that you can hire Technical Writer instead of these other professionals?
The Technical Writer as a Generalist
Account Manager Business Analyst
Consultant Content Manager
Documentation Architect Documentation Manager
Editor/Proofreader Internet Researcher
Level 3 Support Project Manager
Publisher Systems Analyst
The Technical Writer as a Generalist
There is a lot of noise in today’s technology marketplace about Subject Matter Experts vs Generalists.
I recently read an article about disharmony between specialist and generalist technical writers. There are numerous debates and articles about which is BETTER.
In my opinion, there is no better or best – it is all about companies exercising their right to choose (you, making the BEST choice for your small business or start-up company).
What does every company on this planet want?
- Internal process documents that enable operations to run smoothly and consistently.
- Employees that think like entrepreneurs (Action-oriented).
- Amazing customer experience.
- BOTTOM Line — Growth that generates the most revenue for their industry.
I am a Certified Senior Technical Communicator (Writer) and end-user documentation expert – however, before I became a technical writer I spent 5 years as a Developer.
Throughout my extensive successful career in Information Technology I’ve had the pleasure of wearing different hats in many dynamic environments, creating in me a diverse agent for the following roles:
In this article, I will build and present a case for the technical writer as a Generalist as I believe that when you, as a small business owner, partners with a Generalist technical writer you are getting a bigger BANG for your BUCK. (Value Add)
Consider Mary (Not her real name, names have been changed to protect the innocent 😊).
Mary was hired by a major bank in Toronto to write policies and procedures. Her manager quickly recognized her transferable skills and before you know it Mary was managing 3 accounts in 3 different locations across Canada.
After many on-site visits and successful projects, Mary became a trusted advisor and collaborative partner.
Mary has these skill sets of a good account manager, project manager, and technical writer:
- Strong Communicator
- Actively manage risks, issues, and changes
Most BAs I know write procedures and policies that help improve the quality of the product, service, and process of the company. This requires collaboration with developers, systems analysts, engineers, and subject matter experts (SME).
Take a look at some of the deliverables of a BA, do they not match deliverables of a technical communicator?
- Data Flow Diagrams
- Project Plans
- Business Requirements Documents (BRDs)
- Functional Requirements Documents (FRDs)
According to Payscale.com, a Business Consultant can make up to $145,000 a year. A Senior Technical Consultant can take home a salary of up to $130,000 a year. A Senior Technical Writer can earn up to $87,000 a year. (You do the math!)
I copied this Technical Consultant job description from a popular job board:
The responsibilities of a Technical Consultant include:
- Conducting training sessions and seminars
- Reporting on daily responsibilities and tasks
- Resolving client issues
- Testing products and applications
- Documenting processes and application instructions
- Supporting and troubleshooting software issues
- Attending meetings, sessions, and other company events
- Generating innovative ideas
Generally, companies hire a Content Manager to manage their social media accounts, however, they can also manage and maintain technical content just like a technical writer.
See a small sample of my portfolio here; https://veronicaphillip.com/portfolio/
Mind you, there are multiple niches in copywriting, after all, I’ve met copywriters who are Content Strategist.
I think that a generalist copywriter with a passion for technology and communication can fit snugly into a technical writing niche.
Companies have always hired technical writers to write documentation and create designs, including wireframing.
Here is an excerpt from a job posting in Plano Texas.
Designs/creates supporting visuals, process maps, charts, presentations, graphics, videos, and illustrations that elaborate on or complement communications.
Transform technical information into professionally written, engaging instructions.
Documentation Architects / Information Architects and Technical Writers form collaborative partnerships with Subject Matter Experts (SME), Engineers, Developers, and stakeholders to present the best solutions to documentation challenges.
It is a Senior Technical Writer’s dream to one day manage an entire documentation department. I have heard many writers say that they have 2 major career goals – to one day manage a documentation department and to be the CEO of their own documentation company.
- Who — Who will be using the content
- What – What they hope to accomplish by using the information
- Where – Exactly where will they be when using the documentation; warehouse, factory, school?
- When — When would they be using the information
- Why — Why do they need that documentation
- How — How will they use what I write
Technical writers must have in-depth knowledge of many applications, tools, and systems so that they can effectively write about them. This knowledge makes them well equipped to provide support to end-users of those applications, tools, and systems.
Not only do technical writers write clear, concise client facing end-user documentation, they also:
- Demonstrate how to use various applications
- Conduct walkthroughs with clients and stakeholders
Tom loves to write and would rather be writing technical documentation, however shortly after Tom was hired his company experienced massive layoffs.
The technical writing department was reduced from 30 writers, editors, and proofreaders to 5 technical writers and 1 publisher.
Now, everyone has to publish their own documents online. Tom is wearing many different hats these days.
This is what Tom’s day now looks like….
Technical writers create a variety of training materials that include:
- Training modules
- e-Learning courses
- Self-study workbooks
- Slide decks
- Deliver in-class and remote training
- Conduct train the trainer sessions
- Demo new products to investors and stakeholders
- Create and deliver presentations
- Facilitate lunch-and-learn workshops (1-hour sessions)
- Design information architecture
- Analyze User metrics
- Organize search optimization
- Develop localization workflows
- Ensure easy navigation to clear concise usable content
- Know and understand technical terms and concepts
Time is not infinite and there is always a better way of doing things. As a small business owner, it is important to look for the added value in working smarter rather than harder.
Companies are in business to make money so working smarter, being resourceful and inventing new and better ways of doing things puts you and your brand at the forefront of innovation.
It is said that what you cannot automate, outsource, or offshore drives innovation.
The generalist technical writer recognizes that in an ever-changing dynamic industry, to succeed they MUST be resourceful, flexible, and innovative.
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To Your Success,