Whether you're crafting an ebook, user manual, or a set of product descriptions, as a technical writer your job can essentially be boiled down to one thing: simplifying the complex. If you've ever tried to explain to your grandma how a 3-in-1 printer or—heaven forbid, cryptocurrency—works, you know it's far easier said than done.One way you can sharpen your chops on breaking down the complicated into the comprehensible is by deepening your knowledge across several domains. Varying across different expertise can help you be a stronger technical writer and boost your value as an in-demand freelancer. Here's how you can become a "flexpert" technical writer and join the ranks of the skilled freelancers in our new technical writing category.
Get familiar with what content strategy is – essentially the "why" of content marketing – and the general content strategy of businesses you're working with. This will help you see your work from a bird's-eye view, and how your role fits into the larger puzzle.In a nutshell, content strategy defines everything from who the audience is, the targeted personas, brand voice, tone, style, and how its editorial goals sync up to the company's business objectives.By knowing a brand's voice, you'll have a clearer idea of how to craft language so it not only explains convoluted topics in a way that resonates with the intended audience.And if you're crafting technical content for the web, understanding basic analytics and metrics will help you gauge how well your work performed. As a freelancer, don't be shy about asking your client for some info on the business's content strategy, what they're generally hoping to achieve with content, and at the metrics. It'll only make you better at your job.
These days, e-learning is a popular way to train everyone from worker bees to C-suite executives. And with the rise of the remote worker and freelancing economy, online learning is more widespread than ever. Companies may hire technical writers not only to create content for traditional educational formats but to effectively communicate with different teams to help develop computer-based training, too.Any experience you get under your belt by writing online courses could lend itself to forms of technical writing that are trending. For instance, with the rise of conversational AI, you could do writing for chatbots and voice interactions.
The job of any writer, no matter what industry or discipline, is to gather and convey information. While the intended audience may be different, look for tips and tactics in material geared toward consumers. How is the info being conveyed, in terms of language, style, format, and structure? Whether you're writing in the SaaS (software as a service) space, or for the auto or medical industries, B2C content can provide great examples on how to better explain complex concepts. If you're having a tough time distilling jargon into layman's terms, turn toward content written for a consumer audience. Study what works, what doesn't, and why.
No matter which industry or company you're crafting technical writing for, learn the ins and outs of different departments such as support, marketing, sales, engineering, and UX design. By understanding the general function of each division, and how they interact and support one another, you can devise a more holistic approach to writing technical material. That not only makes for a stellar technical writer, but you'll be able to assist in solving problems from an inter-departmental viewpoint.
Being an expert on a specific topic can help you stand out against the sea of technical writers. Put your ninja research skills to use and dip your toes in a subject, whether it's enterprise software, fintech (aka financial technology), or mechanical engineering. Ask clients, both current and past, about resources and courses you can sign up for to expand your knowledge.When you're courting potential clients or sending out a proposal for a project, noting that you have expertise on a popular topic can help you rise above the competition to land more challenging—and well-paying—assignments. Your newfound "flexpertise" will give an interdisciplinary advantage to your work as a technical writer and ultimately help you become more valuable in the ever-changing work environment.Have you dabbled in technical writing? What do you think makes a good "flexpert"? Tell us in the comments below—and then check out the talent in our new technical writing category.