Breaking Into Paid Technical Writing

Breaking Into Paid Technical Writing
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How do you guys even find the time to write articles?

I mean most of us to spend the rest of the day and night writing code and fighting with the compiler/bugs — even more, learning a new technology, hmmm!

I can relate if you are asking these questions! Software development is a very tasking job and if you let it, it might consume your entire life (no pun intended)

Honestly, writing is part of your job as a developer, even though most developers shy away from writing documentation, I believe it’s an integral part of software design and development.

However, our focus today isn’t about writing documentation, but technical blog posts like tutorials, how-to guides, e.g “how to build x with y”, etc.

That being said, you can earn more than $2,000 a month writing technical articles if you make it your full-time job, some developers do this. The average pay per article is about $400. However, there are a few organizations that pay up to $800 per piece but the rest do pay between $75 – $500. My analysis is from this list of community writer’s programs on GitHub.

While the content you write will be to educate developers, another reason you are paid to write this content is that it’s a marketing strategy known as content marketing.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. – Content Marketing Institute

So, there are rules. The type of technical articles you’ll create won’t be just a boring manual, it will be interesting, focused, intentional, and valuable enough to drive engagement. Some companies research topics that are based on questions developers are asking — especially the questions that don’t have a lot of good answers.

Well, you don’t need to bother about the content marketing part — It’s just for your information, in case you don’t know already.

So, what should you be focusing on if you want to get a highly paid technical writing gig, you asked?

Learn basic English writing

Of course, you’ll be writing in English, so, you should learn to write better. Take an English course online if necessary, there are a lot of them on YouTube for free. Don’t be scared of trying even if your English is not perfect, ask for editing help from friends for your first draft, and don’t stop learning and improving your English skills.

Learn to write for the web

If you take a look at the structure of your academic thesis and the articles you read online, you’ll notice that there is a difference.

Web content is written intentionally to mimic the way people read online. You want people to read your content to the end (an academic paper doesn’t care), and your English is less formal than the case of academic writing like in essays, reports, etc. You can learn more about how web content is structured here.

Write like a teacher not like a developer

As a teacher you’ll reduce your pre-knowledge assumptions, as a developer, you’ll assume the user should already know some basic things you believe are trivial, and you’ll be surprised at the number of people who might not know anything about it.

You should always ask yourself, will your target audience understand this point, if not break it down a bit more, and use relatable examples with code and analogies. Use simple terms except it can’t be simpler than that. Also, it depends on the audience, the language for an article for beginners will most likely be different from that of more senior developers, however, stick with using simple terms.

Be in love with researching

Let’s be honest, as a technical writer, you don’t write from a stream of consciousness, except you are writing for your blog.

So, make sure you research your topic properly even if you think you know the topic well enough, you’ll learn something new in the process that will help you polish what you already know and write better and more educative content that is less opinionated.

There are a lot of articles showing how to use Google properly for research purposes, find them and read them when you can. You can start with this one by Life Hack Google Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently

Learn personal editing skills

Yes, your article will go through a series of editing before it goes live but you must do your editing first to help you catch typos, and basic grammar mistakes, and double-check with the brand voice or writing guide. Also;

  • Read your piece out loud and try to follow through, if you find any part to be difficult to understand, rewrite and refactor where necessary.
  • Grammarly is a great editing assistance tool, however, it can not solve all your writing problems but it should be the first editing guide for your first draft, use it to weed out basic grammar mistakes and typos.
  • Do like 2- 3 rounds of editing.

You should also check out these self-editing tips by Grammarly

Read others articles

Writers are readers. Read other people’s work to learn structures — specifically, read other technical blogs. Use what you learn to improve your craft. Be intentional.

Don’t plagiarize

It is a terrible thing to copy other people’s work without giving them proper credit. First, if the editorial team is careful enough you’ll be caught as it will be passed through a plagiarism tester, and that will harm your reputation. What you should do instead is to link to other valuable content you believe will help your readers, and add references to the author of the images you choose to use on your post if you didn’t create them.

Write. Write. Write

Even if you have not gotten a paid gig yet, keep writing, and genuinely love the process, I won’t lie to you, writing is not easy but if you love writing and enjoy the process, it will be more fun than it’s hard work.

Get feedback from friends and improve.

After a couple of articles following these guidelines, collect your best articles, create a page with or whatever tool you are comfortable with, even your website, and put them there in case you are asked for samples.

Go out there and explore writing opportunities. Start from this community writers’ GitHub repo, there are a whole bunch of companies looking for writers there. Pitch them.

Good luck.

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Published by Eze Sunday Eze

Hi, welcome to my blog. I am Software Engineer and Technical Writer. And in this blog, I focus on sharing my views on the tech and tools I use. If you love my content and wish to stay in the loop, then by all means share this page and bookmark this website.

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