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Image used to act as spacer for top of leftNav02 section Genres commonly found on the Internet. How do I become a professional writer  a description of Dr. David Hailey and IMRL Everything you ever wanted to know about IMRL

David Hailey
Professor Emeritus, Professional and Technical Communication
Utah State University


This text is spun out of the undergraduate and Master of Technical Communication (TC) programs at Utah State University (USU).  USU is a Carnegie-one research institute, and the TC faculty pushes the envelope in researching new trends in professional communication. This research provides the content of many classes directed toward the very cutting-edges of the professional technologies in our field. In the past, the programs have been ranked among the top ten professional communication programs in the world.

The specific classes that inform this book are

These are all classes I teach, and this book comes out of what I have taught in these classes. In essence, readers of this book begin at the beginning of our undergraduate program and end with the most advanced material of the master’s degree.

NOTE: Although the book title suggests we will explore the world of the professional writer, in the end, the changing conditions of the new media require that we move past the idea of writing into the universe of the professional communicator.

What Professional Communication Careers Look Like

The profession is growing so fast and in so many ways that it is difficult to keep up. Not only are the traditional, mainstream jobs growing, but the profession is spinning off new careers every year. Recent new careers include professional blogger and social media specialist, user experience analyst, information architecture, technical animator, game narrator, content analysis, process preservationist, and more. As recently as 10 years ago, a reasonably comprehensive list would include about a dozen careers, and the term technical writer applied almost exclusively to hardware and software documentation. The same list now tops 55, and many of them regularly show up in the top three of US News and World Report’s list of best careers. This past year, content manager, and Web developer surpassed engineering to top that list.

It is not possible to describe the profession in simple terms. Professional communicator has become a term that describes a diverse list of careers with (not surprisingly) a diverse list of skills and talents, so no simple description will suffice. The skills and talents of an editor, for example, will be completely different from those of a copywriter or Web designer. The very meticulous and focused mindset of an excellent copy editor is the opposite of the creativity and adaptability that a Web designer would need. As you will see, no matter what their skills and talents, there is a place in the larger profession of professional communicator for anybody who can write well.


Salaries in the professional communication fields vary wildly. You might take an entry level job that pays a yearly salary as small as $35,000, but you might rise through the ranks to a salary that exceeds $500,000. Entry level documentation jobs are often more than $50,000 and sometimes more than $75,000, while freelance, part time copywriters might earn less than $15,000. Contractors with special skills can earn more than a million/year. I recently had a conversation with the head of our computer science department. He was lamenting that the typical technical writer earned more than the typical programmer.

The salary a job pays depends on the geographical location of the job, your skills, and the kind of company you work for. A startup business in Liberal, KS cannot pay you as much as Google or Amazon will pay their Silicon Valley writers. A student intern in an IBM Silicon Valley facility will earn about $50K and $35K in a Denver facility, but little or nothing at all in Logan, UT.

Writers today are almost never just writers. They will work within environments that will require at least a little understanding of the inner structures of digital media. They might do a bit of programming, they will use software typically only used by professionals (and so not necessarily easy), and they may work within complex or complicated information systems.

. . . and new careers are springing up every day. In 2014, I my new book ReaderCentric Writing for Digital Media was published. It is a book that proposes a new approach to professional communication. I described the profession and the skills and talents employees need to work in this area. I called the process, “content quality evaluation.” Recently, I read a job ad that described these skills for a job they called “content quality assessment.” They were offering $268K per year for that employee.

You are the one who ultimately determines your starting salary. The job and salary will depend on your talents and how well you learn what you need to know to land that first job, and in the future it will be determined by which learning curves you want to tackle.

How to Read this

This text is necessarily read from beginning to end. Later chapters depend on you understanding much of the content of the earlier chapters. The book contains an even mix of theoretical foundation and writing technologies—that is to say “theory and practice.” Early in their careers, writers tend to learn recipes for how to do things (e.g.,” a proposal looks like this”). The problem with this kind of rote learning is you don’t necessarily understand why “a proposal looks like this.” In fact, proposals do not look like one thing. There are very formal proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation, less formal proposals submitted to corporations looking for a service, and highly informal proposals a roofing contractor might make to potential clients over coffee in a local café. When writers understand that texts fit into genres NOT because of their structures but because of what they are supposed to do, it becomes possible to better understand effectively writing those texts into their appropriate genres. That said, it should be clear that effective, professional writing requires more than an excellent turn of phrase; it also requires an understanding of contemporary communication theories and practices.

section I: the job market


Most careers in professional communication are entry level, which is to say you can qualify for them with little or no professional experience. Don’t misunderstand . . . I am not saying you can commonly find them with little or no professional experience; I am just saying you can qualify. Typically, most of these job ads will ask of 3 or more years of professional experience (which you probably won’t have) plus a degree in technical communication, journalism, English, or comparable. For those without TC, Journalism, or English degrees, the “comparable” becomes your ticket past that hurdle. Getting past the three year hurdle is tougher, but not out of the question – it just takes more patience and looking for the right jobs.

Fake it till ya’ Make it

Alternately, you can keep your day job and freelance or contract on the side while you look for the writing career you really want. It only takes putting together some business cards and going for it. During that time in Purgatory, do professional writing projects, even if you have to do them for free. The key is to build up a portfolio. Virtually every job interview will require you to demonstrate that you can do the job – this is done with your portfolio of existing work. You need to be able to show that you have done professional quality work (note that I am not saying you have to have done work professionally). So if you have a friend who you think needs a new brochure or website, help her with it and put the ultimate artifact into your portfolio. In the section titled “Author (article and chapter),” I talk about another path to getting experience and a portfolio. You may find that path more fun.
Look for local, professional organizations. The Society for Technical Communication (STC) has local chapters in many cities that meet monthly. There may be one in your city. If there is, and they have meetings, you can get a lot of support there. Most of the people who attend meetings regularly are among those who recommend or even hire new people. It is good to know them. LinkedIn has professional discussion forums, including forums on professional writing and freelance writing and looking for writing jobs. People beginning in the field, ask questions about getting started all the time. Longtime professionals will usually answer their questions. You will need connections.
Many of you will be afraid of cheating (claiming more than you can do), but there is a rule that professionals take very seriously. In terms of thinking about that rule, consider the figure skater who performs at the Olympics. He was once the goofy looking kid who couldn’t keep his feet under him on the ice. Or consider the pianist at Carnage Hall. She began by playing chopsticks – badly—somewhere. Everybody who is good at something difficult was once bad at it. Every good writer was once a bad writer. Nobody ever begins any demanding area by being good at it. They have to go through that rough and clumsy part and keep trying until one day they discover they are pretty danged good. The rule everybody follows as they grow their skills, whether they know it or not is, “Fake it ‘till ya’ make it!

