Table of contents
If you want to enter the technical writing field, this post will be an excellent guide for you to understand what skills you need to navigate this space.
This blog post is due to my Twitter thread’s success about how I got hired by Hashnode to become a contract writer (even though I was not looking for a job).
I am new to this space, but who better to learn from than someone who was in your shoes a while ago.
Teaching is the greatest act of Optimism. - Colleen Wilcox
This post will aim to cover the basics of technical writing such as:
- What does a technical writer do?
- The writing process
- Experience required
- Golden tips
I hope this post helps you on your technical writing journey! Make sure to drop a comment to tell me how this article has helped you.
What does a technical writer do?✍🏽
A technical writer has a comprehensive job. It can involve you working on the following:
- Technical papers
- ‘How to code’ with examples
- Technical documentation
- Non-technical topics
A technical writer focuses less on the content for building a portfolio and more on the skills they possess. It requires a specific skill set to convey complex topics to a broad audience, but like everything, it requires patience and practice.
Let’s run through some of the skills you will need as a technical writer.
Explaining difficult topics in a simple way
A technical writer aims to take complex information and disperse that information into simple-to-understand bitesize chunks to the public.
It’s making a complex topic such as ‘Minting NFT’s' seem so simple that anyone would be able to mint an NFT after reading the article. Whether it is a 10-year-old or a 70-year-old.
Explaining complex topics is a crucial skill in being a technical writer. If you can not simply explain a topic, how can you expect the reader to understand what you are saying?
Each reader has a different amount of knowledge on a topic. For most people, it is easier to start an article from scratch and build the foundation so that any reader can understand the article.
Coming to research with an open mind will only help your career do wonders. No one knows everything about a topic, and that is fine.
It’s more than fine. It is normal.
An essential aspect of being a technical writer is taking the time to research a topic from scratch or from a good foundation. The time you take to research and the quality of your research is a much more valued skill than someone who knows everything.
Being curious about a topic will help you find those hidden gems, stories or key facts that other people would miss out on. Digging deep into a topic and finding that extra detail is what will make you stand out from the crowd.
My article on the NFT music industry covers a variety of blockchain use-cases, but one that is being utilised a lot, without much media coverage, is ‘GET Protocol’. The little details like finding out about GET protocol showcases my skills in finding hidden projects.
Use simple language
The worse feeling is being made to feel dumb. Do not make your readers feel dumb by using unnecessarily complicated language.
Using everyday language means that not only will you be able to reach a wider audience, but it also demonstrates your ability to take an advanced topic and simplify it.
If you use jargon, make a habit of explaining it before you use it or avoid it. An excellent way to tackle this problem in web3 is to create a glossary of terms at the start of the article that provides a simple meaning of the word. Here is an example.
If you are a developer, you code every day. If you are a footballer, you play football every day. If you are a chef, you cook every day.
So if you are a writer, you should be writing every day.
You can develop your writing skills by doing some of the following:
- Learning English (if you aim to write in English)
- Learning a new word of the day.
Exposing yourself to writing is an excellent way to develop your skills, consciously or unconsciously. Ultimately, the best way to improve is to start writing, whether you write privately or publicly on a blog.
I chose the latter and started posting on Hashnode.
I’d advise you to write at least 3-4 times weekly. If you can, do more. Even 30 minutes of writing three times a week is an excellent way to start.
Some of my first few articles were only a few hundred words long and took around 1 hour or less to write and edit. They were not amazing, but it was a good habit to build, and I ended up liking writing much more than I anticipated.
(I am currently on General Physician rotation writing this blog during my lunch break because that is how much I enjoy writing right now, haha.)
The writing process 🖊️
I’d advise picking topics that you genuinely enjoy. It may sound like common sense, but some writers may feel forced to write about trendy issues to gather views.
Views are important, but what’s more important is that you enjoy the work you are doing.
Writing about topics you are interested in is when your passion for a subject starts to pour out. Not only will you enjoy the task of writing it, but I am sure the reader will be able to notice that you enjoyed writing the article too.
