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Career Q&A: 9 Senior UX Writers (from companies like Google, Airbnb, and Spotify) share advice on starting and progressing your career

Published 10th August 2021 20 minute read Career Q&A

Have you recently decided that you want to make the transition to becoming a user experience (UX) writer? Or perhaps you’re fresh out of higher education studies, and you’re now looking to get straight into UX writing?

If it’s the beginning of an exciting new career path for you, then this article should be a really useful read.

And good news! The volume of UX writer jobs opening has been increasing in the last couple of years. At the time of writing, for example, LinkedIn is advertising over 1,000 positions for the UK region alone.

But the fast-paced field of UX writing is filled with twists and turns, so staying ahead of the game (and the competition) when it comes to getting hired, using your skills effectively and honing your practices is going to be really important.

In this new career advice mini-series, we ask enior UX writers from the industry (some of whom are very recognisable faces) for their advice on a number of subjects; from preparing for interviews to progressing in your career.

Stay tuned for some brilliant, insightful nuggets of guidance from the likes of Jane Ruffino (Berghs School of Communication), Patrick Stafford (UX Writers Collective) and Nicole Michaelis (Spotify)…

Photo of Sophie Tahran
Sophie TahranUX Writing Lead, The New Yorker
Photo of Patrick Stafford
Patrick StaffordCo-CEO, UX Writers Collective
Photo of Jane Ruffino
Jane RuffinoCourse Director: UX Writing, Berghs School of Communication
Photo of Nicole Michaelis
Nicole MichaelisSenior UX Writer, Spotify
Photo of Nicole Whitton
Nicole WhittonLead UX Writer, Tide
Photo of Annabelle Cliffe
Annabelle CliffeSenior UX Writer, Skyscanner
Photo of Francesca Catanuso
Francesca CatanusoSenior UX Writer, Spotify
Photo of Dan Adams
Dan AdamsUX Writer, Google
Photo of John Campbell
John CampbellLead UX Writer, Airbnb
Photo of Yuval Keshtcher
Yuval KeshtcherFounder, UX Writing Hub

Starting out in UX writing

Let’s cut straight to the chase: if you’re already working in more long-established fields like marketing, journalism or copywriting, how can you make that leap to becoming a UX writer (UXW)?

And what about those who may be fresh out of higher education and looking to confirm that first role ASAP?

We asked some industry experts for their advice on how people might get that first foot in the door…

Photo of Jane Ruffino
Jane RuffinoCourse Director: UX Writing, Berghs School of Communication

For someone considering a career change into UX writing from say, a more traditional role in marketing, journalism, etc., what should they know upfront/what advice would you personally give them?

“On an industry level, I think it helps to seek out other people who've made the jump and try to get direct contact with someone who can make introductions for you.

“I speak frequently with people making the transition from academia for example, because I straddle those two worlds myself, and the best idea I can think of is that we should all be putting people in front of hiring managers as often as possible. I think people need to be reassured that if you can produce a graduate thesis or design a course, you can make an app.

“Some hiring managers are great at recognizing new-to-the-field candidates who have the skills already; but not everyone doing the hiring has the awareness of who can do the work and will thrive in the role. They should, but we're not there yet, and we can't ask people to just sit tight and put their careers on hold while the field figures out how to get people into it.

“When I did a survey of 100 product content folks, I asked everyone to tell me what their role title was at their last job, and more than half had something from ‘marketing’ or ‘communications. So, if you feel you need some data to prove that you're the norm, you can refer to that!

“Obviously, I can recommend taking a course if you want to really invest the time and money. It can speed things up for you, but it doesn't work for everyone.

“You might be able to get what you need from something like:

“The bad news is that you need to be in the job to learn the job for real, but the good news is that every job is different and requires a different combination of your skills. No matter how skilled you are, you'll still spend the first few months feeling clueless and out of your depth.

“The main piece of advice here is: please don't work for free for someone who can afford to pay. Do free work for an activist project or contribute to something in the open-source world. There are lots of industry reasons for not doing free work, but it's also the case that you are a worker and deserve to be paid.