In my classes, I always have a few timid students who are afraid to attack anything new. I fear for those students because unless their personalities change, they will never rise very far in the profession.
More important than experience is the willingness (courage) to attack a demanding learning curve and push on until you have topped it. Employers are always looking for that kind of courage.
Consider this. Be confident you can learn anything. Research the places you want to work and apply at those places. In any interview it will become clear through normal conversation that you have researched the employer and want to work there. That is impressive. If you have an otherwise strong portfolio, when they ask how much you know about XML (or similar technology) you say, “I know how it works, and I’m excited by the prospect of learning how to use it.” That shows the desire, willingness to learn, and courage they will be seeking. Even if you don’t get the job, demonstrating those characteristics will have impressed the interviewers. In the end, this combination, by itself, is often enough to get someone hired at entry level – confidence, willingness to learn, and strongly expressed desire to be on the team.

Talents and Skills the Professions Demand

As you think about attacking a learning curve, consider which learning curve you want to attack. No matter how hard they might try, not every ice skater is going to make it to the Olympics. Skill comes from practice, but talent is a part of who you are. Understanding your talents is a critical part of deciding who you might want to be in one of these careers. For example, some people love a new problem. They will attack it with relish, but having solved the problem, they have little interest in pursuing it and even less interest in repeating the process with the same problem again and again. For example, a writer might be asked to document a software application (describe how to use the software) in a help file. The first time, the writer might relish the process, putting in lots of extra hours learning how to configure the text into an appropriate pattern while carefully describing all of the important processes and all while using a new software. But having once done that, the writer might find doing it again and again and again and yet again (for the rest of her life) with similar applications is more than just tedious, it’s a nightmare. This person might do a good job as a software documentation specialist, but would probably never love the job. The person who loves that job will be comfortable with repetition.

In contrast, copy writing demands the writer attack a different problem every time. He might write a press release while writing a marketing-based article while writing the company president’s speech. A person comfortable with repetition would probably hate this job.

So what Is a Talent?

Aristotle says that a man is what he does time after time. That describes how people’s talents work. A talent is a natural tendency to repeat behaviors. In many situations, risk taking is a talent. Risk takers usually can’t help themselves. Some careers (e.g., managing editing) involve taking risks on a daily basis. Early adopters of new ideas or technologies are risk takers who bring new possibilities to the corporate conversation. On the other hand, in the past, risk takers have squandered away people’s nest eggs with risky investments and have brought more than a few banks to their knees. The awful recession that ran through the second decade of the 21st century was largely caused by similar risk takers. Usually, a talent will have a dark side, but dark or light it’s always a part of your personality—part of how you like to do things.
Based on that, it should be clear that a talent for one kind of job will always be a detriment for a different kind of job.  A natural love of experimenting with and learning new technologies would enhance the career of an information architect, but might do nothing for a proofreader. With a sense of your talents, you can better identify the list of careers where you will most likely thrive.

How Do You Identify Talents?

The Gallup organization spent decades interviewing millions of employees in an effort to discover what talents make us excellent employees. What they found is that we all have natural characteristics that we cannot change. They are just a part of what we are. Some of us happily thrive in chaos (e.g., copywriter). Some of us are risk takers (e.g., indi-book publishers). Some of us thrive in an environment where snap decisions are the norm (e.g., managing editors). In contrast, some of us are naturally comfortable in consistency (e.g., proofreaders). Some of us thrive in carefully considered strategies and are reluctant to make changes once the strategies are established (e.g., documentation specialist).

Gallup published their results in three books. One of the books is devoted to presenting hiring and management suggestions—how to look past your experience to see your talents. This is required reading in many corporations. But two of the books are relevant for helping us identify our most important professional talents: Now Discover Your Strengths (Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, $19,89 on and Strengths Finder 2.0 (Tom Rath, $15.44 on The books provide access to tests that permit you to identify your top five talents, but by reading their list of 34 talents, you can see other talents that could apply to you and even others that clearly do apply to you. 

An important point to take away from this segment is that no matter what talents you may exhibit, there are careers in professional communication that have your name written all over them.

Chapter 1
Entry Level Careers

The following is a list of 30 careers that you can often enter with little or no professional experience. The key to entering these areas is to have a good portfolio. “How,” you ask, “am I supposed to have a good portfolio when I have never had a job?” Well, there are several ways. Suppose there is an election coming up and you have a favorite candidate. You could volunteer to work for the candidate. You could push your writing skills until you get a chance to write for the candidate. That gives you PR writing experience and stuff to put in your portfolio and resume.
Also, suppose you start a part-time writing/editing business. You could write articles for small professional magazines. With a bit of luck, and if you really are an excellent writer, you will get an article or two published. At the same time, you could find yourself editing things written for others (perhaps working with a friend’s company).

If you are a creative writer, you could publish in small, literary presses. For many of the jobs listed below (e.g., copy writing), fiction and poetry are of interest to employers. You could write a proposal or brochure copy or an “about us” page for a friend who works in a non-profit agency.
You may or may not make any money doing these things, but they are good practice and they get you portfolio pieces. I will discuss the problem of building your portfolio in the sections below. Many of the jobs require different portfolios. Putting together the right one for the job you want is important.

Like most of you, I did not have a technical communication degree. My degree was in fine art (painting) and creative writing. The above exactly describes the path I took to break into the profession. In the beginning, I had nothing but fiction stories and drawings and photographs. In my first job, I had the opportunity to do a few illustrations, shoot a few professional photographs, write a few brochures and edit some work by others. These few things mixed in with the best of my stories, art, and photos got me my first job as a copywriter. From there, I rose to assistant editor and (finally) managing editor for Caterpillar Inc.

You may find many of the jobs listed below to be uninteresting, but you should find some of them pretty exciting. The thing is this. Don’t try to qualify for all of them. Instead, find the ones that demand talents you have and look like they might be fun. Focus on qualifying for the jobs that you think you would enjoy. Typically, the more demanding the job, the more it pays, and and the easier it is to break into them  (if you have taken the time to develop the right skills).
Once you are looking for a job in your career of choice, focus on that one area.

[NOTE: the salaries below are what you might expect if you walked into that job as a brand new hire.]

Author (articles and chapters) – from $0 – to $50K 

This is an opportunity that almost every writer overlooks. I have published more than 50 of these in national, professional magazines, journals, trade books, house organs, newspapers and newsletters. The opportunities to develop skill and a reputation in the profession of writing can be astonishing.

As you write in this area, your writing skills cannot help but improve. And as you build a portfolio of articles, you are building a reputation as a writer. In many disciplines, publishing articles can be relatively easy.

Moreover, you can begin deducting all of the professional tools you buy from your income tax. Accepting that you are a professional writer, calling yourself a professional writer, and writing articles as if you were a professional writer makes you a professional writer. Once you do that, you have the right to deduct all expenses that go toward writing professionally – computers, printers, ink, pencils, office space, travel for the purpose of your profession, all of those expenses are deductible. Now, at some point, you have to begin making a profit or the IRS is going to wonder whether you are using deductions to support a hobby. But if you are serious about being a professional writer, you will be earning money long before the IRS begins to worry about you.  


