The Role of a Technical Writer in a Startup

Unhappiness emerges when a startup’s expectations don’t align with the natural talent of the writer.

People have natural affinities — you’re more likely to be great at technical writing if you are good at not just code but also writing and storytelling.

tecHnIcAl WriTiNg is nOt a pRodUct feature.

  • A website is a product.
  • A landing page is a product.
  • A technical blog is a product.
  • A documentation page is a product.

To write a technical article that delivers value to your clients and customers, you have to have a grasp on

  • the objectives of your technical writing
  • understand the target audience
  • define desired results
  • social proof, credibility and trust
  • brand positioning
  • visuals, illustrations & code
  • Actual technical writing
  • CTAs

Welcome to the third chapter of this insightful blog series, where I discuss ‘How Technical Writing Can Supercharge Your Startup.‘ The 1st blog post was featured on the front page of Hackernoon in the past and 2nd blog (A Guide to Technical Content Creation for SaaS) is well received in the tech community and resonates with many developer advocates/founders/people working in the developer ecosystem.

Technical Writer-SaaS- Startup

Why Startups Need Technical Writers?

At some point, if you’re a CEO, CTO, Founder or Software Engineer working at a startup then you will be expected to write technical content.

In the initial days, it’s good to start in-house technical content development, unless you’re well-funded from day 1 and have money to hire a full-time TW or DA.

But pretty soon it will become a huge headache to consistently deliver good content even by the founder himself because Technical content writing itself is a product and not just another work this is one of the major pillars in the success of your startup.

And most startups can’t afford $100k+ developer advocates/technical writers salaries or if some even can afford they’re struggling to find good people who get the job done.

Hiring a full-time technical writer or developer advocate can be cost-prohibitive, with salaries ranging from $30-100k in Asia and potentially up to four times that in the US/EU. Many companies find that dedicating internal resources to content creation isn’t sustainable; even securing one quality post per week can cost between $1k-$5k.

A strategic alternative is partnering with experienced software engineers who also have a knack for writing. These professionals can deliver high-quality, technically sound content with more flexibility and often at a better price point, preventing burnout among your full-time staff and keeping your marketing agile.

In the last article here I explored in greater detail the topic of Who Should Write Your SaaS Technical Content?


Ready to Hire a DevRel/ Technical Writer?

I must say, in my experience and based on discussions with several tech founders- Hiring a full-time Developer Advocate/ Technical Writer is more likely to harm your early-stage start-up than help you so next time before you start your search for a full-time person you should consider whether you genuinely need a full-time person and where they’re going to fit into your team.

State of Developer Relations 2023

Source- “State of Developer Relations 2023”- access the complete report.

Yes, if you look at the data, content development (educational tutorials, technical blogs, getting started guides, etc…) is the top activity of most people in developer relations.

The developer relations department covers a vast multitude of activities which are rarely done by the same person.

A DevRel’s role can vary widely, encompassing positions such as an evangelist, community manager, technical content creator, or exceptional speaker.

However, creating technical content is a prime activity that many individuals and organizations prioritize as part of their developer relations programs.

Expecting your first hire to be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ DevRel or to independently determine their range of activities is likely setting them up for failure.

Interesting engineers will always avoid SaaS without a clear goal and plan to execute their developer relations program.

Your initial DevRel should focus on expanding successful strategies rather than starting a new one.

Most people in DevRels risk their reputation for the companies they represent, and aligning with companies lacking a track record of engagement poses uncertainties and risks.

Before you hire a DevRel, founders or engineers should spend some time doing the job themselves or work with exceptional engineers who write well and can help you build your content or even do support in other developer relations activities!

By doing this, you’ll gain a better understanding of what’s effective in this field, ultimately saving you significant time and money in the long run.


Why Look for Exceptional Engineers Who Write Well

If you want to expand and reach more developers, you must write a lot — whether it’s technical blogs, documentation, or FAQs, and establish your brand presence in the market.

Technical writing is just one piece of the big picture and it must be treated as a separate entity if you want your technical content to truly make an impact.

Brainstorming and coming up with technical content ideas is a big challenge, and finding engineers who are exceptional writers who can turn those technical topics into effective pieces is another, even more difficult, one.

When outsourcing technical writing, finding someone capable of articulating deeper insights within an engineering task can be challenging, particularly because 50% of developer relations people you will see in the above report are junior engineers who never had firsthand software development experience and they lack the actual engineering experience and produce mediocre content.

Furthermore, you can’t always tell from a resume whether a developer relations person or technical writer knows their stuff.

You’re taking a risk when you hire a full-time developer advocate/ technical writer who has less engineering experience but hasn’t spent their early days writing code.

And that’s the big problem I’m solving for startups here at Writing as a Service — writing technical content that’s for engineers by a software engineer.

Ok enough comparison, I’ve shared a detailed comparison “Who Should Write Your SaaS Technical Content?” now let’s move into how technical content writers help a Startup.

Viral vs Evergreen Technical Content

  • Balancing relevance and growth in readership requires a mix of timely and insightful content creation.
  • Striving for both timeliness and depth in content can lead to failing at achieving either.
  • The key challenge is to find the right blend of current topics and insightful analysis.
  • Avoid the pitfall of attempting to combine both approaches and ending up with ineffective content.
  • Success in engaging readers lies in navigating the tension between relevance and depth.