“I also wish we were less precious about what the actual work is like. The role of product content is about stakeholder management, needs analysis, prioritization, and all the things that are called 'soft skills' because they can't be turned into a meaningless numeric metric. The actual work of making words isn't the hard part of the job.

“In fact, I really need to write the slightly provocative article I've been sitting on, which argues that most of the 'skills' in our jobs could be done by a reasonably motivated 12-year-old. The fact that the skills are very learnable isn't a bad thing, it should be a reason for us to build solidarity with each other and really help. There's enough for everyone!

“I don’t think you have to work in a ‘product’ company either. There are so many places that need UX writing. You might have to sell it a bit harder in, say, e-commerce, but anywhere that has UX design needs UX writing, and I think if we want our field to grow, we have to bring UX writing to where it's needed.”

Photo of Patrick Stafford
Patrick StaffordCo-CEO, UX Writers Collective

For someone considering a career change into UX writing from say, a more traditional role in marketing, journalism, etc., what should they know upfront/what advice would you personally give them?

“My first piece of advice is that you know a lot more than you think.

“The skills you have are transferable, so don’t downplay your experience. Your biggest strength will be that you understand language and how people respond to it, which is the core of content design.

“The more you’re able to articulate why you choose certain words, however, is key."

"You’re not a writer, you’re a designer. Think like one.”

Book coverArticulating Design Decisions
by Tom Greever LinkedIn icon Twitter icon Published 25 Aug 2020

This practical guide focuses on principles, tactics, and actionable methods for presenting your designs. Whether you design apps, websites, or products, you'll learn how to get support from people who have influence over the project with the goal of creating the best user experience.

Book coverThe Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition
by Don Norman LinkedIn icon Twitter icon Published 05 Nov 2013

The Design of Everyday Things shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time.

Decouple yourself from an attachment to particular words, and read this book.

— Patrick Stafford
Photo of Annabelle Cliffe
Annabelle CliffeSenior UX Writer, Skyscanner

For someone considering a career change into UX writing from say, a more traditional role in marketing, journalism, etc., what should they know upfront/what advice would you personally give them?

"It’s worth bearing in mind that UX writing is a collaborative exercise not a solo sport.

"Sharing work and getting feedback early is the key to creating copy that works for everyone - but most of all the user.”

So, selling yourself in and convincing that recruiter and/or potential employer that you’re worth a shot is going to be key for someone looking for their first writing role.

How should you be handling the fact that you might not already have all the strictly relevant and/or direct experience during an interview process though?

We turned to our pros for their thoughts on how someone can really make their experiences relevant when they’re in that all-important interview.

Photo of Patrick Stafford
Patrick StaffordCo-CEO, UX Writers Collective

For someone looking for that first UX writing role, how would you suggest they handle not having strictly-relevant/direct experience during an interview process? How can they make their experiences relevant and persuade the interviewer they’re worth a shot?

“Follow this formula:

  1. Acknowledge the lack of direct experience.
  2. Use a relevant example that’s close.
  3. State how that experience forms your mindset."

"Mindset and approach are key. I don’t care if you haven’t designed an ‘onboarding flow’ before, but I do care if you don’t have the right mentality."

— Patrick StaffordTwitter iconTweet this

“For example, if you’re asked:

‘Can you tell me about a time when you have written error messages in a product?’

“You could say:

‘As a blog writer, I didn’t have much experience in product. However, I did write error messages for the blog. My approach was the same: identify the important information, give the user some relief and an action, set expectations and do so in a consistent voice. I feel those skills would transfer well to writing for error messages in a product’.”

Photo of Jane Ruffino
Jane RuffinoCourse Director: UX Writing, Berghs School of Communication

For someone looking for that first UX writing role, how would you suggest they handle not having strictly-relevant/direct experience during an interview process? How can they make their experiences relevant and persuade the interviewer they’re worth a shot?

“I think this is where talking with other people who've made the jump can be helpful. Get someone to help you ‘UX write’ your elevator pitch. Prototype it. Crash test it. Iterate it. So many things lend themselves to UX because 'experience design' is something that's an element of many areas; communication, teaching, marketing, journalism… but you might need to help them see it themselves.

