What Does a Freelance Technical Writer Do?
A freelance technical writer is a non-employee writer who converts complex and technical documents into clear, concise, and easy-to-understand language for a specific target audience. They must understand complex concepts and explain them in simple terms while ensuring that the content is accurate and error-free.
By utilizing their writing skills, technical writers create various documents, including user manuals, help files, white papers, and training materials. They may also be called upon to write marketing or promotional materials, such as brochures or case studies.
Technical freelance writers are in high demand. Technical companies, such as software developers or hardware manufacturers, are the typical clients of freelance technical writers. However, any company that needs to communicate complex information to a specific audience can benefit from hiring technical writers.
Read this blog post if you want to pursue your career as a freelance technical writer. In this blog post, I'll go through the details of a technical freelance writer's job, essential skills, and qualifications you need to be a successful technical writer.
Responsibilities of a Freelance Technical Writer
The responsibilities of a freelance technical writer may vary depending on their client base, but generally, they include the following:
- Research and understand complex topics and processes.
- Organize and streamline content logically.
- Write clear, concise documents that the target audience can easily understand.
- Verify the accuracy of the information and correct any errors.
- Comprehensive knowledge of technical terms and concepts.
- Ability to translate complex information into easy-to-understand language.
- Proofread documents for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.
In addition to these responsibilities, some technical freelance writers also have specific skills and qualifications.
For example, some freelance technical writers may have background knowledge of a specific industry, such as healthcare. A healthcare technical writer would need to understand medical terminology and the regulatory requirements for documentation.
Similarly, a freelance technical writer who works for a software development company needs to be familiar with the software development process and have a deep understanding of the product.
Let's take a deep look into the typical responsibilities of technical freelance writers.
Understanding the Subject Matter
An important responsibility of a freelance technical writer is to have a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. It means having an in-depth knowledge of the topic and being able to understand complex concepts and explain them in simple terms.
It can be difficult, especially when dealing with highly specialized or technical topics. However, the freelance technical writer must do this to ensure that the content is accurate and easy to understand. To better understand the subject matter, a freelance writer needs to research the topic. While conducting research, they need to:
- Collect data from various sources, like journals, whitepapers, articles, etc.
- Go through previous information or documents related to the subject matter.
- Talk with experts in the field.
- Conduct interviews with stakeholders to collect first-hand information about the topic.
Organizing and Structuring the Content
Once the freelance technical writer understands the subject matter, they need to start organizing and structuring the content. It includes developing a logical flow for the document and ensuring that they are presenting information in a way that will be easy for the target audience to understand.
The freelance technical writer must also decide how they should present the information. They might choose between using tables and lists or writing in paragraph form. The choice depends on what makes sense for them and their client.
After the content is organized and structured, the freelance technical writer can start writing the document. It involves putting their understanding of the subject matter into words that are easy to understand and creative writing to engage the reader. They must also ensure that the tone and language used in the document are appropriate for the target audience.
Once a freelance technical writer creates content, he or she needs to proofread the content for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Freelance technical writers need to ensure that the document is free from errors, as these could distract or confuse readers.
The freelance technical writer should also check the content for consistency and correct any inconsistencies. Technical writers need to ensure that all formatting is consistent. They also check that all paragraphs and lists follow a similar structure.
Freelance Technical Writer Skills
The skills of freelance technical writers vary depending on their writing niche. However, there are some common skills that almost every freelance writer should possess to excel in a freelance technical writing career. Let's learn about them.
Below are provided some freelance technical writer skills, however if you're looking to become a freelance technical writer and master these skills so you can refer yourself as a professional technical writer, check out our world recognized top-rated technical writing courses:
Strong Communication Skills
Technical writers need strong communication skills, as they need to communicate technical information to the targeted audience in a way that is easy to understand. They must also be able to communicate with clients and stakeholders effectively. A professional writer needs to discuss topics, clarify certain points, and resolve issues. Writers need to understand what their client wants and then write content that meets their needs.
Freelance technical writers need to have excellent writing skills to excel in the freelance writing business. They must be able to organize their thoughts and present them in a logical manner. The tone of the document must be appropriate for the target audience. Without strong writing skills, a technical writer will not produce quality documents for their clients.
Technical writers must be able to edit their work. It involves proofreading documents to ensure that they contain no spelling or grammar errors, as well as checking the consistency throughout the document. They need to make changes as required so that the final document meets all the requirements.
