Hi everyone! My name is Yaroslav, and I am a full-time Senior Full-Stack Developer, currently working on geolocation SaaS. Today, I am going to tell you how we created Contenteam – a content editorial department with a specialty in IT articles – this is where I work as an expert.
First, I want to give you a little bit of my professional background.
After moving from Russia to Europe 5 years ago, I started my career as a PHP freelancer. I worked with a wide variety of clients and projects worldwide, including independent small businesses, online stores, and startups. I performed a broad range of front-end, back-end, and system administration tasks for a couple of years.
And this is how I know the clients’ challenges.
At the same time, I was hired by a German company that developed a mobile framework: my task was to create informative blog articles about their product. Soon, I landed a second client; it was a Russian cloud service provider that needed technical articles for their blog. At that time, I was such a newbie and struggled with all the typical difficulties of a new IT writer, but I tried my best to learn and improve my skills.
And this is how I know the writers’ challenges.
Then the number of my clients started to grow, and it became too overwhelming to combine two jobs – web developer and writer – so I started to edit and fact-check other people’s texts.
Now I see being an expert editor as a cool part-time job that allows me to dive into many new interesting topics and easily utilize my skills in expert research and the English language.
I see a great need in the market for experienced IT copywriters with software advertisement skills; this can’t be provided by just any good copywriter. Any high-tier copywriting niche requires a deep understanding of the topic and related concepts. So how do you test and train writers to craft content that is consistently high-quality? Keep reading to learn all the top tips.
How to Hire Strong Copywriters for IT Projects?
Hiring strong copywriters is a challenge – hiring strong copywriters who can write excellent IT texts is even more challenging. Some of the obstacles we’ve faced include:
- Writers who have general IT knowledge but no deep expertise
- Writers who don’t do enough research during tasks or who choose unreliable sources
- Writers who don’t stay up-to-date on the latest technologies
In order to save resources (and prevent headaches), we developed a 2-part system. The first part is a rigorous selection system, so we don’t waste time training writers who don’t have what it takes to write IT texts. The second part is a project management workflow, which ensures that each text we produce is factual and of the highest quality.
Part 1: Rigorous Selection System
When I joined the Contenteam agency, they had already tried to find new IT writers on the most popular platforms for freelancers, including Upwork.
The results? Out of 10 test tasks, only 1 or 2 (at best) were of decent quality. Obviously, this wasn’t working and certainly wasn’t a great use of our resources. Over the course of several months, we tried out several different tactics and learned these insights:
It is better to hire an expert IT specialist who can write rather than an expert writer with rudimentary IT knowledge.
A proofreader can tidy up the texts, adjust syntax, and make sentences more clear for the readers, so your technical writer certainly doesn’t need to be a wordsmith with a deep love of grammar. What’s most important is for the writer to be a subject matter expert: if they produce a turd, it doesn’t matter how much the proofreader polishes it – the final result would be of no use to you or to readers.
This might seem to be a contrast to the previous point, but hear me out. Missing commas, a couple of typos, and troubles with heading capitalization can easily be compensated for; it just takes a few minutes for an editor to clean up these minor errors. Something that can’t be easily fixed, though, is faulty logic. We find that newbie technical writers typically fall into the following traps. If one of your writers consistently makes these mistakes, they likely don’t have as much experience as they claimed.
- Including made-up statistics, outdated information, or sketchy sources
- Inability to highlight the main points of the text, focusing on irrelevant points, and falling into marketing pits
- Using broken logic and presenting an incomplete or inconsistent presentation of facts (this typically indicates that the concept is new to the writer)
- Inability to express complicated concepts in a simplified way
Technical writers need to have strong information-seeking skills.
As you might know, programmers use search engines a lot. I mean it – a LOT. Naturally, programmers will develop strong information-seeking skills. But it comes with an undesirable outcome – most technical documentation resources become completely unreadable for an unprepared eye. Very rarely will IT topics fall into any common knowledge domain – instead, they are typically abstract and confusing to new writers.
