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Technical writing for magazines


Zen sounds very irate here:

You know, as a hotshot programmer, I didn't make $60 an hour.  And
all the technical writer's I knew made 1/2 or less of what I made
as a programmer. 

Salaries depend on many factors: location, experience, and subject
matter are the biggest. A software developer would easily make this
much on a contract basis. Programmers earn less.

I have several friends who are still in the field of technical
writing, and they would ALL like to know where they can get paid
$60 an hour for technical writing. 

Orange and Los Angeles Counties, California, for very senior-level
contract technical writers documenting very complex software for a
developer audience. I was pulling down $50/hour for user-level
software docs just last week. I have 15 years’ experience in the

$15 to $20 an hour is a darn good wage.  Wake up and join the real
world, where part time minimum wage jobs are becoming the norm.
Even for people with "advanced degrees". 

No, 15-20 dollars an hour will have you sharing a one-bedroom
apartment with three other people, and eating beans and rice. In
Orange County, CA, that is. Don’t assume that your perception of the
world is the only one. We all have to work a little harder nowadays
to get into a good career or job - they don’t just fall into your
lap, especially if you don’t live in an urban area. You cannot
generalize about pay - it is too dependent on experience and
location, not to mention skill and relative demand for that skill.

That said, I like the idea of sharing what little jewelry knowledge
I have, and I’m pretty good at communicating technical information
in writing, drawings, and photographs. If I get a great idea for an
article, I may well do it. After a day staring at a computer screen,
though, I’d rather make cool stuff out of metal and stones. I write
becasue I get paid for it, (and as far as day-jobs go, technical
writing is a pretty good one, IMO) and the idea of working some more
for what amounts to $2/hour putting together an article doesn’t
appeal to me. Because I understand this, I elect not to whine about
the quality of the articles that others do choose to submit. :slight_smile:

Uh Oh. Now Trish is going to be afrer me to submit something for the
MASSC newsletter. :slight_smile:

Respectfully yours,
Laurie Cavanaugh
Acanthusleaf Designs


Dear Sojourner,

There are many more “real worlds” than are dreamt of in your
philosophy. If there are people doing technical writing for $15 an
hour who think that’s a good rate, there must be great variety in the
field. I know a technical writer who bought a million dollar house in
the Berkeley Hills with the money he made writing an early Windows
book. Maybe it’s different here in California…

But I’m not a technical writer. I made most of my living, for a
period of over a decade, as a ghostwriter for people trying to finish
dissertations and memoirs. Before that, I wrote press releases and
other materials for publishers. And before that I was a freelance
writer, published in places like the Village Voice. The last time I
accepted $15 an hour for my writing was in 1988. Frankly, I’d rather
write “for fun and for free” than for cheap. (And, as everyone who
reads this forum knows, I can’t seem to stop writing for fun and for

I don’t mind making $15 an hour for my jewelry (and I’m not good at
keeping track of design time, so I might make less) but that’s
because I’m doing something I love, something that is “mine.” If I’m
working the hell out of my brain for somebody else’s benefit, I’m not
doing it for $15 an hour. I’d rather stuff envelopes.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments



Understand that “the real world” can be very relative to regions of
the U.S. and the world. Programmers in the Northeast - particularly
those with high-demand skillsets – routinely make in the $60 -
125/hour range. Most who casually freelance, on the other hand, do
so in the $40 - 50 range, with some dipping into the mid-30s.

As a technical writer (which is where my career started, and where I
freelanced up to a few years ago for extra $$), I made very good
money - sometimes on a par with the programmers, depending on what I
was doing for them (for example, writing help systems and online
training documents).

When the dot-com bubble burst, the number of $60/hour tech writing
jobs diminished, but good, well-trained, experienced tech writers can
still command $25 - $40/hour (and higher, on occasion) in the
northeastern U.S.

In some parts of the U.S., $15-20/hour might seem like “a darn good
wage.” In other parts of the country, it’s barely liveable.

As they say in real estate - location, location, location.

Karen Goeller