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Tech Writing Overview for Freelancers

It's more than just computers

When we hear the term, technical writing, most of us think of the manuals that come with our computers and software. We rarely recognize that the manual attempting to explain how to use, for instance, a new VCR, or the sheet that tries to explain how to assemble the new desk also falls under the broad definition of technical writing. The National Writers  Union actually breaks tech writing into three categories:

  1. Technology Education - writing to show non-technical readers how to use or do something.
  2. Traditional Technical Writing - writing for a technical audience. This would include manuals for repair techs of all sorts, as well as scientific papers, technical specifications and the like.
  3. Technology Marketing, also known as Marcom - writing marketing materials and corporate communications for and within technical fields like computers, aerospace, etc.
Obviously, the educational requirements for each are different. Traditional Technical Writing usually requires some sort of degree in the specific field in question.

Both Technology Education and Technology Marketing, however, often have less stringent requirements. If, for instance, you have some experience with sales you may be able to land a Marcom job. If you want to write software manuals, you'll probably have to get some sort of technical writing education, which might be a certification from a local community college or even an online course.

Tech writing isn't glamorous, but it does require some creativity, because like all writing, this field demands that you communicate clearly with your audience. And it can be a solid source of income, sometimes surprisingly good income. 

Write well and often!


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