Transition from Proposal Writing?

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AnnetteHillsdale in Round Rock, Texas

86 months ago

Has anyone made the jump from marketing/proposal writing to tech writing? It seems to be a natural transition, but I'm having a hard time getting anyone to bite. I'm not a subject matter expert in anything high-tech, but have the capacity to learn. How did you break in to tech writing if you weren't a subject matter expert?

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Manju in London, United Kingdom

86 months ago

AnnetteHillsdale in Round Rock, Texas said: Has anyone made the jump from marketing/proposal writing to tech writing? It seems to be a natural transition, but I'm having a hard time getting anyone to bite. I'm not a subject matter expert in anything high-tech, but have the capacity to learn. How did you break in to tech writing if you weren't a subject matter expert?

Hi,
The best way will be to learn some of the technical writing tools like RoboHelp, Advanced MS Word, Visio etc. Also you can get yourself familiarised with software technologies and any one programming language(C,C++, or Java). I will not say you have to be an expert but a beginners knowledge and an interest for learning technologies will help you to land in a job.
Also you should be able to reflect these in your resume and cover letter.
Your CL and Resume should be perfect.

Another best thing that you can do is to join in some technical writing course, where you will learn about documentation life cycle and online help authoring tools.

Join technical writing forums like STC to learn more about this profession. Search in Google.
Employers will always look for people who are very flexible and can learn things.

Can you share with me your experience in writing marketing proposals.
Regards
Manju

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Valerie in Pickering, Ontario

67 months ago

What a great question. I'm looking to move from Tech writing to proposal/copywriting and have been trying to for some time. I have little tech knowledge, but do have subject matter expertise in the software I write about. As a tech writer I've also worked on SOX projects and have experience writing process documentation. So, from my perspective

I am a member of the STC and have some tw courses under my belt. In fact, I've been working as a tw for as long as I've been taking course (10+ years).

Keep at it! You can make the transition. But even as a tech writer I have to sell my skills. Since everyone in an office workplace can type, they believe they can write. You have to sell your skills and ability.

July 2009

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Susolov in Houston, Texas

66 months ago

AnnetteHillsdale in Round Rock, Texas said: Has anyone made the jump from marketing/proposal writing to tech writing? It seems to be a natural transition, but I'm having a hard time getting anyone to bite. I'm not a subject matter expert in anything high-tech, but have the capacity to learn. How did you break in to tech writing if you weren't a subject matter expert?

With extensive diversified writing experience: Marketing/Proposal writing is very different from say writing about oil industry equipment or science. I studied proposal writing and technical writing in school. Proposal has specific, limited information and has a sales pitch feel about it. Technical writing has no sales pitch slant. It's not flowery, but rather matter-of-fact. Maybe you can switch by leaving out any sales pitches. :-)

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Techone in Portland, Oregon

57 months ago

Yes, you definitely can make the switch. If you have the ambition to really understand the field. I've done it several times.

BUT don't kid yourself. Technical writing is a very different style. You are often writing in an active voice. Your words are concise yet effective. Think about why a company hires a technical writer? The ultimate goal is to reduce customer support calls (inhouse or outside).

Do your research. Learn what the technical writing style is all about. Talk to other technical writers (in person) or their managers. Meet them at STC meetings. Ask for samples from them. Ask questions. Interview them - that is part of the technical writing job too. If anything, you are now networking-they know your name for the future. In this case, take a basic technical writing course (as long as it is taught by a technical writer).

Create samples. Think back to your personal or hobby experiences. Are you mechanically inclined? Create a sample showing how to do something that you know well? Do you build radios or sew clothes? Show how to prepare, do, and finish a task. From a farm? What is the best way to mow a field? Run a tractor? Silly maybe, but a start because you already know your subject. After you write a sample. Ask a technical writer to critique it.

Write a cover letter that is about YOU. Nobody cares if you're interested in the job. Leave the generalizations out.

Why will hiring YOU save the company money? Because you had to schedule and juggle multiple projects as a proposal writer, are mechanically inclined, and build airplanes on the side. You understand how to plan projects, begin and end an assembly process. Or whatever you do in your life. Show them you know a proposal writer writes one way, a technical writer writes another way.

Apply for EVERYTHING. Companies ask for the world but don't necessarily get it. They know an entry level person will learn software tools on the job.

Remain positive and sell yourself.

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Debbie Gelbard in Tel Aviv, Israel

57 months ago

AnnetteHillsdale in Round Rock, Texas said: Has anyone made the jump from marketing/proposal writing to tech writing? It seems to be a natural transition, but I'm having a hard time getting anyone to bite. I'm not a subject matter expert in anything high-tech, but have the capacity to learn. How did you break in to tech writing if you weren't a subject matter expert?

I made exactly this switch three years ago. The key for me was to gain entry to a large company with a large technical writing team and a well-established methodology. In my case, the companies that answered these conditions were Amdocs and Comverse. These are companies, who have comprehensive, in-house training for new entrants. They often prefer someone new to the field, who is willing to learn their methods than someone experienced elsewhere, who has fixed and different ideas of how to approach project tasks.
I was able to convince them in interview that my writing skills and open outlook would serve as an excellent basis. Both of these companies also operate internships for technical writers, involving a combination of training and working over a 4-month period without pay but with a good chance of employment upon completion.
Wishing you good luck!

