How did you get started in tech writing?

Subject: How did you get started in tech writing?
From: Technical Writer <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 17 Aug 2008 10:49:41 -0400

While completing an undergraduate degree in technical communication, I was hired to upgrade a legacy software application into a "modern" language. That meant deconstructing, modeling, re-designing, and programming six legacy software applications (written in BASIC) into a single Visual Basic .NET application.

What started out as a hobby quickly escalated into a full-time position that included everything from writing online help files explaining how to use the new application to designing and implementing a website to market the output of the new application. The scope of the position--initially a part-time gig as a hobby programmer helping some friends upgrade a set of monstrously inefficient legacy software applications--evolved into a full-time position as a "technical documentation specialist."

In the past several years, while working on an MS in tech comm, I have continued both programming and technical writing, in the form of short-term gigs doing everything from server-side programming to DITA-format online help files.

The unusual thing is that virtually every one of the projects I have completed has been a contract; I have never worked as a conventional nine-to-fiver, and most of the projects have involved business needs analysis and design, rather than production writing against a specific format.

I am in my fourth year of technical writing now, have never been unemployed longer than about a week, and earn a decent hourly rate as a 1099 contractor. My projects are currently about 40% Java programming and 60% writing.

The synthesis of programming and technical writing is a natural one for me, and I thoroughly enjoy both, as well as the satisfaction (and reward!) of being primarily a problem solver, rather than just a programmer or writer.
tekwrytr - Contract business analysis and solutions development in Visual Basic .NET, ASP .NET, SQL Server, and XML. Specializing in cost-effective rapid application development (RAD), prototyping, and service-oriented architecture (SOA) IT solutions for SMBs.
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