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How I became a UX writer (and you can too)
I often get asked how I ended up as a freelance UX writer and content designer. There are a lot of ways to get into the field, so in this issue we'll explore them through the lens of my own experience.
Perhaps you feel less like reading and more like listening? I recently talked to Yuval Keshtcher for his Writers in Tech podcast where I shared my journey from journalism to UX writing. You can find the episode on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
One more thing! You’ll also find a new section at the bottom of this newsletter. It’s where I’ll highlight and analyze great examples of UX writing. Let me know what you think — just reply to this email.
Getting started in UX writing
There are lots of ways to build a career. Some people spend a long time at the same company, while others switch jobs once every while. Some people like to focus on a single thing they know they’re good at, while others prefer to constantly reinvent themselves.
Similarly, there are lots of ways to get into UX writing and content design. Let’s take a look at some of them.
In talking to people in the industry, I’ve found that there isn’t a predefined path to become a UX writer — but it’s quite common to start off in a similar field. For example, I’ve met a marketing copywriter who wanted to work on a digital product and saw an opportunity in content design. Similarly, I spoke to a novelist who felt like trying a career in tech, which eventually led them to try their hand at UX writing.
Another story I’ve heard often is that someone starts in a writing-related position at a company, and is then asked to focus on UX copy. While they might officially be in marketing, PR, or communications, their UX work slowly takes over their existing tasks, effectively turning them into a UX writer.
While lots of people seem to get into UX writing through their existing writing job, it’s also possible to get into the field with less or no experience. There are some great courses out there that teach you the basics in a reasonable amount of time. If you already know some things about writing, but don’t yet grasp the UX or tech aspect of UX writing, then this could be a good option.
Another great way to get into the field is as a freelancer — and that’s exactly how I did it.
My path to becoming a UX writer
As I said earlier, there are lots of ways to build a career. There’s no predefined path and it’s important to find out what works for you. That being said, I’d still like to share the story of how I got into the field — hopefully it can help with finding your own way.
In short, here’s what I learned from my freelance journey:
Freelance writing can offer a great opportunity to get into UX writing with little experience.
• Find clients who want to hire you for what you’re good at
• Deliver high quality work in order to build trust with your clients
• A strong client relationship can allow you to do different kinds of work
• Small projects will eventually lead to bigger jobs in the future
Now here’s the long version.
Back in 2016 I was working as a journalist at The Next Web, one of the world’s leading tech news websites. When I left the company, I wanted to try freelance journalism — the same thing as I was doing at The Next Web, but now for multiple different clients.
It wasn’t easy. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t just be writing articles as before — I now also had to find clients, pitch stories, write and rewrite them based on client feedback, and then perhaps I would have finished one story at the end of the week. I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t for me.
Meanwhile, I started picking up some content marketing jobs, which had me writing articles for company blogs. This work was more consistent, which offered me a chance to build a close working relationship with my clients. Some of them would eventually reach out to me for related work, like building the brand’s tone of voice or thinking about the company’s content strategy.
There still was a specific kind of job that I was aiming for, but didn’t get yet. During my first years as a freelancer I saw UX writing come up in the design field, and as a writer who has always been enamored by technology and design, I thought it was incredibly exciting.
I knew the basics of UX principles, and I knew how to use words to build easy-to-use, accessible, and enjoyable digital experiences. I just needed to figure out a way to get my first UX writing job.
That’s why I checked in with clients who I had done similar work for in the past — working on a tone of voice, for example, is also part of UX writing. Fortunately, some clients were so happy with the work I had done for them before, that they were willing to give me a chance to tackle UX work, too.
And that’s how I got my first UX writing job — thanks to the trust of my freelance writing clients.
After the first couple of small projects, it was easier to get more similar work by referring to my portfolio with previous projects. Fast forward a couple of years, and today I’m fortunate enough to work with incredible, industry-defining clients like Spotify and Minecraft. Start small, deliver great work, and slowly grow bigger.
UX Writing Highlights
There’s so much great UX writing out there that I wanted to have a place to share some of my favorite examples — and explain why I think they’re so great.
This week, let’s take a look at a new feature that Twitter launched a while ago — the ability to review a post before sending it.
If you’ve spent any time on Twitter, you know that things can get pretty heated. People online have a lot of opinions, and they’re not afraid to share them — something that can lead to intense conversations.
In an effort to make people think about what they’re saying, this screen pops up when you’re about to post a tweet containing inflammatory language.
From a UX writing perspective, I think it’s well done. The title explains what the screen is about, while the body text clearly states why the screen is being shown — because the reply contains potentially harmful or offensive language.
It’s possible that the algorithm wrongly identifies tweets for using bad language, so there should be a way for people to report when that happens. Using an inline link, which uses underlined text instead of a big button, makes this option visible without being too present.
To top it off, the three potential actions that can be taken are indicated with icons and text labels, making it easier for people to quickly parse their options — especially if they have a hard time reading or use a screen reader.
All in all, I think the content design team did a great job here, giving an important screen the attention it deserves.
Alright, that’s it for this issue. Because these newsletters tend to be quite long, I haven’t been sending as many as I’d like to. That’s why I might to make them a bit shorter in order to send out issues more often. What do you think? As always, let me know your thoughts by replying to this email.
Thanks for reading this far! ☀️