Some companies hire technical writers as well as editors. However, not all of them do. Freelance technical writers need to edit their work to provide error-free documents to their clients.
Freelance technical writers need strong project management skills as they don't have any manager or supervisor. Technical writers must be able to manage multiple freelance projects at once. It requires being organized, as well as having good time management skills.
They need to ensure that they meet all deadlines and deliver work on time. They should also know how to use project management tools to effectively manage their projects.
Technology is a vital component of many technical documents. As a freelance technical writer, you need to be familiar with the latest technology and understand how it works. Numerous companies employ various software and modern tools for managing their business operations. As a freelance technical writer, you must know how to operate them to understand their functioning. You also need to know how to use project management tools such as Asana, Trello, Jira, etc.
Technical writers must do extensive research to gather information for technical documentation. They need to find the right information from credible sources and compile it into a cohesive document. They also need to understand complex concepts and explain them in a way that is easy for the reader to understand. Without solid research skills, freelance writers can not comprehend the client's requirements and will not deliver high-quality work.
Though you don't need advanced technical knowledge of the subject for technical writing, it's good to possess some basic technical knowledge. It will help you understand the technology described in the document and write about it accurately.
For example, if you are writing about software, you need to be familiar with how any software works. As a freelance technical writer, you should also be familiar with your clients' software and tools. It will help you understand their functioning better and write about it accurately.
Sometimes, freelance writers have to create several versions of the same document, each catering to a different audience. They can use a single-source selection process to create different versions of the document. They do this by identifying and targeting specific audiences and tailoring the content to meet their needs. It can be a complex process, but it can be lucrative for freelance writers who can do it effectively.
Critical thinking is a crucial skill for a technical writing job. As a freelance writer, you need to evaluate the client's requirements and understand what they want. You also need to think critically about the technology or products of your client and figure out the best way to explain it. You may also have to come up with ideas for content. Without it, freelance writers will not produce quality work that meets the client's expectations.
For a successful freelance technical writing career, you should know about marketing. You need to know how to market yourself in the best possible way and build a solid network to attract more clients. You should also be familiar with the latest trends in the market to keep up with the competition. Better marketing skills can help you get more freelance technical writing jobs and grow your business.
Freelance Technical Writer Qualifications
The qualification of a technical writer depends on the niche or industry they are specializing in. However, the following are some qualifications that all freelance writers should possess:
- Bachelor's or Master's degree in English, marketing, communication, or journalism from a reputed university
- Certificate in content development or technical writing
- 2 to 3 years experience if you want to apply for an intermediate writer job and 4 to 5 years experience for a senior technical writer
- Knowledge of SEO and marketing
Freelance technical writing can be a lucrative career for writers who can work in this field effectively. You can enjoy a successful career as a freelance writer with the right skills and qualifications. So, if you want to pursue a freelance technical writing career, make sure to choose your niche according to your expertise and start marketing yourself to attract more clients.
How do I become a freelance technical writer?
If you want to become a freelance writer, you need to follow the following steps:
- First, you need to choose a niche and gain expertise in it. While choosing the niche, it's good to choose the industry related to your educational background and experience.
- After choosing the niche, build a solid portfolio by writing high-quality content. You can do this by writing for popular websites or blogs in your niche.
- Next, start marketing yourself and build a strong network. Attend industry events and meet people in the field. You can also join online groups or forums related to your niche.
- Contact potential clients and pitch your services. Most clients will be happy to work with you if you have the required skills and qualifications.
- Negotiate rates with the clients and write a contract for the work.
What is the income of a freelance technical writer?
The income of a freelance writer depends on many factors, such as skills, qualifications, experience, and niche. However, the average salary for all freelance technical writers is $70,191. The salary ranges from a minimum of $23,500 to a maximum of $133,500.
What is technical writing in freelance?
Technical writing is a different kind of writing. It involves producing content that focuses on specific products, processes, or services. The goal of technical writing is to explain things in an easy way for the reader to understand.
How much should a freelance technical writer charge for a 500-word article?
The rate for a 500-word article can vary depending on the quality and level of difficulty. However, you can charge anywhere from $30 to $100 for it.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break into the industry, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of writing and managing technical documentation.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He is considered one of the top product influencers in the world by Product School and one of the top technical writers. He has been writing software tutorials, manuals, handbooks, and white papers for over eight years. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.