technical content writer

How to Become a Technical Content Writer: A Real-Life Guide from a Tech Content Writer

This is a guest post from one of our technical writers, Megan A.

Many writers I know hear “technical writing” and instantly recoil, as though the words were some sort of scaly monster that had slithered into their ears. 🐍

Others believe technical writing to be the death of a writer’s soul. After all, there can’t be any room for artistic creativity in a realm so coldly logical, can there?

Well, not exactly.

While it’s true that technical writing is mostly analytical – and typically not your first choice to read on a long flight, there is a branch of technical writing that is engaging, creative, and increasingly high demand:

Technical content writing.

So, what is technical content writing? How is it different from technical writing? Why is it so important in today’s workplace, and why should more creative people consider going into it?

Let’s get into it.

Need technical content writing? See our rates.

a real life guide from a technical content writer

How to Become a Technical Content Writer: A Real-Life Guide (What’s Ahead)

What is Technical Writing?

What is Technical Content Writing?

Why Employers Want Technical Content Writers

4 Perks of Being a Technical Content Writer

Discussing Technical Writing Career Paths

How to Become a Technical Content Writer: Your 3-Step Checklist

What is Technical Writing?

Wikipedia defines technical writing as the process of communicating information between two or more parties through any medium which best gets the point across.

wikipedia tech writer

Some of those said mediums are:

  • Technical reports
  • User manuals
  • Instructions
  • Documentation
  • Policy procedures

The list goes on and on, but they all share a singular purpose: to transfer knowledge in such a way that enables the recipient to complete a particular task.

Learn the difference between technical writing, technical content writing, and why employers are seeking tech content writers 🔥 More in this real-life guide by our tech writer Megan. Click To Tweet

What is Technical Content Writing?

Let me answer that question with another question: What is content writing?

Content writing is all the customer-facing media that drives interest for a particular product, business, or website. In today’s digital world, the majority of content is designed for the web.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Social media
  • News writing
  • Ghostwriting
  • SEO composition

Technical content writing is effectively all of that but specifically for the tech world.

Technical writing and technical content writing can be seen as two sides of the same coin. Whereas technical writing shares knowledge in a user-friendly manner, technical content writing generally shares knowledge in a customer-friendly way.

Why Employers Want Technical Content Writers

As more and more jobs become automated, a lot of us have growing anxiety that our profession might be the next for robots to replace. However, content writing will still rely on humans for a while, and technical content writing is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the market.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the United States Department of Labor predicts that between now and 2026, technical writing employment will experience a growth of 11%. That’s 5% higher than the average growth for all occupations and 6% greater than the employment growth for media and communication specialists.

technical writer graph

The reason for this is because technical products – new technologies, software, and services based on the web – are being developed at a rapid pace. With those new products comes the need for people savvy in communication to explain the ins and outs of it as well as creatives who can get more people interested.

Need technical content created for your blog or site? See our tech writing prices in our Content Shop.

What's the difference between technical writing and technical content writing? Technical writing shares knowledge in a user-friendly manner. Technical content writing shares knowledge too -- but in a customer-friendly way. Click To Tweet

4 Perks of Being a Technical Content Writer

If job security and high demand aren’t enough for you, here are a few of the other appeals to being a technical content writer.

1. Work Never Gets Stale

Have you ever worked a job that was the same day in and day out? I certainly have. It was mind-numbing.

However, with technical content writing, there’s always something new to learn and it changes every day. As long as new technologies, methods, and ethics surrounding those technologies come into being or fade out of use, there will forever be something to learn and write about.

This is especially true if you go into technical content writing with little to no experience in the technology industry, as the less internal jargon you know, the more you have to research.

2. You Don’t Need Experience in Tech to be a Technical Content Writer

Study.com found that few technical writing jobs require applicants to have a degree in anything technical.

tech education

None of these degrees have a direct relation to working with technology. I would also argue that you don’t need a degree to become a writer, but we’ll get to that later.

Most of what you do as a technical content writer is take the complex and simplify it for the rest of us. For example, you could be asked to write a journalistic blog discussing recent cyberattacks on universities, or create a lesson for developers on how to code an interactive map in their app.

None of that requires you to be a programmer or IT technician (though many people in such roles do go into technical writing). All it needs is for you to be adaptable, able to learn, and know how to effectively communicate with others.

As long as you’re curious, a fast learner, a good researcher, and have a history of writing strong content, you can break into technical content writing.

