When to Hire a Technical Writer

by Lois Leonard

2 min read

So you’ve developed a product and it’s operating flawlessly. The only thing is that you need a user’s manual or other technical documentation so that customers, and maybe your help desk staff, can understand how it works. You might think it makes sense for your development team to write the documentation, but hiring a technical writer might be a better choice for creating such high-quality documents.

What’s a Technical Writer

Businesses hire all kinds of writers, from copywriters to bloggers, for various reasons. You may have writers on your staff, but they probably don’t have the same skill set as technical writers. A technical writer is a person who specializes in writing simple, accurate content so that a broad range of people can understand it. Think about the last time you bought a laptop, vacuum cleaner, or home hair color kit. You probably noticed the instructions that came with these products were super easy to read and understand, and they helped you get the product up and running in no time flat. Because you read the instructions, your hair turned the color it was supposed to, instead of green. All of those instructions were written by technical writers. But technical writing isn’t just for user’s guides. Grant applications, customer service and video scripts, training manuals, and even warning labels all fall under the big umbrella of technical writing.

A Technical Writer’s Skill Set

It’s common for businesspeople to use jargon that your average person doesn’t understand. A technical writer has a special talent for taking jargon and simplifying it into everyday language. This is a skill that, say, a company executive or product developer, though highly accomplished, may not possess. Technical writers understand concepts from both sides – the expert’s side and the average person’s side – and that’s what makes them highly valued when it comes to creating content that gets buy-in from industry outsiders. Suppose that you run a nonprofit organization that funds equipment for digging wells in impoverished countries, and you need to apply for a grant. A grant writer, who is a technical writer, can create a document that explains everything the grant-making organization wants to know in clear, simple language that helps you win the funding. Some technical writers have taken university-level courses to learn the skill set, but a fair number of technical writers have no official training at all; they just know how to simplify ideas instinctively.

Bringing a Technical Writer on Staff

The best time to bring technical writers on staff is at the beginning of a project or initiative, so that they can work side by side with product developers or other staffers as the product or initiative takes shape. The good thing about technical writers is that many are freelancers who work on contract. This means you can hire technical writers only when you need them. The temporary nature of a technical writer’s job also makes it possible to scale and hire as many as you need to complete a set of tasks, without impacting your budget in the long term. Hiring technical writers to create your documentation can have a positive impact on the public’s perception of your business.

References & Resources

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