My Checklist for Crafting Content for a Startup

Creating an effective and long-term technical writing strategy is crucial for startups aiming for growth through technical content development.

Don’t begin by telling the reader why you wrote this article – tell them why they should read it, and then do your best to prove yourself right.

Direct your readers and clearly state the direction and purpose of your writing.

For instance, “Approach B outperforms approach A, and here are the reasons,” or “To fully grasp X, we first need to understand Y.”

  1. Embrace guiding phrases: I once viewed functional phrases as lacking in creativity and unnecessary. However, I’ve learned their importance in guiding the reader.
  2. Transition smoothly: I used to abruptly shift from one topic to another, expecting the reader to follow. Revisiting my past work, I realized the need for clearer transitions to maintain the reader’s understanding.
  3. Prioritize clarity: The realization that my earlier blog posts were hard to follow led me to value clarity over stylistic flourishes. I now incorporate more signposts in my writing to ensure it’s easy to follow.
  4. If you’ve got points to make but not the time or way to link them smoothly, it’s fine to put them in a simple list.
  5. If you don’t have a real story with which to frame your article then consider making one up. people love to read real-time stories.
  6. Don’t use memes in technical blogs.
  7. When writing, aim for the polished, clear, and concise style of a well-edited, multi-take YouTube video, not the unfiltered, often rambling way we speak in daily conversations.
  8. Pick a few SaaS/Startups you admire and closely follow their style as a model for your own. Ensure to adapt their approaches in a way that reflects your unique voice and vision, avoiding any direct copying or infringement of intellectual property. Use them as inspiration to shape and refine your style and strategy.
  9. In your examples, make sure to point out which parts are good to use and which parts aren’t. Let your readers know what they should copy and what they should skip.

Role of Humor in Technical Writing: To Use or Not to Use?

Avoid adding jokes or GIFs to obscure your message.

Remember, the goal is to convey information about your tech product, not to perform a comedy sketch.

Clarity should always take precedence over humor.

While it’s fine to have a humorous personality or writing style, not all posts need to be humorous.

Certain topics or products don’t lend themselves well to light-heartedness.

In the past, I often forced humor into contexts where it wasn’t appropriate or well-received. I don’t use them often.

Diagrams, Visuals, Illustrations

Creating diagrams can be labour-intensive, yet they enhance the clarity of your explanations. Opt for a diagram-making tool that simplifies editing for more efficient updates. I use Canva but wish I used something better.

For example:

Technical-writing

Always Save Your Leftovers

After completing an article, I often find myself with catchy phrases that don’t quite fit in. These I add to my ‘leftover snippet’ list, which has now grown to include over 100+ such items.

On review, I found many unpublished blogs are not as good as I first thought, but I still often manage to recycle them into future writing or in my posts on X.https://twitter.com/TheAnkurTyagi/status/1610873424204677120?s=20

Where to Get Your Next Blog Post Idea

  • Build and add blog post topics which have already been covered by other SaaS/Startups that you wish you had written.
  • When someone asks you a question on Slack, Discord, Linkedin, Twitter or in tech conferences that’s a good idea for a long-form blog post.
  • Remember that everything you write is organic marketing, which is content marketing for the thing that you care about. A lot of people come to my site for technical explanations, stay for the series about “starting a blog”, and email/DM me to say that they feel professionally blessed and to say thank you.
cold DM

Asking for feedback

Ask your readers what they liked after they read your writing. Their preferences are more informative than their dislikes, guiding you on what to focus on in your future work.

Based on the feedback you receive, determine the extent of changes you’re willing to make to your current piece. You may decide to correct grammatical errors and possibly restructure some paragraphs, but rewriting the entire second half to highlight a secondary point might be more than you’re prepared to undertake. Even if some feedback requires too much effort to implement immediately, consider it a valuable lesson for future projects.

Sometimes, I send an email to all my 4,500+ newsletter subscribers and ask these 3 simple questions:

  • Which were your favourite posts?
  • What else would you like to read about?
  • Who are your favorite online writers?

Conclusion

Technical writing is a cost-effective means of building brand awareness.

Marketing your product or service must be one of the priorities for any startup, and the right technical writing can help you reach the right developer audiences and build your brand while saving resources.

Startup life hack: consistently and regularly randomly ask “Is there potential for a blog post here?” in a variety of relevant contexts. Some real gold shakes out of this eventually.

Stop begging your core software engineers and fire your lazy/boring/incompetent developer advocates and Let me help and build your startup’s technical content.

I build and create technical blog posts and write technical documentation and Tutorials on integrating developer tools, designed to reach software engineers, data engineers, AI engineers and more.

My writing services are tailored to connect you with over 67,000+ engaged software developers. Elevate your brand and promote your product organically and effectively through my writing.

Build Your Company’s Technical Content with Ankur Tyagi

Let’s get started or book a call to discuss your technical content product backlog.

That’s it for this blog.

Stay tuned Until then, here are some of my most popular blogs you might like to read.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *