5 Most Important Factors to Consider When Hiring a Technical Writer

With the expansion of the IoT, products across nearly all disciplines are becoming more complex. Nearly everything has become a technical product, each with its own unique features. As a result, the marketing effort to communicate the nuances of the technology is significantly more difficult than ever. At first glance, an OEM may think it should handle the marketing efforts internally, where they developed the product.  However, internal marketing teams often lack the bandwidth to execute a full, powerful campaign. Many companies no longer have full time writers on staff, putting further stress on the marketing team to handline the writing function as well. 

To bridge this gap, freelance technical writers have gained popularity over the last few years by providing on-demand help for hard-to-explain topics. But while there are many compelling reasons to hire freelance writers, there are critical factors to think about before selecting the best one to undertake the content task. Here are the 5 most important factors to consider when hiring a technical writer.

Flexibility

Depending on the company and demands, hiring a freelancer might provide greater flexibility. Companies can be selective by bringing on the specific skill set a task requires. Freelancers also have the ability to provide a faster project turnaround, and can work hours dictated by project needs. The on-demand nature of the working relationship allows the hiring firm control to ensure that the content developer meets expectations. If the fit is not working, they simply terminate the freelance writer and bring in a new one. This model also allows a company the freedom to not pay a writer during periods of less consistent content needs.

Contractor vs employee

Hiring a contractor comes with a number of benefits. The three best are that the employment agreement is fast, easy, and cost efficient! Without benefits, social security tax, or federal/state withholding to bog down kicking off a new writer on a project, the time between decision-to-hire to start of productive work time can be minutes. All those services of full-time employees require administrative cost and time, both of which are avoided by hiring a contractor. As employee salary and benefits are typically the highest expense a company pays, companies can achieve better than a 57% cost savings when investing in a capable freelance writer by only paying for the specific project completed without associated overhead and training, providing you a high ROI. There is also an element of consistency in having the same contractor write the pieces for a topic cluster that may not be realized with an internal team.

On-demand expertise

High-quality content builds trust, credibility and can drive traffic to your website. As products gain higher levels of technical complexity, an engineering technical writer can speak to your audience by clarifying complex topics and ensuring content is optimized for your website. They have a deep knowledge base, which is embedded in the content to add technical credibility. Having this knowledge top-of-mind also allows engineering technical writers to complete the deliverable faster by not requiring as much research. Contract writers offer access to a diverse base of information and current-industry best practices, increasing an organization’s credibility.

Technical writer vs an Engineer who doesn’t write.

Just as it is important to have a writer with technical expertise, it’s critical to ensure the technical content writer has equivalent writing ability. This is the difference between an engineering trained technical writer and an engineer who is asked to write. A technical writer digests/analyses and articulates knowledge, material, ideas into content that can be used to achieve a clear business objective. There elements of entertainment, storytelling, grammar, formatting, etc that compliment the technical information to creating copy that can meet business KPI. While companies are learning that it is far easier to teach the engineer to write than it is to teach the writer to engineer, simply hiring an engineer w/hopes of teaching him to write doesn’t always work. Technical writing is a skill that not all engineers have nor can develop, so it is important in the vetting process to review writing samples/portfolio and to ensure you find a technical writer that is both an expert and technically capable.

Non-employee vs. in-house writer

Bringing in an external writer provides you the free opportunity for an unbiased view product. Additionally, the writer creates content that doesn’t have the undertone of a sales pitch, and just aims to educate and/or entertain the audience (assuming that is the goal). You get to determine how agnostic the content is and define the reader’s takeaway, all in a way that doesn’t sound salesy or pitchy. The contract writer is motivated to gain future work, and as a result he or she strives to exceed expectations to build a strong reputation with the hiring company. Conversely, an internal hire may only do the bare minimum on a given task depending on workload, interest level, etc. Hiring a capable freelance writer ensures that a company can provide high-level content for its clients.

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