How to Be Asked to Write More Technical Articles
With the current demand for technical content being as high as it is, you might be interested in turning your software development knowledge toward writing. After all, why not? It can be a lucrative hobby if you enjoy writing anyway. You can build a reputation as a voice of authority. It can pave the way toward speaking and presenting, if that appeals. Some developers have even moved on to writing full-time after getting a decent taste for it.
Of course, to get that far down the road, you need people to want your writing. So how exactly do you get asked to keep writing technical articles?
I’ve got you covered. Take your cue from this article, and technical publishers will be piling requests into your inbox.
Hit Your Deadlines
Hands down, bottom line, if you take one thing away from this article, make it this tip. Effective content marketing means publishing on a schedule. Whoever’s in charge of that schedule (usually a content manager) has their own deadlines to hit. They’re trying to reach their own content quotas.
Help them do their job by consistently delivering your writing on time.
I get it, hitting deadlines consistently is hard, especially when it’s not your day job. Sometimes life gets in the way. If you want to make writing a serious part of your career, try to make sure a missed deadline is a rare exception to the rule.
If you can hit your deadlines and deliver adequate work on time, you don’t have to be the best, and you’ll always have writing work.
Understand What You’ve Been Asked For
Every writing assignment should come with a few basic pieces of information:
- your due date
- your pay rate
- how big the article should be (usually a word count)
- any other deliverables (images, video, author bio, etc.)
Make a note of everything you’ve been asked for and make sure it’s all submitted properly.
Speaking of submission, your publisher may have a specific method for accepting your finished article. Do you drop it into their CMS? Email someone a link to a Google Doc? This, and other information, may be available in a style or process guide.
If your publisher has a style guide, read over it and try to follow it. You don’t have to be an expert on their particular style for your first article, but the more you try to adhere to the instructions you find, the more likely you’ll be asked for a repeat performance.
Be Ready for Revision
Here, I have to expound on the previous tip. Revisions are part of writing, and your publisher may have outlined expectations around that for you. Check your contract—is there language about how many revisions you can be asked to do for the pay rate you’re receiving? One revision is common, but be ready for two if you’re writing for an agency with its own end client.
It’s essential to know your publisher’s revision process for a couple of reasons:
- You can decide if the offered pay rate is sufficient once you factor in revision time.
- You can point to a specific boundary if your publisher keeps asking for revisions.
Note: hitting deadlines applies to being timely with your revisions, too!
Your revision will most likely entail answering questions from either an editor or a technical reviewer. Be sure to respond to every query, even if it’s just to disagree with a suggested change politely.
Communicate—But Be Smart About It
If the organization you’re writing for has an established content publishing system, chances are good they’ll have a lot of answers already prepared for most questions you might have.
Before you send an email to your editor with a list of questions, double-check if you’re asking any of these:
- When’s the deadline?
- When and how do I get paid?
- What’s your editing process?
- How many revisions do you ask for?
All of those are legitimate questions. But first, take a stroll through your publisher’s website or any emails they may have sent you when you first connected. If you have a formal contract (and you should), read through it. All of it.
You might find your answer faster there than sitting in someone’s inbox. And content managers love working with freelancers who can find their own answers.
However, you may have one of these questions:
- Can I get an extension?
- Can I get some help on this technical roadblock?
- I think I need paid access to this tool—can you help out?
- To cover this topic, I think I need a higher word count. Is that okay?
- Can you help with a problem with a payment?
Especially if it may affect your due date, be sure to get these questions asked as soon as they occur to you. Changes are more problematic to accommodate the later in a schedule they appear. You’re more likely to receive a positive response if you’re not putting your publisher into a time crunch.
Learn to Self-edit
Last but not least, perfect your writing. Strive to improve next time after receiving a round of feedback or edits. Pay attention to what’s been adjusted upon publication and, within reason, try to handle that on your own ahead of time.
If you’re being asked to supply a 1500-word article and your Google Doc is well over 3,000 words, go over your article with an eye for cutting out the fluff. Are you being repetitious? Are you trying to cover too much? Whoever edits your article will appreciate you taking the time to clean your work up before it reaches them.
But self-editing isn’t just about making things easier for your editor. It’s also about protecting your work. Your complete message is more likely to make it to publication if you don’t leave a mess for an editor to push into shape.
Think of editing like house cleaning. Sure, you may hire a cleaner to come in. But if your sink is full of dirty dishes, they’re probably not going to be able to clean the sink. If your kid’s toys are all over the floor, the professional cleaner may not have time to vacuum.
Leaving messy writing for someone else to fix is kind of the same deal. Your article will probably not look super polished if your editor is trying to shove your metaphorical toys in a hall closet.
Obviously, the writing that goes into your article is the most important thing to pay attention to here, but don’t neglect your email communication! If you want to present yourself as a professional writer, try to use standard spelling, capitalization, and grammar at every opportunity.
Adding technical writer to your LinkedIn page isn’t as much about being a great writer as you might think. Like most jobs, your success as a technical writer boils down to how difficult you are to work with. Do you make your editor’s job easier? Are you reliable with your deadlines and the completeness of your work? Are you efficient and professional in your communication?
At the end of the day, that’s what will keep the writing requests filling your inbox, I personally guarantee it.
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