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How to become a technical writer - Monetize your knowledge!

This post explains how anyone can become a technical writer and earn extra cash.

Published onMay 16, 2021

technical writing

Here at Android Authority, we have already discussed how to make money as a copywriter. This is a flexible, profitable gig that anybody can use to earn some cash online. But if you want to charge the big bucks, you should become a technical writer.

In this post, we will discuss what a technical writer does and how to become one.

See also: What is the gig economy? Why the future of work is online (and how to prepare)

What is a technical writer?

A technical writer is a writer who explains complex, technical subject matters, in a clear and concise manner. These topics include “specialist” subjects that require specific expertise. In some cases, a technical writer may stick to a particular area of expertise. In other cases, they might be prepared to quickly learn and explain new technologies and concepts.

Even if the writer were to spend weeks researching the topic, they likely wouldn’t develop the necessary understanding.

Most freelance writers do not have the ability to write about any subject matter. A writer from, say, Upwork should be happy to take on assignments relating to relationships, health and fitness, or cooking. They can likewise write you some copy for your business homepage.

But if you ask that same writer to write a 10,000-page introduction to Python programming, they will likely run for the hills. Why? Because the amount of time it would take a non-expert to learn this subject matter and write about it would be huge! Even if the writer were to spend weeks researching the topic, they likely wouldn’t develop the necessary understanding.

See also: Python beginner’s guide – Everything you need to know to get started

So, what is the company to do? They could alternatively turn to a Python programmer. However, they may find most programmers lack the ability to write in an engaging and easy-to-understand manner. Writing is a demanding skill in itself, and this is especially true for complex topics. That’s where the technical writer comes in!

Enter: the specialist technical writer

Once you become a technical writer who is proficient in Python, you can charge a much higher rate than a “non-expert” writer. Not only that, but you will be able to corner a section of the market as you won’t have a lot of competition. There are not that many people who can write and who know Python!

While you might work as a general copywriter for $1-4 per word, a technical writer can potentially earn more than a thousand dollars for a single 800-word article. Rates vary wildly, of course, but I personally know someone who got paid that much for an article published in a high-profile science magazine.

There are not that many people who can write and who know Python!

On a personal note, I believe that an expert who is passionate about a subject is always preferable to a great writer with no background in that topic. Why? Because the best articles, the ones that get shared and linked to, are those that tackle genuinely new ground for those knowledgeable about the subject. A non-martial artist writing about martial arts, for example, can only ever hope to rewrite low-level posts they find online. An audience of die-hard martial artists is hardly going to find this kind of content interesting!

More roles for technical writers

That said, there are also only a select number of opportunities for a writer that specializes in Python. Or black holes, bacteria, or car engines. It’s for this reason that the best technical writers can tackle multiple subjects.

The best technical writers can tackle multiple subjects.

A technical writer specializing in programming does not need to be fluent in every programming language they write about. However, they should understand the basics: variables, classes, and functions. This way, they can learn enough about any given topic to break it down and explain it to the reader.

More important still is a preclusion for learning and teaching: breaking down complex subject matters quickly. Do you think I was already an expert in everything I’ve written about on this site?

Technical writers are also hired to explain entirely new subjects. For example, you might be required to write an instruction manual for a new piece of hardware or software. Many companies have industry blogs that likewise require technical writing. Technical writers also get hired to write textbooks, online courses, spec sheets, and more.

become a technical writer

While certifications, qualifications, and experience can all be huge assets if you wish to become a technical writer, the real skill is being able to quickly learn and then explain enough of a subject to teach it. This requires a technical mindset but can also be a perk of the job. You get to learn a wide variety of fascinating topics!

How to become a technical writer

So, with all that said, how do you become a technical writer? The basics are the same as they are for any freelance writer. Sites like UpWork and PeoplePerHour provide a great platform for finding clients and advertising your skills.

See also: Stuck at home? Top 9 freelance sites for finding paid work online

You can also go directly to the source by finding specialist websites and blogs and looking for their submission guidelines. Here is the guide for freelance writers over at New Scientist. Google explains the skills you need to become one of their technical writers here.

Alternatively, approach publishers that produce technical books. Or create your own website to act as a portfolio. The more high-profile work you manage to land, the more easily you’ll be able to attract future clients. Keep this in mind when seeking out new opportunities.

Certifications and qualifications

Although it is beneficial to offer writing on multiple topics, it’s often still a good idea to find one or two areas of expertise to specialize in. To that end, gaining the right understanding, qualifications, and experience for the subjects you wish to cover is a great move. If you have a law degree or an engineering degree that you never put to good use, perhaps this is your chance!

If you have a law degree or an engineering degree that you never put to good use, perhaps this is your chance!

Otherwise, you could check out our Tech Deals page. Here, you’ll find deals on a huge range of online courses. Whether you want to become an expert in Photoshop or server maintenance, this is a great place to start.

If you’re already a programmer or another skilled worker, then maybe you have the skills to become a technical writer? If not, you could check out the Copywriting Mastery Bundle. This bundle of four courses teaches a range of skills for writers and is available for just $13.99 right now (normal cost: $80).

Almost everyone has a passion or some form of expertise. So, why not share it with the world and get paid for that knowledge?

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