Succeeding as a Technical Writer
by Michael Knowles

Return to Business & Technical Writing · Return to Article

I love writing -- any kind of writing. Technical writing happens to be my bread and butter, and I've become successful at it. I call what I do guerilla writefare: the practice of writing efficiently, effectively, and sanely in high-stress environments. In this weekly column, I'll tell you how to be successful, too, and how to maintain that success even in tight job markets.

I'll start with a list of rules that have served me in good stead over my entire career. Some are common sense, and others may sound a little extreme or radical to your ears. That's okay. They've worked for me.

Take what you need, and leave the rest.

Where Can You Go from Here?

Now that is a good question. Where can you go from technical writing? Someone once told me that once you're a tech writer, you're always a tech writer. I think that's a load of hooey.

It has to do with what you believe. Since I like to work for startups, I've been able to practice my skills in several different areas. Right now, for example, I am the Product Manager for my current client. What I learned as a technical writer for that client made it possible for me to take on a new and exciting kind of job. Another friend of mine has made a great career for himself as publications technology guru for a well-known network products company. Still another makes a great living in a QA tester/technical writer position.

The point is that your skills as a technical writer can open doors if you believe in yourself, keep your eyes open for interesting opportunities, and have the desire to try something new. I believe that technical writing is an ideal springboard to many other kinds of jobs because of the skills it requires.

Here are a few logical moves for technical writers:

Look around and see what your company has to offer. Use your skills to find work that needs to be done in areas of interest to you and then do it. But it will happen to you only if you believe in yourself enough to persist at it.

Good luck!

Find Out More...

13 Tips on How to Tech-talk to Non-techies - Hasmita Chander

KISS - Keep It Simple, Sweetheart: How to Write About a Complex Subject in a Simple Way - Devyani Borade

Technical Writers: It's OK to Lie to Your Readers -- A Little! - Geoff Hart

Copyright © 2001 Michael Knowles
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Michael Knowles creates technical materials that help companies market and support their products and services. He also writes nonfiction, and poetry, publishes the weekly WriteThinking newsletter, and is working on the third draft of his first novel. He lives in North Carolina, with his wife, two sons, and six cats. And he laughs. A lot.


Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors and may not be reprinted
without the author's written permission, unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor