Working with a technical writer

Once a technical writing project starts, you need to manage it effectively. This page discusses some important topics.

  1. What does a technical writer need a client to do?
  2. How does a technical writer work with other people on a project?
  3. Where should the work be done?
  4. How are reviews managed?

What does a technical writer need a client to do?

During a documentation project, you are responsible for providing the following:

A freelance technical writer may be working on other projects and therefore will not be permanently available to answer unscheduled requests. Consequently, both you and the technical writer should endeavour to keep to the time schedules outlined in the initial contract.

How does a technical writer work with other people on a project?

Creating effective documentation is a partnership between you and the technical writer. Consequently, throughout the documentation process you can expect to have considerable contact with the technical writer. This contact can take many forms:

Where should the work be done?

Whether a freelance technical writer works in your offices or in the writer's own office depends largely upon the nature of the project. Sometimes, the technical writer will spend an initial period on site collecting information, and thereafter the requirements of the project will determine where the remaining work is carried out. Factors determining where work is done include:

How are reviews managed?

Review processes vary depending on the project and on the technical writer. Therefore, ensure that the technical writer gives you exact instructions about what is expected during the review process. The process may involve a number of people, for example technical experts, typical users, etc, all of who will review the documentation from a different point of view. It is the role of the technical writer to incorporate review comments appropriately.

Generally, initial reviews should concentrate on technical content and document structure. Only when the content of the document is agreed should the review process concentrate on layout and phrasing.

During the documentation process, to help clarify any inconsistencies during the review, an audit of all communications between you and the technical writer should be maintained.

Finally, the time scales for the completion of reviews should be clearly defined and agreed between you and the technical writer. The implications of failing to meet review time scales should be indicated in the contract or terms and conditions that were issued at the start of the documentation project.

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