This is one of the best ways to break into professional writing. First, you give yourself a company with a real name. It might be something like “Blue Line Editorial Services.” You get card stock at Staples and print out some business cards and then (maybe) incorporate as a limited liability corporation (LLC). Now you are a business.

The last I heard, there were more than 2000 journals and magazines that take advertising. There are hundreds about gardening, quilting, hot-rodding, shooting, building, paving, and scores of other topics . . . and you will know a lot about a few of these topics. There are also travel magazines (you see them in the airplane pockets). You can submit to some of them as well.
Many of these trade and hobby publications have trouble getting good stories. For example, there aren’t a lot of people who know a lot about photovoltaics and can write well. There are even fewer who know about bio-diesel. . . . but there are lots of trade journals in these areas.
The important thing is this. You keep your day job while you write these articles and you are getting good practice at your vocation of choice. . . . and the practicing counts as experience . . . . and you have stuff to put in your portfolio . . .AND REMEMBER any travelling you do or tools you buy are deductible.

Don’t forget online publications. I recently took an extended trip to the south Texas coast. There are online travel magazines that would happily have published my adventures. Most would have been unable to pay me, but I would have had an excellent portfolio piece—a great story with lots of great photos.

If you are lucky and pretty good at it, you will publish some of these articles. If that happens, there is a good chance the publisher will embrace your work and you can publish more. It’s not a living. An article might earn you $800 (or more rarely $1200), and if you are lucky, you might publish one a month. At this point, however, the discussion is not about earning a living, it’s about earning a reputation and building a portfolio.

Working in a Corporation

Believe it or not, lots of corporations have people who do little more than write articles. I did this for Caterpillar for several years. Imagine this: you manufacture something that costs $250,000 and weighs 40 tons. You aren’t going to advertise that tractor or asphalt plant on TV. What you do is have writers write articles about them and get those articles published in national construction magazines. Often corporations use freelance writers (see above), but they often have in house writers. Companies like these also have quarterly house organs (internally published magazines) that they send out to their customers. Their staffs of writers produce articles for these as well.

Skills and Talents

You need to have the nerve of a door-to-door salesman to seek out publishing venues and send your best work to them. You send articles that you are certain are masterful and get them rejected – that hurts. Often they will tell you why they didn’t want the article (e.g., wrong season, too long, not exactly where they are going with their editorial policy, they are already doing something similar, etc.). These all mean you aren’t doing it right yet. I will address this in greater detail, but there are some basic rules that successful writers follow. If you fail to follow those rules, you look foolish. Publishers will spell out these rules in a submission guidelines section somewhere within the publications.

To succeed in this area, you need to love researching, love writing, be a risk taker, and have the hide of an alligator when you get rejections. 


$10,000 and up for freelance, and around $50,000 and up for fulltime employees.

Author (technical books) – Around $60K  

Somebody has to write those manuals, how-to guides, science books, histories, and psychological self-help books, right? First, they can be fun to write because they can be on a topic you like, know about, and enjoy researching . . . . and almost anybody can do it. We all have things we enjoy. Maybe we enjoy restoring old cars . . . that’s something we could write about. I helped a lady who had rolled her car. She was fine, but the road was littered with books about quilting that the lady had written and was delivering to quilting show.

Writing for Corporations

‘course it isn’t always a joy. Corporations publish a wide variety of manuals and guides for their products. These may be team written, although small, startup corporations often have only one writer.

You may find yourself writing the book, formatting it using a software like FrameMaker or InDesign or Sigil, and submitting it to a printer or eBook publisher. YOU may even be the publisher! Working for a startup can be dangerous because they so often fail. But if you are good, and they succeed, you will find yourself promoted and promoted again (as they grow) until you run the whole show. If they fail, you still have the portfolio and experience.

Freelance Writing

If an author has an interesting topic, a publisher may contract her to produce a book on the subject. A book might take a year or more to write, though some publishers tend to push really hard to have the book written in weeks. In such a case, the writer may put in very long days for a couple of months.

A freelance technical author is much more likely to get a book published than a comparable novelist. If you are a burgeoning novelist, one way to show your chops is to have published a technical book. Science fiction writer? Write something about science. This is a way to get your book on a library shelf. This book is such an effort. 

Skills and Talents

Basically, it requires you to have some specialized skill that will be useful (e.g., web design) or interesting (e.g., cosmology) to an audience. More than anything else, after knowledge, it takes patience and drive. Most of us have these skills and just don’t know it. Mechanics and car buffs, quilters, carpenters, campers (and the like) publish books all the time. Almost everybody has a set of skills worth writing about.

Writing technical books also requires a level of drive. It takes more than a little focus to write 60 or 70 thousand words about a single topic. You need to be an excellent writer, but you can (and should) always hire an editor to help with the mechanics.   

Blogger – $10,000 and up for a successful freelance

This is a professional skill you can add to the two I mention above. If you have a special skill such as what I have described above and write well, you can make money blogging. More importantly, blogging is good practice for your writing. If you don’t feel like you have a unique skill, you can write about writing (you could even write about trying to become a professional writer). To run a blog well, you have to do a lot of research. Otherwise you are just blabbing opinions and showing your ignorance.  So if you are writing about writing (and doing a good job), you are researching and learning about the field as you go.   

Improve your skills

You can improve your skills by running more than one blog, practice using different voices (e.g., friendly discussion, point-by-point instructions); become more familiar with the mechanics of writing for different purposes, create examples that you can put into your portfolio—substituting better ones for weaker ones as your writing improves.

Many writers also use blogging to improve their connections and to demonstrate their knowledge in certain areas. For example, you might take a course in solar energy and start a blog. Perhaps you write article-length blogs about the plummeting silicone costs. If they are good articles they could be picked up by one of the trade magazines, or the publishers might ask you to rewrite something for them. Then you have a publication.

On the other hand, DO NOT WRITE ABOUT HOW DREARY YOUR LIFE IS. If you write negative or dreary blogs, the potential employers will almost certainly see them as they research you. More than once, I have seen highly qualified people passed over because of dreary, whiney blogs. Instead, write positive, useful material.

You Will Be Working Professionally

Blog sites carry advertising. The blogger gets a little money for each click on an ad. While you will probably never make a living doing blogs, you are working professionally, and you are building a record of experience (without having to give up your day job).

A different variation of this is Vloging (video blogging). You can see a lot of that on YouTube as well as in personal websites. Basically the rules and conditions are the same except you are now also learning the demands of videography. With the growth of new media, this is a very useful skill.


Bloggers can get sponsors and can carry ads. The ads may earn you only a few cents per click, but an association might sponsor you if you are writing within their discipline. None of this will make you rich, and probably won’t even make you a living, but it is hard to get better experience.

Copy Editor – around $47K

When applying for such a job, you will probably be required to take a test in addition to presenting a portfolio of professional quality work. If you score highly on the test, you could get the job with virtually no professional experience. 

Where do we find them working?

The copy editor might work for a book publisher, journal, or company producing documentation. They also often work independently as freelance editors or as contractors, sometimes specializing in niche areas (e.g., proofreading dissertations).

