Commit to the Process

Part three of the Becoming a Great Technical Writer Series

Like any learned skill, Tech Writing takes time to master and even the most experienced proposal writer strives for continued improvement. While you might be looking at others who just delivered a knock-out Red Team draft and think that they’re making it look easy or – even worse – that you’ll never get there, the truth is that Tech Writing is the most challenging task in the international development industry. We also believe it is one of the most fulfilling. When you submit a proposal, you feel a great sigh of relief…when that proposal wins and you get to see the technical approach and activities that you designed being implemented to improve child literacy, empower women entrepreneurs, or improve the enabling environment for civil society organizations, you should be proud to know that your hard work made it all possible. It makes it truly “worth it” and this is why committing to the process is key to becoming a great Tech Writer. Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining that commitment.

Don’t lose your buddy.

Remember that buddy we told you to find yesterday for the Proposal Reading Club? If you were too busy with post-Red Team edits to read that blog post, check it out here. Don’t let that partnership expire. The two (or three, or four) of you can take that “club” throughout your Tech Writer Journey. Review each other’s drafts, expand your Proposal Reading Club into other reading materials (more on this in tomorrow’s blog post), take Keylime’s Technical Writing for USAID Proposals course. Whatever you do to build your Tech Writer chops, do it with your buddy. Tech Writing can be a lonely task and while you need that time alone when actually writing a technical proposal, there is no reason you need to go through the entire journey solo.

Read loss debriefs.

One of the biggest fears that aspiring Tech Writers seem to have is that they might lose. Guess what? You absolutely will! And, so has everyone else. You know that rock star Tech Writer that just wrote the tech approach for that new project your organization just won? Call them up and ask them to point you towards a proposal that they wrote and lost. They won’t be offended and, if they are, then they need some serious advice on how to be a proper mentor! Read the loss debrief for that proposal and realize that losing proposals are part of the industry. For many organizations in our industry, winning one out of three opportunities is considered a successful BD year. That means two out of three lost. All that to say, don’t let the fear of losing stand in your way.

Keep the ultimate end goal in mind.

We don’t mean submitting a compelling and compliant proposal. We don’t even mean submitting a winning proposal! The ultimate end goal is delivering results for the project beneficiaries. If you are seeking to be a Tech Writer for your organization, then you probably believe that your organization is the best in the business. That means your organization is going to get the job done and things are going to get a better in the world because of this. At the end of the day, none of us joined the international development industry to win backlog or meet some other corporate metric. We joined this industry to make the world a better place. By delivering a new project to the best organization for that particular project, that is exactly what great Tech Writers do.

Reach out to us!

Lastly, if you’re ever feeling your commitment wavering, but still want to become a great tech writer, reach out to Keylime. Each one of us has been in your position at one point in our own careers and we’re always happy to share experiences and give career advice. We are passionate about our industry and want to see you succeed, because people like you are what make our industry great.

Susanne Barsoum

Susanne Barsoum

Susanne is the CEO of Keylime and before that was the Middle East new business director at Chemonics. She is an expert at leading and writing USAID proposals and is also an angel investor.