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Shum

47 months ago

I have been a non-fiction author for many years, does anyone recommend any good schools to learn technical writing?

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Peggy Solovyov in Houston, Texas

47 months ago

Hi Shum,
I graduated with at degree in Professional Writing from University of Houston- DT, and have worked 14 years. I also have a desktop publishing certificate from Houston Community College (HCC). Wherever I've worked I've taught technical writing and graphic standards to cross-over writers, administrative assistants...whoever asked. The best advice I got from teachers was to remember to adhere to the 5 C's of technical writings: concise, consistent, cohesive, coherent, and complete - the one of my teachers added a 6th C: "correct." ...I wonder why?! The course book we used is: "The Handbook of Technical Writing." Maybe you can just study that.

For minimal classes, you can take level 1 and 2 Tech Writing (and editing) courses at HCC or other community college. While your at it learn/take Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop because most projects require graphic illustrations. You'll be able to tackle many types of project with this background. I've noticed that most of job postings ask for technical writers with degrees, some ask for high school graduates or a couple of years of college. There seems to be a trend in asking for entry level writers these days. That's funny, because when I graduated, the jobs mostly asked for 5-10 years of experience. Go figure! I'm looking for a job right now...

Taking InDesign, FrameMaker, Robohelp, Dream Weaver, will help you get more interesting jobs. You'll have a really good background, along with your existing talent, to get positions in technical writing and do a superb job. For me, one disappointing aspect of technical writing is that so many jobs are contract. There are some advantages to some technical writing positions such as being able to telecommute. Best of luck to you.

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Peggy Solovyov in Houston, Texas

47 months ago

AnnetteHillsdale in Round Rock, Texas said: Has anyone made the jump from marketing/proposal writing to tech writing? It seems to be a natural transition, but I'm having a hard time getting anyone to bite. I'm not a subject matter expert in anything high-tech, but have the capacity to learn. How did you break in to tech writing if you weren't a subject matter expert?

Technical Writing is very different from the writing you have done. Technical writing is more precise and concise for one thing. You also need some illustrating expertise. A course book is titled "Handbook of Technical Writing." Classes in Tech Writing and graphics are offered at Houston Community College and a Professional Writing Degree plan is available at University of Houston-Downtown (I think it's called something else now but I don't know what.) Sincere good luck to you.

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Peggy Solovyov in Houston, Texas

47 months ago

Valerie in Pickering, Ontario said: What a great question. I'm looking to move from Tech writing to proposal/copywriting and have been trying to for some time. I have little tech knowledge, but do have subject matter expertise in the software I write about. As a tech writer I've also worked on SOX projects and have experience writing process documentation. So, from my perspective

I am a member of the STC and have some tw courses under my belt. In fact, I've been working as a tw for as long as I've been taking course (10+ years).

Keep at it! You can make the transition. But even as a tech writer I have to sell my skills. Since everyone in an office workplace can type, they believe they can write. You have to sell your skills and ability.

July 2009

Valarie, you said IT--anyone can write...right?

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RK in Springfield, Missouri

45 months ago

First, I disagree with your statement that going for marketing writing to technical writing is a "natural transition." They are different. While persuasive rhetoric exists in technical writing, it is generally more concise and more clear.

Second, most have already stated what I would say about preparing yourself for a technical writing career or job. Learning tools helps, but isn't the only thing you want to do. However, if you don't know how to use at least one major tool (RoboHelp, DITA, HTML, Framemaker) you are likely SOL in this current day and age.

Technical writing is also varied. You could be writing manuals for mechanical hardware or online documentation for software. You need to think about what area you want to move in and then think about what you can do to make the transition.

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Valerie in Pickering, Ontario

45 months ago

Great points, RK. Tools, tools, tools. On-line, print, manuals, how-to docs, job aids in some cases. Many tws I know are moving to instructional design work, which means a switch in the way we think. Then it's no longer about steps and processes, but about teaching the learner the product.

Annette, did you make the leap?

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Susolov in Houston, Texas

45 months ago

1. For learn about technical writing use some or all of these books:
"The Elements of Style," Fourth Edition [Paperback], William Strunk Jr. (Author), E. B. White (Author), Roger Angell (Foreword)
"Handbook of Technical Writing"
"Technical Writing for Dummies"
2. For examples, look at technical books like computer user guides, instructions for assembling furniture or other topics.
3. Learn about page layout - There are books available for this you can research.
4. Learn how to research topics. (You probably already know this.)
5. Learn how to work with graphics for illustrations.
6. Learn how to write a good resume targeted to the job you want.
7. Create a portfolio that includes a few simple documents you make from what you have learned while reading the books...a recipe book, description of a lamp, or a blog that describes something and gives instructions with illustrations.

Most people think this is too much trouble, but it does move you toward your goal of becoming a Technical Writer. Best of luck to you. Sorry if my instructions sounds "terse"...most technical writing does. LOL!

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