Why would someone choose to be a technical content writer? We get asked this question regularly by both clients and our network in the industry.
Before we answer, we first need to define what “technical content writer” means for us here at Wizard on Demand. Right now, the word “technical” is commonly used in relation to many different fields. Typically, the term is used to refer to anything scientific or technological. In terms of the work we do at Wizard on Demand, we use the term “technical” only in reference to computer science and software creation topics. This is because our purpose is to help software companies by creating content that explains their offerings through clear and accurate examples and describes how to use their technologies in software creation.
Why do developers write?
If developers can spend time making software, then why spend time writing about it instead?
This is a common question that many people ask about technical content writers. There are currently millions of software developers in the world, and not many of them write about software. Frequently, we find that developers begin their writing careers when they are brought in while working on a project to create manuals and documentation for public use. If you enjoy this type of work, it may inspire you to discover a whole new world in which you can share knowledge about software by writing articles rather than just creating it. This is a story we sometimes hear from our own team of writers.
We often speak to technical people who are tired of the development process. They want to stay inside the world of software and technical innovation but are trying to find out how they can use their existing skill set in a way that helps them to break out of the role of a developer. Many developers see writing on software topics as a way to express their ideas and approaches to problem solving in tech. In addition, developers often report that they find a lot of value in learning how to communicate ideas more clearly and use a wider range of research and analytical skills in order to solve other problems outside of tech.
Computer science and bootcamp grads
Many people complete degrees and courses in subjects that they later find less interesting. Software is no exception. In our quest to build the most amazing team of technical content writers, we have discovered that there are many competent and technically minded individuals who prefer the research and descriptive side of creating technical content to the nuts and bolts of creating the software itself.
We’ve found that some bootcamp graduates can have unrealistic expectations about tech jobs after they finish their courses. Many people looking for a tech career assume that they will be programming all day, every day, but reality often looks pretty different. Frequently, developers working in large teams find that meetings take up a large chunk of their working week. Often, these scenarios disappoint smart and enthusiastic people and drive them to look for more fulfilling work in tech.
Writing is a valid option. Some people thrive in a bootcamp environment, only to realise that coding isn’t something they actually want to do on a daily basis. If you are in this situation, then transitioning into researching and writing about technology could be a good move for you.
How is writing about software rewarding?
As we’ve mentioned, a common way people start creating content about technology is by writing about something they’ve personally created. This often happens when a developer is assigned as the manual writer on a project. Most developers aren’t especially interested in writing manuals, but those who are usually find it rewarding to share their knowledge and ideas. For them, it can be more interesting to articulate their thoughts about software than to build it.
Some of our own writers report that their main driver is having their explanations and research read by thousands of people. The rewards for fostering a greater adoption of technology can be great. It’s worth noting that a successful blog post can last for a lifetime on the internet and is something you can point to with pride for years to come.
What skills can I develop?
If you want to create amazing technical content, then you need to leverage the strength of a team. At Wizard on Demand, we have developed a multistage process for creating content. Technical content writers are encouraged to work on different stages of an article’s development process in order to become better all-round content creators and grow as valuable team players.
Our ethos is that a good writer should be involved in both creating outlines to be reviewed by other writers and, in turn, reviewing outlines written by others. The best writers are always looking to grow and develop their skills. We give our writers different roles in the content creation process to provide them with opportunities to develop a much more rounded experience in article creation.
If you are a writer, then learning how to review your team members’ writing gives you a new perspective that broadens how you interpret good writing. We also find that improving as a reviewer helps you get better at being reviewed yourself. In a world of constant iteration, improving in both sides of the review process enables you to write more accurately over time. Furthermore, you get better at making key decisions earlier in the process and thereby become a faster writer. You also become more capable of creating in-depth and accurate content.
What makes a great technical content writer?
This is a challenging question since great technical content writers come in all shapes and sizes. However, there are a few must-haves:
- You need a deep knowledge of software. But even more importantly, you must be aware enough to spot when you have knowledge gaps and know how to fill those gaps with well-researched and verified answers.
- You must be able to clearly express your thoughts through writing and always be looking for ways to improve your explanations.
- You need to stay organised — successful writing is a combination of enthusiasm and process. Enthusiasm gets you started, but process gets you over the finish line.
Should I be writing technical content?
As a developer, then if you have evidence of your work online, you deliver more value to yourself and others. We believe that everyone who creates software should try to convey their experience to others through writing.
Don’t be discouraged if you are still fairly new to the game and less experienced in writing code. Readers are interested in your journey. We all have something to offer because we all have an individual story to tell. The richness of your experience is valuable, regardless of your current level of expertise.
If you begin writing now, then you’ll see some real progress and value within a few years as both a developer and a writer. We recommend that you start writing on your own website, as opposed to posting on a public platform. You might think it’s better to use a public platform like Medium to maximise traffic. And while there’s nothing wrong with getting more traffic from a larger platform, there is one major drawback. The internet is full of ghost-written content and articles that the credited writer paid someone else to create. If you own your words, there is no dispute about whether you’ve done the work yourself. So while we aren’t telling you not to use public platforms, you shouldn’t forget to have some content that is exclusively owned by you.
If you are a more established developer, then you are in the lucky position of being able to review your recent history and pick the best of the stories you have to tell. If you haven’t begun creating content yet, we recommend starting with three of the most interesting topics or stories from your coding career and carrying on from there.
If you are a developer with more than three years of experience, have writing skills, and are looking to get to the top level, then writing on a broad range of topics for a company like Wizard on Demand could benefit your growth and knowledge of the industry.
Whatever your current level and future goals are, keep creating content, both in the text editor and on the blogroll. Something is always better than nothing.
If you are a well-established developer with writing chops, then it may be worth taking a quick glance at our job board.