Technical writing is a complicated career that may be considered a step above content marketing and copywriting. Content writers tend to write straightforward content, while technical writers tend to write more technical content. In any case, the increasing demand for such technical content has given rise to freelance technical writing.
While freelancing has been a thing for a while, the demand for freelance technical content writers has only started to increase recently. Especially because organizations and small businesses find it cheaper to freelance their technical content rather than hire full-time in-house technical writers.
In this article, we’ll go over what technical writing is, how you can become a freelance technical writer, tips for success, and the top websites for finding freelance technical writing jobs.
Let’s dive right in.
What Exactly is Freelance Technical Writing?
Freelance technical writing is when a technical writer works with clients rather than works full-time at a company in order to convert hard-to-grasp technical concepts and information into easy-to-understand and digestible content. It’s different than most article writing, report writing, and blogging because it involves the use of complex information and certain writing styles.
Bloggers, copywriters, and content writers may be able to write simple blogs and articles about things like information technology, HTML, SEO, social media, and other topics, but they might not be able to develop user manuals and other technical documentation.
Some examples of technical writing include instruction manuals, case studies, white papers, orientation manuals, API documentation, release notes, financial reports, company documents, FAQs, and more.
Technical writers need complete technical knowledge of the subject matter on top of excellent writing skills. At times, they may need direct technical skills, communication skills, and years of experience in the industry.
Most of the time, technical writers follow a style guide, but some technical writer jobs may require using unique templates. In any case, technical writing requires you to be familiar with various writing styles.
Freelance technical writing became popular because many small businesses found it hard to hire full-time or even part-time technical writers. That’s primarily because the average technical writer salary is above the national average salary.
As a result, you will find several technical writing freelancers on various sites. You’ll find countless new job postings on different sites with people looking for high-quality freelance technical writing experts. Some jobs have complete technical writing tasks, while others are just proofreading tasks.
In any case, many technical writers prefer freelance remote work today, especially because it helps them develop a strong and diverse portfolio.
How Can You Become a Freelance Technical Writer?
Becoming a freelance technical writer would be hard if you have no prior experience in technical writing or writing for that matter. However, if you’ve worked as a technical writer at an organization or in technical communications, it would be easier to get into freelancing.
You don’t necessarily have to focus all your efforts on freelancing; you can do it on the side along with a technical writer job. That’s because freelancer technical writing jobs can have extremely varying pay ranges.
In any case, to become a freelance technical writer, you just need to start finding projects online. You can find several freelance projects on different freelancing websites. Alternatively, you can make a profile on sites like LinkedIn and sell your services by showcasing your portfolio and getting leads.
While large organizations prefer hiring in-house remote technical writers, thousands of small businesses rely on freelancers. That’s especially true for hundreds of websites, small SaaS companies, and other online ventures that show up each day. They rely on freelancers for their technical writing needs.
Therefore, you’ll always find freelance technical writing work at all times. You might be writing user manuals, website FAQs, release notes, or even financial documents; however, you will always be able to find some technical writing tasks.
If you have a strong portfolio, you can negotiate the prices of these freelancing jobs. The stronger portfolio you have, the better rates you can get. It also helps to get some technical writing certifications under your belt to showcase your skills and abilities.
To become a freelance technical writer, you don’t necessarily need to know everything from the start. You learn as you go and complete projects, and develop a better freelancing profile over time.
Top Websites for Freelance Jobs/Technical Writing Jobs
The best way to find freelancing jobs for technical writing is to look into different freelancing websites. While you may be able to find leads by making a website, making a profile on LinkedIn, or other forums, the best way to find several jobs is on freelance websites.
There are tons of websites that offer technical writing jobs and offers. However, building a freelance profile takes time and effort, and it’s best to stick to any one platform at any given time. The more focus and effort you put into one platform, the better the freelance profile you develop. As a result, you’ll end up getting more lucrative jobs and offers.
In any case, you can consider any of the following freelancing websites to start your freelance technical writing career. It’s best to make a profile on each platform and try it out to figure out what platform works best for you.
Upwork is one of the most well-known freelancing websites used by millions of people in the United States and the world. You can practically find jobs for every task that can be potentially outsourced. In fact, you’ll also find job posts for location-based tasks.
At any point, you’ll find hundreds of technical writing jobs in the US alone. They may pay a fixed price per project or on an hourly basis. However, you’ll find that the hourly rate for technical writing ranges between $30-$50.
Sometimes, you’ll find that technical writer jobs are often categorized under the content writing and content marketing category. Therefore, it’s best to check out those categories for technical writing jobs too.
You can sort out the jobs by getting the most relevant or the newest results. Furthermore, when you apply for a job, you’ll have to put in a proposal. It’s best to include some past work and your portfolio since you’ll be competing with several other freelancers.
If you want to find technical writing jobs related to your field or industry, you can include additional tags and filters.
You can find the current list of freelance technical writing jobs on Upwork here.
