At one time, technical writers used to be something of an enigma – and still are. These writers were called in for special projects and were often contract technical writers rather than full time staff. As a result, they seemed to work in a fly by night fashion, helping only when needed and not sticking around for the long haul.
But is this the best scenario?
In times when communication matters more than ever, technical writers should be a part of writing decisions, from start to finish. And having a team of writers is considered to be the best arrangement. Not only will you have the collective wisdom of these professionals, but you will also find you are able to get things done much more quickly.
Even if a technical writer is an hourly employee, the more you have, the fewer hours they will need to work. Together in the team, they can look at past projects to decide the tone and format, create the structure, write the project, and then review it for errors. A trained technical writer can get all of these things done quickly when they have the support of a full time (or at least regular) technical writing team.
Businesses benefit with a more efficient technical writing team. They can not only see their ideas become reality more quickly, but they will find the documentation is not only helpful, but more consistent than when a business brings in a new writer for each project. In addition, a strong writing team will be able to see what other documents are necessary in order to build a concrete library of texts, instructional manuals, etc.
Is this always possible? Is it always possible to have a team of technical writers? Probably not. But when a company relies on technical writing to train and to inform, it’s not a bad idea to stop looking at layoffs and start looking into hiring.
Common Myths and Misconceptions About Layoffs
How to Justify Hiring Technical Writers During Hard Economic Times
If you’re an HR, Documentation or Technical Communications Manager, when you finally get the approval to hire one or more contract technical writers you’ll want to go about it the right way in order to avoid problems and ensure success.
This timeless article, written by Writing Assistance, Inc.’s President, Scott Hartmann, provides insight on what managers need to do before and during the process of bringing in new contract technical writing professionals, from creating an appropriate job description to where to find qualified candidates, what to look for in assessing fit for your job or project and the contract itself.
Read: Hiring Contract Technical Writers
Which Skill Sets Are Important for Technical Writers?
Getting Buy In for Hiring Technical Writers in Tough Times
Have you had to hire contract technical writers in the past, or are you in the process of looking for technical writers now? Please post a comment and share your thoughts.
Being asked to take the reins of a brand new documentation department is a challenge that many professional technical writers relish, even though the training and development activities they participated in may never have prepared them for such a rewarding challenge. This article looks at forming a new documentation department, team or group and determining what’s needed, when it’s needed and what resources are available to help the new group carry out its mission.
Five Questions to Ask Yourself While Creating a New Documentation Department
by Eric Butow
Congratulations! You’re the manager of your company’s emerging documentation department — and your work has just begun. To create effective documentation for your customers, you not only have to build a sound team, but also build working relationships with all other departments in your company.
In my contracting travels, I’ve set up two new documentation departments in two very different settings. My first was a documentation department for a startup networking software company in 1999. The company’s only previous documentation was a slim manual written by a programmer.
In 2004, I helped set up a new documentation department at the financial aid division for a major bank. Over the years, this division had been passed along to different parent banks — the newest of which was shocked to find that no one had written documentation about financial-aid processes, and no documentation about the software they had used during the division’s last 20 years! As a result, the new parent organization decided that relying on the institutional memories of its employees was a major risk, so the documentation department was born.
When you create your own documentation department, you should ask yourself five simple questions that will help your new department show its value to the company as quickly as possible. These questions are similar to those that a good reporter must answer when documenting a story — who, what, where, why, and how? — and they are as important for a documentation department manager as they are for an ace journalist.
The questions are:
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