A letter came in from a reader:
In an upcoming issue, could you address readers like me who have valuable, related experience, are looking to pivot to UX Writing, and could use some pointers on how to create a portfolio out of very little direct UX writing work?
We’d be happy to oblige. Some initial thoughts. Firstly, you should go away and read the infinitely more talented Andrea Drugay who covered everything you need to know about portfolios in her “How to Create a UX Writing Portfolio
” article. She wrote the article in 2017 - which is only two years ago but feels like a lifetime (we were so young, our skin was so smooth) - but her advice stands strong.
Now, I know this doesn’t directly answer your question. The nuance to what you asked is in the last sentence: how to create a portfolio out of very little direct UX writing work? I agree, this is a tough one. If you don’t have the experience I always recommend people commission themselves. It’s a quick way to get some relevant work in your portfolio.
For example, is there an existing website or piece of software that bugs the hell out of you? Fix it. Just be sure to explain why you’re making the changes you’re making. Remember: recruiters care a lot more about your thought process than they do the actual words on the page (although, y'know, the words do have do be good words!).
If you’re struggling to find enough projects or examples to include, you could take on some pro-bono work for a friend, volunteering for a project at work, or finding an opportunity to work with a non-profit. Catchafire
are good places to start.
I don’t think that everyone needs to do a UX course but having an understanding and a grounding in UX best practices can be useful for bridging the gap between technical writing and UX writing. There are good online resources
available for a fraction of the price that in-person courses cost, although this approach does require a level of self-discipline that I lack.
When it comes to what hiring managers are looking for, here are some good questions to ask yourself:
- Is it clear which sections you wrote? This is a collaborative discipline but you want to be explicit with the parts you contributed.
- Is your portfolio easy to navigate? Have you framed each section clearly? Is there a good structure to the story you’re telling? Hiring managers want to know more about your thought process than anything else. So be sure to provide additional context for why you made certain decisions.
- Does it sound like a real person wrote it? This is where your technical writing background might need to be checked!
- Similarly, is your writing succinct and to the point?
The reality is, you will struggle to land a job at Dropbox without direct experience. But you can likely position yourself better within your current company. Whenever you’re transitioning between two similar but different job roles, try to look for a role that can act as a “transition” step between where you are and where you want to be.
For example, if you’re struggling to move from Technical Writer to UX Writer, can you take on freelance copywriting or marketing content writing do round out your portfolio?
Finally, look at other people’s portfolio’s for inspiration. Some examples we like:
I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. You’ll probably get a lot of rejection. But the beauty of this industry is that you don’t necessarily need a degree to do the job. Getting experience with real life products is the best way to learn UX
Writing (that linked article is about UX Design but the principles for getting a job with little experience are the same).
Said it once before but it bears repeating, there’s a whole unit on this in the UX Writers Collective
course. Get a 15% discount by using the code JOBNEWS15.