“I recently saw a LinkedIn post from someone who made the change from hairstylist to UX, and that's amazing. Doing hair is high-stakes design. No prototyping or testing allowed, and your user is right in front of you. You think designing for different screen sizes is hard? Try different head shapes, face shapes, and hair thicknesses and textures…

“Find the things that you've done that can be relatable to someone in the hiring process and make the connection for them. Show how you solved a problem and the thinking behind it - that's the important stuff of the job.

“Don't overplay it, because then you risk provoking someone into the boring debate about whether "everyone is a designer." Just help them see that you have what it takes. Show them that you speak the language of UX already.

“Look through the demands in the job description and find the commonalities. For example, with experience in journalism, you can talk about ‘information structure’, you can talk about ‘how headlines are constraints’, you can talk about ‘synthesizing information from research into a coherent whole’.

“You might even have some experience of using analytics to measure impact.

“Try to know who you're talking with, so you know how to prioritize what you tell them. Sometimes you're talking to a sympathetic and human hiring manager who wants to give everyone the best chance they can.

“Sometimes you're talking with a recruiter who is trying to make themselves important or looking for keywords and has no idea what to look for.

“Just like in the work, you will change what you say depending on your audience; do that here, too.

“I had a great piece of advice from product management expert Matt LeMay once. We were talking about how hard it is to seem exciting and credible, and I mentioned the stress of how I always pressure myself to do an original piece of work for everyone, even when it's not needed. He said:

"Remember, you don't have to blow your own mind, you only have to blow theirs." In other words, it really is ok to tell them what they want to hear. Blow your mind in your own time!"

— Matt LeMayTwitter iconTweet this
Photo of Annabelle Cliffe
Annabelle CliffeSenior UX Writer, Skyscanner

For someone looking for that first UX writing role, how would you suggest they handle not having strictly-relevant/direct experience during an interview process? How can they make their experiences relevant and persuade the interviewer they’re worth a shot?

“You’ll have more transferrable soft skills than you think. Things like storytelling, presenting and listening are all key skills for UX writing. And the ‘hard’ technical skills such as using Figma and running user tests can be learned by just getting stuck in.

“So, emphasise the skills you have already - but be honest about where the gaps in your skillset are, and just start teaching yourself.”

Photo of John Campbell
John CampbellLead UX Writer, Airbnb

For someone looking for that first UX writing role, how would you suggest they handle not having strictly-relevant/direct experience during an interview process? How can they make their experiences relevant and persuade the interviewer they’re worth a shot?

“I've worked with and helped hire English PhDs, art historians, marcom writers, PR people, agency folks, ex-teachers, and people from other varied backgrounds.

“Do good work, make a good case when the time comes, and you might surprise yourself.”

Starting out in UX writing: useful resources

Clinching that UX writer role

If you were applying for a new role as a UX writer today, would you know how to prepare?

Depending on the amount of knowledge you’ve built up over time and the depth experience under your belt, your confidence level at interview stage may vary.

So, what are the key things you should be thinking about to help you pass that interview? We asked some senior UX writers for their top tips, drawn from their own personal experiences.

Photo of Nicole Whitton
Nicole WhittonLead UX Writer, Tide

If you were applying for a new UX writing role today, how would you prepare?

“It pays dividends to do some research about the company - to come with questions, and most importantly, so that you can be yourself.

“In terms of questions, it can be useful to gauge, upfront, how the UX department is structured (who will you be reporting into?) and if it's governed. This will help you to understand the culture surrounding their UX copy.

“Make sure you've looked at some of the UX journeys on the company's website so that you can speak with confidence about their tone of voice and any areas of improvement you may identify (but do deliver the latter sensitively, as you won't know who's written it, and who's interviewing you!).

“Also, highlight any copy strengths you noticed. If you're not familiar with the industry, have a look at some of their competitors as well.”

Photo of Sophie Tahran
Sophie TahranUX Writing Lead, The New Yorker

If you were applying for a new UX writing role today, how would you prepare?

“If I were applying for a UX writing role today, I’d be preparing my portfolio.

