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Salaries of Technical Writers

Technical writers are those creative souls who write technical reports, articles and informative content on a wide range of topics. Technical writers employ their...

THE RESULTS OF OUR RECENT MEMBER SURVEY

We’re currently planning our Watercooler Chats for the next year and recently asked our members what topics you would like to discuss and when...

SMALL WORLD, FAR WORLD

Looking for work in another country isn’t an easy task and the recent economic downturn has only made it harder. Our digital world has...

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This website is the home of the Europe SIG, a Special Interest Group in the Society for Technical Communication. Topics cover all aspects of technical communication as they pertain to technical communication in Europe.

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Technical Writer

Salaries of Technical Writers

Technical writers are those creative souls who write technical reports, articles and informative content on a wide range of topics. Technical writers employ their writing skills to bring structure to information so that people can comprehend it. The variety of topics for technical writers is a vast universe which contains fields like glass making, automobiles, computer programming, quilting, equipment installation manuals and much more. Technical writers write manuals, installation guides, reports, and articles on a technical topic like gear box assembly for a four wheel drive. They need to be articulate, well-structured, crisp and fluff free so that the reader can clearly understand the information presented in the text.

After reading about the arduous tasks that these writers do you must be wondering how much are they paid? What are the salaries for technical writers?

A lot of factors go into deciding the salaries for technical writers. Most technical writers are required to be college graduates as the information they deal with is pretty complex and needs a lot of processing. Experience in the industry relevant to the subject matter, familiarity with the subject matter and overall writing skills are also factored in the salaries of technical writers. As per the Occupational Outlook Handbook by U.S. government, technical writers usually make between $38,000 to $170,000 annually including bonuses and profit sharing. The median salary was found to be about $69,850 with a 10% increment project in the next 10 years. This translates to about $33.58 per hour which is a respectable amount of money. While most entry level technical writers at least had a Bachelor’s degree, they had less than 5 years of experience. Hence, Technical writing is a good job with a decent pay grade. The biggest benefit of technical writing is one can choose the hours one wants to put in and comfortably work as a freelancer.

SMALL WORLD, FAR WORLD

Looking for work in another country isn’t an easy task and the recent economic downturn has only made it harder. Our digital world has made the world seem much smaller, but the reality of moving around it for work is often the opposite; the dream of working in another country can often seem far away.

I recently received a CV from a young Serbian woman seeking a position in marketing here in Brussels. Recently graduated and with a few years’ work experience in economics, she now wants to reach out and work in another country to get international experience. I’ve done such a move myself on a few occasions and highly recommend it.

Unfortunately she has several obstacles in her way. However, there are things we can all do to help increase our chances of finding work abroad.

Watch your language

Obviously it’s important that your CV doesn’t have any typos and grammatical errors. However, working in another country can often mean living with another language. If you’re writing your CV in a language other than your mother tongue, get the text checked by a native speaker. Don’t know any native speakers? Get to an online forum and ask for help to edit your text.

Do your homework on the country’s work environment

Someone apparently told the Serbian woman that it would be easier to get a marketing job in a multinational as the work would be in English. Her CV Profile states that she’s looking for an opening position in Marketing. Unfortunately she’s no experience in the domain, her written English isn’t good enough to do copywriting and she doesn’t know Adobe InDesign. If a potential employer had read past the quirky English in the CV, they’d have given up at this stage. Few companies will hire a beginner who needs work papers. They can hire locally.

It can be a risky decision to do a career change when looking for work in a country where you need work papers but don’t have any practical experience to offer in your new career direction. Get as much experience as you can before seeking work in another country. You need something to sell!

Research the job market and types of companies in the country that interest you. The Serb was fluent in several languages but only in one (English) of the three important languages for working in Brussels (French and Dutch also matter). Realistically she may have a better chance of finding work in Germany as companies there may be more commercially active in the Balkan region than companies based in Belgium. So her knowledge of that regional market could perhaps be a selling point to a German company. Understand what the market is looking for.

The challenge to get work papers

The unfortunate reality is that work papers can be hard to get. Few companies will hire you directly from another country without first meeting you. You will increase the chance of finding work by going to your desired country for a month or more (the longer the better) and making as many face-to-face contacts as possible to hunt down that opportunity made for you. It can take time to knock on all those doors and follow up leads. Simply mailing out CVs isn’t enough.

When a company wants to hire someone from outside the EU (which is 28 countries), they need to be able to show the authorities that they couldn’t find someone in the country suitable for the job on offer. Another condition prospective employers may need to meet could be the minimum salary level that they can offer. In Belgium, for example, it is currently nearly 40,000 euros ($54,000) a year for a skilled position (salary reference). In other words, you won’t get work papers to do a low paid job. You need skills and experience.

It’s hard looking for work in another country, particularly if you’re not based there and will need work papers. It takes determination and focus to chase a dream and make it happen.

THE RESULTS OF OUR RECENT MEMBER SURVEY

We’re currently planning our Watercooler Chats for the next year and recently asked our members what topics you would like to discuss and when would best suit you. The results are shown below. We have 83 members and had 13 responses; a 15.6% turnout. Low, but it still lets us see how to do our Watercooler Chats over the next year.

