As the Beatles song says: Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb…you get it. You don’t need the comb necessarily because you’ll probably be working at home – more about that later – but you’ll need other skills to survive as a technical writer. You’ll need to be a fast learner who can think on his or her feet..
Do you like to tear things down to see how they work? Good, because you’ll be spending lots of time observing the product or service you’re documenting. You’ll also be talking to engineers about subject matter, perhaps even drilling down into the underlying code.
It’s a given that you’ll need a diverse and deep skill set to thrive. Knowing how to use Microsoft Office doesn’t cut it anymore. Today’s technical writer is adept with a range of tools. Depending on the industry you’re working in and the type of documentation you’re producing, you’ll need to know HTML, Javadoc, RoboHelp, Doxygen, Cornerstone, DITA, X-code and many others. Also, it won’t hurt to have some basic graphic design skills. In a pinch a writer way need to create a chart or tweak a page layout.
Typical day in the life of a technical writer includes:
Technical writing is a growth industry. Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, birthing new enterprises and flooding the marketplace with new products and services. And guess what? They all need documentation of some sort. While many consumer products are starting to feature intuitive interfaces that anticipate and address your needs, manuals will still be needed for years to come. It’s not getting easier; more companies are reducing costs by hiring technical writers as contingent workforce (up to 40% according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office). More likely, you’ll be doing more and making less. But hey, you like a challenge, don’t you?