As a teen, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do career-wise as an adult. None of the career days or trails really suited me, and whilst I had the standard afterschool jobs, I knew that I wanted something more.
I started writing more and more and managed to score some funds from paid poetry and writing in a local paper, but my family and friends just kept repeating to me “Writers can’t make a living”.
Snuggling up on the sofa with my current boyfriend we started watching Monk on DVD (Netflix hadn’t popped into existence at this point, and I doubt dial-up internet would’ve handled binge-watching 8 hours of shows at a time). One episode introduced us to Monk’s brother, who had managed to make a living from writing instructional manuals.
Right there and then, it dawned on me that everything needs content.
It wasn’t just news articles and books, but people needed information on everything, from how to turn on electrical items, to how to put a lid correctly on a blender.
Without this information; all those amazing products we get that help make us more time and reduce discomfort in our lives become unless.
The first few instructional manuals I wrote for companies were medically minded, but over time I learned that making the content more light-hearted and easy-going meant that it was more accessible to more readers. There are times when I was learning to write a manual, I’m certain I made some new gadget owner’s head explode by providing too much information.
Over time, I listened to the question’s customers asked, and the information they desired to see in manuals. I found that having blocks of information for certain instructional manuals helped. Not just stage-by-stage bullet points, but stories or even recipes to fuel their imagination on how to incorporate the item into their daily lives more.
Manuals and instruction booklets also needed the negative information too and over years the ones that lacked easy-to-read warnings have been shot down by customers. To gain customer’s trust they also need to feel safe or at least have the information there if something does go wrong to have some control of the situation with the help of the manual.
There are times too that writing instruction books need careful consideration on what is legal in the places the items will be sold. These may be prewritten legally required warnings, but many customers will skip these, so having a summary has always helped.
Another way to make instructions easy to follow is to write as if you are one using the product, so when the reader reads the information, they can visualize themselves doing it.
Instruction manuals can also be an ideal place to add discounts for further products or at the very least a chance to promote similar or matching items. There are so many manuals that miss-out on opportunities like these.
It’s not all text when it comes to giving your customers all the information they need. Having an online video guide may help some customers, making it easier to follow and even more accessible. Adding a QR code can help here to quickly direct them to the relevant page.
Having an online instruction manual not only will help your customers if they lose the original manual, but also helps strengthen the product with backing SEO. Online manuals can also be read with the use of text to audio apps and devices, meaning that individuals who struggle with reading can still use the information needed to enjoy their product to the fullest.
Strangely, writing manuals and instruction books is one of the copywriting methods that I enjoy the most, and seriously geek-out when I have been assigned to one. I know many people probably find them rather boring, however, I see them as an essential part of life currently as more and more technologies and products are designed and manufactured.
Simply put: If we had no instruction manuals we wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the cool technology the world has to offer.