However, there are many things to think about before you dive in. While you can get technical writing jobs without experience, you'll need to work at it and present a professional appearance and responsible behavior. Here are some tips for finding the best writing jobs out there.
Is It Right for Me?
First, you'll need to decide if you want to be a technical writer. While this field is one of the highest paying in writing, it also has some of the toughest requirements and can be very stressful. It's not the kind of position you want if you want to exercise your creativity.
Writing documentation can be extremely rewarding, but it also takes a certain type of mindset. You won't control the entire process, you'll have to coordinate with people and collaborate, and you'll have to do a lot of organization. While your job title may say "documentation writer," you'll only spend about a third of your time actually writing.
Many people assume that writers spend all of their time sitting alone in front of their computers. For many kinds of writers, that's potentially true. Fiction writers spend a lot of time on novels, and freelancers divide their time between writing and finding new jobs. However, a documentation writer has to do more than that. If you want these writing or editing jobs, you're going to need to be comfortable working with and organizing people.
This kind of job will involve a lot of contact with professionals in your technical specialty. That may mean talking to programmers, hardware designers, medical professionals, or machine operators. You'll have to understand the field well, too. That's because it's your job to translate the technical jargon that most professionals use into language that the ordinary person can understand. In many cases, your documentation is going to be read by people who don't have the same kind of expertise.
If you're thinking about technical writing and editing jobs, one of the best ways to find out if this is the position for you is by looking over manuals. All of those, plus many online help systems, were written by documentation writers. Ask yourself if that's what you want to do to support yourself. If the answer is yes, then you're probably a good candidate.
Background and Training
So, now that you know technical and documentation writing or editing is for you it is time to explore the type of background that is required. The answer isn't simple. Technical writers come from many different backgrounds, since writing skill is more important than the specific training. However, the most common backgrounds that these writers are likely to have include a degree in technical communication, engineering, science, computer science, English, or journalism.
Technical backgrounds give you an easier time getting into the industry, but remember that you'll need to be an effective communicator, too. If you want to build your skills and qualifications, think about taking courses in technical writing itself, programming, and web design. These are some of the most in-demand areas right now.
You'll need to know standard word processing software, as well as some major documentation packages. Web production tools can help, too. If the field uses any specific types of software that you'll need to document, a good working knowledge of them is also a good idea.
It's hard to get work without experience, but where do you get that experience in the first place? If you're interested in writing documentation, think about looking into internships, volunteer writing, or lower paid writing that will help you get some practice. After you've built a good portfolio, you'll have an easier time getting the best writing jobs available.
Doing these jobs may not get you much, if any, money. However, you'll be gaining valuable experience. Writers interested in working in software documentation may wish to volunteer for open source projects. They'll get experience working as a team and experience translating technical information into easily-understood language.
Remember that all of your writing experience will count. So, if you've been working in other non-fiction fields, you probably have a lot of good skills already. Just work on the ones that you feel need improvement or that are relevant to the job you may be after, like technical knowledge and voice. That'll help you be more appealing to employers looking for a writer for their documentation.
There's a chance that potential employers will not only ask you for writing samples but will also want you to pass an editing test. If you don't have a lot of work under your belt, this is one place you have the opportunity to make up for it. Study carefully and learn what good editing techniques consist of. If you pass the editing test with flying colors, your chances of getting hired with your lower experience overlooked go way up.