Is technical writing for me? How hard is finding a telecommuting position?

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animalgeek in Taunton, Massachusetts

21 months ago

I am a 27 year old female ISTJ, which basically means that I am an introverted, loyal, organized, dependent person who enjoys working independently (not with people) and with numbers and facts. I love to organize data, schedules, etc. I like to write, too, and people love everything that I have ever written (essays etc. for school, technical documents for work, etc.). I don't work well under stress and my ultimate goal is to work from home.

I have a B.S. in Computer Science and I'm almost finished with a M.S. in Software Engineering (company paid for it). I've been an unhappy software engineer for the past few years. I took career tests in high school which led me to become a software engineer but I truly think they were incorrect in directing me to this career. I work around and concurrently with people 100% of the time, which makes the work environment highly unenjoyable for me, and the job itself is very stressful because I cannot stand problem solving all day. I actually enjoy sitting in front of a computer and I'd prefer more of my time doing so rather than being around people.

Some people have suggested technical writing. Do you guys think this career path would be a good fit for me? Is a telecommuting position in the field possible to find or is it more of a pipe dream?

Thanks :)

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animalgeek in Taunton, Massachusetts

21 months ago

Nobody?

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jenab in Austin, Texas

19 months ago

animalgeek in Taunton, Massachusetts said:
Some people have suggested technical writing. Do you guys think this career path would be a good fit for me? Is a telecommuting position in the field possible to find or is it more of a pipe dream?

There was a career related article that listed tech writing as one of the top stress-free jobs; every tech writer I know including myself had a long hard laugh.

If you're lucky enough to land a telecommuting TW gig, the stress doesn't go away. It just means you know have to deal with stakeholders who can define what they want but still want you to get it done under an unreasonable deadline. And you still have to work with Subject Matter experts who can't or won't make the time to meet with you and provide information they don't want to share, or don't know how to share.

Telecommuting does happen in tech writing but it often either means you're doing a lot of client-site visits, or you're having to rely on phone calls and email which adds another level of stress. And the reputable companies prefer established writers with a proven track record.

I mostly loved the telecommuting TW jobs I've had, but stress free they weren't.

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Stevizard in Columbus, Ohio

16 months ago

After 20 years in technical writing, I can honestly say that almost nobody likes to read the kind of materials that a good technical writer produces. We write technical manuals, how-to guides, step-by-step instructions, policies, procedures, methodologies, etc. While every organization needs these types of documents, it is all very boring to read.

Wanting to work from home, alone, at your computer may be possible, but it is akin to starting your own business. Unfortunately, that means people contact and lots of it.

Probably the best way to start is to contact former employers and tell them of your new technical writing endeavor. Then suggest how helpful it would be if employees had access to answers they need instead of just documents. In other words, if I need to know how to screw in a light bulb, I don't want to wade through a manual detailing how light bulbs are made. I just want a quick, to-the-point answer; a knowledge-base of usable information. And offer to create it on a consulting basis.

The above is just an example. Use whatever you know the company needs. As a programmer, you should have a good idea of what is missing. Just offer to fill that need on a per hour basis ($60-$70 hourly is a standard technical writing consultation fee).

Best of luck and hope your dream comes true!
Stevizard

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animalgeek in Rochester, Massachusetts

15 months ago

Thank you guys so much for your input! I definitely needed a reality check on the stress level that can be involved in this career. I also really appreciate the advice on how to start consulting. Thank you again!

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Tennickly in Aliso Viejo, California

15 months ago

The technical writer who can read and write code is a bit of a rarity. For that reason, there is a chance you'd end up in a hybrid role, which probably would not be enough of a departure from the career you're trying to leave. Just food for thought.

I have been in this field for 15 years and have only worked for managers who have been writers twice in that span. Most often, technical writers end up reporting to a QA manager or development manager who doesn't really know the ins and outs of the job or how to evaluate performance. If you're telecommuting and have a similar situation, it can be a struggle.

I am finally working for a writer again. We are word nerds, which makes the collaboration more fun. We do still have some struggles in communicating the value of our work. The work is also not as solitary as you seem to desire. There are lots of meetings with SMEs. The amount of interaction is probably the same or more as for many developers.

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animalgeek in Rochester, Massachusetts

15 months ago

Thank you Tennickly, for your input and insight. It does seem like technical writing has lots of social interaction, which I am surprised and disappointed to learn. I am thinking that technical writing may not be the correct avenue for me, unfortunately. Although I do enjoy writing, I plan on finding another way to satisfy my writing outlet which allows me to write and make money from home.

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