretty anaemic: Around 0 or 1% growth per annum.

But we must also consider that different sectors perform in different ways. The retail sector might be having a poor time, and the technology sector having a great time. It varies during recessions and during booms, as to which sectors do well and which sectors do badly.

One unknown is whether the pool of available technical authors will increase or decrease. We do have a cohort of people who are, let’s say, over 50. And a number of those will be getting towards retirement age and leaving the jobs market. Now, having said that, technical authoring is often a profession, a role, that people end up doing as a second career. They don’t start at 18 or 21, straight away as a technical author; they discover the role having done something else, discover they like it that they’re good at it. And then transition from that other role into becoming a technical author, a technical writer.

So it may be that we have an input of people in their late 20s, late 30s and 40s, as these other people retire. And so that might affect the job market as well.

Let’s leave it at that for this podcast. Your comments are welcome, info@Cherryleaf.com. If you’re interested in our recruitment service, you can have a look at our website, www.cherryleaf.com. There’s a link to what we offer there or again, you can e-mail us and we’ll be happy to talk to you.



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