If you need to hire a technical writer for an upcoming project, you will likely find that you have plenty of qualified candidates to consider. There are now a variety of sources through which you can find great writers, so locating people for the job should not be a problem. The challenge, however, comes when you start to work on narrowing down that initial list. In order to pick the right person for the job, you are going to need to go into the process with a clear picture of the knowledge and experience that needs to be possessed by the winning contractor.
Focus on the Writing
It might sound obvious, but the first thing you should look for is someone who can write quality content. Believe it or not, many businesses miss on this point when hiring a technical writer. A common mistake is placing importance on experience in the specific field above the ability to write. For instance, if you are hiring a writer for an engineering-related project, it will be tempting to pick the candidate with the strongest background in that field. However, if that person isn't a great writer, you will be wasting your time and money. You already have people with engineering knowledge in your company – you need to hire someone who can bring writing skills to the table. Content can always be edited as necessary to correct technical errors related to the field in question – it is much more difficult to revise the style or quality of writing as a whole.
For technical writers, experience provides them with the ability to ask the right questions. Asking questions is a big part of being a good writer, because those questions help point the content in the right direction. If you can hire a writer with many years of experience working for a variety of clients, they will already have the knowledge necessary to ask smart questions. Also, experience is the only way to hone the craft of writing, so someone who is just getting started in this field likely won't be able to offer you the same quality as a long-standing professional writer.
Samples, Of Course
One of the first things you should do is review writing samples from all of your candidates. Ask each potential hire to submit two or three writing samples. Hopefully, these will be pieces that are at least someone relevant to the project that you are needing to have completed. If a writer can't offer you at least a couple of good samples, it should raise a red flag that perhaps they are not the right person for the job.
Offer a Fair Rate
You don't always 'get what you pay for' in life, but you usually do when it comes to writing. If a specific writer is offering to do the work for far less than everyone else you are considering, there is probably a reason they are willing to work for cents on the dollar. Good writers know that they are worth the money, so they stand firmly by their rates. Do a quick evaluation of the market and set a budget that will allow you to hire a quality, experienced technical writer.
Finally, it is always good hiring practice to contact at least one or two references to learn a little more about the individual in question. Did they do good work for their previous clients or employers? What kind of work did they excel with, and does their writing ability have any weaknesses? Asking a couple of pointed questions should get you all of the information that you need to make a great decision.