3. You Won’t Lose Your Passion to Work

When I was attending university for a degree in writing, I found that my passion for creative writing had died. Where once I wrote stories because I wanted to, I was now selling stories for a grade. It didn’t matter if I liked what I was writing – as long as it got me an A, it was good.

In short, it can be emotionally draining to manipulate something that used to be part of your soul into a sellable product. That’s not to say some authors can’t do it (looking at you Stephen King), but generally, work is still work no matter what you’re doing.

Fortunately, technical content writing does not rely so heavily on how creatively the author crafts a narrative as much as it values whether or not the author can produce something that serves a purpose. There is still an emphasis on creativity in technical content writing, but it’s primarily on how well the author can maximize reader engagement and make the subject matter comprehensible to the general public.

As such, you can have something you do for work and something you do for yourself at the end of the day. Striking a balance between those two is more important than many people realize.

4. The Best Money You Can Make as a Writer

The average content writer in the United States makes $17.50 an hour.

technical writer salary

Meanwhile, according to Josh Fetcher, technical writers can earn anywhere between $50,000 to $200,000 annually. The amount a technical writer makes is based on a few factors, such as:

  • The speed at which you put out work
  • The quality of your work – or the quality that is expected from you
  • How strongly the company you’re employed with trusts your ability to work on larger projects

And of course, if you’re working freelance, the demand for your technical writing will determine how much you earn on average. It could be more than the estimations listed above or less.

The amount you make as a technical writer also depends on how much you are willing to learn about the tech industry. A writer who doesn’t know the first thing about coding will not be able to accept assignments from a client that wants them to write about the pros and cons between Angular and JavaScript, for example. It literally pays to have a curious mind.

Accepting the title of a technical writer or technical content writer may not be as sexy as saying you’re a journalist, reviewer, or that you’re working on your upcoming bestseller, but for some (myself included), it can be the difference between living with your parents or paying off your student loans.

For our tech writer, Megan, there are more technical content writer perks besides job security: work never gets stale, no tech experience required, you can be creative, and good money. 🙌 Click To Tweet

Discussing Technical Writing Career Paths

Like how doctors have many different specializations to go into, technical writers are not limited to a single discipline for their career. Within technical writing is a handful of career groups which then can be broken into sub-groups.

tech writer careers

Some of those groups are:

  • Content Production: This includes content writing, developing, and editing. A technical content writer may also be asked to produce scripts for video or podcasts, blogs, news articles, or marketing copy.
  • Communication: Technical communications is a broad field with many subsets, but the overarching objective of a technical communicator is to convey information through various means. A technical communicator may be asked to write instructions, publish articles in scientific journals, present new technology at a conference, and so on.
  • Information production: This is similar to technical communication in that you would be expected to help others understand a complex concept, but the tasks that would be given to you are more specialized. For instance, as an information developer, you’d be tasked more with software development and the systems on which your software is built. As an information designer, you’d more likely be asked to create graphics that visualize data in an effective way that’s easy to understand.

These branches are good to reference as you look to begin your career in technical writing, but your choices are not limited to the ones listed above. If you decide to create your own business or freelance career out of technical writing, you can create any number of paths you want for yourself.

How to Become a Technical Content Writer: 3-Step Checklist

Technical content writing has many avenues you can approach it from. The strongest skills you will have as a technical content writer is your willingness to learn, your adaptability, and your ability to produce strong written content. The following are some good tips for success when starting your career in technical content writing:

1. Become an Industry “Expert”

Merriam-Webster’s definition of “expert” is about what you might expect.

expert

However, the term “expert” has been experiencing a shift in meaning as of late due to how frequently it’s used in the professional world. Now it mostly just means that you aren’t completely naive on the subject you’re supposedly an “expert” on. In general, you should have a firm enough grasp on the technical matter you’re writing about that you can add your own perspective instead of regurgitating what you learn about it.

If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. As in, if you want to write about technical information, you have to know how to work with said information.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a surgeon to write about surgical robots. Similarly, you don’t have to build your own security software to discuss new developments within the cybersecurity sector.

The term “expert” has been experiencing a shift in meaning as of late due to how frequently it’s used in the professional world. Now it mostly just means that you aren’t completely naive on the subject you’re supposedly an “expert” on. In general, you should have a firm enough grasp on the technical matter you’re writing about that you can add your own perspective instead of regurgitating what you learn about it.

