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A person performing a cost-benefit analysis on a computer.

Before embarking on a technical or documentation writing project, a company must perform a cost-benefit analysis for hiring a technical writer. The hiring manager will have a few options: they can use a pre-existing employee who might not have experience in technical writing, they can onboard a new full-time employee, or they can hire an independent contractor.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Technical Writer?

The first step in a cost-benefit analysis is understanding how much money you will be spending. Estimates vary, but Upwork reports that most freelance technical writers on their platform charge $30 to $60 per hour. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has similar data: the national average technical writer’s hourly rate is $41.71. Typically, the higher a writer’s degree of specialization and the greater their experience, the more they will charge for their services.

Cost-benefit Analysis: Based on Industry

Technical writers can be found in any industry, but they most commonly flock to software, business management, scientific research, and engineering fields. The cost of a tech writer will depend on what field they specialize in, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Software Design

Software design is the largest hotspot for technical writers as well as one of the industries with the highest concentrations of technical writers, proportionately. In addition to creating documentation for coders, engineers, developers, and other project members, software technical writers produce end-user resources like installation guides, manuals, and update briefs.

Software technical writers make an average of $40.42 an hour. While certainly not a modest wage, software technical writers are on average more affordable than those from other prominent technical writing fields like employment service and scientific research.

Scientific Research and Development

Scientific research and development is a vast field that spans many industries and may overlap with software design and development. Scientific technical writers produce process documentation for researchers, journal articles and white papers, product manuals, and more.

Unlike software technical writers, technical writers of the various sciences earn an average of $49.05 per hour.

Consulting Services

Consulting services include managerial, technical, financial, and scientific consulting. Technical writers in these fields create workflow documents like SOPs and BRDs, process documentation, audit documentation, regulatory documentation, technical manuals, white papers, end-user materials, and so on.

Technical writers in these fields earn an average of $38.52 per hour.

When Does It Get Pricey?

The following technical writers make up only 0.02-0.31 percent of the field, so it is unlikely you will be hiring from their pool. On the off chance that your cost-benefit analysis includes these industries, though, you may have to pay more than the national average.

Highest Earning Technical Writers

Merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods, including food, clothing, and paper products, rank highest in average pay by industry for technical writers at $ 60.13 per hour.

The next set of highest-paid technical writers experience a $5-$10 average wage decrease. Electricity power generation, transmission, and distribution; securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments; merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods; and computer manufacturing come in at $55.68-$51.45 per hour.

Cost-benefit Analysis: Contractors vs. Full-Time Employees

To round out your cost-benefit analysis, consider what type of employee you need to hire. Technical writing projects are often – though not always—short term, and thus may be better suited for contract or temporary workers. Essential Data, for example, contracts tech writers for grant submissions and documentation paperwork.

Independent contractors are employed by consulting companies that pay based on hours of work and carry the responsibility of providing and managing PTO, payroll, and benefits. “It costs around 20% more to employ a full-time employee than an independent contractor,” says Essential Data CEO Antionette Allocca.

While many businesses with high-volume or long-term technical writing projects may benefit from hiring full-time tech writers, businesses with smaller projects may only want to hire for what they need. Contract hiring is a perfect way to dip your toe into working with technical writers, save costs, and invest in your small projects.

“It’s a win-win situation for the employer,” Alloca says. “A company gets talent quickly but does not have to immediately offer benefits to their new hire. Instead of maintaining an employee who is a technical writer indefinitely, a firm can bring in a tech writer contractor for a task and then allow the contract to end whenever the time is right.”

It’s About More than Money

Using a pre-existing employee is not ideal. Although the savings of not hiring new ones are enticing, the disadvantages of a nonprofessional technical writer are significant. Their lack of experience in technical writing will result in a subpar text. Even if they are knowledgeable about the subject they’re writing about, they may not be trained in audience-oriented communication, information organization, document design, and writing while prioritizing clarity like a technical writer would be.

Furthermore, tasking an employee with technical writing increases their workload and distracts them from work they’re actually qualified to do. In workplaces where employees have to do their own technical writing, it is often severely neglected. Whether you hire a full-time or contract tech writer, you will be making crucial steps in ensuring the quality of your work.

Added Benefits of Contract Tech Writers

If you do choose to hire a contractor, though, you will reap more benefits than just cost-saving:

  • Your business will have added staffing flexibility.
  • You reduce your business’ exposure to lawsuits.
  • A contractor works independently—you will not have to dedicate manpower toward monitoring them
  • You will save on cost per employee
  • You will unlock access to a wider pool of global talent

When hiring an independent contractor, you hire a more efficient employee more tailored to your needs. Independent contractors, specifically technical writers, come equipped with their own niche skill set. They can hit the ground running with minimal training and onboarding. They are hired with the knowledge of the constraints, timeframe, and requirements of the project.

According to Antionette Allocca, “Hiring managers know that technical writer contractors are a flexible option for completing projects, especially when the budget isn’t there to hire a full-time worker.”

EDC Can Help

After hiring a technical or documentation writer with EDC, they will join your team and immediately begin performing at full capacity. By hiring a tech writer, you are tapping into a wealth of specialized knowledge without putting your company at unnecessary risk. 

“Most of our clients at Essential Data Corporation express that hiring our technical writer contractors reduces the risk their business takes on. The tech writers save these companies money and provide access to in-demand writing skills without adding to company risk,” said Allocca. 

If your company needs a technical or documentation writer, find an independent contractor who will be the most cost-effective choice for your company with Essential Data Corporation. Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or [email protected] to get started.