Career advice for technical writer

Fern pod by Magalie L'Abbe
A New Zealand journalist and technical writer asked me for career advice this week, and agreed to share. So if you are a writer contemplating a career change to web writing or SEO writing, feel free to eavesdrop on this conversation.
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Hello Rachel,
My name is Kathryn Price and I have for the last 5 years been writing user guide, procedure and handbook manuals on contract for various organisations.  The employer I was last contracted to offered me a permanent full-time role as a Photojournalist after I completed a set of 8 software manuals for them.
I love the work I am currently doing (web copywriting and editing, and SEO), in particular I find the SEO work fascinating and 'get a real buzz' from seeing the results on client websites of the work I do.  However, I do not have any formal writing qualification and would like to develop myself further, in addition to the work I currently do, as a freelance writer. 
I would like to know more about your Diploma course, and in particular, whether or not it is based on your book, 'Write me a web page, Elsie!'.  I have the book which I am working through at present - and thoroughly enjoying.
Any information you feel would be useful in relation to developing a freelance writing career would be greatly appreciated.  I am a mature person, 45 years old and want to 'secure' the remainder of my working life in this field.
Kind Regards,
Kathryn Price
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Hi Kathryn
I'm delighted to hear from you. Thanks for writing -- in every sense!

You're experienced in writing for the web, SEO writing and technical writing -- which all overlap. You're considering your online writing career in a sensible way, it seems to me. 

It's a balancing act: qualifications vs. experience. When you have enough experience, nobody cares about qualifications.

My advice to you -- an experienced 45-year-old writer developing your freelance career -- follows.

1. First, grab a professional development qualification; not a day course (good, but you need more) nor a university qualification (good, but you need less). 

The Contented Diploma in Web Content is exactly what you need, and we're inclined to think it's the only one of its kind. You'll be learning from a course that practises what it preaches -- that's rare. The Diploma will certainly give you extra professional credibility and confidence. And yes, it's based on "Write me a web page, Elsie!" 

2. Track down the web content you've written and are proud of. Make a list of pages that have not substantially changed since you wrote them, and keep it up to date. Include your own published articles and blog. This list is your portfolio, which you cite every time you apply for a contract.

3. If you don't have a blog, start one and do not stop. But first do our Strategic Blogging course! (It's part of the Diploma.) Your blog will be your showcase every time you apply for work, and many things follow. While we're on the subject, start thinking about your social media presence. Don't over-commit. Try to get it right when you begin. (Big ask.)

4. SEO writing is another kettle of fish entirely and I advise you to proceed with caution: the field does have its charlatans and one-note banjo players, and SEO is all things to all people. If you can find a neutral forum or mailing list to join, you'll start to see the full picture.  Later I can give you a short-list of SEO courses that I trust.

5. Put yourself on the Writerfind mailing list and the web site -- it's a great site for freelance writers.

One last word of doom and delight. Nothing you do now can secure the remainder of your working career, which could be another  30 or 40 years, if that's your style. That's the fun of web content writing and technical communication today—things change every week. So we all have to keep learning and learning. That's why Contented has many new courses in the pipeline: it's impossible to stand still and stay ahead of the field. I like that and I hope you do too.

To enrol in the Diploma in Web Content, email us and Alice will send you an invoice.
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Best of luck!


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