In publishing,

The copy editor is responsible for making certain the text is ready for publication before permitting it to go to press. As a rule, the copy editor may

In a second arena,

The copyeditor is hired by people who need to publish something and, while they might be good writers, they are not such good editors. They need to have someone go through their dissertations or manuscripts before submitting them for review. These editors are freelance, and this may be the most lucrative (and easy to break into) freelance career available. This career can be particularly lucrative in university towns where foreign students struggle with language and good copy editors can help them. Someone who is homebound or cannot relocate could make spending money, if not a living, doing this.

Copyediting Skills and talents

This job requires virtually no technical skills. Instead, you need to be highly focused and somewhat driven. You may be carefully examining 500 pages, looking at every word for malignant minutia. It takes incredible drive, focus, and patience. Moreover, you really need a talent for being irritated by things that are out of place. You also need a thorough understanding of the language. This is a combination of talent and skill that surprisingly many claim but surprisingly few demonstrate. Still, if it describes you, it is a lucrative career.

Copywriter -- around $55K

My first writing job was as a copywriter. I had some experience in graphic arts and a degree that included creative writing, but I had no experience writing professionally. This first experience in my path to becoming a professional communicator shows that pretty much anybody who can show a portfolio of any kind of good writing can walk into one of these jobs. Having said that, copywriting is one of the lowest paid jobs among professional writing careers, and they are among the first to be let go if money gets tight . . . so don’t put this down as a lifetime plan. Think of it as a doorway to better opportunities.

Copywriters write the texts that are used in professional publications.  “Copywriting” sometimes implies “writing marketing copy” but need not. More accurately, “copywriting” implies writing to order. The same person may be simultaneously researching and writing an article, an ad, a script, press release, CEO’s speech, web page, and the technical description of a military weapon.  Copywriters work in three different environments: (1) corporate PR department, (2) ad agency, and (3) freelance or contract writing.

Working for Corporations

In a large corporation, the copywriter might produce ad copy for their marketing director or might write product descriptions or articles, newsletters, and whitepapers that can market products not marketable in more traditional venues such as TV (I mentioned Caterpillar earlier). Basically, they write highly creative, original content, although some of that content might be worked into a boilerplate (a kind of template where much of the content will already be in place and the new content is added).

Working for Ad Agencies

In ad agencies, the copywriter might produce ad copy for the creative director or scripts for TV ads, poster copy, or even (in one case I know of) fiction novels. The demands on their skills might be similar to writers who work for corporations, but they will probably write for a much larger spectrum of clients, and in a much wider range of genres.

Freelance Copywriters

Freelancers can easily work in both environments. In fact, the majority of copywriters are freelance contractors. They may have an office somewhere, but that office is likely to be in a home. This is an excellent career choice for a stay-at-home mom or a person who is bedbound.

Skills and talents

Like copy editing, copywriting requires few technical skills, but unlike copy editing, copywriting requires incredible and instantly available creativity. Copywriters need to be able to adapt to sudden changes in priority, audience, document purpose, or genre. Many writers are simply not creative enough to thrive in this profession, but for the exceptionally creative, copywriting can be an exciting profession.


Around $55K; more or less for freelance, depending on skill and reputation.

Editorial Assistant -- around $35K

Editorial assistants provide background and clerical duties necessary for producing publications. This job is the foremost entry-level position for people interested in breaking into the publishing industry.  There are several of these positions in any magazine or newspaper.

In the Corporation

The editorial assistants are the physical arms of the editors during the publication process. Basically, if something needs doing, the editorial assistant does it. Their duties may range from following an editor, cleaning up after her, doing her every bidding, etc., to more demanding tasks such as writing (or rewriting) articles, proofreading, page design, etc. Sometimes they may liaison between branches of a publishing house. One editorial assistant I know works for both the Utah and Colorado branches of her publishing house. Anything that needs being done that involves both branches . . . she does it.
I have never heard of a freelance editorial assistant.


Around $35K

Grant Writer -- around $48K

This is an excellent way to get portfolio examples. Grant (proposal) writers develop proposals for funding for charities, not-for-profit agencies, research institutes, and corporations. Grant writers must be able to research and write to meet the exact demands of RFPs (requests for proposals). This means you need to be fastidious and persuasive.

Proposal Writers’ Workplace

This is a career field that permits you to work from home. Many large non-profits will be continuously producing grant proposals and have fulltime writers who include grant writing in their skillsets, but most jobs are one-off contracts dedicated to specific RFPs.

Nature of the writing

Proposals may be solicited (request for proposal) or unsolicited. Either way, they need to be very carefully written. My experience has been that you need to do four things: (1) present a sexy, new idea that (2) meets a real need, (3) write a flawless proposal that (4) demonstrates you can do whatever it is you want to do. Funders see hundreds of proposals that might go 20 pages. If yours is not well written, the funder will not read past the first few pages.
The unsolicited proposal may be submitted to an agency that invites submissions within broad guidelines. But it is also possible someone in the organization may have contacted a resource and has received agreement to look at a proposal.

The solicited proposal will be in response to a very formal RFP. The writer needs to carefully follow all of the directives of the RFP. It is a good idea to even use all of their heads and subheads in the same order they appear on the RFP.

Really good writers can do well here, and getting a funded proposal can be an important addition to your portfolio. Have I mentioned how important your portfolio is?


Around $50K for fulltime . . . somewhat less for freelance.

chapter 2
entry level with MORE specialized, technical skills

These are all entry level jobs, but not just anybody can apply for them. Most of them are found in digital communication and usually as a part of publishing websites. Unlike the ones above, that may go back to the dawn of publishing, these are mostly brand new. Some of them are so new their names and descriptions are in a constant of change. Content manager actually has three completely different meanings, and two of them have little to do with professional communication.
These are the jobs worth getting into because they prepare you for the jobs in the next chapter, which almost always earn more than $150,000/year and sometimes more than a million.

Content Manager – around $70K

Content management is a broadly used term that might describe the job of manipulating marketing copy to achieve the best possible sales results or might mean working within complex databases to keep content flowing to appropriate destinations or it might mean working with content management systems. That said, a job description might include the skills of a copywriter or might demand the skills of a programmer.

From the point of view of a professional writer, the content manager will control the content on a website or similar environment, and in this context may work under the supervision of an information architect or user experience analyst. One area where the writer may excel in content management is in evaluating content quality. The content manager who can identify and repair defective texts as he organizes them is likely to become a valued contributor. Later in this book I will have a whole section on doing this.

The content manager may also run the user experience tests to make certain the product develops in good directions and the finished product meets the needs of both the company and the user.
The content manager is often more organizer than writer, and so relevant skills would include an ability to visualize the finished product early on, and apply appropriate strategies to make that vision a reality. This person will be highly adaptable on the one hand and highly disciplined and focused on the other (traits uncommon in a single person).  

Working with complex databases

Most information systems are pretty simple, but some can be very complex. There are artificially intelligent systems that keep track of who you are, and answer questions you might ask with an understanding of your needs based on past interactions. does this. Managing that content is difficult, but can be both financially and spiritually rewarding. Such content is created, bundled, and stored in databases the website can access. The website then selects content based on its understanding of the user. More and more marketing and informational websites will be doing this in the future.

Although this can be an entry level job, the employee must have a thorough understanding of Internet technologies. The list of technologies might include HTML, XML, CSS, DITA, ASP/SQL, and more, plus hardware and software skill necessary to produce products using these systems. But with those skills in place, this person will be in great demand. Computer programmers or technicians who are good writers, can often make more money here than in programming.

Managing the creation of Web-based content

When building a website, companies often do not pay much attention to the quality of their content, but that is changing. A good web development team will have a writer onboard. It is the role of the writer to bring a broad understanding of communication theories to the development table. For example, the writer might examine metadata and make certain it is optimal for search engine optimization, or the writer might go through the process of making certain the text being introduced is appropriate for the genres relevant to the situation. A good writer who understands web design, is a valued contributor to the process. These are often very well paid (six figure) consultants. Since corporations typically cannot afford to keep them on fulltime, they pay more when they have access to these skills. 

Managing content in content management systems

This is a particularly entry level job, since content management systems are designed to permit you to manage the content with minimal understand of the coding process for websites. There are scores (perhaps hundreds of these applications) designed for specialized websites (medical, business, blogging, etc). Some of them require IT support to keep them working bug free, but most of the time, you as the writer will not be required to manage the back end (coding and stuff) – just the content. In this environment, you might just do daily or weekly updates of information. You might have to configure the information for what’s called “single sourcing” (doing one writing project that is then used in a variety of places) or “multi-sourcing” (writing so that your writing can be combined with other writing in the end product). This level of writing is little more than copywriting within a database system.  


Around $70K and much more as a successful consultant.

Conversion Optimization Manager – around $60K

When you land on a webpage, the developers hope you will do something more – maybe go deeper into the site, maybe click on an ad, maybe buy something. If you do that thing, it is called a “conversion.” Also call landing page optimizers, these people specialize in getting users to do whatever the page is designed for. Being a writer with strong knowledge in how websites work is often enough to get you doing this. Few people really understand this field. A lot of people begin by freelancing for small companies with smallish websites, and if they work hard at it and are careful, they do well.

This person designs and writes and tests the persuasive possibilities of Web content. Although the person tasked with this job is often an information technologist, the goal is usually persuasive, so an excellent writer who fully understand Web design and has the right writing skills will typically thrive.

There are fewer schools graduating new students in this area than there are jobs. If you do the research, read the appropriate books, and become experienced with the processes, you can walk into one of these jobs with no professional experience at all. Having said that, this is a very steep learning curve. It requires that you learn how to build a website and how to manipulate the code in that website, and how to use the analytical software available for this purpose (fortunately much of this can be done for free).


The landing page optimizer (LPO) will use analytical software that tracks information on everybody who lands on every page. Some of the information the software provides is where the visitor is from, what kind of computer they are using and what kind of monitor it has, how they came to be on the page (e.g., Google), what they do while on the page, how long they lingered, and (of course) whether they converted. By using this information, the LPO can run tests that permit her to improve optimization. Doing this job well requires the writer understand the analytical tools, but they are not difficult. More important is the writer being able to persuade the reader to convert.


This is a position that requires a highly adaptable and deliberative researcher who is also an excellent communicator. At the same time, the professional skills are particularly demanding. The landing page optimizer will understand the various testing options (e.g., A/B and multi-variant) for evaluating and responding to user behaviors.


Around $60K, more for a successful consultant.

Code Analyst – around $60K

This is entry level for small corporations, but it takes specialized skills and probably a specialized degree. It is not a writing career, but in a Web environment, a writer who can demonstrate the right skills can move right in to a job.

The code analyst examines and designs software applications and digital delivery systems by establishing stakeholder needs and software capabilities to determine feasibility and architectural requirements.  Code analysts are more focused than business analysts in the sense that business analysts work with businesses and projects, but the code analysts works specifically with digital projects. 

What they Do

In detail, they (1) prepare estimates of time, cost, supplies, and personnel needed for a project, (2) examine hardware and software alternatives and make recommendations based on these findings, (3) write system documentation and the functional specifications for the project, (4) design test procedures to evaluate the application’s validity, reliability, and performance, (5) modify coding to improve performance, (6) perform a functional review of completed applications to ensure they comply with specifications, (7) perform a code review to be sure the code meets the current standards, and (8) recommend ways to maximize performance.

Where the Writer Fits in

In Web design, code is often not particularly complicated. A technically informed writer will have little difficulty reading and analyzing the code. More importantly, the technically informed writer can examine metadata and links for their value to search engine optimization. 
A code analyst might work for a software or hardware company or as a Web analyst or as an independent contractor.


Around $50K, more for successful consulting.

Desktop Publisher – around $40K is currently advertising more than a thousand jobs, many of which require no experience at all – just light editing, a little design, and moderately good computer skills.
This is a perfect place to start as a beginner. You don’t need to be brilliant at anything. You have to be a pretty good writer/editor/designer with some basic computer skills that you can easily pick up on your own. The job gives you an opportunity to explore several professional communication disciplines to see which ones you find the most comfortable, and it gives you a place to pick up the experience to take on some of the more difficult jobs to land (e.g., creative director, managing editor, publications director, etc.). 

Desktop publishers use computer technologies to format disparate parts (e.g., visual graphics, texts) into publication ready formats.  Typically, their products involve short runs quickly created (e.g., newsletters), but with the right equipment, desktop publishers can just as easily produce a corporation’s entire publications package, including manuals, catalogues, and other book-length documents.

In the Small Workplace

There are publishers who specialize in desktop publishing newsletters and the like. They often involve a few people working independently. In such environments, desktop publishers may write the copy, scan images or otherwise create the graphics, design the layout, typeset the document, use software to produce color separations or screens, and arrange for the printing.

Working for the Corporation

In larger companies, others might provide the art and copy while the publisher assembles it into a printable package, and the package might be an operations manual or user’s guide. 


Desktop publishers might contract their work (often working with a printing company) or work with a corporation not large enough to have a publishing branch.
Around $40K for fulltime employment.

Documentation Specialist -- around $60K 

Most of these jobs require a minimum of 3 years’ experience as technical writer, but small, startup companies will often waive that requirement to get a good writer at a pretty low salary. These writers often start at $70,000, or more, and someone with a good portfolio, who understands software and hardware, and who will start at $40,000, or less, can get hired with no professional experience.

What they do

Documentation specialists bridge the gap between unusable applications and the user.  They write the manuals, help files, and other documents the public uses to negotiate technical problems.  Their jobs revolve around coming to know the product in the context of the needs of the final users and being able to communicate that knowledge in such a way the end users will find it useful.  

