Many IT professionals, technical writers included, have seen their salaries frozen or reduced over the past 18 months. Contractors are suffering the same fate as short-term projects dry up.
However, several of my colleagues have managed to move out of technical writing and into other, better paid lines of work. Here’s a roundup.
How to Get Out of Technical Writing and into Better Paid Jobs
1. Proposal Writer
I’ve worked in this area in the UK and it can be very well-paid. To get involved in proposal development, read up on procurement and government funding. This area requires writers with strong editing skills as you’ll often need to blend contributions from different authors into the proposal document. It also requires the ability to trace requirements (i.e. to ensure that your proposal matches the requirements in the request for proposal.) Proposal writers are found in a wide range of organizations, such as central and local government, health service, education, financial and legal sectors and NGOs (non-governmental organizations).
2. Web Content Manager
This role suits technical writers who’ve been exposed to markup languages, content management software, and Web 2.0 applications. To capitalize on what you already know, get some books on content management policies, practices and systems so that you have a deeper of the principles, theories, concepts, and standards in content management.
Note: The median expected salary for a typical Content Manager in the United States is $77,048.
- Get Published To Get Ahead – Websites will achieve maximum value when they focus on the tasks of their customers, not the technology or content.
- Write to be Scanned – Users Don’t Read On the Web – Recent research identified that users don’t read on the web, they tend to scan. This means that when you are converting documents to the web, you need to make them as scannable as possible.
- Web Writing Tips – Keeping content fresh is a major challenge for every web publisher. In addition to managing the technical, business, marketing, administration aspects of the web business, you still have to find time to update your web content on a regular basis.
3. Information Architect
Again, this role suits writers who have crossed over into web technologies and want a more specialized career. Job opening for this type of work is limited as it is very specialized. However, those who do manage to establish themselves can expect very attractive contract/consultancy work. The web is hardly going to go away. Investing in Information Architecture is worth considering. Skills in defining business/technical specifications, defining metadata, and developing workflows and mappings will get you an interview.
4. White Paper Writer
Michael Stelzner has probably done more than anyone to raise the profile of white papers in the last 10 years. His site is a huge success and offers many tips for those considering moving into this area.
- Grow Your Business by Writing White Papers – Recently we discussed the effectiveness of white papers in generating business. You might be interested in the following statistics, as they illustrate the returns you can generate from a well-crafted white paper.”
- How to Structure Your White Paper – In the IT industry, the white paper has become a popular tool for promoting a product or service. It is frequently used in tandem with case studies, and other sales collateral, to promote a company’s respective product of services. In this brief article, we will outline a suggested format to use when writing your white paper.
- Tips for Writing White Papers – Klariti show you how to write an effective white paper that gets your company noticed – and the pitfalls to avoid if you’re new to this areas.
5. Medical Writer
This area will suit writers who have worked for pharmas or in the medical industry. There are many overlaps with technical writing, though knowledge of procedures, policies, and the R&D cycle for drug development are all a bonus.
Where do I start?
If you want to move out of technical writing, or even consider it, then it’s time to start doing the groundwork. This means reading up on the specialist areas, doing a course if possible, and also seeing where your skills match these areas.
For example, I know that there are many roles for medical writers in Europe, especially France, Ireland, UK and Switzerland, as the pharma companies have large R&D firms there.
So, technical writers in this corner of the world, might focus here.
In the US, there is more web work. Nonetheless, those who develop a track record in online editing and/or web content management will, I believe, earn more than technical writers in the long run.
Technical writing is started to get outsourced more frequently to India, Poland and other offshore companies. Once those jobs get out-sourced, they don’t come back.
Those are my thoughts. Here are some books I’ve bought regarding these areas.
Books Worth Reading
- Writing Winning Business Proposals
- Request for Proposal: A Guide to Effective RFP Development
- Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web
- Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged
- Secrets of a Freelance Writer, Third Edition: How to Make 100,000 a Year or More
Writing roles in RFP development, grant writing, and medical writing all require local/national knowledge. This type of knowledge is harder to out-source, especially the government projects.