10 Tips To Hiring Technical Writing Consultants

By Dave Young, Professional Writer and Founder, Young Copy

I bring this article to you courtesy of Dave Young, as I think it adds enormous pertinence to what I do and I also endorse his opinions in this regard.

Young Copy has put together a list of tips every hiring manager should review before bringing in a contract technical writer or hiring technical writing consultants. These tips are based on years of experience by technical writing consultant Dave Young, founder of Young Copy.

1. Utilize a reference.

Do your partners or vendors utilize the services of a dependable technical writing consultant? If so, ask them about their experience and contact their technical writing consultant to see how they can help you with your technical documentation.

2. Look for a professional website.

A great technical writing consultant will have a professional website. The website should demonstrate their knowledge and showcase examples of their work. The website should also include details on the technical writing services offered by the consultant.

3. Look at the technical writing consultant’s professional portfolio.

Look at examples of the technical writing consultant’s work. You should see if their style matches what you envision for your company. If not, ask. An excellent technical writing consultant adapts to fit the needs of their clients.

4. Make sure the potential technical writing consultant listens.

Although the consultant should be the expert when it comes to technical writing, you are the expert on your product. The consultant should carefully listen to your needs and provide relevant feedback to enhance your existing or future technical documents.

5. Does the technical writing consultant offer innovative ideas?

The technical writing consultant should be able to suggest a fresh, new perspective of your technical writing needs. You can usually get a good feel for the technical writing consultant’s work by viewing their portfolio or technical writing services page.

6. How long has the technical writing consultant been a technical writer?

If you need a technical writing consultant to document your software products, technology, and hosting services, a solid technical writer will have years of experience. In some cases, technical writing consultants may have significant programming and application development experience. They may have previously owned a software, hosting, or ecommerce business and fully understand programming languages including PHP, Perl, Java, Javascript, ASP, C++ and databases such as MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL.

7. What kind of training does the technical writing consultant have?

Few technical writing consultants have training beyond basic college. Some have on-site training through previous jobs or on-the-job training without any formal education. The type of documentation in their portfolio and the companies they have worked for in the past can quickly give you an idea as to the quality and capabilities of the technical writing consultant.

8. Determine whether you want to contract the technical writer for a large number of projects or send individual assignments as needed.

Long-term contract versus individual projects will depend on your company’s specific needs. A professional technical writing consultant will be able to offer a variety of options to fit your budget, timeline, and overall goal. Your writer should be able to help you design a plan that fits your unique requirements.

9. Your technical writing consultant should be industry-specific.

Some technical writing consultants specialize in particular industries. Specialization can be very valuable to your organization as your technical writing consultant will start your projects with a knowledgeable foundation of your industry. For example, if you develop and sell software products, you should find a technical writer with relevant experience. If the writer has acquired programming skills, they will be able to understand your software from the coding side in addition to the end user side.

10. Your technical writing consultant should communicate effectively.

Does the technical writer communicate effectively? If the potential candidate is having a difficult time communicating with you, chances are, the technical writing consultant will have a difficult time developing documentation that communicates to your customers effectively. Look for a professional technical writing consultant that can communicate with you, your team, and your customers. Your job will be easier, your customers will have the resources they need, and your revenues will increase.