We are in a time of increasing competition and the ever increasing need for good quality technical documentation both to support your business and market its credentials to other companies. Many more businesses are seeking to outsource their technical writing requirements. How do you find just the right person for the project? Here are eight things to consider first.
1) Experience: This is not the time to trust this very important assignment to someone new to the job. Ideally for technical writing you need both writing experience AND the required technical experience. For very in-depth articles and write papers there is only so far a quick Google search will go to providing you with a quality and insightful article. Technical document writing such as business proposals, tenders, business plans, Statements of Work, Case Studies etc. have a great deal riding on them, including the expansion of your company. They really need a writer who has written many of them before. On this note, always ask for a sample. You will not get a “live sample” from a writer with integrity because most of them write as ghost writers and many documents are confidential, but you should get a good example document from a writer that has been in business for some time.
2) Command of the language: Whilst many people are highly educated and can speak several languages, a native writer is always better. There are always little nuances that show up in the writing that look awkward and cause the reader to stumble if your chosen language is not their first, or has been used by them for many years. This can be a simple matter of grammar and spelling but can also be cultural references and how people are addressed.
3) Does your intended writer ask the appropriate questions? This comes down to experience again. At the very least they should ask you the following:
a) Your company brand.
b) The market for the document.
c) The aim of the document.
d) The tone of voice to use.
e) For an article: keywords and length.
f) For a white paper: the type, keywords and length.
4) Will the writing be outsourced? This is very important, as there are a lot of writing factories around who lure you in with good examples for reasonable prices. They then outsource the work to much cheaper and less able writers who produce poor quality work. Get a confirmation that the writer who wrote the samples is the one that will write for you.
5) Will it be unique? Some writers, particularly those newer at their job, do a quick research on Google and then run off a facsimile of a good article, changing a few words here and there. Some of the less able grab large chunks hoping that you do not notice. The really good ones write your articles and technical documents from scratch. Always use Copyscape to check your document before you pay, and build in the fact that you will into any project specification.
6) Is the writer professional at their job? Unfortunately there are writers around who see this art form as a method of making a quick dollar. A professional and experienced writer will:
a) Provide appropriate samples
b) Understand what you are trying to achieve from the writing
c) Ask the correct questions
d) Pass copyscape and preferably provide you with a unique article
e) Agree to work as a ghost writer and assign copyrights to your company after payment
f) Work efficiently without drama and being chased for work.
7) Is the price acceptable? Remember good quality technical documents take time; skill, experience and effort to both research and write. Information takes time to elicit from yourselves. If you keep a constant stream on needless messages to and fro or demand constant communication this is time consuming for your writer. If you want it very quick, the writer needs to work unsocial hours. This all takes time and costs. So work out the comfortable balance of quality, time and price that you can live with and remember the best writers will get it correct first time, the cheaper ones may not.
8) What does the process involve? For articles and white papers you really need your writer to ask the pertinent questions and then go away and write your document. For more complex technical documents such as a tender, business proposal, business plan, case study, manual etc. you should expect to be much more involved. You might even feel that you need guidance from your writer as to what you need to do and supply. After all you cannot think of everything. An experienced writer will have a written list of the process and/or be able to tell you what is involved. They will be proactive and communicative all along. Providing you with check lists, guidance notes and extra information as the project demands. Please expect to pay for this top-notch service though. If you want a business plan for $100 you are going to get a template, boiler plate document, badly spelled and bearing passing resemblance to your company. If you want a business plan that will win you funding and future business, then your writer will need to spend some time interviewing you to extract the relevant information. This service costs more than $100 but is so worth the price you pay.
If you get a positive response to all of your requirements above, then you have found a great, experienced technical writer that will produce quality and more importantly business winning documents for your company.