Halloween is finally here. What do we love about this holiday? The smell of fallen leaves, pumpkin lattes, spooky decorations, and scary stories, of course. For all the years technical writing has been around, it has accumulated a lot of stories that are worth mentioning on Halloween. The things that scare the HATs out of technical writers. Let’s see what they are, and try to find ways to make them a little less frightening.
Gloomy Shadows of Customer Feedback
This fear is quite common, and it has all the reasons to be. Imagine that you have been working on you sacred manuscript (technical writing project) for weeks, been through hell (agile) and back, simultaneously fighting off trolls (typos) with your mighty two-handed keybo… I mean — sword! And then, your readers come and start sniffing around, hating your masterpiece and leaving negative feedback all over.
Don’t fret. You need to realize that user feedback is as vital for technical documentation as for the product itself. It helps you find inconsistencies, mistakes, and other issues. Analyzing feedback can be useful for working on an update plan for documentation (e.g. the most visited and commented topics need special attention, expansion and, maybe, re-working and vice versa). Also, you can share your thoughts with devs on what features need to be added or improved based on the feedback you receive.
Entering the Mirk Forest of Freelancing
The notion of freelance has entered our lives not too long ago and has been scaring people ever since. We bet that at least once in their life every office-bound technical writer has entertained the possibility of going freelance.
But why is this thought so scary? It is simple, people are afraid that their income won’t be consistent, they won’t be able to efficiently time-manage or even make potential clients interested. To stop the fear, one should rationalize it. That is, look deeper into all the pros and cons and how they will be affecting you in your specific situation. As for freelancing — try assessing your time management skills and personality traits. Are you an introvert? How well do you survive not being surrounded by people? How efficiently can you work from home fighting off temptations and distractions? Check out this blog post about freelancing in technical writing to figure out what other factors need to be considered.
Using New Spooky Help Authoring Tools
All the anxiety begins when that time of the year comes — the time to change your software. Online documentation tools keep developing and improving, so it hardly makes any sense to stick to the old ways, editing stuff offline and sending it out via email. Adapting a new online HAT seems to be a tedious and frustrating task, but it should not be this way. There are plenty of tools out there now that are flexible, intuitive, efficient. To fight off this fear of adopting a new tool, start with a trial. Such online documentation tools like ClickHelp, for example, offer a free unlimited 30-day trial. So, you can play around with all the settings and see what’s being offered and how you can use this in your workflow.
Subject Matter Experts from Hell
One of the spooky things in technical writing is collaboration. It is pretty much unavoidable if you want to create a decent piece of technical writing though. Some people fear this less, while others just dread the fact that they need to continuously bother members of other teams in search of answers.
How to improve this situation? Try working on your communication skills. When you learn a little bit more about effective communication, you will feel more confident talking to others. One of the most powerful techniques here is active listening. This simple approach will allow you to build better relationships with your colleagues and eventually get all the info you need for your documentation project. Also, try looking at webinars on effective communication, these can prove to be useful. Another thing is — learn filtering out information. Sometimes, matter experts or engineers can get into too much detail. Hear them out and filter later.
Bloody Last Minute Changes
Technical documentation stands on the very edge of a product release. So, often, last minute changes are made to the product, and technical writers are forced to fix user manuals on extremely short notice. This is very stressful and can happen quite regularly. A scary thing indeed! How to stop fearing this? Most importantly — relax. This might sound counterintuitive, but it is true. Give yourself some time to think everything through. Don’t rush in, fixing help topics leaving a trail of inconsistencies behind. Chill and take a look at a bigger picture. Trace what all the changes lead to, check cross-references, allocate the right people. Here you go! Fear busted!
Soon, the venomous spiders will hide their cobwebs, jolly skeletons will stop dancing in the dark and leave quietly rattling their bones, and Halloween will be over. In the meantime, we hope that you have learned something from this post, and some of your fears have been transformed into more positive things granting you the opportunity to grow professionally. So, happy Halloween! Till next year! *a creaking sound of a coffin lid shutting down*
Good luck with your technical writing career!
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