“Case studies allow your future team to see what takes place beneath the surface: who you collaborate with, what your discovery and definition stages look like, and how you adopt a system-oriented approach.

“I also like to speak to the UX writing process as a whole to reinforce the fact that UX writers do their best work when they're involved early on in the design process. If we can align on that from the interview stage, it bodes well for my future on the team.”

Photo of Francesca Catanuso
Francesca CatanusoSenior UX Writer, Spotify

If you were applying for a new UX writing role today, how would you prepare?

“I’d tailor my portfolio, and make sure what I’m showing the company is aligned with what they’re looking for. If they’re focusing on multi-platform experiences, long form or microcopy, I’d ensure my portfolio at least touches on these.

“Remote interviewing gives interviewees the advantage of not having to memorize your whole spiel. Make a reference doc so you can outline your story. Have answers prepared for questions like ‘what’s your greatest weakness? or ‘what’s the invisible work?’

“Exhaustive lists of ‘tasks completed’ won’t engage your interviewers, so tell a story with protagonists (users!): a beginning, middle and end (or what’s next).

“Describe the challenges and how you or your team overcame them, whilst weaving qualitative and quantitative data throughout. This will show off your presentation skills, commercial awareness, and ability to sell.

"Lastly, if it's a large organisation, you can probably check their Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) report for named competitors. Auditing their product gives you a sense of what they're optimising for and what their pain points might be. You can draw on these findings in your interview.”

We simply can’t talk about people trying to get a new job in a particular field without looking at the specific skills needed for that role.

Reflecting on their own experiences of hiring and being hired, three senior UX writers share their opinions on what skills are essential, but also which ‘bonus’ skills a candidate should display in an interview to help them stand out.

Photo of Nicole Whitton
Nicole WhittonLead UX Writer, Tide

What skills do you think make a content designer/UX writer/content strategist stand out during an interview process?

“Any evidence that points to an awareness of accessibility, plain English, and design thinking (including data-led design) will position you well.

“After that, think about anything that might be specific to the role. For example, if you're applying to a multinational, experience of working with copy that needs to be translated and/or localised would be a real asset.”

Photo of Sophie Tahran
Sophie TahranUX Writing Lead, The New Yorker

What skills do you think make a content designer/ux writer/content strategist stand out during an interview process?

“We look for both sides of the coin. On one side, there's a strong command of the written word. On the other, there's an understanding of product strategy and design thinking.

“It's common for applicants to enter the UX writing field from one or the other (as a copywriter, for example), in which case we'll want to see your ability to partner closely with a product designer.

“This doesn't necessarily have to mean that you've worked on a product design team—it can surface in the form of free courses or a portfolio of case studies—but this is what differentiates a writer from a UX writer, so it is important to display.”

Photo of Jane Ruffino
Jane RuffinoCourse Director: UX Writing, Berghs School of Communication

What skills do you think make a content designer/ux writer/content strategist stand out during an interview process?

“It's about "the right words for the right people at the right time," not "the right words for all the people, no matter what they actually want", so, be clever about how you talk about things.

“Talk about the error message that you didn't have to write because you navigated the organization and found the root cause.

“Talk about how you stopped using a metric that wasn't helpful to users.

“Avoiding a harmful or bad decision also counts as impact, even if you can't measure it.”

Photo of Dan Adams
Dan AdamsUX Writer, Google

What skills do you think make a content designer/ux writer/content strategist stand out during an interview process?

“You should feel prepared to talk about a couple of stand-out projects and the impact you had on them.

“Talk about your process as much as the work itself. Don’t be afraid to talk about things that could have gone better, and what you learned from them. Know what skills you want to develop in the next few years of your career too.”

Photo of Francesca Catanuso
Francesca CatanusoSenior UX Writer, Spotify

What skills do you think make a content designer/ux writer/content strategist stand out during an interview process?

“When I interviewed candidates at Booking.com, customer focus and commercial awareness were what helped writers stand out.

“Unlike design or engineering, our craft tends to have a really diverse, non-career specific education and background. People who stood out could articulate how they used data to inform their writing, drive value to the customer and make money for the business.

“Another thing that helped people stand out was their communication skills and ability to think out loud.

