When Should You Hire a Contract Writer?
by Jacquie Samuels
Your product is ready to ship! Wait, quick, someone write the documentation! Yes, this happens a lot. However, if you want your users to be able to use your product without banging their heads against the wall, then your best bet is to hire a contract technical writer. Contract technical writers can be hired for long or short term, as sole writers or to augment your existing staff—whatever your project needs. They are a cost-effective solution that can provide you with the clear, quality content that your users need.
Why use a technical writer at all?A technical writer is that person who can bridge the gap between product and user. Documentation can make or break your product, so it makes sense to invest in a technical writer so your users can understand what your product can do for them and how to use the product. A technical writer provides:
- Clear writing and effective communication: Documentation is useless if it’s not clearly written. However, this is about more than just word choice and grammatical expertise. It’s as important to know what to write as it is how to write it. A technical writer is trained to do both.
- Professional formatting and presentation: From layout and font to appropriate size for graphics, a technical writer makes your content look professional. Also, don’t forget about branding. Your documentation is just as much part of your product as its other features and it should look like it. Colors, styles, and logos can go a long way to making the documentation look like your documentation.
- A user’s perspective on the product and in the documentation: Technical writers work as user advocates, seeing the product and the documentation from a user’s point of view, which makes the end result usable, clear, and an invaluable component of the product.
- Multimedia to explain why and to show how
- Embedded help
- Online help
- Charts, graphs, and tables
- Search and index mechanisms (so people can find what they are looking for)
- Copyright and legal requirements
- Industry standards
What are the benefits of hiring a contract writer?Many companies cannot afford or do not require full time technical writers. In this case, what makes the most sense is to hire a writer on a contract basis who can meet the needs of the project, however long or short that might be. Another case is where a company has a staff of existing writers, but needs to meet a sudden increase in demand of either volume or time. In both cases, the primary benefits of using a contract technical writer include:
- Cost: A contract technical writer costs less than a full-time employee. In this economy, being able to cut costs where you can just makes good sense. So a contract writer can be hired for the term you need and only that term. You get great documentation and pay only for what you need.
- Skill: Many specialist technical writers are only available on a contract basis. They have highly advanced skills that only apply to short projects, such as implementing single sourcing strategies, creating documentation sets, applying minimalism and task-oriented strategies, creating video tutorials, or updating a template. These specialists can work with your existing writers, if you have them, or on their own. Hire them for an advanced documentation project to improve the content quality or the content creation process.
- Experience: Contract technical writers have a wealth of experience that they can draw upon because they have worked on so many different projects. They have created solutions to problems that you haven’t even encountered yet. A professional has the knowledge to get the job done well and efficiently.