Learn how to become a UX Writer


Last week, on our "learn how-to" series we went on about how to become a UX designer, for the sake of those who have heard of UX writing and were confused about UX designing we decided to share some tips on to become a UX writer.

For those who do not know the difference, UX writing is all of the writing that appears along the way of your user or customer’s offline and online journey. A letter is UX writing. The script of service feedback follows up phone call is UX writing. The instruction manual of your lawnmower is UX writing. Even a logo is UX writing when it comes down to it.

UX design, on the other hand, is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.

If you are a copywriter or a UX designer and you find the field of microcopy/ UX writing appealing, then it is best to know where to start 

Here are the steps to follow:


1. Test yourself: Are you a good fit for this?

Microcopy writers need the following three skills:

     a. Top-level aptitude for content. Nothing less


Writing microcopy requires the ability to write concisely and lightly, assume a variety of readers’ points of view and match the text to them, understand branding, accurately pick and choose words, be creative and match your writing style to any interface and any situation. Microcopy writers are first and foremost WRITERS, all their other skills come to play second.

    b. Technologically inclined, not to say overly affectionate towards interfaces


Even if you currently don’t know what a drop-down does or how a tooltip looks, that should not deter you from entering the field. But once you do, don’t be shy: ask about every little thing you don’t understand and listen carefully to everything said around you, until you get the basic principles and working language. If technology excites you, this will happen rather quickly.

      c. Excellent human relations


The writing process includes user research, iterations, tests and working closely with other teams. So the work consists of being in touch and meeting a myriad of characters: project and product managers, UX/UI designers, technical writers, digital and marketing people, developers, CEO and more.

Sometimes microcopy is caught in the crossfire between departments, and you could be called to continue being service-oriented from one end and set clear boundaries on the other. When asked to write microcopy at the last minute, or to explain again and again why it’s needed altogether, you’ll understand what that means.

In short — you have to love dealing with people and work in teams, not just interfaces and writing.

2. Learn as much as you can

Microcopy isn’t (just) a matter of intuition. It combines several areas of knowledge — user experience, design, branding, psychology, business strategy and more — you should start getting more familiar with them all.

Why?

  • So the microcopy you write is better and smarter, 
  • so you can confer with all team members with the language they know and use, 
  • And so as to have a good, well-supported answer (more than on just your gut feeling) when someone asks why you wrote one way rather than another.


Where can you study all that?

a. Books

b. The UX Writing Resource Library
A full list of books and blogs on UX writing, newsletters, communities worldwide and much more. This is THE place to get a complete overview on UX writing.

c. Online course
The UX Writing Collective has a UX Writing Fundamentals course. 

d. Google
Start by reading on error messages, buttons, empty states, placeholders, and every other element of microcopy. There are many good posts online, and you can see many screenshots of every variety.

I recommend you widen your search terms beyond just “microcopy” or “UX writing”, as they will direct you to more and more 101 articles. Just google each element by name and pick it up from there.

e. Posts on Medium, under the tags #microcopy and #UX writing.
You'll find posts much more interesting than just “What microcopy is”.
You can check these ones;

3. Just start. Write microcopy and make a portfolio

For practice as well as for having something to show potential employers or clients, you need to write microcopy and assemble a portfolio.

But how do you assemble a portfolio if you don’t have any clients yet?

Reut Malovani wrote this step-by-step guide.


4. If you’re a freelance — set up a basic, simple website for yourself

On WIX, Weebly, Squarespace or Wordpress, free or paid, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have a URL to refer people to.

If you already own a website offering other content or UX services, add a page for the new and exciting service now on offer — microcopy and UX writing.

If you’re just setting up your business, get yourself the simplest of logos (use a service like Fiverr or an automatic logo generator — this is good enough for the early life stages of a budding digital business) and set up a very basic site:

  • a homepage explaining what microcopy is and why it is so important
  • a page on the service\s you provide
  • your portfolio or client list
  • and an About page of course. It’s best to add your picture and mention how talented you are and the extent of your experience. Tout your own horn, don’t be shy.

5. Go on the hunt

Job offerings are an excellent indicator for who is out to hire microcopy writers. So first of all, join the Collective’s UX writing job list.

Then try to find your next job.

Plus, set up smart agents on job boards to alert you when UX writing positions are offered.

But don’t stop there.

If you’re a freelance — don’t wait to be approached, and if you’re looking to be hired by a company — don’t wait for new vacancies to be published. Initiate your own contacts.

Out of tens of cold emails you send — precious few will get a response, which is naturally to be expected. Don’t lose heart; always remember it’s better to send 20 more emails to prospective clients or employers than watch more daytime TV. Keep vigorously sending those signals out.

So how to get started?


a. Go over the lists of all your contact on your phone and on social media (NOT just LinkedIn) and find all those who work in digital somehow — freelancers, corporate, start-ups, NGO’s or agencies — talk to them.

Tell them what you do, if need be — explain what microcopy is or make a video. Plainly tell them you would like to write microcopy and ask who is the relevant person in their organization you should talk to.

b. Initiate direct contact with clients you would like to work with.

You came across a website or an app with potential, but the bad microcopy (or the entire lack of it) is killing it? Send a polite mail with several interesting microcopy suggestions that can save the day or at least freshen it up a bit. Add a link to your portfolio, and mention you’d be happy to provide a quote for writing microcopy for their website or app.

c. Tell all your friends what it is you’re doing or looking for and share your new website or portfolio, so they know to refer clients or employers to you should they stumble on anything relevant.

d. If you’re looking for a corporate position — keep on going until you get someone hooked on your cv-line. If you’re a freelance — after you’ve had some clients, the word-of-mouth trick will also start, and the rest will follow.

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