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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.
> I?ve heard that most Technical Writing Jobs require
> you to have experience
> with both RoboHelp and Microsoft Frontpage. These
> are 2 of the most
> important programs.
Never had to use FrontPage. Every place I've worked
(with exception of one where it made sense to use it)
I've steered companies away from RoboHelp to another
help authoring tool that made sense for their needs
and workflow. Tools are tools - there is no best or
> Therefore if I do good in both of these classes,
> would I be qualified to get
> a decent Technical Writing Job?
Tools are not the only qualifying factor. Subject
matter familiarity, quality of writing, experience,
and presentation also count heavily. People don't hire
contractors to work on their houses based on the tools
they have hanging from their belt (although some may
hire them from the tools hanging elsewhere, but that's
another story). People hire contractors based on the
type of work they have done, the quality of that work,
and the recommendations from others. Same goes for ANY
job interview in ANY profession. Nuclear physicists
aren't hired by what applications they use for their
analysis, but rather how much they know, where they've
worked, and the quality of work they have performed.
> Is there a demand for Technical Writers? If so, will
> there be a steady
> demand for Technical Writers over the next 5 years?
The demand is down now as we're in a recession (or
pulling out of one, or there has never been one -
depending on what news personality you listen to).
It'll go up as the economy improves. There has always
been a fluctuating demand for tech writers. I expect
this trend to continue as long as people need to be
explained how to do and use things.
> Is the average pay $15 to $20 an Hour?
That's incredibly low for contracting. Low for salary
as well. Go to http://www.stc.org/salary.html for a
better picture of what tech writers are getting.
> Are all Technical Writer Jobs 3 to 6 month Contract
> Jobs or are there also permanent jobs?
permanent, short term, long term... there are all
sorts of tech writing opportunities.
> Would these 2 classes give me a sufficient
> foundation to get a Technical
> Writing Job, or will I need to take more classes and
> learn more programs?
You mentioned you worked in the telecomm industry as a
writer - you have experience. Adding tools without
real-world experience in them will only help
minimally. You need to push your industry knowledge
and your skills.
> The RoboHelp Program costs about $1900. I can?t
> afford to buy it and put it
> on my home pc to practice. MS Frontpage costs about
> $140. The classes last
> 3 months.
> After I graduate, I can?t afford to buy either
> program and install it on my
> home pc so I can continue practicing with the 2
> programs at home. I wonder
> if the 3 months of hands-on practice with the 2
> programs in class will give
> me enough expertise to
> get a Job?
Probably not, then again it's not what you know, but
what you can do. I have taken only two tools classes
in my life - both advanced courses - because I was
doing some more sophisticated stuff and MY EMPLOYER
(not me) decided I should take a class to learn what I
needed to learn. The classes for me were a waste of
time. I did better by playing with the tools on my own
and relying on the user groups and mailing lists for
feedback and problem solving. Then again, I never did
well in a classroom environment.
> Can you get a Technical Writing Job with training in
> just these 2 programs
> (RoboHelp, Microsoft Frontpage) or do you need
> training in other programs
Depends on the job.
> If so, What and How many other programs do you need
> to learn in order of priority?
2,473 programs in the following order of political
Seriously, adding tools to your belt will help you
only when you need to use them to GET THE JOB DONE.
The job is not using FrontPage or using RoboHelp. That
is not what technical writing is about. It's about
becoming an authority on a subject and being able to
write about it in an intelligent manner in rder to
educate others in that thing, whatever it may be. The
tool just gets your words down in the form in which it
needs to be delivered.
> What are your top 10 (economical or free) sources
> for quality information on
> Technical Writing?
4. mailing lists
5. web sites
6. user forums
7. technical writing books
8. field experience
9. others' work (read the documentation that comes
with ANYTHING you buy? Good examples of good and bad
examples in virtually every product you buy).
10. anything form of successful writing
> What are the best books available on Technical
The ones that make sense to you and teach you things
you think are helpful and beneficial to know.
Everyone's different, and though there may be one or
two universal "have to have it" books, there are
thousands out there because everyone's different.
What's good for one persom in one situation may not be
good for another person or situation.
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