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Technical Content Writer Story: Sarah Barber

Technical Content Writer Story: Sarah Barber

Have you ever thought about going freelance? Are you good at explaining technical concepts? Wizard on Demand hires technical writers with software development experience on a freelance basis – to write technical articles and blog posts on behalf of SaaS companies.

As an experienced software developer, and now technical content writer, I share my experience of what it’s really like to work for Wizard on Demand, and explain what skills and mindset are needed from aspiring technical writers.

What did I do before becoming a technical content writer?

I’ve been working as a software developer for ten years, and over that time I’ve written a lot of documentation, as well as the occasional post for company tech blogs, but otherwise, this is a completely new field for me!

I was always one of the more business-focused developers rather than being the most specialist in a particular language or tool. Recently I’ve been working with big data and was involved in DevOps work for my last team.This experience was useful for understanding the technical concepts that I now use to write for our clients at Wizard on Demand.

Why did I want to switch to working as a technical content writer?

The short answer is — I didn’t. I wasn’t aware that this exact job exists — writing technical articles on behalf of other companies for their technical marketing blogs — I always assumed this kind of work was done in house, with each individual post written by a different engineer. I had written occasional technical articles before for previous companies I’d worked for, so that was my only experience of this kind of work.

I was actually looking to take a career break to pursue another passion of mine and do a short course of full-time study in aerial circus arts. After ten years of working in software development, I wanted to try something physical for a while. I knew that full-time development work was incompatible with this, and as most of my experience was working as part of a scrum team for large enterprises, the possibility of finding part-time evening development work seemed unlikely, so I decided to widen my search criteria for anything IT-related.

Clark Kent

What was the application process like?

I found the job posting for the writer position at Wizard on Demand on Gumtree, which initially made me a little suspicious, as most part time work-from-home jobs listed there are obvious scams, but after reading the job advert and browsing the company website, it sounded like it was probably legitimate. Anyhow, I got in touch and was pleased to get a quick response from their recruiter, who arranged for me to send them some samples of my writing. Later, I wrote them a short technical article on my favourite data structure. After this I had a friendly chat with Alexey, the CEO, and we agreed I would be a good fit. He was aware of my full-time circus course but we agreed I would work part-time in the evenings and on weekends, and we could work out a meeting schedule that was mutually convenient.

What is it like working at Wizard on Demand?

I started with just one client, writing a few articles for them, and then expanded from there. I was given a buddy who reviewed the technical content of all my article outlines and drafts and gave me suggestions for improvements. I also had an editor to help with improving my writing style, a designer to help with creating images for my articles, and a project manager to ensure the smooth running of projects, who was the main point of contact with clients and who always seemed to know the answer to my questions! Overall I found I had a high level of autonomy from the start.

Most communication is done over Slack, with the occasional use of video chat for meetings. We also use Asana for managing our projects. Sometimes feedback comes from the project manager, and other times I might join a meeting with the client to get a direct response from them.

I’m working with colleagues based all around the world, and have found that, because the job was designed to be fully remote (and always has been), communication works more smoothly than it might have if we had been forced into this position by the pandemic. Fully remote jobs generally self-select for people that can organise themselves and are comfortable communicating well online.

Why have I stayed at Wizard on Demand?

My circus course has recently finished, but I have decided to stay at Wizard on Demand for now, and increase my working hours. I enjoy the job more than I expected to. The flexibility of the working hours means I can continue to attend circus classes during the day on a part-time basis. I get to choose my own working hours as long as there is some consistency and I communicate this with my team.

Writing short articles means I get the satisfaction of a job well done at least once a week. I enjoy seeing my articles going live — it’s a similar sense of satisfaction to when my code got deployed, except I don’t have to deploy it myself by remembering 20 different steps that change every few weeks! Writing and research actually taxes you far less than software development, which is great as my focus is currently already split between two different things. In general, your life is much simpler when writing a short self-contained article. Even if I have to spend a couple of extra hours making edits, it’s not a big deal.

Could you be a good fit for working as a technical writer at Wizard on Demand?

I think this would be a great job for you if you need some flexibility in your life around either your working hours or your location. Maybe you have other commitments or interests in your life — for example, you might be a working parent with childcare duties, a digital nomad, caring for an elderly relative, or, like me, you might have another hobby or sideline that takes up a lot of time. You might even be trying to launch your own business but still need the stability of a flexible side job.

It’s important that you have a few years’ experience in software development. This is the most important requirement — you need to be able to understand the technology, and how it’s applied in the working world, and this is something you can’t upskill in just a few months. Being able to write well to a native English standard is also a must; however, training can be provided to write in the particular style needed for our clients.

If you’re a software developer or ex-developer, who is happy to stop coding but you still want to work in a tech-related field, then you could be our ideal candidate. Maybe you have already moved to another area such as project management or scrum mastering but you want to be a little closer to technical work. You should enjoy researching new topics and you may also be interested in gaining experience of SEO and working with clients, both of which are possibilities here.

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