The User’s Manual for your brand new microwave; the catalog descriptions for various electronics; the tutorials for websites and software programs — all of these things are written by technical writers, many of whom are freelancers. While we don’t normally think about the person who writes these informative guides, there is an enormous demand for freelance technical writers in our current marketplace.
Employers are consistently having trouble finding freelance technical writers because the job can be — what’s the word I’m looking for? — boring! Typing out sentences like, Please remember not to put anything made of metal in your new microwave can challenge even the most tolerant of minds. But if you are just starting out in the freelance writing world or if you find yourself without consistent work, freelance technical writing pays up to 50% more than straight copywriting.
The other good news is that you don’t have to be an expert in a particular industry to be a freelance technical writer. A writer who doesn’t know the complex inner workings of the microwave mentioned above can write a User’s Manual that speaks to the common layman; in other words, regular people will understand it. Further, most of the information a technical writer needs in order to do his or her job is provided by the employer. All you have to do is put it in a cohesive format for publication.
If the idea of making more money as a technical freelance writer appeals to you, check out some of these methods for finding jobs.
If you haven’t visited Craigslist before, please take a minute to check it out. There is a separate page for nearly all the major cities in the US — and even some international locations — and you can search for technical writing jobs (or vehicles or roommates or used clothes) and contact the employers who interest you. For example, I just went to the Houston Craigslist page and clicked on the link for writing/editing jobs. Just three days ago, an employer posted an add for “Technical Writer – 6 Month Contract”. This is a great source of technical writing jobs in your area; not only can you find work, but you can also feel more secure in working for local employers.
This is a technical jobs message board in which employers can post jobs related to everything technical, then be contacted by freelancers who are interested in providing services. The Technical Writer segment offers thousands of jobs from employers all over the United States, and you can apply for as many as you want. Many of the jobs are telecommuting contract positions, which means that you can work for them while also accepting other projects. You can also use this site to find permanent technical writing positions if that interests you.
Because freelance technical writers are in such high demand, you can even find opportunities by cold-calling prospective employers. This will work for you if you are outgoing and creative, but might not be beneficial for an introspective or shy technical writer. Just pick up the phone book and start looking for small-to-mid-size companies in your area. Give them a call or write them a brief letter stating your interest and see if you get any response.
Employers seeking freelance technical writers are constantly crawling the Internet, looking for prospective contractors. Develop a website devoted to your craft and mention that you are interested in technical writing jobs. Make sure that you have submitted your URL to Google and to other search engines and create a Google sitemap to keep them in the loop. You can post links to your website on your AC profile, your blog and on job message boards. Get the word out that you are an eager freelance technical writer, and you will be approached with job opportunities.
A Few OTher Websites:
How to Sell Yourself
When you are looking for freelance technical writing jobs, always present yourself as a professional. Be honest about your skills and previous work and let the employer know that you are fully capable of writing whatever needs to be done, whether or not you are an expert. However, don’t bother responding to job advertisements which specify knowledge of the industry as a requirement; unless you have that experience, your chances of being hired are slim-to-none.
When you are offered a technical writing job, make sure that you request any and all materials the employer might have to make your life easier. Previous manuals and promotional materials are helpful, and if you think you would do a better job by testing the product itself, request a sample. If you get halfway through the project and realize that you have bitten off more than you can chew, be honest with your employer and find another writer who can help.