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Build a technical writing portfolio by writing documentation for startups

by Tom Johnson on Jul 10, 2015
categories: 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.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the tech comm, be sure to subscribe to email updates below. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.