FlexJobs is a member-ship-based freelance website that’s accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an A+ rating. Working along with its partner sites, Remote.co and 1 Million for Work Flexibility, the site offers freelance jobs, company directories, and job search resources.
You can also find remote, part-time, and full-time jobs on the site, along with freelance jobs. When you search for technical writing jobs on FlexJobs, you’ll be bombarded with tons of job posts, including freelance jobs.
It’s best to set up more filters to get only freelance opportunities. You can also search according to job availability, location, featured jobs, industries, and even according to specific companies.
Ideally, you should familiarize yourself with how the freelance market works on FlexJobs. Consider signing up and sending a proposal for any technical writing job that seems to work for you.
You can check out all the current freelance technical writing jobs on FlexJobs here.
Freelancer is one of the largest and oldest freelance marketplaces in the world. The site works similarly to most freelancing sites, where you make an account, put in some proposals, and work to develop your freelance profile.
It may be hard to start your freelance career on Freelancer, especially considering there are tons of people with extremely strong profiles with years of experience. As a result, you may have to work with smaller and less-paying technical writing jobs at first. However, as you progress on and complete more projects, you’ll be open to better and higher-paying freelance jobs.
You can search for freelance technical writing jobs on Freelancer using specific keywords. Keywords help you find jobs related to your industry, specialty, and writing type. You can also choose whether you want an online job or something geographically close to you.
You can filter your search by including minimum budgets, durations, and contests. Furthermore, you can search according to the required skills and language, too, if you specialize in a niche subject matter.
In any case, you can check out most of the freelance technical writing jobs on Freelancer here.
Fiverr is a massive freelance website that has gained a lot of momentum in recent years. The reason Fiverr became so large is because it took a unique approach to freelance work. Rather than people posting jobs and freelancers applying to them, they reversed the process.
Therefore, freelancers develop pitches where they showcase what they do, along with a complete portfolio. Employers can scroll through several potential pitches and start a conversation with the freelancers they consider right for the job.
As a result, freelancers have to develop a pitch where they showcase their strong suits and the best of their portfolio.
As a freelance technical writer, you should upload your best technical writing pieces in your pitch. If you’re new, you should keep reasonable prices, and as you progress, you can increase your rates.
You can check out these pitches by other freelance technical writers to develop your pitch on Fiverr.
Tips on Becoming a Great Freelance Technical Writer
Becoming a freelance technical writer is one thing, but you’ll be competing with thousands of other freelance technical writing experts. You need to be able to compete with them immediately to jumpstart your freelance technical writing career.
While having excellent writing skills, communication skills, and technical writing experience is mandatory, you should focus on some additional tips. If you want an in-depth look into these tips, then check our Technical Writing Certification Course.
The following tips can be used to give you an edge in freelance technical writing, especially if you’re just starting out.
1. Develop a Strong Technical Writing Portfolio
It’s crucial to have some experience under your belt when you’re starting your freelance technical writing career. Since you need to be able to show your skills, the best way to do so is to develop a technical writing portfolio.
If you don’t have much experience, you should use any past work you’ve done. If you have a lot of experience, you should choose the best work to showcase in your portfolio. If you have no previous work, you can create new samples so potential clients can check what you’re capable of.
You can develop new samples by creating supporting documents for famous apps, develop custom instruction manuals, or create user guides for products you use.
In any case, it’s crucial to have a strong technical writing portfolio so you can put your abilities on display at all times.
2. Find a Niche You’re Good In
Every person tends to be more knowledgeable and good in one industry or subject matter rather than several. It’s critical to find an industry you’re good in, where you can consider yourself an expert in various matters.
The best way to find your industry and interest is to find your niche. You should focus on one single industry, one single aspect, and work to improve yourself accordingly. The more defined your niche is, the better it is for you because then you won’t be competing with tons of freelance technical writers. You’ll just be competing with a handful of technical writers who work in the same niche as you do.
Once you find your niche, you should focus on getting more knowledge of that field, strengthen your writing skills accordingly, and find permanent freelance clients.
3. Use Templates and Double-Check Everything
While technical writing requires specific knowledge, you still have to follow typical guidelines and formats. The best way to make sure you’re doing it right is by using templates. You can take a look at different technical writing examples, samples, and templates to get an idea of how you should proceed.
After you’re done, you should make a habit of double-checking everything, especially when you’re proofreading and editing your document. Cross-check your technical documents with templates and other examples to make sure you have the right format and writing style.
Making a Freelance Technical Writing Career
As a technical writer, you have to continually increase your knowledge of various topics. It’s crucial to stay on top of all the developments if you want to develop a name for yourself in your industry.
As a freelance technical writing expert, you should be able to work under varying timelines, budgets, and different forms of clients.
It’s equally important to be able to make sense of what the client wants on top of being knowledgeable about any given task.
In any case, it’s important to build your freelance technical writing career by taking on several projects and by churning out great results.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He had his first job in technical writing for a video editing software company in 2014. Since then, he has written several books on software documentation, personal branding, and computer hacking. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.