Technical writing doesn't seem like a well-known field, how did you find out about it?
I found out kind of by accident. I was working as an traveling Underwriter for a major US bank during the mortgage crisis and my business area did not have documented step by step procedures. I created a few procedures for the team and was promoted a few months later to a Process development Lead, which included technical writing and corporate training. It's the only work I've done ever since.
Is "Technical writer" your actual job title?
Yes, for the first time. I have had other titles, such as Process Design Consultant and the one mentioned above.
What did you study in school?
English. I was able to get into the industry without a degree, but I went back to college in 2013 and will finish my bachelor's in English and Philosophy next year.
Are you certified in technical writing?
No, and luckily I haven't been asked to become certified (yet!)
What do you like about your work?
Technical writing has really kept me on my toes. I enjoy it because it is not mindless work and keeps me mentally sharp. Plus, I'm always learning new systems and enhancements because I have to understand a process in order to properly communicate it to a wider audience.
Also, I love being able to work remotely and independently. Although I have to work with one or more subject matter experts (SMEs) to complete a project, the writing part is solely up to me. I can get in my zone and do some of my best work without interruption.
What gets on your nerve about the type of work you do?
First, no one knows who or what a Technical Writer is until they need a Technical Writer. Once they see my work, they're like "Whoa, I had no idea how important this is!" It can be annoying but I have to keep in mind that this is not a popular industry.
Also, there are an astounding number of people who do not understand the basics of Microsoft Word - it drives me crazy! Often, their formatting is a mess! Usually, if I have the time, I will walk them through the steps for adding comments and using Track Changes to make my job easier.
Have you tried freelance writing? If so, how did that work out for you?
Yes, I've tried freelancing but I like paid vacation and 401K matches lol. I did freelance work on fiverr.com where I was able to make some money, but not enough. People don't really understand the work that goes into writing and editing and they would request a lot of work for as little money as possible.
Also, working from home full-time for a corporation has (ironically) given me more freedom than I had as a freelancer.
Do you work on a contract or as an employee?
Full-Time Employee with Benefits
Do you work remotely?
100% remote since 2012 and wouldn't change a thing!
The average salary for tech writers is roughly $70,000. Do you make more or less than that?
About 15% more.
Do you tend to work alone or is a lot of collaboration involved in your work?
I write alone, but there is always collaboration from start to finish. My work always starts with a project team so I meet people from all over the company at all levels and work with them to ensure that I am documenting their process accurately.
What do you think is the most important factor that helped you to get your current job?
I am very confident in my skill as a writer and my experience in training always helps. Plus, I am pretty well-versed in most Microsoft Office software, so that is always a bonus.
How do you fit in travel with your current work?
I travel as much as possible and use up every last PTO day for vacations. We are given 27 days per year, so I integrate my trips with paid holidays to stretch them out further. If I am traveling within an hour or two of my current time zone (EST), I will usually not use my vacation days and just bring along my laptop. I recently worked a few days in Antigua this year. But when I travel abroad, I just take the time off and completely disconnect from work.
When you do such a technical job all day, how do you balance your brain cells out?
I run an online shop for handmade journals, bath & body gifts, etc. artsistudios.com is my side hustle, which keeps me creative.
Who are the types of people that should definitely consider becoming a technical writer?
I definitely feel like this is the type of career for introverts or people who don't require a lot of oversight and social interaction to do well at their jobs.
The people I've seen do well are typically people who understand the value of CLEAR written communication and pay close attention to details. Obviously, having writing and editing skills is necessary as well, but you have to be interested in writing on a highly advanced and super technical level which is not as sexy as more creative forms of writing.
Additionally, anyone who is interested in training and teaching should look into technical writing; teachers understand the importance of research, clarity, and effective communication which are key to being a good technical writer.
Interested in learning more about how to become a tech writer? Sign up for my free course How to break into tech writing in 5 days.