6 Steps to Start Your Career in Freelance Technical Writing
Technical writing is a complex and complicated career and requires a specific in-demand set of knowledge. The job of a technical writer is to write technical content for the ordinary audience. And, if you enjoy writing about technical content and love to work remotely, a career in freelance technical writing might be for you.
The freelancing gig has been in the market for a while now, but a freelance technical writer’s demand has only started increasing recently. Organizations and small businesses tend to find it cheaper to freelance their technical writer rather than hiring a full-time in-house technical writer. In this article, we have brought you 6 key steps to start your career in Freelance Technical Writing. Let’s get started.
What is Technical Writing?
Technical writing means any writing with technical content or information. It includes white papers, instruction manuals, handbooks, and product descriptions. The technical writer’s job is to simplify the technical information into an understandable matter which will be helpful for a common person.
The technical writer has to precisely define the technical process, explain how to use a tool/machine, discuss the findings of the research, analyze the trends and forecast something, and so on. These types of writing, videos, and other contents take many shapes and forms such as manuals, reports, FAQs, and Wiki pages. The writing style, tone, formatting of the document, and level of difficulty depend upon the organization, the writer, and the audience.
What is Freelance Technical Writing?
Freelance writing is when the person writes for a company or client for a short period rather than being a permanent employee. The freelance writer works remotely on his/her terms. A freelancer can work for one or more clients at a time who pays them as a non-employee service provider.
A freelance writer works for a client to convert the hard-to-grasp technical concepts and information into easily understandable content rather than being a full-time employee for a company. It is different from other writing styles as it involves the use of complex information and certain writing styles.
Freelance technical writers have become prominent in many small as well as big organizations due to finding it hard to hire a full-time technical writer because the average annual salary of a technical writer is more than the national average salary.
As a result, there are many technical writing freelancers on various websites with job posting for looking for high-quality freelance technical writing experts. Today, many technical writers prefer to work as a freelancer due to remote work, especially to develop a strong and diverse portfolio.
If you are new to the field, learn here How to Become a Technical Writer
How to Become a Freelance Technical Writer?
Becoming a technical writer isn’t as simple as completing a degree and seeking employment. To become a technical writer, you need to have prior experience of technical writing or writing for that matter. There are a few requirements that you must meet, skills that you must have, and additional steps that you need to consider to build a successful career in technical writing.
However, If you have worked as a technical writer or in technical communications, it will be easy to get into freelancing. You can also do freelancing along with your technical writer job because freelancer technical writing jobs can have extremely varying pay ranges. However, to become a freelance technical writer you need to start finding projects online through various freelancing job portals.
On the other hand, you can create a profile on LinkedIn, and sell your services by exhibiting your portfolio and getting leads. A large organization usually prefers hiring an in-house remote technical writer while thousands of small companies or businesses rely on freelancers to fulfill their need for a technical writer.
Hence, there will always be freelance technical writing jobs for you. You can also negotiate the payment for these freelancing jobs if you have a strong portfolio. A stronger portfolio means better rates for the job. You can also get some technical writing course certification to develop your skills and abilities and showcase them.
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To start your career as a freelance technical writer, you don’t necessarily need to know everything from the start. You can learn as you go and complete projects to develop a better freelancing profile over time.
Check out the Requisite Technical Writing Skills to become a Pro-technical writer.
What are the Benefits of Working as a Freelance Technical Writer?
Becoming a full-time freelance technical writer or earning extra money on the side are several benefits of doing it you just have to hold the ability to work from anywhere in your own time. A few of the benefits of a freelance technical writer are given below.
- Flexible Working Hours
When surveyed, around 1 million freelancers globally chose this style of working over traditional day jobs because of the increased flexibility of freelancing. As freelancers aren’t considered an employee to the clients, you don’t need to work according to clock in and out every day. Freelance writing runs on deadlines rather than regular working hours. This freedom of flexible working schedule helps you in your non-work obligations or control over your time.
- Working From Anywhere
In addition to flexible working hours, location independence is one of the major benefits of a career in freelance technical writing. As long as you have a computer and a good internet connection, you can work from anywhere anytime. You don’t need to take time off for planning your vacations.
- Higher Salary Potential
Freelance Technical Writing is not just a side hustle option; it’s an excellent full-time career choice. Because of your specialized knowledge and skills, you can propose a higher salary.