“Interviewers aren’t necessarily looking for specific answers. They are looking at your thought process. So:

  • Ask clarifying questions
  • Mention who you’d reach out to
  • How you’d measure success
  • What your next steps would be.”
Photo of Yuval Keshtcher
Yuval KeshtcherFounder, UX Writing Hub

What skills do you think make a content designer/ux writer/content strategist stand out during an interview process?

“I think the top skill for someone in this role is the ability to communicate exceptionally well, both with the end-user and with teammates.

“And the most essential thing UX writers need to communicate is the link between business goals and user needs.

“But a close second is communicating with your teammates and stakeholders. The importance of articulating the value of your work—why the changes you propose will benefit the product and UX—can’t be understated. If you can demonstrate these skills in an interview, along with commitment, passion, and confidence, you’re golden.

“Communication is key for a UX writer.”

Clinching that UX writer role - resources

Accelerating your progression as a UX writer

For those professionals that have been working in UX writing for a while now, what should you be considering and demonstrating if you’re after a more senior role?

These UX writers from Spotify, Airbnb, and Google reveal what they think made the difference for them, and what they’ve generally observed in the industry…

Photo of Nicole Michaelis
Nicole MichaelisSenior UX Writer, Spotify

What should someone be thinking about and demonstrating if they want to move into a senior role?

“I think becoming a senior UXW is all about ownership and demonstrating that you are willing and able to tackle projects that touch upon several areas and involve many stakeholders.

“It’s about looking beyond the scope of your work and thinking about how you can improve the product overall.

“I expect Senior UXWs to actively expand their skills and knowledge beyond writing and UX. The better you understand the engineering or marketing side of things, the greater your potential impact.

"Great Senior UXWs are strategists, project managers, leaders, educators, and designers — all at the same time."

— Nicole MichaelisTwitter iconTweet this
Photo of John Campbell
John CampbellLead UX Writer, Airbnb

What should someone be thinking about and demonstrating if they want to move into a senior role?

“There are some obvious bits like demonstrating your mastery of the craft—simply writing well—and having a strong sense of what qualifies a good UX in general, but you have to live to tell the story, too.

“The (sometimes painful) truth is that a bit of ‘politicking’ and ‘cheerleading’ for your own work is often required for advancement at larger organizations. That's not unique to UX writing, but it doesn't come naturally to lots of writers I know, so it's a skill worth cultivating.

“Working on high-profile projects or with leadership on other key projects can also sometimes ‘fast-track’ a promotion.

“I've also found that an appreciation for your UX collaborators’ workflows that borders on direct involvement—especially designers and engineers—can be quite helpful in making a case for advancement; especially when it’s time to write peer reviews.

“Having a basic familiarity with their tools of the trade (Figma, Sketch, GitHub, Jira, et. al.) shows you already that recognize good writing, design, and engineering don't exist in silos. They're interdependent to a large degree.

“Be an interdisciplinary writer, in other words.”

Photo of Dan Adams
Dan AdamsUX Writer, Google

What should someone be thinking about and demonstrating if they want to move into a senior role?

Keep examples of your work, even if you don’t think the project is one of your favourites. I’ve had times in the past when I’ve regretted not having samples to show prospective employers because I assumed they wouldn’t be needed again.

“It’s a good idea to think about what sets you apart from other writers. Do you have a niche?

“For example, for me, I like working with fin-tech. I get satisfaction from creating apps and products that genuinely make life easier for a lot of people and using data to empower users to make more informed decisions.

“Also, think about the key skills that set you apart from other UXWs and get them visible on your CV. For me, it's writing for accessibility.

“To develop my skills, I stay up to date with what’s going on in that area, even if it’s just a bit of casual browsing on my LinkedIn field or reading UX blogs (and, if you find out something useful, don’t forget to share what you know with your team!).

“Of course, writing is actually a small part of what UX writers do. A lot of time is spent collaborating. Learning from other people is one of the things I enjoy most about my job.”

Photo of Yuval Keshtcher
Yuval KeshtcherFounder, UX Writing Hub

What should someone be thinking about and demonstrating if they want to move into a senior role?