None of my posts was focused on trendy topics besides my buildspace weekend. Most of them were focused on projects that I found interesting. Not only this, but you also start to build a name for yourself, and people will be able to identify what topics you cover.
From my posts, I aim to cover hidden gems in the crypto scene and explain complex topics in web3 in a simple manner.
I’d pick a topic with a heading and create sub-headings. Creating this plan gives your post a roadmap. Think of your post as a journey. You’re taking the reader through a journey, and the post has to flow all the way through.
You want to take the reader on a gentle ride, where everything reads nicely and makes sense. Each paragraph should flow from one to another, and a roadmap help provide a rough idea of the journey.
The perils of editing
I don’t think writing is the biggest issue. If you focus on a topic that you like, you should be able to write without a problem.
The worry is how it reads. AKA editing.
Editing is a process that should probably be done after you have written out the entire piece. If you edit an article as you write it, you may lose the flow you have whilst writing.
(Guess what… I use Grammarly, but it doesn't matter which one you use. Pick the one you prefer.)
Using a tool like Grammarly acts as a tool and a teacher. You will start to recognise your own mistakes and correct them, making yourself a better writer over time.
Experience required 💯
Writing on your blog is an experience. Sometimes being a self-starter can be the best experience.
My only ‘experience’ writing posts was on my blog. I had around five posts before the content lead from Hashnode approached me and offered me a role as a ‘technical writer’.
Before getting offered the role, I had to complete a practice article which is my article explaining NFTs.
In this case, my blog showcased my experience, and my test article proved my capabilities to provide a quality piece of work.
But where to post?
Blog posting platforms
There are a variety of blogging platforms that give you a blog for free, along with great editing software. I use Hashnode (as you can see), but here are a few other platforms to use too:
Some people recommend posting to multiple platforms. I am lazy; I did not do that. I solely posted on Hashnode. I would also share my posts on Twitter and in some web3 communities.
Sharing your posts in the correct communities can help boost your outreach, but it’s good to also interact with the community itself and not solely post your blogs. It does not come off as genuine and fewer people might be tempted to read it then.
Top tips ⭐
If English is your primary language, you won’t have any problems here, but I suggest brushing up on grammar and sentence structure. Many of you may not have written an essay or a post in a while. You lose what you don’t use. Get that practice in.
If English is not your primary language, and depending on your skill level, there are a variety of paths. You may want to invest in an English course or use Youtube to develop your English.
You can write posts in your language, but it would be ideal for primary writing in English to increase your audience. Most jobs will hire those who write in English too.
This is something I have started to think about more recently after the success of the Twitter thread. I got a few DMs asking about me working for them, and they asked for evidence of my work.
This required me to manually copy and paste the links for the blogs, which was becoming quite annoying. It also meant I was sending my potential employer on a goose chance around these links.
This motivated me to create a notion page that displays some of my posts. Some for clients. Some from my blog. And a way to contact me.
It may seem like such a small thing to do, but it presents yourself in a significant way and since it is hard to have first introductions online, let this be your first introduction. You are a great writer AND organised.
How to make money?💰
By now, you should have been writing some posts and getting them on that blog of yours! You’ve started to build a portfolio of posts that you would be proud to show off.
It’s time to start making money with these words of yours. But how?
Hashnode approached me, and that was a lot of luck. If their content lead had not approached me, I would not be a technical writer right now. It is just a chance that landed in my lap.
However, Hashnode had an open invitation to apply to their content writer programme. Hashnode and many other companies are actively looking for technical writers.
It may be worth using Twitter, google or going on each website and checking if they are currently hiring. Here is an excellent thread by Bonnie, showing some companies who are hiring for technical writers
It an important to remember is that it takes time to develop the skills of explaining complex topics thoroughly. A great way to practice is to start explaining topics to people in your life or online and see if they understand.
I hope this post helps clarify what a technical writer does and how you can become one. Technical writing is a job I did not expect to end with, but I am glad I did.