Meet Linda Ikechukwu, a sizzling thought leader in the technical writing industry. But it wasn’t always like this, at some point she was entirely ignorant about technical writing.
She went from being oblivious to technical writing to dominating it and bagging sweet dollar deals with reputable brands.
Her interesting journey is a must-read for every technical writer. There are also special insights for beginners, so it’s worth the read.
If you’re looking to start a career in freelance technical writing, then put on your laser eye focus and come along with us on Linda’s journey.
Hello, my name is Linda Ikechukwu and I’m currently a developer advocate for a company called Smallstep Labs. Our main product is a certificate manager for security practitioners and DevOps engineers.
On the side, I run a platform called everything technical writing. It’s a newsletter where I try to answer questions and build a resource platform for upcoming and existing technical writers.
The aim is to help them answer difficult questions that most people usually have when they are venturing into the industry.
How did you get into technical writing and when did you start?
My journey into technical writing was not a straight path though I always loved to express myself.
I actually started as a software engineer. I worked as a cloud engineer for a year and some months before I discovered frontend and then I started learning frontend.
When I felt my hands were strong and I had built a couple of projects and freelance jobs, I got a job at a startup as a front-end developer.
My main duty was to build out interfaces with React Js and stuff
Technical writing just happened, although I would say I had always been a writer.
One thing I have always done is write for myself and for other people because I have this mantra that guides my life it’s something I got from this book called Steal Like an Artist and it goes like this “…write the blogs you wished you’d read”
When I learn something and I find out the blogs I read didn’t explain it in the way that my mind understood it, I try to write my own in my understanding. That’s how technical writing started for me.
I was just writing and sharing my articles on Twitter, and then a couple of communities and platforms started to reach out to me to publish my articles on their platform: Free code camp, CSS training, etc, and that was how I started to submit articles on other platforms.
Then I found out that this was actually a thing and some people do it full-time. So I started to read up on everything I could find on technical writing and documentation and I took Google’s technical writing course.
The thing with writing is that I see a lot of people coming up to me about courses and all that. After taking these courses yeah, it helps but you only get better at technical writing by actually being a technical writer.
Doing the work and looking at what other people are doing. You can use knowledge from what other people are doing to improve your craft.
That was it after a while I worked as a front-end developer for a year and some months and a company reached out to me with a role asking me if I would be interested in being a technical writer.
What would you describe as your best experience?
My best experience is the research and learning phase. I get to write and research about things I normally wouldn’t have bothered learning if I wasn’t asked to write about them.
So, for me, it’s that phase of learning and discovering something new.
What about your worst experience?
I have a very strict work ethic and even upon talking to clients, there are just signs I see and I don’t take up the job.
Desperation breeds the opportunity for you to be used. I try not to be desperate when clients reach out to me.
There are astute comments I see from clients and I just walk away.
I do my job, I deliver and I walk away.
I started making money with technical writing when publications started reaching out to me to publish on their sites as part of their technical writing content marketing efforts.
I’ve worked with publications like LogRocket, Draft.dev, and DigitalOcean.
They paid $200 per piece, sometimes $300 or $400 depending on the technical difficulty of that piece.
That’s was how I started after doing that for a while and sharing those, people started to reach out to me on LinkedIn to help with documentation and I started charging a bit higher
One other thing I want to mention is joining communities. There is this writing community called “write the docs”.
I believe every technical writer should be in that community because you get to meet a lot of people and it is a platform where you can ask any type of question, career-related question.
You can ask questions if you’re confused about what to charge or about freelancing or if you are confused about some strategies. There are a lot of people that are willing to share their experiences with you.
I have gotten a couple of freelance jobs from writing the docs. Anybody that is coming up as a technical writer should consider joining the community.
That was it, writing per piece on publications and doing a couple of freelance jobs. I wasn’t taking it seriously till a company reached out to me and offered me a full-time role.
Before this, It was just something that put extra cash in my pocket till I had a full-time job. Then, I started to take it a lot more seriously and started learning how to improve on creation and documentation architecture.
What would you describe as your writing weakness?
Sometimes it’s difficult to. As a writer, it’s very easy to get stuck in rabbit holes.
Say I’m asked to write about the usage of NFTs and I start reading on that, it’s easy for me to deviate from doing that into applications of NFTs and just get lost in that rabbit hole and that’s something that takes time.
That probability of getting lost in a rabbit hole is something that always extends the time.
It’s easy to be curious and let your research drive you into places that are not very relevant to the document that you’re trying to create.
If you could turn back the hands of time, would you want to change anything about your career?
Technical writing was a discovery for me. I wouldn’t want to change anything. I’m a very curious person and I feel like throughout my career I am going to take up many titles. I discover things and then find myself in them
How do you manage negative critique?
With the nature of this work, you get a lot of feedback. If you work as a technical writer or a documentation engineer for an open-source product. Publishing your work on GitHub, you’re going to get a lot of feedback.
I think the mindset matters a lot because when I first joined the company I worked with as a technical writer, I was used to feedback from editors.
On joining this new company, I found out that there were several rounds of feedback from the editors and the engineers themselves.
Initially, that gave me a lot of anxiety and it would take me a lot of time to go back to those documents that I had gotten feedback for, but then, my manager told me something.
She changed the outlook of how I saw feedback. She said, “you’re never going to get better if people don’t criticize you. These are people that have more experience than you. So whenever you get feedback you should look at it from an angle of being grateful that you have people that can give you feedback.
This is what you’ve written. It’s nice but it could be so much better”.
Looking at how much better I have become as a technical writer in the past 2 years, I can say that there has been a lot of improvement.
Feedback is a two-way street. How we perceive feedback could be based on how the person giving the feedback gave it.
It’s something that both the person giving the feedback and the receiving it should both be conscious of.
It’s important for the person giving the feedback to remember that you are not there to criticize, you’re there to help.
So acknowledge things that were good before you start to point out things that could meet your preference.
What words of wisdom would you want to drop for intending freelance technical writers?
Go read my blog. I have written a lot of things that a lot of people have found helpful and I feel it would be redundant to document them here again because they were properly documented in my blog.
Those things documented were from my experiences during my journey and some of them are from some questions that people asked me and I carefully reflected on.
Another thing is: JOIN A COMMUNITY.
An example of a good community is the “write the docs” community. There are both freelancers and full-time technical writers there.
Another thing is to have a portfolio. I see so many people looking for a job and they don’t have a portfolio that they can show.
Lastly, read. If not for anything, read fiction. It opens up your mind and it serves two purposes. Read to know how writers think and how they present their thoughts. Read for an improved vocabulary.