Being a freelance technical writer allows you to work on a wide variety of projects across multiple industries. Be it finance, IT, government, medicine, education, or manufacturing, you can choose your clients. Moreover, you are not limited to working for one industry at a time. Working with more than one industry at a time will develop your work and explore the topics and industries that interest you.
Know about the Top Technical Writing Courses in India
Freelance Technical Writer’s Salary
The technical writer’s position is full-time in most organizations; however, some organizations hire them part-time or on contract. While some companies prefer freelance technical writers. Every technical job is different depending upon the company and industry.
Sometimes, you may find several related jobs with different job profiles under the same job descriptions. According to PayScale, based on 26 salaries, an entry-level freelance writer with less than 1 year of experience can get average compensation worth Rs. 400.00. The average hourly rate of a freelance technical writer in India is INR 475.
The total pay ranges from INR 1.93 lakh per annum to INR 20 lakh per annum. Glassdoor is an acclaimed website that gives you several salaries estimates and reviews. So, according to Glassdoor’s survey, a Freelance Technical writer’s salary can range from ₹3,33,179-₹4,26,146 per year.
However, the income of a freelance technical writer is highly flexible dependent upon the number of clients they are working with. Technical writers with a higher level of knowledge or who specialize in niche topics can price their services higher.
What are the Skills You Need to Become a Freelance Technical Writer?
To become a successful freelance technical writer, you need to have technical understanding and skills to build and run your own business. Here, we have shortlisted the top requirements and skills that you should have before starting your career as a freelance writer.
- Technical Knowledge and Expertise
You don’t usually need to have formal education or training in some freelance writing, however, that’s not often the case with technical writing. In freelance niches like technical writing, you will regularly find clients who will want you to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree.
Because clients will ask you to break down the complex concepts into user-friendly language, they’ll often look for someone with a similar working experience too. Even if you are writing for someone’s website, you should have expert knowledge of on-page SEO.
- Written Communication
Written communication skills are a must for every professional writer. A technical writer must know how to write a plain, concise and neutral tone of words. Clarifying the complex material into approachable content is an important factor for technical writers.
Written communications skills also come in handy while dealing with clients as you won’t be working with your clients in the office every day. You need to be able to manage expectations and communicate effectively with them via emails.
Editing is a crucial stage in the writing process that needs special, undivided attention. Some clients even hire writers and editors separately for their firms. Although, if your clients do not have any in-house editors, you need to sharpen your editing skills. You need to make sure you have a solid grasp of grammar and punctuation rules and then learn how to proofread your content to check for the appropriate tone and a logical flow of ideas.
- Time and Project Management
Occasionally in freelance writing, you need to do a lot of juggling with words. While working as a freelancer, there won’t be a manager checker in on your progress and keeping you on track. So, accurately budgeting your time is critical if you have a plan on getting more than one freelance gig at a time while keeping your full-time job while you freelance.
To ensure you meet all your deadlines, you should master your time management skills and learn how to use project management tools. It will be your responsibility to create project timelines, troubleshoot problems, and communicate any significant changes with your clients.
- Marketing Skills
In every successful freelancing business, there is some level of self-promotion required. To convert your freelancing into a full-time career, you need to market yourself to potential clients. You have to think of yourself as a small firm and put yourself out there to gain new clients.
Recommended Read: SEO Courses in India
6 Key Steps for Starting Your Career in Freelance Technical Writing
- Choose your area of expertise.
- Create your writing samples.
- Create an online portfolio.
- Connect with potential clients.
- Negotiate the rates.
- Finalize contracts.
1. Choose Your Area of Expertise
Starting a career as a freelance technical writer, you need to select your writing niche. One of the easiest ways is by choosing industries related to your educational background and work experience. For example, if you have work experience as a Web Developer then you can start your career by writing technical articles about UX/UI design or guides for installing website security measures.
You can also do specialization in certain types of projects like white papers or technical manuals. Continuing to gain experience in a particular area will hone your skills and you will be able to charge higher rates.
2. Create Your Writing Samples
Once you have decided on your writing niche, start writing. You need to have relevant writing samples to create a portfolio to share with potential clients. Even if you don’t have clients, you should begin by writing samples significant to your writing niche.
If you don’t have any writing experience then it can be helpful for you to take an online writing course to refresh your skills. Once you have your samples ready, it’s time to build your portfolio. Your portfolio will be your folder of the sample content that you can share with your clients.
