5 Reasons to Try Technology Writing

Minda Zetlin

A friend who writes about technology told me she had her best freelancing year ever in 2011. She routinely hits a quarter of a million, so her best-ever year was probably quite impressive. My income may never rival hers, but I had one of my best-ever years in 2011 myself.

It hasn’t been like that throughout the writing community. Publications are folding or cutting rates. “Content mills” that pay less than $10 per article are finding writers willing to work at that price. Tales of woe abound, and when I hear them I feel terrible, and I think: Thank God I’m a technology writer!

I stumbled into this specialty by accident about 17 years ago. Literally: I was working on an article on my outdated Toshiba laptop when I got up to fetch a cup of coffee and tripped over the cord. The laptop flew through the air and landed with a thud. A friend-of-a-friend computer consultant tried to fix it. He failed, but we started dating instead, and eventually married. Being sentimental, we still have the original Post-It with the diagnosis “Hard drive problem” taped on the wall above our bed.

I’d been a straight-laced business and management writer before I met Bill, but now I started getting interested in this world of technology he was steeped in. Soon I was a biz-tech writer, and much in demand and it’s pretty much stayed that way ever since.

  1. There’s work in them there hills. Which brings me to my first reason for trying technology writing: The work is there. I’ve found this to be true through the dot-com crash in the early 2000’s, the financial crisis of the past few years, and still today.
  2. Tech people are really nice. Ever hear of a tech executive being really nasty or rude? (OK, besides Steve Jobs?) The culture of the tech world is to be relaxed, informal, very quick to respond to emails, and unfailingly pleasant. One time I had to do a story that required dealing with Hollywood people. I hurried back to tech with a shudder.
  3. It’s OK not to know everything. All you really needs is a willingness to learn. I say this all the time: “I’m more expert about business than about [fill in the blank]. Can you explain the technology to me so I can explain it to our readers?”
  4. You might get cool stuff. To capitalize on this aspect of tech writing, consider doing product reviews. After all, for you to write the comparison of the iPad 3 and the Kindle Fire, you’ll need one of each.
  5. It’s never boring. This week, I’ve been talking to executives at Zynga (which makes Farmville, Words With Friends, and a lot of other social games), emailing with Kickstarter, and fielding pitches from PR people, including one about SceneTap, an app which will tell you, before you arrive at a bar, how many people are there, their average age, and male-to-female ratio.

Who knows what next week will bring?