“I’ve been freelance and independent for most of my career, so I can’t draw upon personal experience for this one. But what I’ve seen, both among my teammates at the UX Writing Hub and from students who are now in senior positions, reinforces my belief on the matter. Elon Musk summed it up perfectly: “You get paid in direct proportion to the difficulty of problems you solve.” Or, as I usually put it, responsibility equals money.

“The more responsibility and impact you have in an organization, the more value you add to it. Hence, the more you’ll earn and the higher you’ll rank.

“So position yourself in places where the organization depends on you. As they say, make yourself invaluable.

“For example, if you work for a SaaS project management tool, try to take responsibility for things with high impact like the pricing page (increases conversions) or an onboarding flow (increases retention). If you want a senior role, demonstrate your value to the company.

“That, along with the obvious of having good people skills. We’ve all had good bosses and bad bosses. Be like the good ones!”

As we’ve already seen, some of our experts mention the importance of using examples of past projects and its undeniable significance for interviews and securing that next promotion.

If you’ve already been working as a UXW for a while, you’ve probably either got a live portfolio you’re already pretty happy with, a portfolio you mean to update with new examples of work, or no fully formed portfolio at all! (Which category do you fall into?)

So… how can you take your portfolio up a notch and add more value, and how can you use it to help you stand out against competing candidates?

Photo of Annabelle Cliffe
Annabelle CliffeSenior UX Writer, Skyscanner

And for people who have already been working in UXW, what advice would you give to someone who is piecing together their portfolio? What areas should they focus on to stand out?

“Show depth as well as breadth.

“It’s really good to have worked on different types of products, but you also need to show deep thinking skills and how you can master a complex problem space with lots of unknowns.”

Photo of Jane Ruffino
Jane RuffinoCourse Director: UX Writing, Berghs School of Communication

And for people who have already been working in UXW, what advice would you give to someone who is piecing together their portfolio? What areas should they focus on to stand out?

“I’m very mindful that I don't work in a conventional setting, but I do have many complex feelings about portfolios and how they can serve to undermine what we really do in UX writing. And a portfolio piece only looks as good as the visual design we've been part of, which means that our role in a project doesn't always stand out the way it should.

“In my view, it can end up giving an unfair advantage to people who've had access to big-budget projects with fancy design teams. Your impact can only be as strong as your influence, and it's not on you if you've failed to change the entire company with your words.

“However, the good news is, a smart and kind hiring manager will be looking for evidence of how you think and how you frame things.

“So, it's ok to show sketches in Miro (or by hand!), it's ok to have it be mostly well-structured text. You can link to copy docs or show samples of them. You can show templates you've made or talk about pieces of the process that come directly from you. Talk about why you made the decisions you made, and you'll impress them.

“Hopefully, these hiring managers are just using your portfolio to find a couple of examples of your work and validate the positive things they already think about you because you're awesome - not to find reasons to reject you.”

Photo of Patrick Stafford
Patrick StaffordCo-CEO, UX Writers Collective

And for people who have already been working in UXW, what advice would you give to someone who is piecing together their portfolio? What areas should they focus on to stand out?

“Impact. Impact. Impact. Numbers. Your ability to quantify how you have been able to affect change will sit you above the majority of other candidates.

Show impact, and you’re already winning.”

Photo of Yuval Keshtcher
Yuval KeshtcherFounder, UX Writing Hub

And for people who have already been working in UXW, what advice would you give to someone who is piecing together their portfolio? What areas should they focus on to stand out?

“First, be yourself and be clear. Lead with your UX-focused experience and always give the context (were you by yourself, part of a team, etc.). Show the problem you were trying to solve, mistakes you made along the way, tools you used, notes on iterations, the final result, and (if you can) the impact that your work had on the organization, including metrics.

“And for anyone interested in learning more about the field, we do offer a free UX writing course— check it out.”

Becoming more actively engaged in the large content communities (and UX micro-communities) that exist online can help you get noticed. That’s no bad thing for your career prospects.

It might involve casual chatting with peers from other companies or regularly writing and publishing your own UX-related thoughts. Or maybe it’s about speaking at a local UX group event or being a regular professional ‘voice’ on social?

