The time has come. The bugs have been worked out. The finishing touches have been applied. Your new product is almost ready to go.
There’s one big item left: a user guide.
Your engineers are busy making sure everything is tip-top. Your salespeople are working on their pitch. Nobody on staff has time to create a user guide, so you decide to hire a technical writer. You don’t need a full-time, permanent employee. But do you go with a contract writer or a technical writing firm?
Why outsource your technical communications in the first place?
You hire a technical writer for the same reasons you hire a general contractor to remodel your kitchen: you don’t have the expertise nor the time.
Your engineers, salespeople, and customer service representatives all know your products very well, and they might even be good writers, but they are not technical writers.
Technical writing is more than describing how something works or writing instructions. Technical writers have the expertise to clearly communicate complex ideas or processes to your customers, and they know how documentation should be presented to your audience.
Your employees have spent a long time developing your new product, so they may no longer be impartial. In hiring a technical writer, you will bring an un-biased mind to your project, someone who can speak on it without history or attachment.
Hiring a full-time, permanent technical writer is expensive. There are taxes, training, insurance, equipment, etc. to pay for. Plus, if your project needs are short-term, there is no need to hire for long-term in the first place.
Technical writers are trained to assess your content and strategies, and to deliver materials in a timely manner. If time is indeed money, then speed and accuracy can contribute to savings.
Do what they do best
Bringing in a technical writer will allow your employees to do what they do best. This can contribute to less employee turnover and increase their overall happiness. After all, an engineer wants to engineer. It’s what they are trained to do.
A contract technical writer or firm will already have the resources needed to create quality documentation. They already have the software and equipment, so your company won’t need to provide them. More cost savings!
Contract technical writer or technical writing firm?
Making the decision between hiring a contract technical writer or a technical writing firm can come down to some essential questions.
What is the scope of your project?
Is it large or small? You know you need a user guide, maybe even a spec sheet or two. But do you know what you need beyond that?
What will creating a user guide entail? Will you need translations? Do you have a printer lined up? What specifications might that printer require? Can the writer meet production timelines? These are all questions a quality technical writer can help with.
An experienced contract technical writer should be able to answer those questions, or at least help you find answers. They will have the training and knowledge to help guide you through what it is you really need.
Where a technical writing firm (like SOULO) wins out is in resources. A contract writer will have to be jack-of-all-trades. They have to be a writer, document designer, graphic designer, maybe even a technical illustrator, etc. On the other side, a technical writing firm will likely have one or more people for each of those roles.
SOULO, for example, has people dedicated to graphic design, photography, videography, and print (in addition to technical writers). With a collaborative effort of dedicated professionals, your documentation will get a more polished, professional look, all while managing timelines.
What assets do you have on hand?
Do you have images to start from? Are they technical line drawings? Photographs? Do you have document templates or a style guide? Do you have your own printer lined up?
If you have a lot of those assets on hand already, then a contract writer may be more your speed. Spending more on a technical writing firm will be an extra, possibly unnecessary expense. With a lot of starting assets, an experienced contract writer can jump right in on the bulk of the content, keeping their labor cost down and timelines in check.
However, if you don’t have many assets to work with, then the resources a technical writing firm can offer is your best bet. The resources a firm like SOULO has gives us the ability to divide and conquer.
For example, if you don’t have a document template or product installation or use photography, a technical writer can get started while a designer creates a document template and a photographer takes the pictures that might be needed. This can reduce the overall time to create your documentation, which helps keep the production timeline in place. No need to worry.
SOULO is more than a technical writing firm. We are an all-in-one location for media of all types, including small and large format printing, graphic design, content and technical writing, photography, marketing, video, and web development. Going with a business like SOULO gives you a breadth of resources, formats, and options for your technical documentation, and really, all of your media needs.