TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
A lot depends on where you live or want to live, as well as on what
technologies you're interested in documenting. If you hate computers, there
are other technologies to write about and other types of tech writing. And
if you hate what you're doing, nobody can pay you enough to make it worth
On both coasts, computer companies seem to be the dominant employers and
possibly the highest paying, but that's misleading. Tech writers work in
finance and insurance companies, for example, as well as for all branches of
the government. You might want to look at the state of Vermont's web site,
especially the environmental areas. The NOAA folks have a lot of technical
publications, both highly technical and higly consumer-oriented. Medical and
scientific writing are both big areas, though how much they pay varies
considerably. You DO need a background in the technology you're documenting.
You can acquire that and grow with the technology as you write, but you must
have some baseline.
There's a lot more to the tech writing life than writing manuals.
Don't overlook the trade press. What magazines do you read? I know of one
person who started at a lowly copyediting job at Ziff-Davis publications and
rose to managing editor of one of their pubs. And there's marketing writing
and corporate communications. And tech video. And, and, and....
Whatever you do, follow your natural curiosity and keep learning... about
the constantly changing techie scene and about the people who WANT to know
more about it. And keep writing. I'm still a "practicing" tech writer after
decades in the field. I'm still learning, and that's part of what keeps it
Pragmatically, here's a suggestion. Pick a technology that interests you.
Write a short, general interest piece on it for your local paper. Send it in
to the features editor. (My first published article was on sundials.)Get a
copy of Writer's Market or the issue of The Writer magazine that tells where
to sell technical articles. And keep going with it, even if you get a job as
a tech writer. You can always use those articles as part of your portfolio.
If you want to get serious about writing articles, get a copy of one of
Marcia Yudkin's books (can't recall the exact title) about the craft of
Well, I didn't mean to go on at such length, but you get the idea. If you
want to be a writer, WRITE. Keep learning. Follow your heart.
And good luck! Maybe we'll work together some day.