Day and time of our monthly SIG Watercooler Chats is changing

From October onwards, the chats will move to the second Wednesday of the month at 6pm CET (12 noon ET).

Agenda for the next three months

Based on member feedback for topics to discuss, the chats for October, November & December will be:

October 15 = Terminology management

November 12 = Prioritising and determining the ROI when internationalization technical content

December 10 = Getting started in and planning localization projects

Results of the survey

 

What type of work do you do? (More than one answer is possible)

Type of work                                Percentage

Technical writing in English           70%

Manage a documentation team    46%

Technical writing in a language
other than English                       31%

Manage/co-ordinate
localization projects                    31%

Other                                         15%

Translation                                 7%

Which categories of topics would interest you the most for discussion? (Ranked in order of preference)

Localisation and translation issues

Internationalisation issues

Intercultural issues in the work environment

What’s your experience in internationalisation and translation?

Amount of experience      Percentage

More than 6 years           39%

No experience                 23%

Up to 3 years                  23%

3 to 6 years                    15%

What’s your experience in internationalisation?

Amount of experience      Percentage

More than 6 years           38%

No experience                 31%

Up to 3 years                  31%

3 to 6 years                    0%

What’s your experience working with intercultural issues?

Amount of experience       Percentage

More than 6 years            62%

Up to 3 years                   23%

No experience                  8%

3 to 6 years                     8%

What topics would you like to discuss in our chats? Proposed topics are listed below. Ranked in order of preference:

Documentation standards for global content

Developing a global strategy for your content

Terminology management

Impact of the business environment when producing content for a global market (e.g., mergers & acquisitions, outsourcing, virtual teams, organizational silos, cultural issues)

Metrics and localisation

Getting started in and planning localization projects

Localisation and agile

European Union directives and their impact on documentation

Working with English as a second language and with multiple versions of English

Regulatory/legal issues related to the European market

Translation memories Getting the most from them

Working with localization service providers

Topics proposed by respondents:

Translation management technology and workflow

Component content management in multiple languages

How to demonstrate ROI and priority of internationalization

Which day of the week would you prefer the Watercooler Chats to be held once a month?

Day of the week             Percentage

No preference                 54%

Wednesday                     39%

Tuesday (current day)     7%

What time of day would you prefer for the Watercooler Chats?

Time of day                           Percentage

18:00 CET (12.00 pm ET)      46%

17:00 CET (11.00 am ET)      39%

19:00 CET (1.00 pm ET)        15%

LET’S CHAT ABOUT… CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AT WORK

In this month’s Watercooler Chat we discussed the cultural differences we can encounter when working in a global environment.

Coping with different Englishes

All of us taking part in the chat were Anglophone and worked in English. However, we all worked with colleagues and customers scattered around the world for whom English isn’t a first language.

Some of us worked in environments where there can be different versions of English in use across the company worldwide; US, UK, Indian, Australian. It’s not always possible for technical communication groups to expect that only one version of English can be used in documentation worldwide. Regional markets can have their own demands. We need to understand local as well as global situations. There was also the challenge of ensuring correctly written English from globally dispersed writers who used another version of English in their own country.

China and documentation standards

Chinese manuals. Infamous. Often incomprehensible. The “contaminated English” found in many Chinese manuals often seem to be covered in the fingerprints of Google Translate (or an equivalent tool). The English can be amusing but it’s also frustrating to understand and challenging to rewrite.

The reality is that most Chinese companies only sell within China. So when selling internationally, they write their English manuals using the same practices as when they write documents for their own local market. The content is often more descriptive than instructional.

Manuals are usually written by engineers (an increasing number of whom have been trained in the US) as well as translators, whose training may not always produce a good quality of English. The concept of technical communication is in its infancy in China. Few Chinese writers are familiar with the principles of information design.

Chinese companies still have a long way to go in appreciating the benefit quality documentation can have on their profits.

Phone etiquette

We all regularly teleconferenced with colleagues located worldwide. Although great for work and for developing working relationships, a common problem encountered was poor sound quality. This could be due, for example, to people phoning in from their desks or cars, or using mobile phones.

Distracting background noise makes it difficult to clearly hear what’s being said. Native speakers can also speak too quickly. Unfortunately people may not speak up to say that they can’t follow the conversation, either through shyness or for fear that their English could be considered too poor. In a successful teleconference, everyone needs to understand phone etiquette.

Accents can cause problems. Unfamiliar ones can be difficult to understand over a phone line, particularly if there are no visual cues to help. Video conferencing is great but not everyone has access to it.

We all agreed that it’s important to write up the meeting so that everyone is clear on what was discussed and agreed upon, particularly if some may have had problems hearing or understanding what was said.

It takes practice and patience to get used to working with different accents as well as the English spoken by those who don’t have English as their first language.

Great chat

We had a great informative chat with everyone participating and sharing their experiences. Yet cultural differences don’t just cover language and national issues. Unfortunately we ran out of time to discuss the other hot cultural issue, corporate culture, and how it differs around the world.