In my case, I figured that in order to effectively write about software, I needed to at least know the fundamentals of coding.

To do this, I used Codecademy, and continue to use it to this day. Through them, I learned the basics of HTML and developed a calculator using Python. I wouldn’t say I’m an “expert coder” because of that, but I am at least familiar with the processes involved with producing software. This allows me to have a better understanding of what goes into software and web development, thus enabling me to produce higher quality technical content.

Otherwise, strong research skills will be your greatest asset. If you don’t know what something in your assignment is, look it up. After looking it up, read similar pieces from other authors to get a fuller understanding of what that thing is and how to address it. Then, when writing your technical piece, think of what you would add to what you’ve just learned to make it better.

This ensures that not only are you providing your readers with facts, but you’re also giving them unique takes that can benefit their lives.

2. Learn Your Audience

One of the reasons I got into technical writing was because I am surrounded by people who work with technology.

My proximity to these sorts of folk helps me understand the minds of people in the tech industry, the types of problems they work with, and what solutions many of them look for.

In other words, I’m intimately familiar with my audience.

There are other, less direct ways to learn about your audience in the technical world, however. You can start by:

  • Reading the comments: Remember how I mentioned that research is your greatest asset? Well, when you research other technical content online, look for any comments that may be attached to it. If there are comments, make note of what people are saying and how they’re feeling about the subject at hand. Be as empathetic as possible when taking their comments into account, as these people will likely be the same who will read your work.
  • Finding case studies: Here is an example from JumpCloud of how you can find case studies on a company website:

Go to the reviews and testimonials section of any website that aims to deliver a service or product to tech professionals and look through any case studies they have. Case studies are designed to help a company build a customer persona, but they can also help you identify the common issues your audience might have and what they would like to hear.

  • Following tech blogs: By following tech blogs, you’ll keep up to date on new developments and what people are thinking about them. Sign up for their emails and stay on their list.

Josh Fetcher also recommends conducting interviews with industry professionals. He says “technical writing often requires interviews,” so the sooner you get comfortable with them, the better.

3. Build a Portfolio

I’m sure many have caught on to this, but a degree that isn’t STEM-related is virtually meaningless today. Employers mostly want to see that you have experience, but experience is in short supply. That’s why you have to create your own.

Find a technical topic that interests you. This can be software development, hardware development, scientific research, etc. Read everything you can on your chosen subject. Then, create your own piece of technical content that focuses in on it. Save your work on something that’s easily shareable – in my case, it was a WordPress blog – so that you can direct potential clients or employers to it when you need to.

How can you become a technical content writer? 3 steps: become an industry expert -- understand the topic and have strong research skills, know your audience, & build your portfolio. Read more in this guide by our tech writer, Megan! Click To Tweet

Finding Balance as a Tech Content Writer

I found my technical content writing career after spending half a year writing blogs on health and wellness. Reading medical journals was actually something that interested me. When I learned the work I was doing was similar to technical content writing, I starting looking into that field.

I can thank Express Writers for allowing me to practice technical content writing at a highly professional level.

Technical content writing was a bit out of my comfort zone, tried it out, and found that it wasn’t as daunting or dull as it sounded.

If anything, technical content writing has helped me feel more fulfilled in my work. It has allowed me to exercise both the left and right side of my brain while keeping the type of writing I consider to be part of my soul intact.

Looking for technical content writing for your site or blog? See our tech writing prices in our Content Shop.

cta technical content writer

37 replies
    • Cassie B.
      Cassie B. says:

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    • Cassie B.
      Cassie B. says:

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      Reply
  1. shivam pal
    shivam pal says:

    Hi
    Amazing post thanks for sharing this I loved it. I am sure i will learn a lot from it. When it comes to the writing of a technical report, the format is very important because it is unique from other reports in that it carries technical information.

    Reply
    • Cassie B.
      Cassie B. says:

      Glad you found this post of such value, Shivam! Thank you for stopping by and leaving your feedback! ~Cassie, Content Specialist at Express Writers

      Reply
  2. Keiran Potter
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  5. Sterling
    Sterling says:

    This is such good insight! We are always looking for content writers and it can be so difficult to find specialized individuals with the skills to produce. This is a resource I will point my clients to if that is okay!

    Reply
  6. Sterling
    Sterling says:

    This is such good insight into an area most people “think” they are trained in when really their skill is lacking. Your tip about learning your audience is always critical – similar to reverse engineering a product. Thank you for your input!

    Reply

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