3. Grow Your Brand and Generate Leads
Building a sharable portfolio is a good start but if you want to bring in more clients, you need to create a website that showcases your work and gives the idea of what exactly content you offer. To build a freelance website, you need the following elements that will help you in lead generation:
- Services Page.
- Contact Form.
- Personal Blog or Work Samples.
You can also add positive reviews and ratings to your website once you have worked with a few clients. Once your website goes live, start connecting to the relevant industry publications to find opportunities for guest posting. Guest posting will help you get traffic for your website by creating content for someone else in return for a link back to your website.
We also suggest that to select at least one social platform where you can constantly share your content to showcase your expertise and gain exposure to potential clients. LinkedIn, Quora, Medium, and Reddit are excellent choices for technical writers.
4. Connect with Potential Clients
If you are not hearing from prospective clients right away, you might need to use some outbound contact strategies to get your first few jobs. There are a few places to start looking for your first clients. To begin, reach out to your existing professional network, browse job portals to bid on projects and then make a list of target clients you can connect with.
At this point, you need to learn how to pitch your work persuasively to get clients to take a meeting with you. There are various pitching techniques shared by successful freelancers online which you can refer to. See what suits you best and start contacting people.
5. Negotiate the Rates
To uncover the writing opportunities, you need to develop a good relationship with your potential clients. A client will typically ask for a project proposal if they are interested in hiring you for the project. That proposal will define the outline exactly what you will deliver and when.
Once your proposal is discussed together, it’s time for negotiating a rate. We recommend coming up with a price per project rather than per word or hour for highly technical projects. Research market prices and decide your minimum acceptable rate before you negotiate.
6. Finalizing the Contract
Always draft a contract for your freelancing projects. A contract will protect you and ensure that you receive payment for your work. Contracts don’t need to be complicated, they should contain the scope of work, content ownership, payment terms, deadlines, and revision policy. Sometimes, clients may ask you that you include a non-compete clause or confidentiality statement.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it difficult to become a freelance technical writer?
It can be slightly difficult if you don’t have the relevant knowledge about the field. For example, someone who believes they are an accomplished writer but does not have knowledge of grammar may find that they cannot use their skills very effectively as a technical writer as they lack this knowledge.
2. How do I start my career in freelance technical writing without any prior experience?
To start your career in freelancing, first, you will need to take courses and certifications to enhance your writing skills. These courses can be online or offline, but they are required if you want to build your experience. After completion of courses, you must find a mentor who will guide you in choosing the correct freelance technical writing niche for you. This will help you in developing your portfolio and approaching potential clients.
3. What are the types of technical writing?
Technical writing formerly was only required in STEM fields such as engineering, physics, chemistry, computer science, information technology, etc. But now, it’s also used in various business fields, especially in finance and accounting, meaning there are multiple types of technical writing.
Except for the basic standards of technical communication, there are no general rules for producing technical documents. It completely depends upon the audience and the organization that is building it. However, every organization has guidelines to develop these documents to ensure consistency.
This genre of content is so ordinary that we all come across several types of technical documents at every step of our life and career. It’s a very broad field filled with countless niches of its own. However, here are 5 of the most popular types of technical writing.
- Medical and Scientific Papers.
- User Manuals and Assistance Guides.
- Books and Guides by Technical Writers.
- Assembly Manuals.
- Technical Documents, Reviews, and Reports.
4. What are the fundamentals of technical writing?
The six fundamentals to guide technical writing are:
- Remember your purpose. Either you are informing or persuading.
- Remember your audience. Understand what are their concerns, their background, attitude toward your purpose.
- Create your content specific to its purpose and audience, should be clear and precise, in active voice, and use appropriate language to the audience.
- Use the correct visuals, describing your content. Good page design and graphics will help the audience understand the content more clearly and easily.
- Be ethical. Content should be truthful, full disclosure, and plagiarism free.
As a technical writer, it’s crucial to continually increase your knowledge of various topics to be on top of all developments and develop a name for yourself in the industry. If you want more independence and flexibility in your career then freelance technical writing might be the best option for you. As a freelance technical writer, you should be able to work under pressure with deadlines, budgets, and different forms of clients. If you have the relevant knowledge and excellent writing skills, you can also pursue it part-time to earn extra money. Freelance writing allows you to work whenever you want and choose the projects and clients that interest you.