If you are only at the beginning of your career as a technical writer, most probably you are thinking of how to gain experience, what samples to add to your portfolio, and how to find a good position. What can help you is contributing to open-source projects.
What is an open-source project? This is a project available for anyone to use, modify, study, distribute, etc. One of the main problems with open-source projects is that their documentation often needs to be improved. And, if users don’t find clear documentation, they often give up using a product as they don’t understand how to do that.
So, contributing to open-source projects, you are getting lots of benefits for yourself even though you won’t be paid:
- You will gain experience and improve your writing skills. That’s what you need at the beginning of your career. Sometimes, open-source projects offer specific and non-standard tasks.
- You will add new samples to your portfolio. Looking for a position, you need to show your best samples. People often think about where to get them. That’s where.
- You will expand your network. Surely, you’ll get acquainted with professionals who can give you tips on how to write high-quality documentation. Most probably, they may help you find a job.
- You will get recommendations. If you apply for a job, a strong recommendation letter will definitely help you.
- You will learn to collaborate with others. That is a useful skill for technical writers.
How to choose an open-source project and how to start contributing to it? Today, there are so many open-source projects that you can spend a lot of time studying them. You can find projects for beginners and more advanced technical writers.
Have a look at the following open source projects:
- Fedora Docs Project
- Gnome Documentation
- Apache HTTP Server Project
- OpenSuse Documentation
- Mozilla Knowledge Base
Of course, there are many more projects. It is up to you which one to choose. Pay attention to your interests. After choosing a project, you are to find a problem to solve and notify the project’s managers that you are what you are interested in. Some projects have available problems; others do not. You can examine documentation and find what you could improve. Don’t forget to learn their review process before submitting a pull request. And, of course, follow their style guide. That matters a lot.
Open-source is a big thing today, and it is gaining more popularity. It is a good opportunity to contribute to a large-scale project. And, for project managers, it is a wonderful opportunity to attract high-quality experts not being limited to one team only. If you are a beginning tech writer, think of this type of cooperation. Later on, you will see the results.