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How to Find a Technical Writer for Hire

Most companies that want to start a technical blog just need a few writers to produce a steady stream of content. But that is easier said than done. Very few software developers have the capacity and desire to write blog posts for their marketing efforts, and non-technical writers won’t be able to speak with the authenticity required.

We’ve written hundreds of technical blog posts for our clients this year, and I recently announced that our team of technical writers has grown to fifty people across twenty-seven countries. We are in a unique position at Draft.dev, as we cover a wide variety of topics, but a lot of people often ask me how we’ve achieved this.

In this post, I’ll share our exact process for finding technical writers for hire at Draft.dev. It takes preparation and time but, hopefully, the insights here will help you find the right technical writer faster.

Our process for finding technical writers for hire

Note: If you get stuck looking for technical writers, give me a call. I’d be happy to help troubleshoot your issues or answer questions about how we work with clients.

What Doesn’t Work

For the first three months, I wrote all the content for Draft.dev myself. As our client base grew, I knew I’d have to start bringing in other writers, but I had no idea where to find them.

So, I started by reaching out to people I had worked with in the past. This got us a couple of writers, but I quickly realized that I didn’t know that many software engineers who also wanted to write blog posts.

The next avenue I tried was Upwork. This was an utter failure—I had to completely rewrite several blog posts before I threw in the towel. I’ve had fairly good results hiring other types of freelancers on Upwork, but I just couldn’t find writers who were technical enough there. My clients ran into the same problem with various other gig economy-style services.

Another option many of my clients have tried is asking their in-house engineers. While this seems like a good idea, it’s really hard to get engineering time reserved for writing blog posts. You’re not likely to get consistent output unless you make technical writing a core part of someone’s job or you hire a technical content agency.

Our Process for Finding and Hiring Technical Writers

After almost a year of recruiting technical writers and working on hundreds of blog posts, we’ve established a repeatable process for bringing on new writers. While we rely more on inbound than outbound now, it takes time to build a presence in the community.

Here’s how you can replicate our process and build your own freelance technical writing team:

1. Know What You Are Looking For

Many content managers lean too heavily on writers to pitch them topics for blog posts. This might work for huge companies with the domain authority to rank for nearly everything, but it’s not very strategic.

Instead, talk to customers, do keyword research, and create detailed briefs and outlines for each article before you start looking for a writer. This ensures that you can give your technical writer clear expectations from the moment they start working with you. Once they’ve proven themselves and understand more about your company, let them pitch ideas as well.

Next, use a hiring rubric for your technical writers. This sets clear standards and helps you objectively compare writers, rather than simply relying on gut feelings.

Hiring rubric for technical writers

Some writers are good at tutorials, others at high-level guides; some technical writers can create sample applications, others cannot. By setting clear expectations up front, you can avoid reaching out to writers who don’t have the skills or experience you need.

2. Search Dev.to, Medium, and GitHub

Once you know what you’re looking for, use Medium, Dev.to and Google searches to look for technical bloggers who are already writing about similar topics. Ideally, you’ll find a few who are strong writers, interested in the topics you need to cover, and have written about them in the past year.

If your product is open source, you can also look through your GitHub stargazers, watchers, or contributors. There’s a chance that a few have blogs linked from their GitHub profiles, so you can see what their writing is like before you reach out.

Add each writer who might be a good fit to your list and look for their contact information. I prefer to reach out only to writers who list an email address publicly, but tools like Clearbit, Hunter, and People Data Labs can all help you find contact information for just about anyone on the basis of very limited information.

3. Reach Out to Each Technical Writer

Armed with a list of potential writers and their contact information, you’re ready to start reaching out. Individualize each email, showing them that you read their work. Be genuine but complimentary.

Finally, be straightforward with your offer. Developers aren’t necessarily jazzed about cold email outreach, but we get a pretty good response rate by not being pushy. We also get straight to the point and respond quickly if they reply.

Here’s an email that got a reply recently:

Hey , I ran across your piece on <ARTICLE TOPIC> and had to reach out. You're a really solid writer, so I just wanted to see if you'd be interested in writing technical blog posts for pay? I'm a former CTO now running a little tech writing company called Draft.dev. We send out a list of writing opportunities to developers on our list each week so I wanted to see if this might be something you’d want to try. Let me know what you think and keep up the good work!

I typically see a five percent to twenty percent response rate depending on how focused my outreach is and the topics we’re looking to find writers for.

4. Understand What Motivates Technical Writers

If you’re hoping to recruit experienced software engineers like we are, it’s really important to understand what motivates them.

For many—especially those with full-time jobs—money is not the biggest motivator. Sure, we pay our writers well, but most of them make more per hour at their day job.

What we can offer is a byline, editorial feedback, and wider distribution than most will get on their personal blog. Plus, the commitment is very casual—many of our writers just write once per month—which can be nice for generating some side income. All these things make writing for Draft.dev a rewarding experience for the right people.

PS: If you’re interested in becoming one of Draft.dev’s technical writers, apply here.

5. Build Inbound Interest

Finally, if you want to increase the amount of technical content you produce, you’ll eventually need to build inbound interest. Here are a few ways to build awareness of your technical writing program and find more writers for hire:

  • Daniel Phiri maintains a list of community writing programs that you can add your site to for free
  • You can set up a writer referral program to incentivize writers to recruit their friends
  • Add a call-to-action on each of your blog posts under the writer’s byline
  • Attend meetups for developers and mention that you hire technical writers
  • Create technical writer-focused content on your engineering blog
  • Place ads in newsletters aimed at software developers

All these channels work, but depending on the volume of content you need, they may not be necessary. Many new technical content programs just need one or two freelance writers to get things started.

Drawbacks to Hiring Your Own Technical Writers

Even if you find a few great technical writers for hire, you still have a lot of work to do. You have to coordinate topics, due dates, and payment for your writers. Platforms like PayPal and Upwork make this slightly easier, but even so, there may be legal and tax implications to consider.

You will also need to hire or work with an editor. While writing samples will help you avoid really bad technical writers, almost every article will need at minimum a light round of editing. You also have to watch out for plagiarism and misuse of copyrighted images, as well as assess the technical quality of their work.

If you’re trying to find a technical writer for hire but you’re feeling stuck, reach out to us. With over fifty active writers at Draft.dev, we’re able to cover a wide range of technical topics for tutorials, blog posts, ebooks, and more. We’re able to provide consistently high-quality content that is professionally edited and technically sound without the management overhead required to assemble your own team of freelancers.

Karl Hughes

By Karl Hughes

Karl is a former startup CTO and the founder of Draft.dev. He writes about technical blogging and content management.