Skills and Talents

They might (1) understand the users’ purpose for the product in their context of use, (2) understand the users’ needs for new features/products, (3) distill those needs into developer-ready requirements, (4) write the requirements and validate them with architecture plans, (5) test the requirements as the developers provide builds, (6) demonstrate those to the user and ensure the features work as the user expects them to work, (7) document the users’ utilization of the products and features as they will use it, (8) demonstrate this use to the sales and marketing teams so they know how to sell/market it, (9) demonstrate this use to the support team so they know how to support it, (10) ensure documentation meets the highest standards of quality, (11) design and prepare documents for submission to regulatory bodies, (12) review and interpret data, (13) make informed judgments, (14)  listen to and revise according to feedback, and (15) provide plans prior to document execution.

Where they work

Documentation specialists work as contractors or for software, hardware companies and manufacturers that make equipment that requires explanations on how to use it.


They may start as low as $40K, but if they are good, the sky is the limit.

eBook Publisher – around $50K

eBook publishing is a new field and relatively few can do it. Most eBook publishers learned their skills by surfing the Internet, and by experimenting, placing you equally informed on the subject with surprisingly little experience. This field can be broken into two areas: (1) edit and publish the books of others, (2) independently publish (indie publishing) your own books for a profit.

As an independent writer/publisher

Even if your current work is not very good, publishing your own stuff is a good way to build the experience you need to enter this field, and you have portfolio pieces. If you have no experience with web design, the learning curve will be really steep, but it isn’t insurmountable. There is software you can use (though it tends to be slapped together and might be buggy). The field is new, and in turmoil. Protocols come and go. Everybody is facing the same learning curves you are, and the upside is if you can publish a good piece of work, it will earn you some money.
There are three difficult things you have to learn: (1) how to configure an electronic book in the appropriate formats—there are more than one, (2) how to publish these formatted books in the appropriate venues, (3) how to market the book once you have published it. Once you can do these things with your books, you can do them with anybody’s books.

As a professional editing/publishing business

Once you have mastered the skills necessary for working with other people’s work, you can develop your own publishing company. It is important that you know what you are doing, and you will learn little of that in a university. You have to learn it on your own just like everybody else in the field.

As an employ in a professional editing/publishing business

With some editing and publishing skills under your belt, you can work for a larger corporation. All publishers are also publishing eBooks so these skills are paramount.


Around $60K for fulltime employee. Freelance salary depends on level of success.

Game Narrator – around $65K

Gaining employment as a game narrator is rare as the positions are scarce. The game narrator describes the background story on which a game will be based. Game narrators are a very creative community of writers who must understand the nature of game development (understand the software and hardware), the nature of the gaming community, and have a gift for telling engaging stories.  In a postmodern sense, contemporary game players are protagonist/authors in stories invented by the game narrators.


This position is so rare, no data are available.

Game Reporter -- around $26K

This is a huge and growing field. By “huge,” I mean diverse. You might work as a freelance writer for a game-oriented website, or run a blog or a YouTube channel or both. You might just do reviews, or you might write articles about the gaming outlook.

Almost 100% Freelance  

You will almost certainly do this job from home, doing your research, writing it up, and sending it in. A few places offer staff jobs if you are near the facility where everything is run in a businesslike manner, but those are few and very far between. 

Experience Requirements

If you can show you can write well about the topic, there is a good chance you can get published. That is sufficient experience. That’s the good news. The bad news is most jobs don’t pay well when they pay at all. Still, a published review or article is a portfolio piece, and professional writing is all about the portfolio.


This is an area where you can use the work to build your portfolio. I am seeing no indication that more than a half dozen game reviewers or journalists are actually making a living at this.

Graphic Artist (also Paste-up Artist, Production Artist, Graphic Designer) – around $30K

Many writers are also excellent photographers and designers. Although this is art, not writing, art has always been an important part of communication, and being able to show art in a writer’s portfolio is powerful. I have at least as many visual images in my portfolio as written documents. If you have the skills and interests, you can add art and photography to your portfolio.
Also, because professional artists and writers work so closely, it is easy to step across the line from one to the other or do both.

What they do

They will (1) discuss art production with art director, creative director, or client (if there are no creative or art directors, the graphic designer will be responsible for all of their tasks as well), (2) produce art to meet the needs of the stakeholders, and (3) coordinates with copywriter to identify best possible creative ideas (I include this seemingly unrelated field because artist and copywriter are often the same person). 

Typically, the designer will be skilled in a variety of art production applications including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and perhaps CorelDraw, and Painter. They also need to have a working knowledge of theory and practice of professional art.

Skills and Talents

Graphic artists can work in a variety of settings and with a variety of media. As current graph art is completed almost completely electronically, graphic artists generally are required to have extensive, formal education. Still, with the appropriate education, this is an entry-level job.


Around $50K, usually less for freelancing.

Indexer -- around $30K

This requires that you be extremely fastidious, but for the right persons, this is an excellent place to begin the profession. Indexers must (1) determine the scope of the project, (2) become familiar with the document, (3) create lists of first-level entries and other crucial entries such as new terms, main topics of paragraphs, acronyms, main tasks, etc., (4) ensure that spelling and capitalization match throughout, (5) work with others to check the usability of the index, and (6) understand audience including knowing the readers’ level of education, vocabulary, and familiarity with the product.

Mostly freelance

Indexers are very specialized (though this can be a part of freelance editing). They typically use a software to help them find the terms in a book that should be included in the index, but the best of them won’t stop there. Software can be buggy, and you can end up with some really odd and irrelevant word combinations. Moreover, the software may miss some of the most important ideas in the book. The really good indexer will take the time to find and repair all of those. Typically, the finished index will be sent to the author, for final approval, but the indexer looks bad if the author finds a lot of mistakes.


Around $30K

Media Production Specialist – around $55K  

One of the more difficult fields to break into, this requires a great deal of specialized knowledge in different areas. The person who breaks into media production with little experience will have been playing with video, Web design, animation and a variety of other areas of professional communication (probably) since high school.  The media production specialist position combines fields of communication, design, videography, production, media, and computer science. While it is a tough role to fill, successful media production specialists rely heavily on writing and communication skills. 

These specialists use the full spectrum of current and evolving media tools and practices, and they may produce kiosk-based or web-based media.  To do this, they must be part artist and part technician.  They might (1) conduct planning and development for pending media projects, (2) consult with and guide designers, (3) storyboard, rapid prototype, and power program early stages of the projects, (4) produce many of the media materials they use, (5) edit existing resources, (6) maintain databases and meta-databases, and (7) produce illustrations, videotapes, computerized instruction, etc.

Skills and talents

Later in this book, I will discuss the importance of recognizing that graphics, illustrations, animations, and videos are all texts. Media production is why I consider the above so important. Hypermedia (to use the old term) requires that you can weave all of these different modes of communication into single documents. In the past, with traditional documents, you had to weave alpha numeric texts and images into documents. Now you have to weave a new collection of richer media into the documents. This is why the term “hypermedia” has become “rich media” in the past decade.

To create effective rich media, you need to be part artist, videographer, photographer, animator, programmer, and writer. This is possibly the most complicated and interesting career of all professional communication careers and is why I use the term “professional communicator” rather than “technical or professional writer.”

