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2 ways to make money as a freelance technical writer

2 ways to make money as a freelance technical writer

Whether you're a newbie developer or an experienced developer looking to make some extra bucks on the side, freelance technical writing is the way. As a freelance technical writer, you can make anywhere from $100 to $800 per article, depending on the complexity.

When I first started out in tech as a Frontend developer, I was able to earn an extra $1200 - $2000 per month by writing technical articles. How did I do it? Well, that's what I'm about to share with you.

N.B: The methods discussed below apply only to technical writers who also double as software developers, or have considerate software development knowledge.

The most common way to make money from writing technical articles is to guest write technical articles for developer blogs like Logrocket, Smashing Magazine, or CSS tricks. As part of their content marketing strategy, these companies/publications pay developers to write technical articles for them to drive search traffic to their sites.

Here is a list of over 45+ developer publications that have guest writer programs.

Typically, the process is that you pitch an article idea. If your pitch is accepted, you'll be given the go-ahead to write the full article and get paid, pending when the article is published.

How to pitch an article idea

I'm sure this is the next question on your mind. The answer is that each of these publications has specific guidelines for becoming a guest writer. You'll typically find these instructions on their 'write-for-us' page, where you'll be asked to pitch an article.

Sometimes, these publications may have their own specific topics that they want guest writers to write about. Other times, you're free to pitch your own topic idea.
To increase the chances of your pitch being accepted, think of something that's from a unique perspective and hasn't been written about in that publication.

For example, say there was a concept within the constraints of the publication's theme that you found challenging to understand but later understood. You could write about that concept from your perspective and how you could finally understand it.

Your article pitch should include:

  • Your proposed article topic
  • Why the topic is relevant to the publication
  • Summary of what the article will be all about
  • What the audience will learn from the article, and
  • Why you're the right person to write about the topic

Here's a template or example of an article pitch:

Hello, my name is [your-name]. I am a [job-title or experience-relevant-to-tech-writing]. I'd love to guest write for your publication.

[insert-your-article-topic-idea-here]

E.g: Here's the topic I'd love to write about: How to create stunning talk slides with reveal.js

[insert-why-the-topic-is relevant-to-the-publication-target-audience-here]

E.g: These days more developers are applying to give talks at conferences, either to boost their public brand or grow their network. Popular presentation tools like Google Slides do not allow developers to fully tap into their creative sides. That's where Reveal.js comes in.

[insert-summary-of-what-the-article-is-about-here]

E.g: Reveal.js is an open source HTML presentation framework. It's a tool that enables anyone with a web browser to create fully-featured and beautiful presentations for free. Anything you can do on the web can be done in reveal.js presentations. You can change styles with CSS, include an external web page using an <iframe> or add your own custom behaviour using the JavaScript API.

[insert-what-readers-will-learn-here]

E.g: In this article, readers will learn how to:

  • Set up Reveal.js on their local machines
  • Navigate the Reveal.js editor
  • Create their first slides
  • Add animations to their slides using the JavaScript API, and finally
  • Deploy their slides to the public.

[insert-why you’re-the-right-person-to-write-about-the-topic-here]

E.g: I recently just used Reveal.js to build slides for my recent talk which I gave at the just concluded ReactCon Live conference, and a lot of people loved it. Also, here's a link to other articles I've written to help you ascertain my tech writing abilities.

The goal of the article pitch is to convince the publication to take a chance on you. Make it worthwhile.

Method 2: Write as a contractor for technical content marketing agencies

Writing for developer publications is great, but the truth is that your pitch may not be accepted due to a couple of factors like:

  • Your pitch does not align with the publication's content calendar direction for the month, or
  • Someone else has pitched a similar idea

Technical content marketing agencies are agencies that produce technical content on behalf of other tech companies to help them drive traffic, gain visibility, generate leads, and hopefully drive sales. Opting to write as a contractor for technical content marketing agencies offers you more structure. You also get to enjoy benefits like:

  • You don't need to pitch articles. The agency usually sends out a list of article topics that have been pre-approved by their clients. Yours is to indicate interest and have the article assigned to you.
  • Depending on your niche, schedule, and familiarity with most topics, you can write as many as 4 or 5 articles per month, allowing you to make a steady income.
  • You'll be presented with several opportunities to conduct intensive research, learn new things and write articles that are way out of your comfort zone.

To join a technical content marketing agency as a freelance/contract writer, you'd typically be asked to provide a technical writing portfolio, or sample articles that you've written. So, to increase your chances of being selected, make sure that you have previous concise technical articles under your name.

Now the question is, how do you find these technical content marketing agencies? A little digging around on Google search may yield more valuable results, but here are a few that I am aware of:

Build up your portfolio with freelance technical writing

Aside from making extra income, another advantage of writing articles for developer publications or technical content marketing agencies is the opportunity to work with professional editors, which allows you to improve your writing skills. You'd also be developing your technical writing portfolio in preparation for applying for full-time tech writing positions.

If you do decide to pursue freelancing full-time, consider taking this course on freelancing taught by a top-rated Upwork freelancer to learn strategies to start freelancing, build an online presence, and get high-paying clients.

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