Open-Source For Your Portfolio

by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool

So you are a technical writer. But only a beginner so far. What to do next? You need a portfolio to get technical writing experience. Because, as many companies put it in their job description: “Previous experience writing online content strongly preferred.” The first that pops to mind is to find an open-source project and volunteer to write their documentation. This will show that you are motivated to improve your own skills and are interested in Tech Writing. If you’re hesitating whether or not to take this opportunity here are the pros of participating in open-source projects:

  1. Open-source projects are good for you if you’re looking to practice your skills, whether it’s coding, user interface design, graphic design, writing, or organizing.
  2. Many people form lifelong friendships through their participation in open source where they find warm, welcoming communities.
  3. The acts of learning and teaching can be fulfilling activity too. Open source offers opportunities to practice leadership and management skills, such as resolving conflicts, organizing teams of people, and prioritizing work.

The major con issue is security since anyone is allowed to the project.

So it’s settled! you are going to participate in an open-source project. The question is how to do it? First, you should decide which part of the project you want to work on. For that define your likes: organize, code, write, design. You can also use one of the following resources to help you discover and contribute to new projects:

After you have chosen your first project and first task, it’s time to submit a contribution. To do that you should:

  1. Effectively communicate with others. It should be done publicly, keep your requests short and direct, ask questions if needed.
  2. Gather context. Do a quick check to make sure your idea is new and hasn’t been discussed already. If it hasn’t — make your move.
  3. Open an issue. Do it when you can’t fix an error yourself or when you propose a new feature.
  4. Open a pull request to submit fixes, start working on a contribution that you’ve already discussed.

The next step is acceptance of your contribution. When it’s done you may consider yourself a proud contributor and add this to your portfolio. Good job!

Writing documentation for an open-source project can give you valuable experience that you can use as a starting point for a technical writing career. If nothing else, it will help you figure out if technical writing is a good career choice for you. In addition to making your portfolio, working on civic-tech open-source projects has the extra advantage of helping to make the world a better place. In addition, I advise you to read the article on How to Build a Technical Writing Portfolio. It has some valuable hints you’d wanna use to improve your portfolio.

Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors