Are Daily Rates for Technical Writers Starting To Improve?

In December, I looked at the daily rates for technical writers and others in the tech comms industry. At the time daily rates for technical writers are down to $30 per hour in some places in the Bay Area.

However, maybe things are starting to turn around. In Ireland (Euro HQ for most US IT companies) Google has announced 150 new jobs, many in technical roles.  So, is the tide starting to turn?

Articles in Tech Comms publications and on other technical writing sites suggested  that daily rates for technical writers were collapsing in the US, in particular the West coast, as more writers struggle to find roles that match their previous salaries. TECHWR-L (tech-whirl), the oldest site that I know for technical writers, highlighted the case of a technical writer who’s been in the industry for 10 years and been jog-hunting for six months.

When asked what he thought where the tech docs industry was heading, his reply was, “it’s a race to the bottom”. 12 months ago, he left a high-paying tech writing job to travel but returned six months later, and looked for work.

Daily Rates for Technical Writing in California

His only job offer had been $30 an hour. Some recruitment sites quoted $40-$60 an hour. Quite a drop!

I know that when I last worked in the states, late 90s, the rates were $40-$60 per hour, and that’s almost 10 years ago.  It’s hard to believe that now, ten years later, and factoring in inflation etc, daily rates are almost cut in half.

Salary for Technical Writing in China

Salary for technical writers in China is between 15-30k RMB per month, which is approx $2.5k.

Not great by US standards but the cost of living here is much less.

Daily Rates for Technical Writing in India

According to a tech writer in Bangalore, the going rate in India is $10-15 an hour.

Jobs Trends

Many US colleagues have seen their jobs moved to India. In Europe (Ireland and UK) they tend to go to Poland as they have excellent English skills (yes, they do!) and lower tax rates.

India now produces a steady stream of qualified tech writers who are highly motivated and keen to make the most of this opportunity.

Last year I said that,  “as someone who works in Asia, and is seeing at first hand the juggernaut that is hurdling down the motorway, the race to outsource has only started.”

In the next 10-15 years, IT jobs which can be replicated offshore/offsite to lower costs will be embraced more aggressively. US companies have little choice but to do this.

The challenge for technical writers

The question for technical writers and others in this industry is how to approach this.  One suggestion would be to setup consultancy services in places like Bangalore, Vietnam, and Poland where the talent is there but the experience is lacking. Experienced technical writers, who are willing to travel and embrace a new challenge, could do very well in these countries. Staying at home may not be an option.

What do you think?

Should technical writers consider moving to places like India? Do you see signs that the recession is over. Are there more jobs for tech writers than last year?
Fire away below and share what you think.

2 thoughts on “Are Daily Rates for Technical Writers Starting To Improve?

  1. Techquestioner says:

    I've been in tech comm for over 40 years, and in the Atlanta GA area about 20. Unlike previous economic downturns, like 2000-01 and 1990-93, the job postings for tech writers, web content specialists, trainers, etc., have not totally disappeared. Openings are still being posted, and I've been receiving e-mails from recruiters. Employers are taking longer to actually follow through and hire or (more likely) contract with the staff they need, but they have continued to post openings. Some of the newer agencies who appear to be trying to garner a piece of the market on price alone are offering ridiculous rates ($12- $25/hour), but the established agencies have also reduced rates to a lesser extent to work with employers with tighter budget constraints. The amount of posted openings here is also increasing gradually.

  2. Ivan Walsh says:

    Richard Florida in his book, The Creative Class, highlights the top cites in the US in terms of employment, happiness (I know!) and creativity. I’m pretty sure Atlanta was in there. Must track down the url.

    I hear what you're saying about recruiters. Those the take a long-term view will try to bend a little, take a smaller commission, and find work for people. It’s strange that way that some are so inflexible and don’t budge on their rates.

    <newer agencies trying to garner a piece of the market on price alone are offering ridiculous rates ($12- $25/hour)

    That’s not unusual. I've had technical writers in SFO tell me they were offered work at $15 per hour. Some of these were on $50 a year back. Maybe the west coast is top heavy with contractors, I don’t know. When I worked there 15 years back, we were on $45 per hour, so now that it’s down to $15. Must be tough for people.

    Saying that, there is a slight increase in hires in Europe. I know that from folks in Dublin and London, where many US have their Euro HQs. Hiring is going on there. Google, Microsoft and others in Financials are all hiring.
    PS Great to hear that things are doing well in Atlanta. We almost moved to about 10 years back.

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