Technical Writing for Fun and Profit
Do you remember the days when you had to call your kids long-distance to have them help you re-program the time on your VCR? Or perhaps you remember getting that call from your parents. Oh, what a simpler time it was when the worst technical problem was the blinking 12:00 or a video tape jam! Today, everyone is far more technical, whether we want to be or not. Combine that with the advent of internet search engines to be able to quickly search for absolutely anything one needs to know, and the result is an unending need for technical writing geared to the average person.
Technical writing for a non-technical audience – making the complex useful.
Mind you, there is plenty of need to address deep issues for IT professionals, but people need to be able to find simple explanations and easy to follow instructions for real-world, everyday issues.
This creates a need for writing professionals who can take the complex and make it understandable. In my own life, I find myself reaching for the keyboard to search for an explanation or video example for a multitude of things, from re-programming my garage door opener to side-loading apps on my Android TV device to recovering a home computer that choked on the latest security patches.
And this is all on the “for fun” side. I have to say, there have been more than one set of instructions I have read that lead me to believe the author was being paid by the word, since there were so many that were not useful, and sometimes actually leading to confusion.
Sometimes I want to re-write these just for my own sanity, and to help others.
Experience vs aptitude – having desire and research skills trump “hands on” experience.
On the “for profit” side, having over 30 years experience in the IT industry comes in very handy. I have grown in the industry and experienced a large number of changes first-hand. In many cases, new tech requires research to understand and implement.
Thus I have learned how to do the necessary research, interpret the findings, and communicate to others what I have learned.
This skill set is extremely useful in writing technical content for different clients. Gone are the days that one must have “hands on” experience to be able to explain the features and value of a particular software package, or newly enhanced hardware technology.
These days, having the skill to do some research is of great importance.
And being able to interpret or translate technical jargon into everyday useful language is invaluable. But to do so in an enjoyable, conversational manner is the ultimate.
Writer for hire as an alternative to hiring a writer – even for a technical audience.
This is where I have found a niche. Being a trusted writer resource for a few companies keeps a steady flow of challenges and revenue coming in, allowing me to take on occasional ad-hoc projects for blogs and other more ‘consumer’ type articles.
At this time, writing is a creative side job, not a full-time pursuit. But it is something I have always been interested in doing, so this is like the ideal merging of desire, need, opportunity, and technology.
Let’s face it – the internet sure has enabled the “average Joe” to engage in a lot of things that were previously prohibitive for resource and cost reasons.
The PC, and it’s later offspring the laptop, and grandchild the tablet, have mobilized the “office” in ways only fantasized about in even our parent’s generation.
With that, there is now an unending stream of information, new products, new technologies, and of course new gadgets and gizmos!
Being able to research some of this brave new world and break it down for others to be able to enjoy by eliminating the intimidation factor is a real pleasure. And getting paid for it in some cases is just the frosting on my cake!
While “re-programming” the clock on a VCR did not really require rocket science, handling today’s DVRs is by comparison 100 fold both more complex and simple.
Using this example, the initial set-up requires nothing more complicated than a few wires and entering a few prompted bits of information.
From there, everything is pretty much point-n-shoot. The clocks even set themselves!
There are a number of other technology lines I could have drawn from like the challenges of installing computer software in the 1990’s compared to installing an app today, for example.
But while tasks are generally more simplified, the “which device or app and why” along with “what to do when something goes wrong” continue to provide ample opportunity for people to write useful bits of information for sharing with family & friends, but also the entire world, thanks to the internet.
Again, being able to de-mystify technology, make it useful to non-propeller-heads, enjoy the process, and get paid for it…. What a magical time we live in!
And regardless of your age or technological competence, never stop learning – new tech is going to continue to come at you on a daily basis!
Christopher H has an extensive work history in Information Technology, covering a wide span of areas, and has extensive experience writing policy and procedure documentation.
His passion starts with research, investigating new technology and marketplace trends, and communicating these findings in audience-appropriate terms – writing for diverse audiences such as C-suite executives, Auditors, and System Administrators.
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