Getting Hired in Tech Comm

Society for Technical Communication, Rochester Chapter

November 20, 2019 at Radisson Hotel Rochester Airport

Bio: Sarah is a self-employed mother of twin daughters and a resourceful self starter who can figure out how to use just about anything and then explain it to you. This comes in handy in technical communication. Her passion is making technology tools work better for you and is always on the lookout for ways to increase efficiency. She is an active leader with the Rochester WordPress User Group and the Rochester and Central NY Chapters of the Society for Technical Communication. Connect with her @sarahjorowe or sarah@sarahjodesigns.com. 


Getting Hired in Tech Comm

Tips from a freelancer – Sarah J Rowe, sarah@sarahjodesigns.com

I have known for most of my adult life that being self-employed would be good for me, I just didn’t know what type of work to focus on. I finally figured it out last year! My business is a combination of technical communication, web design, and training. The flexibility of my schedule helps me to keep up with my kids’ schedules. My passion is efficiency and helping people make their tech tools and processes work better. 

When I knew the time was right to make the move away from being an employee and expanding my side business I considered the benefits and challenges of freelance work. This included scheduling, finding clients, working remotely from a rural location, and more. 

As I prepared to become a freelancer as my primary source of income, I spent time digesting my 20+ years of work experience and education. I considered job responsibilities from previous work and how I could relate them to working in the tech comm field so that I could demonstrate on a résumé and in conversations what I bring to the table even though I had never formally worked in the tech comm field. When I decided to expand my business I was referred to STC, went to the Spectrum Conference a couple of weeks later, and started showing up at the local events even though it meant juggling child care for evenings away from my kids at home (my husband is also self employed). I joined and promptly became a leadership volunteer. This gave me the opportunity to network with other tech comm leaders. I am learning from them and they are getting to know me too. This has led to multiple work contracts in the past year.  

Show up 

Go to places where tech comm professionals and hiring managers are. Job fairs are good but think beyond that. Join professional organizations like STC. Consider who can hire you and who can teach or mentor you. Tell people what you want to do.  Find your tribe — the people who will support you, lend an ear, give a referral, and people who you will share knowledge with.  

Be involved 

Immerse yourself in the field. Get to know a wide range of tech comm roles and try them out or interview people in those roles to better understand the possibilities. Volunteer your time and talents for a local group. I am a leader in my kids’ school Parent Teacher Organization and create printed flyers, social media graphics, a website, and document processes and procedures such as writing bylaws, instructions to use MailChimp, and the annual fundraiser plan. These volunteer activities give me practice, portfolio assets, and networking with potential clients who have seen first-hand what my skills are even before they consider hiring me. Talk about your skills and interests. It is difficult for me as an introvert to talk with people who I don’t know, except when I have a job to do. I made it my job to tell people about my business and to use my strengths to help my community. 

Learn the tools and concepts

Learn Adobe tools, Microsoft Word, structured authoring, and more. Find out what tools are used in the roles that you are most interested in. Download free trials, dive in to advanced tutorials, and find ways to build your portfolio. Include volunteer work in your portfolio. Have you ever purchased an item that came with poorly written instructions? Recreate the instructions with a new tool and show the original and your redesign in your portfolio. Explain what didn’t work with the original instructions, how you improved it and your reasons for choosing the tool. If your local library does not offer access to LinkedIn Learning then get a free NYPL account. Find tutorials and courses on vendor websites and YouTube. Look for classes at local colleges and universities. 

Learn business management tools such as Quickbooks or another app for finances, e-sign capabilities, faxing electronically or with equipment, scanning and printing, and a way to accept electronic payments. Create a website to promote yourself. This could be as simple as an online portfolio using a prezi.com template, a WordPress website, or another solution.  

Create your elevator pitch 

There are many reasons to freelance.You may be breaking into the field, changing careers or employers, heading into retirement, or making a long-term choice to be self-employed. Consider including your long-term goals in your elevator pitch. Some clients may prefer a contract-for-hire, a long-term onsite contract, or as-needed remote work.  

Why do you have a passion for tech comm? Consider including in your elevator pitch your passion for combining learning, technology, and communication into a career. What do people say about you that makes you think you can be a freelancer? What are your greatest strengths? Are you self-motivated? Do you have an area of speciality? 

Location, location, location

Are you set up to work remotely? Will you be comfortable working alone? Be prepared and fluent with online communication tools, your own technology including a laptop, printer, external video camera, microphone/ speaker, and double monitors. Have a dedicated work space, backdrop for your office area if needed, a stable internet connection and a backup plan (a phone hotspot, local co-work rental space, and do not use public wifi when working on confidential client information). 

Are you prepared to work onsite? How far are you willing to travel and how often? Would you relocate for a long-term contract? You can work through a staffing agency and find contract jobs on Indeed.com, monster.com, and others. 

Finances

Determine your rates, manage your bookkeeping, invoices, estimates, contracts, set your past due payments policies, establish your business hours and what your rates are for doing work beyond those hours, plan for the ebb and flow of income, establish a budget, and make a business plan. 

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