This person is like a copywriter on steroids. He need to be exceptionally creative, but he must also be able to pay very close attention to detail and be highly focused.

Medical Writer -- around $74k

Entry into this field demands highly specialized medical knowledge. Medical writers are the highest paid writers of all the writing profession because they have the most specialized knowledge and skills. They handle health writing projects, prepare documents, check/research regulations, edit medical documentation, provide instructions for patients, and write manuals for medical personnel.

These writers might create complicated medical reports, proposals, instructions, and descriptions (e.g., side effects). Or they might help a healthcare group improve its image with carefully placed press releases or articles.  Medical writers may even compose speeches, presentations, or ghostwrite articles for corporate officers.

Skills and Talents

Above all else, medical writers have a specialized, medical knowledge base that few have. A practicing nurse or well informed hospital technologist could become a medical writer. Most anybody outside the medical profession would be hard pressed to enter this area. Still, if you have the proper knowledge base, the doors are wide open.

Metadata Analyst/Writer – around $70K

For the purposes of this job, metadata exists in six environments on a website: comment tags, heading metatags, alt tags, robot pages that accompany the site, and in a folder that contains documents describing the nature and map of the site.

The analyst evaluates the metadata based on what it is supposed to do and makes certain it does that. Some metadata is designed to describe to future developers how the site is made and how they can find more information, while other metadata is designed to influence web bots that might be visiting the site.

This career will probably merge with other new careers to create something completely new – perhaps something like “content quality analyst.” By adding this skill to others, you make yourself very desirable. There are content quality analysts that earn $256K/year.

Skills and Talents

The metadata specialist understands the code used in Web design and can work within it. Writers who meet these needs are valuable because they can write the best metadata for the purposes of the site.

Public Relations Writer -- around $41k

Public relations writers are basically specialized copywriters. They create press releases, biographies, and professional press kits. They write and edit copies for agency materials, speeches, etc. Public relations writers may even write professional articles to enhance corporate image.

Because they also often write for employees within Corporations, public relations writers maintain positive relationships with employees, staff, and company contacts through personal contact, letters, and emails.


Publications writers may work for corporations (e.g., ad agencies) that specialize in producing PR content for corporations large enough to hire such agencies. Often, it this environment a writer will produce defensive documents for corporations in trouble with the law or with similar PR problems.

PR writers might also work within corporations, universities, or similar agencies where there jobs are to promote accomplishments made by the corporations or deflect criticism that might fall on the corporations.

PR writers may also work as freelance writers, even writing articles on demand for corporations and publishers. For years I worked as a freelancer. Part of my income were eleven articles per year I was expected to produce for an industrial magazine. These articles promoted new construction techniques developed by various manufacturers and contractors. Although I was not hired as a magazine employ, I was still given the title, “Innovations Editor.” 

Skills and Talents

Public relations writers’ skills and talents are pretty much the same as copywriters. They need to be exceptionally creative and able to work on a variety of different topics in a variety of media at the same time.

Search Engine Optimizer – around $40K

Search engine optimization is the process of making a website search engine friendly. The writer identifies different search terms a person might use while looking for a site’s product or service, and carefully integrates them into the writing of the document and into the metadata.

What the search engine optimizer tries to do is make the site more visible to the various search engines. They do this by carefully placing key terms throughout the site. Programs variously called “Web bots,” “Web spiders,” or “Web crawlers” come into sites and index all of the important terms and links found in the site. The SEO works at finding the terms most searched by users and most identifiable to the bots and tries to integrate them into the copy, metadata, and links within the site so the site arises to the top of the search engines’ lists.


This specialist will often work for companies that contract to build websites or in companies with a large internet footprint. Just as often, they will freelance their skills to smaller companies that cannot afford a fulltime SEO, but cannot afford to do without one.

Technical Illustrator – around $60K

Technical illustrators work with writers (and hopefully users) to understand user perspective and usage of technical objects. They must (1) have demonstrated ability to distill usage of technical objects into dimensional diagrams and illustrations, (2) be independent workers who will experiment with technical object or program to gain experience with product, (3) be able to provide feedback to design teams to ensure greater usability, (4) be able to formulate feedback into coherent and concise requirements, (5) have experience working with designers to obtain images or use cameras or software programs to capture images, and (6) be able to coordinate insertion of art into documents. Technical animators do the same task and have similar responsibilities; however, technical animators utilize animation (very specialized and around $70K).


Technical illustrators often work for animation companies, game developers, technical corporations, and the like.

Transcriber – around $30

Transcribers complete documents by entering/typing data from source materials or recordings. In general terms, transcribers take content in one media (e.g., Morse code, Spanish, video, audio recordings) and converts that to another medium (often typed English in the U.S.). It may require a variety of different talents and skills. For example a transcriber might need to identify the important things in a conversation and ignore the irrelevant.

In a corporation

A transcriber may attend critical meetings or negotiations and record the conversations and actions of the participants for archival purposes, and then convert the material into typed text. This will often be tasked to clerical person, and there is seldom a permanent position called transcriber in corporations. On the other hand, a person in a clerical position in a company could use that position as an opportunity to become a fulltime freelance transcriber.


Most transcriber jobs are freelance or done as piecework at a certain price per piece. It doesn’t require any experience at all. Just being able to type well can get you work.
On the other hand, transcribers will often work with researchers who do interviews or focus groups. The research will be videotaped or recorded. The transcriber will convert that into alphanumeric text. It takes a great deal of skill to identify the important things and describe them effectively. Transcribers with these skills might earn $1000 a project.


Transcriber positions are advertised with salaries from $5 to $30/hr.

Chapter 3

These are professions that require a level of experience you might have found in one of the careers I describe in chapters one and two. Typically, these jobs pay significantly more. An information architect can expect to earn up to $190k while a content quality analyst (an extremely new career field) might earn $250K. Salaries will depend on the rarity and complexity of the skills.  

Ad Manager – around $66k

The ad manager works closely with the client to find the best venues for advertising.  Sometimes they specialize in a medium, but often they will have a broad understanding of the impact of all media on the public. In the technology industries, it is often the job of the ad manager to figure out how to make a new and complex message meaningful to an alien audience.  Ad managers are very much like art directors except that they will typically "publish" in a much broader spectrum of media. In addition, their creative role might be somewhat diminished in that they may not actually create the ads; instead, they will usually oversee ad development and production. >

Typical these jobs are found in ad agencies or mid-cap and large-cap companies that have departments resembling ad agencies. 


ART DIRECTOR – around $80K

The art director is responsible for production of art for a client or a company - often from request to completion. They might do finished art, but will more often work with layouts that are used as guides for the artists who do the final work. The art director may work in coordination with the publications director (perhaps designing an annual report) or the managing editor (possibly publishing a magazine) will work directly with clients or printers.

Art directors generally (1) work with creative director or clients to define needs, (2) work with artists to establish their roles, (3) design or oversee design of projects, (4) coordinate production of art, (5) negotiate production stages with clients, and (6) deliver finished work.

