BTS 4: From Dropout to Silicon Valley Technical Writer

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Did you know that according to experts, getting information from experienced people is the most straightforward way to learn?

Exactly why you should join us as we travel all the way to the native home of Barack Obama (Kenya) to reveal another mind-blowing story of a freelance technical writer—The Great Bonnie.

He made a crazy, life-changing decision of abandoning a highly coveted, golden opportunity to chase his passion.

Was that the biggest mistake of his life or could this move have catapulted him to indefinite success…?

Let’s hear from him directly, shall we?

Tell us about yourself, Bonnie. 

“My name is Bonnie from Kenya and I’m currently a technical writer with a strong community of over 18,000 followers on Twitter. I work with tech companies (even silicon valley tech companies) to create technical articles for their blogs”.

Impressive so how did you get to this point in your freelance career—Was this in line with what you wanted to do growing up?

“Nope, I wanted to be a doctor growing up but that changed over time and I got into engineering school.

A portfolio builder for tech writers

It was pretty exciting to join the school of engineering because it offered the promise of a good career, a good job, and handsome pay but after staying two years there, I realized this wasn’t something I was looking forward to doing.

We didn’t build things or carry out projects like I expected. Our learning process was limited to theories and passing exams, nothing practical.

So on our campus, I joined a society called The Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and that was where I was introduced to tech.

They were offering distance learning on artificial intelligence and we took courses on technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, PHP, and Java. 

This triggered my interest in tech and I felt deep down, I was destined to get into the tech community. 

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I decided I was quitting engineering school but I didn’t tell my parents that I was quitting, I told them that I was deferring for one year and that I’d be back.

Deep down, I knew that I was NEVER coming back. So, to deeply convince them about my deferring idea, which was actually dropping out, I told them that for the time I’ll be taking a break, I wanted to learn how to code. 

I sold the lie more by saying it was an added “valuable skill” to my engineering degree, so I could be more attractive in the labor market.

After quitting, I took a four-month course where I learned different things about coding, including programming languages like JavaScript, PHP, and more.

Then in 2019, I tried to start a company to help people book rentals online. Unfortunately, it failed and I aborted the mission. 

In 2020, during the pandemic, I tried to get into Freelance software development and it equally did not work out as I wanted.

Finally, in 2021, I joined Tech Twitter and landed an opportunity in technical writing that’s where I am so far”.

How did you land your first client?

 I started creating content around web development and projects I was building with my coding skills and interacting with other people in tech.

I started growing and getting a lot of followers and making connections with people.

So, on a faithful day, I got a DM from someone telling me they liked my content on Twitter. They asked me if I will be interested in writing a technical article on their blog.

Fast forward to like 3 months later, I was contacted for the second time. I didn’t have any more samples because  I hadn’t written any technical writing articles but I knew how to write.

Fortunately, they didn’t ask for any more of my previous work and they handed me a project to write an article for their blog. When I was done I was paid  $300. 

This was the FIRST money I made from freelance technical writing.

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What projects are you working on right now?

Currently, I’m working with a company called LambdaTest as a freelance technical writer. I’m also working on my own projects, I’ve written a technical writing ebook that’s launched on Gumroad and I started blogging too.

My ebook has over 400 downloads and a lot more people are paying for it even when it’s free.

It’s because of the success of the ebook that I decided to open a personal coaching platform. It’s $15 and currently, I have 3 paid students that I mentor on technical writing.

Could you share some of your bad experiences as a freelance technical writer?

I can’t say I have had any bad experiences. I have always been paid for my work and I’m hoping nothing pisses me off. 

Tell us one of your weaknesses as a freelance technical writer?

The main thing I have been struggling with as a freelance technical writer is procrastination. I find that I don’t keep my promises to myself.

In fact, I’m suffering from something called False Hope Syndrome where you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and fail in original goals.

That’s one of the things I would definitely want to change because in freelancing the more you do, the more money you make.

If you could turn back the hands of time as a freelance technical writer would you want to change anything?

I wouldn’t change anything, the only thing I might want to change is landing opportunities faster. I’m grateful for the journey I’ve been through because I have learned a lot. 

Through freelancing, I have learned more skills that I could not have gained by choosing a different path by getting job employment.

I feel like it has prepared me for life in general– learning from the world and taking huge risks. It’s not been easy but I’m happy about the experiences.  I have learned and I wouldn’t change that for anything else.

What are your biggest wins as a freelance technical writer?

My biggest win was the last article that I wrote.  I was paid $562 and that’s a lot for a single article.  Another big win was working with a company in Silicon Valley. 

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I’m just a college dropout in Africa and working with people who believe in you, not caring about where you come from– that’s one of my biggest wins because not a lot of people have that opportunity.

Do you have one more word you’d want to leave for any intending freelance technical writer?

What I would advise for any intending technical writer is to start creating technical writing articles.

You can post on Hashnode or Medium as you continue to write articles you gain experience so that when you want to apply for technical writing opportunities you can use the articles as your portfolio.

Also, arrange your portfolio on a website like Contentre where you’re able to generate different portfolio links for different clients according to their preferences.

You can connect with Bonnie on Twitter and the Website.

Read more behind-the-scenes stories on the secrets of freelance technical writers. Visit our Stories section for more.

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