How to Move Out of Technical Writing & into Higher Paid Jobs

How do I start a career in technical writing? How do I get out of technical writing? I get asked these two questions most every week. If your career in technical writing is stalling – or you just want a fresh start – then here’s some alternative career paths. Many Technical Writers have had their salaries frozen (or reduced) over the past 18 months. Contractors are suffering the same fate as short-term projects dry up. Some of my colleagues have managed to move out of technical writing and into other, better paid lines of work. Here’s some ideas.

How to Get Out of Technical Writing and into Higher Paid Jobs

1. Proposal Writer

I’ve worked in Proposal Writing in the UK and it pays very well. To start a career in proposal development, read up on procurement and government funding. This area requires writers with strong editing skills as you’ll often need to blend contributions from different authors into the proposal document. It also requires the ability to trace/map requirements (i.e. ensure that your proposal matches the requirements in the Request for Proposal.) Proposal writers are found in a wide range of organizations, such as central and local government, health service, education, financial and legal sectors and NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

2. Web Content Manager

This role suits technical writers who’ve been exposed to markup languages, content management software, and Web 2.0 applications. To capitalize on what you already know, get some books on content management policies, practices and systems so that you have a deeper of the principles, theories, concepts, and standards in content management.

Note: The median expected salary for a typical Content Manager in the United States is $77,048.

  • Get Published To Get Ahead – Websites will achieve maximum value when they focus on the tasks of their customers, not the technology or content.
  • Write to be Scanned – Recent research identified that users don’t read on the web, they tend to scan. This means that when you are writing content for the web, you need to make them as ‘scannable’ as possible. 
  • Web Writing Tips – Keeping content fresh is a major challenge for every web writer. In addition to managing the technical, business, marketing, administration aspects of the web business, you still have to find time to update your web content on a regular basis. 

3. Information Architect

Again, this role suits writers who have crossed over into web technologies and want a more specialized career. Job opening for this type of work is limited as it is very specialized. However, those who do manage to establish themselves can expect very attractive contract/consultancy work. The web is hardly going to go away. Investing in Information Architecture is worth considering. Skills in defining business/technical specifications, defining metadata, and developing workflows and mappings will get you an interview.

  • Role of the Information Architect The Information Architect often doubles up as the Project Manager; capture the sites design goals; communicate the business objectives, such as the sites sales targets, audience, and language requirements.
  • Difference between Usability and Information Architecture – Though the terms Usability and Information Architecture are often understood to be the same thing, this is not true. On the web, this involves reading text, labelling items, creating navigation systems, searching for data, using content and so forth.”
  • Creating User-Focused Site Designs – For your site to succeed, arrange the content around the users needs. Before any coding starts, gather, sort and organize your content. The more time spent on this, the more success visitors will have on your site.”
  • What is Information Architecture? This emerging field has become more prominent in recent years as websites have grown increasing complex and users demand more friendly navigation systems. Information Architects organize content, such as text, labels, graphics, and shopping carts, so that users can understand the sites content and do things faster on the site.

4. White Paper Writer

how to write white papersMichael Stelzner has probably done more than anyone to raise the profile of white papers in the last 10 years. His site is a huge success and offers many tips for those considering moving into this area. Likewise, his bestsellers on writing white papers are an essential investment if you want to fast-track your career. Perry Marshal (http://www.perrymarshall.com/whitepapers/) is another gold-mine of information.

  • Grow Your Business by Writing White Papers – Recently we discussed the effectiveness of white papers in generating business. You might be interested in the following statistics, as they illustrate the returns you can generate from a well-crafted white paper.”
  • How to Structure Your White Paper – In the IT industry, the white paper has become a popular tool for promoting a product or service. It is frequently used in tandem with case studies, and other sales collateral, to promote a company’s respective product of services. In this brief article, we will outline a suggested format to use when writing your white paper.

5. Medical Writer

This area is ideal for writers who have worked for Pharmas or in the medical industry. There are many overlaps with technical writing, though knowledge of procedures, policies, and the R&D cycle for drug development are all a bonus.

Where do I start?

If you want to move out of technical writing, or just consider it, then start doing the groundwork.

This means reading up on the specialist areas, doing a course if possible, and also seeing where your skills match these areas.For example, I know that there are many roles for medical writers in Europe, especially France, Ireland, UK and Switzerland, as the pharma companies have large R&D firms there. So, technical writers in Europe, might focus here.

In the US, there seems to be more web-related work. Those who develop a track record in online editing and/or web content management may earn more than technical writers in the long run.

Why?

Technical writing is getting outsourced to less expensive counties, such as India, Poland and other offshore companies. Once those jobs get out-sourced, they don’t come back.

Those are my thoughts.What do you think? What other career opportunities do you see for technical writers?