If there is no creative director, the art director takes on those additional tasks as well.


The business analyst might also be known as a “requirements manager,” “requirements engineer,” or “systems analyst.”  Their job is to come to understand the requirements of the business or project by analyzing all of the components within the system and making that understanding public. Often they are also responsible for overseeing production.
A professional communicator might use interviews, usability studies, and focus groups in addition to discussions with corporate stake holders and secondary research to establish the appropriate approach to creating or modifying the corporate web site.  He or she would be responsible to the highest level decision makers and would most likely be a part of the decision making process.

In short, the professional communication business analyst might (1) gather functional requirements and document them, (2) document use cases, (3) collaborate with development team to ensure product design and functionality meets the requirements, (4) develop the migration schedule for a given application and help with project planning, (5) identify opportunities  for process and product improvement, (6) conduct end-user acceptance testing, and (7) create the communication plan for the implementation of the application.[1] (Attribute student who submitted this.)

A business analyst would most likely work for a major corporation or as an independent consultant for smaller companies.


The creative director is the person who supervises the art director and copywriters/editors, but he or she is usually directed toward marketing rather than publications. (A similar position focus on publication would be a managing editor.)

Typically they will (1) work with clients to define needs, (2) negotiate mandate for production parameters, (3) work with artists to establish their roles, (4) design or oversee design of project, (5) coordinate production, (6) negotiate production stages with clients, (7) negotiate with printers if necessary, (8) deliver finished work, and (9) take all the heat when it is not perfect (or share the wealth when it is).

The creative director might work in a PR division of a corporation or an ad agency. This person might supervise an art director.

Director of Communications – around $94K

The director of communication is responsible for both internal and external communication and may or may not oversee management of network and company website. The director of communication job tends to be a marketing position (including public and internal relations), but in technical corporations it can also be highly technical. 
A director of communication might work directly under a VP, president, or CEO in a major corporation.

Editorial Director – around $75K

The editorial director is typically a corporate person, responsible for production and quality of texts.  They are typically also responsible for supervision of in-house and freelance positions. Freelance positions generally include all contract writers and editors. Editorial directors usually provide final editorial and perspective approval.

Information Architect – around $75K

Information architects design the structures used for presenting information.  This fairly new position is developing into a profession of the future. Currently, there are no specific tasks for entering it.  Technical communicators with a thorough understanding of computers and the Internet are especially poised to profit from this job.

Managing Editor – around $70K

Managing editors handle most of the mechanical details of publishing documents. From budgeting and production to approving payment as well as from the printer and mailing facility to understanding the final destination (and audience) the managing editor meddles in many aspects of a project from start to finish. Sometimes the managing editor and the copy editor are the same person, but the positions actually require different skills and personalities. While an excellent copy editor is often very careful by nature, the managing editor is as often forced to make instant (and sometimes critical) decisions with minimal input.

Typically, managing editors (1) pick the projects up at inception, (2) procure production bids, (3) arrange schedules, (4) assign tasks, (5) select printers, (5) coordinate ads and copy with their pages, (6) deliver the work to producers, and (7) arrange compensation.

Publication Coordinators – around $35K

Publishers usually manage the entire publications process for all documents being produced within a company, publishing house, or comparable organization. This process is overseen by the publisher from start to finish. Generally, the publisher will be the supervisor for various positions responsible for specific publishing tasks.


Training and courseware developers generally (1) use Instructional Systems Design (ISD) principles, (2) analyze training, (3) conduct in-depth research on topic of training, (4) interview subject matter experts and managers in the field, (5) organize information, (6) write information in a logical, meaningful, understandable, and appropriate way so it can be effectively taught and learned, and (7) document all phases from analyzing to implementing training.
Training and courseware developers work with subject matter experts (SMEs), instructors, and others in the topic field of a particular course. They must be able to research, review, gather, and interpret data as well as use feedback to the improve product. Training and courseware developers manage people, projects, and deadlines. They work with software programs such as word processing, graphics, and editing. Some training and courseware developers shoot photos and video of processes and equipment, and edit photos and videos (crop, sharpen, resize, reformat, etc. to make them appropriate for the end product).

User Experience (UX) Analyst – around $100K

Usability designers and testers are always user advocates. They are the ones who test the product for how useful/usable it is. Although the common assumption is they are computer nerds, usability testing (described as “usability testing”) goes back to the 1860s. Any product designed for human consumption should be tested for how useful it is. That said, in virtually all discussions of usability, the term applies to usability of digital media.
Usability tests may be formal (in a lab) or informal (calling passersby to come check something out).

In corporations

Usually, a usability analyst in a corporation will also do other things such as webmaster or communications director, and the usability skills are just a part of the larger job. A very large company with many large websites will almost certainly have people who only run usability tests, interviews, and focus groups – always looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of the websites. But there aren’t that many companies that these jobs are commonplace.

As consultants

UX analysts are usually not called “freelancers.” Typically, they are called “consultants” or “contractors” and they charge more than $100/hr (as much as $200/hr), and th3ir annual incomes can exceed a million.


Moderate to Entry Level

Validation analysts (1) gather and review functional requirements, (2) create and maintain the schedule for the project validation tasks, (3) develop and review validation test scripts, (4) track and review all defects with the project team, (5) create and execute validation test scripts, (6) document the test results, and (7) review and maintain validation policies and SOPs.

WEB DESIGNER (also Information Architect)

A web designer position is largely the same as the multimedia developer, but it is specific to web design.
Web designers are responsible for (1) updating websites, (2) ensuring links are functional, (3) understanding Internet, cable, and wideband technologies, (4) performing usability studies to see that website is/remains user-friendly, (5) maintaining up-to-date Internet standards (web browsers and specifications), (6) working independently as well as collaboratively, (7) utilizing multiple web mark-up languages, (8) making informed judgments and communicating with leaders, and (9) keeping up with expertise in current internet standards including web browsers and browser specifications.
Experience with desktop publishing/imaging application in each of the following categories:

Experience with managing website content, ability to learn new Internet and authoring technologies relevant for website development, strong background with one of the following operating systems and familiarity with the others:

WEBMASTER – around $70K

Webmasters are responsible for maintaining and implementing the ongoing development of the company's websites. They are also responsible for (1) performing day-to-day site maintenance, (2) performing navigation and browser compatibility, (3) maintaining quality-control, (4) supervising, (5) maintaining and developing small web applications, (6) documenting practices and writing maintainable HTML/ASP code, (7) assisting in development, (8) judging websites, (9) reviewing content, and (10) advising staff and outside agencies on how to best optimize their content for online deployment. *From: Experience with HTML, DHTML, COM, and client-side JavaScript programming as well as knowledge of browser compatibility issues for all platforms/major browsers, experience with Microsoft server-side VBScript and ASP development, experience with conversion of existing images (TIFF, BMP, PSD) for online use (JPG, GIF) using graphics software, experience with knowledge of browser compatibility issues for all platforms/major browsers.