And what’s more, many popular software products aren’t just big and complicated by themselves – they also work as a part of a gigantic infrastructure (for instance, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon services). And sometimes, they have confusing naming inside the infrastructure. There are also scam products and just generally terrible documentation pages. See, sometimes even I myself need a guide that tells me why some piece of software is needed. To get first-hand information, I often ask developers from different domains to explain to me what software they use and why.
Use the community.
Rather than posting an IT copywriting job on an oversaturated platform (e.g., Upwork), consider spending a little extra money to publish listings on IT-specific sites. Bonus points if the site requires a membership for job seekers! One great example is the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTK). It is a professional association in which membership demonstrates a technical writer’s commitment to career development and the industry as a whole. A member of this association is far more likely to produce high-quality technical texts than a random freelancer off of Upwork.
Make a checklist.
We have several managers who can hire writers onto the team – we’ve found that, in order to objectively hire writers in a standardized manner, it is best to use a checklist. That way, all hiring managers understand what qualities we are looking for in a writer and what red flags to avoid. Of course, checklists will be different for any organization, but here are some examples of what you could include on your own:
- Do they have a working knowledge of
- Can they skillfully use call-to-action?
- Do they have professional training? (e.g., Technical Writing Certification, MA in Computer Science, etc.)
- Are they native speakers of your target audience’s language?
Part 2: Project Management Workflow
Even if you have a top-notch IT writer on your team, mistakes can still slip through the cracks. IT writing is a rigorous industry, and technologies are ever-changing – thus, pretty much every fact included in an article needs to be double-checked. Even if a fact isn’t wrong, it could still be outdated. Add to that the confusion of grammar rules and various style manuals (who has time to memorize Chicago, MLA, and APA?), and you’ve succeeded in thoroughly overwhelming your poor writer.
So, how do you make sure that content is written logically, free of factual errors, grammatically correct, and adherent to your client’s stylebook of choice? Rather than placing all of this on the shoulders of our writers, we’ve developed a workflow that helps us process texts efficiently and with as little stress as possible.
Your own project workflow may look different, depending on the size of your organization, whether you’re using in-house editors or an agency, and if you have the budget to pass a text through multiple rounds of checking. But, as an example, here’s what ours looks like:
- Round 1: The technical writer creates the text.
- Round 2: A fact-checker verifies statistics, numbers, dates, and other information.
- Round 3: An editor checks the flow of the document, makes sure it adheres to the client’s style guide, and corrects any grammatical and syntax errors. At this point, if the text is perfect, we send it to the client for approval. If the editor requires clarification on some points, they send it back to the writer – and then the cycle begins again.
To keep things running smoothly, the members of a project workflow communicate via private Telegram chat – this way, they can quickly answer each other’s questions and process the text as quickly and flawlessly as possible.
Our Real Results
We have been working with IT texts for 5 years and consider this direction the most promising for our development. During our work, we have formed a strong team of authors who can cope with tasks of any complexity. We are a multinational company that values diversity – if one of our writers wants to move forward into IT copywriting, we’ll teach them how. Having expert IT writers on our team makes this possible, as they can act as mentors for the newer writers.
Our clients are mostly Digital agencies, small and medium IT business owners, and startups. We write different types of articles for them:
- Case studies based on real projects – the client provides data on what they did and how. For example, the development of mobile applications for iOS and Android, computer vision systems, machine learning in production, AI-powered chatbots, cybersecurity, and so on.
- Information articles and service reviews – for example, the automation of call centers, production and quality control, and digital telephony.
- Advertisements, product reviews, and compilation and comparison of top products – we provide direct sales or native advertising depending on the client’s preferences.
I hope that you’ve found inspiration from my insights! Do you have problems selecting IT authors? Or do you have a great strategy for sourcing adequate writers? Let’s talk about it! Leave a comment below, and we’ll chat.