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Build a technical writing portfolio by writing documentation for startups

Jul 10, 2015 • beginners

People looking to break into technical writing are often looking for open source projects they can document in order to build their technical writing portfolio. Instead of looking for open source projects, check out to find startups that might need help with documentation.

If you need to build your technical writing portfolio with sample documentation, you have several options:

  • Write documentation about products you know and own.
  • Write documentation for open source projects.
  • Write documentation for statups who don’t have official technical writers.

This last option is one I haven’t highlighted on my blog, but it may actually be the best option. Usually startups don’t hire technical writers until their product is mature enough to bring to market. At that time, they usually have a sizable amount of documentation to create or edit, but they don’t have capital to hire a professional technical writer until they get more funding.

Visit for a list of startups in the Silicon Valley area. If you find a startup company you like, contact them about and ask if you can help out with their documentation.

I personally haven’t tried this approach because I’m well-past this point in my career, but many people contact me looking for open source projects to join, so I’m offering this tip with startups.

Startup companies are the norm in the Silicon Valley area. If you get a chance to work for a startup, I highly recommend it. It can be more of a roller-coaster ride (as opposed to working in a large, already established company), but you’ll have more creative autonomy with the documentation and more challenges to learn new technologies.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical communication — Swagger, agile, trends, learning, plain language, quick reference guides, tech comm careers, academics, and more. I'm interested in simplifying complexity, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture and findability, and more. If you're a technical writer of any kind (progressional, transitioning, student), be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.