This year I transitioned from a full-stack developer to a technical writer. I started casually looking into technical writing and building my experience in it the year before until I realized that this was the path for me and decided to make the change.
This article explains briefly what technical writing is, and how you can become a technical writer.
What is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is the practice of writing down an explanation of how something technical works or can be used.
It can be in the format of a blog post or software documentation. For someone to become a technical writer, they also need technical knowledge.
Skills you Need to Become a Technical Writer
This will come across as something obvious, but the main skills that you need to become a technical writer are two skills: technical skills and writing skills.
It's important that before you become a technical writer, you take the time to build your experience as an engineer.
As your content will be used by other engineers or developers, you must be able to understand what kind of information they're looking for when they look at your content and in what format it should be presented.
Even after you become a technical writer, it is important to keep on practicing development. Whether through reading about it and applying new knowledge or by maintaining side projects.
Most technical content is written in English as it is a universal language that is understood by most people around the world. So, it's highly recommended that you improve your fluency in the English language.
It should be noted that being a good writer does not mean that you have to use "big words" in your writing. Good technical content should be written in a way that anyone with any level of language fluency would be able to understand.
Writing Technical Content for Blogs
If you're interested in becoming a technical writer who either writes on their own blog or writes for other blogs, this section is for you.
Writing for your own blog can be highly beneficial for you, even if you don't want to become a technical writer. It showcases both your technical skills and your writing skills.
It also helps you find more freelance opportunities as a technical writer for other websites. It acts as a live resume.
Creating your own blog can seem like a big, difficult task, but that's actually not true.
After you create your own blog, it becomes just a matter of "what will I write about?" The answer is anything and everything that you have knowledge of.
If you know a cool thing that you've discovered through personal experience, write about it. If you, instead, just learned about CSS Grids, write about it too.
The more you write, the more you'll be practicing while also sharing your knowledge with other developers.
Other Websites and Blogs
The application process for these websites is different, but generally speaking, you will need to apply through some kind of form where you fill out what technical and writing experiences you have.
If you have your own blog, you'll have a better chance of becoming a writer for these websites. Most websites rather see your experience beforehand to decide whether they want to work with you or not.
Writing for other websites increases your experience as a technical writer and helps you learn the different ways websites work with content. It can give you different insights and ideas for the content of your own as well.
Another aspect of working as a technical writer is writing documentation. Documentation is a key asset for any developer using any software or tool. Good documentation provides a good developer experience.
Writing documentation requires thinking like a developer. "If I were using this tool, how would I want to learn about using it?" It's about finding the right way to deliver information of different complexities and experimenting with the best solution that you can provide for developers.
Documentation is similar to blog posts, except they usually delve more into the deeper topic and they are related to one piece of software.
You can learn about different good practices of writing documentation by observing well-written documentation such as Stripe's documentation.
I personally have learned a lot from reading Docs for Developers, which is a book that explains the process of writing documentation from start to end in a very easy-to-understand language.
Unlike working with blogs, working with documentation generally means you have to be hired at a company and work on their documentation. If you have your own open-source solution, even if it's a small one, you can start by trying out writing documentation for it as a practice.
Technical writing is a key asset to software development. It helps engineers learn how to use certain software and tools, and guide them to perform their own tasks while developing.
Whether you're interested in becoming a technical writer or not, I highly recommend writing in your free time and publishing it. It can boost your chance of getting opportunities both as a developer and as a writer, and it will help you understand topics you're writing about more deeply.