A technical writer is someone who writes user manuals. That's the most successful description of my work when I have to explain it to my friends. And it usually ends the conversation. That's life—asi es la vida.
Today's topic is one of the untold stories about being a technical writer. It is simple: Does it pay? Here it goes, in full graphic (it is for the US market but also applicable elsewhere, overall). Here are some of the trends.
Technical writers want to write.
43% of us want promotion and writing gigs. 27% of us don't want promotion—we want to keep writing. That means 70% of us want to keep writing—the user manuals. This is absolutely true. We technical writers are strange creatures who prefer isolation over community work. It's not that we prefer boringness—it's that we want to keep working no matter what, and our definition of "work" is to write documents, not managing.
Technical writers take rest?
This is where the US departs from the rest of the world; well, at least from Taiwan. 50% of technical writers in the US have 3 or 4 weeks of paid vacation. Probably they are busy scheduling their next trip to Europe, wondering if they should fly to London or Paris first. Here in Taiwan I am looking at the "7 days left" in my HR record and wondering if can I cram my dentist appointment and my visa renewal in the same day.
Technical writers write about high-tech but work low-tech.
Among employee benefits, telecommute opportunities is ranked at 13th, 59%. Is it high or low? Hard to say. Theoretically, technical writing does not need to be done at office. Practically, to produce a good document, a technical writer should always be in touch with the engineers, preferably in close physical proximity. But as the IT industry moves from hardware-oriented to software-oriented being in touch with the developers should no longer mean sitting with them a lot.
Overall, technical writing does look similar to any other office jobs, doesn't it?