Four Things To Look For In A Freelance Technical Writer

You’ve decided to take on a freelance tech writer but you aren’t sure what to look for. Many employers of freelancers think that their project is too complicated for a writer to come in and understand it. However, you should keep in mind that this is what writers are trained to do; come in cold turkey and learn enough about a product to document it for users. In my experience with the exception of highly technical products, experienced freelance technical writers have little trouble mastering the technical end of things. Here then is four points where I think you should put the emphasis when looking for a freelance writer.

1. How many years has he been in the field? If the writer has managed to make a living as a freelancer for more than two years then you can be confident that he has more than a basic understanding of what it means to be a freelance technical writer.

2. Ask about specific experience-before interviewing the writer go to their website and see if there is a client list. If so ask what specifically they did for these clients.

3. Ask to see samples of their work. Keep in mind however that the final product is often a function not only of the writer’s talent but also the time and budget allotted to the project and the client’s input (or lack thereof)

4. A technical writing project is a cooperative enterprise. You, or somebody from your company is going to have to work with the writer. Speak to the writer for a few minutes, not necessarily about your project. How are his people skills? Do you think that he’ll be able to successfully interview subject matter experts? how will he respond to feedback?



Do We Need to Hire a Salaried Technical Writer or Should We Go With a Freelancer?

You are a high-tech/Bio-tech company and your first product is nearing release.  The product requires documentation and you ask your self what are our options? Before deciding you should consider these factors:

  • The amount of anticipated work— Do you think that you have enough work to keep a full-time writer busy? Will this be the first in a long string of products. Generally companies in the software field release more products than those in the hardware field.
  • The complexity of the material—Is the material so complex that it may be less expensive to hire a salaried writer even though you may not be able to keep him busy all the time so that all the time he spent learning the material won’t go down the tubes?
  • Budget–Hiring a salaried worker means paying them for at least a year. Do you have the budget for this?

The following table presents the options open to you: