If you’re looking to take the next step in your writing career, or simply break into the industry, maybe you’ve considered the idea of becoming a technical writer. With freelancing rates anywhere between $30-$40 per hour, it’s hard not to be enticed by the possibility. But writing is undoubtedly one of the most competitive markets in which to find solid ground, and sometimes it might feel like you are tossing your job applications straight into the fire.
But there are a few keys to breaking into the technical writing world that contenders should be mindful of before pursuing their first contract.
First, let’s debunk a popular myth: you need a specialized degree to become a technical writer. False. Does it help to have an education in a writing or technical discipline? Sure, but becoming a successful technical writer is equally plausible for those without a formal education, though a keen ability to simplify complex information is a necessity in the field.
Build A Portfolio
Before landing your first gig, potential clients will want to see that you have what it takes. Even with no professional experience, you can start compiling evidence of your skills and abilities by practicing on already existing projects or programs. Try finding an app or process guide with poorly written documentation and show off your writing abilities by making improvements.
Keep in mind that your lack of work history won’t necessarily be a disqualifier, as long as you can demonstrate your creative process and tech comprehension with a few compelling samples.
Once you’ve got a portfolio started, start building a network of connections and followers in a digital setting like LinkedIn. This network is especially valuable for sharing your thoughts and ideas in a professional setting. The goal is to connect with a variety of individuals and organizations who may benefit from the services of a technical writer.
Start digging into the technical writing of organizations within your network and find opportunities for improvement. Not only will you find samples to improve and add to your portfolio, but reaching out with your feedback and ideas may land you your first freelance gig.
Don’t Scare Away The Clients
While it’s true that freelance technical writers can average earnings of up to $50 per hour, remember that you’re still just earning your wings. Without a portfolio packed with relevant professional experience, consider a more reasonable rate for your first few gigs.
If you get a nibble from an interested party, be flexible with your pay expectations. You may feel that you’re underselling your skill set but, at this point in the game, your top priority is getting your foot in the door.
Keep in mind that becoming a freelancer isn’t an overnight process. It takes time, dedication, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone to seek out opportunities. Once you land your first gig, you may find that the momentum will carry you the rest of the way.