Technical writing today is a sea of uncertainty.
For tech writers fighting for jobs, it’s like trying to stay afloat in a turbulent sea.
And there’s blood in the water, with too many fish fighting over too little food. That’s called a “red ocean.”
How did tech writing get this way?
All this uncertainty flows from a few key factors:
- Far fewer user guides
By now, everyone knows how to navigate a user interface. Apps are much better designed; even toddlers can use iPhones.
A lot of software development was outsourced to India, pulling many tech-writing jobs along with it.
- The rise of Google
It’s faster to Google a question than wade through online help or FAQs. And users provide many helpful answers on online forums.
- APIs and SDKs
There’s a growing need for highly technical docs for developers. But not everyone can write them.
One sad statistic tells the whole story.
Membership in the Society for Technical Communication (STC)—the world’s largest association of technical communicators—peaked at 20,000 in the 1990s. By the fall of 2014, there were only 5,850 members. That’s a 70% drop.
Tech writing jobs are gone for good
The fact is, there just aren’t as many jobs for tech writers as there were 20 years ago. And the future doesn’t look any better.
For example, a 2013 study from Oxford titled The Future Of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs To Computerisation? gave tech writing an 89% likelihood of facing more job losses in the future.
Despite their credentials, any tech writer can be laid off. You may be among them—or facing another layoff tomorrow. And you’re not likely to get another job in the same field; those jobs are gone for good.
That has nothing to do with your skills, and everything to do with the sea change in the industry.
Good news: content marketing
Ironically, part of what’s killing technical writing—especially for web-based software—is creating a huge opportunity for anyone with business writing skills.
As the Web and Google get more pervasive, many companies curtail their tech writing. Then companies find they must start publishing information of a different kind: helpful, engaging content for prospective buyers.
This content must show up in Google search results to help buyers find the company on the web, and trust them enough to do business.
The trend to content marketing means that millions of companies today need writing. And many of these companies sell technology or software that you probably know very well.
Writing B2B content is ideal for tech writers because you’re already used to doing research, writing and publishing in a corporate setting.
B2B content isn’t “salesy”
Don’t worry, this isn’t writing infomercials! It’s not writing sales letters. It’s not writing anything with a BUY NOW button on it. Nor is it writing tweets or Facebook updates.
The hard-headed business audience won’t waste time reading puffy sales pieces.
B2B content can be writing pieces very much like a FAQ, a tutorial, or the product overview at the start of a manual. It’s all about providing useful tips and helpful insights.
And there aren’t enough writers out there to keep up with the tidal wave of demand.
How big is content marketing?
According to the 2014 survey from the Content Marketing Institute:
- 93% of B2B companies use content marketing
- 73% produce more content than the year before
- 58% plan to increase content budgets next year
- 72% of big companies outsource content creation
The most common thing these companies outsource is writing. The biggest problem facing B2B marketing people is not enough time to write it themselves!
That’s where you come in, especially if you’re an experienced tech writer used to interviewing SMEs and writing factual material.
Popular, well-paying forms of B2B content
- Blog posts—short online articles
- Case studies—real-world testimonials from B2B customers
- E-newsletters—tips or product updates
- Video scripts—text or dialogue for online video
- White papers—persuasive essays (you’ve seen them right?)
Other formats you can try are slide decks, infographics and webpages about the company, the products, and the management team. Every company needs those.
Note that most of these pay more than $1 a word. That’s far more than you ever earned writing page after page of documentation.
Take a look:
- Blog posts—$250 to $500+ for ~600 words
- Case studies—$1,000 to $1,500 for 800 words
- E-newsletters—$500+ per issue
- Video scripts—$1,000 to $1,500 for 3 minutes (have you already written video tutorials?)
- White papers—$3,000 to $7,000 for ~3,500 words
What you already know
Let’s get something straight: As a tech writer, you already have valuable skills that are perfectly aligned with the requirements of content marketers.
You can use your current skills in research, interviewing and writing. We’re not talking about retraining to become a web developer or video editor.
In fact, you can earn a comfortable income writing B2B content—maybe more than you’ve ever earned before.
And if you decide to freelance, you can set your own pay rates, pick your own clients, and work as much or as little as you please.
Dive into the blue ocean now
Remember that red ocean?
If you’re an experienced tech writer ready to leave all that stress and uncertainty behind, it’s time you took advantage of the huge demand for your writing skills.
Why not catch the wave into the blue ocean of better pay, less competition, and less stress than you’ve been dealing with?
To find out more, check out the Crash Course in B2B Content by Gordon Graham.
This is a quick guide to writing the 12 most popular forms of B2B content, from blog posts to white papers. Gordon describes each format, shows examples including a detailed video walkthrough, tells the going rates you can charge, and gives lots of tips to help you start writing that format right away.
By the way, before he started That White Paper Guy, Gordon was a tech writer who produced dozens of manuals on hardware and software for 50 different companies. And he won 14 awards from the STC.
About 15 years ago, he swam into the blue ocean of B2B writing, and he hasn’t looked back since.