For some, waxing lyrical about your field on platforms like Twitter might seem a little intimidating. Others might not think they have the time or even where to look for their people.

Turning to senior UX writers from Tide, Spotify and The New Yorker: what suggestions do they have for those who want to become more visible and active in the content community?

Photo of Nicole Whitton
Nicole WhittonLead UX Writer, Tide

People struggle to market themselves. What suggestions do you have for people who want to become more visible in the community?

“UX copy is still very underrepresented, so there's an exciting opportunity here to become a UX copy champion and thought leader.

“There's plenty of scope too. You can get involved in conversations on LinkedIn, offer to be interviewed for podcasts or talks, write Medium blogs, or even go the creative route with a dedicated TikTok account about UX copywriting!”

Photo of Sophie Tahran
Sophie TahranUX Writing Lead, The New Yorker

People struggle to market themselves. What suggestions do you have for people who want to become more visible in the community?

“It depends on your goal. If you're interested in becoming a vocal participant in the UX writing community, there's the speaking and writing route: applying to lightning talks and writing posts, then building your way up from there.

“If you're looking for a new (or first) role, I wouldn't say that you necessarily need to be a public voice.

“Some of my most beneficial early relationships stemmed from one-on-one coffee chats with UX writers who I respected. Meeting with them regularly helped ensure that my name would remain top of mind once a role opened up.”

Photo of Francesca Catanuso
Francesca CatanusoSenior UX Writer, Spotify

People struggle to market themselves. What suggestions do you have for people who want to become more visible in the community?

Grassroots groups like those on Facebook, Clubhouse and LinkedIn are a great way to see what's out there on a local and global level.

‘Following’ UXW people on LinkedIn is a great way to get updates from the field without the awkwardness of having to ‘connect’.

“Attending and speaking at conferences is another great way to gain visibility in the UXW community.”

Progression as a UX writer - resources

General advice for UX writers

Thus far, we’ve had seen some amazingly insightful advice and helpful suggestions from our experts about subjects such as:

Now we’re digging deeper; we want to know what industry peers reflect on when they look back at their own career paths, and what they’d perhaps do differently if they got the opportunity to do it all over again.

So firstly, what expectations did our experts have about the UX writing career path that they’ve found to be different; whether it’s for better or worse?

Photo of Nicole Michaelis
Nicole MichaelisSenior UX Writer, Spotify

Are there any expectations you had about this career path that you have found different to reality, in both a good or negative way?

“I think I expected things to be a lot clearer. The reality of working in content, and especially UX, is that a lot of things are still changing – and rapidly.

“There is also little best practice, and many companies haven’t figured out smooth processes yet.

“A lot of my work as a UX Writer is about establishing processes and educating others about what I can (and should!) do. I personally love this part of my job, but I also know people that dislike it and have looked to transition out of UX for this exact reason.

"UX Writing really is about what you make it. Some people enjoy the freedom, others freak out because of all the uncertainty."

— Nicole MichaelisTwitter iconTweet this
Photo of Sophie Tahran
Sophie TahranUX Writing Lead, The New Yorker

Are there any expectations you had about this career path that you have found different to reality, in both a good or negative way?

“When I was in college, I would’ve loved to hear that there are more ways to be a writer than to just be a novelist, journalist, or copywriter.

“Once I started dabbling in UX writing, I really could have done with hearing that my perspective was valid in design critiques—and not just when it came to the words on the screen.”

Photo of John Campbell
John CampbellLead UX Writer, Airbnb

Are there any expectations you had about this career path that you have found different to reality, in both a good or negative way?

“As a UX discipline, UX writing in 2021 is where product/experience design was in 2011. Or perhaps the gap is even wider than that.

"We've reached a zeitgeist where lots of companies have realized that having dedicated UX writers is useful, but most don't understand what UX writers do exactly or how to support them."

— John CampbellTwitter iconTweet this

“I'd try to set the expectation for folks new to the field that their work probably won't be as visible or as understood as what their design partners do, and that's not their fault.

“I think this can be distressing for some folks, but it's not their fault—it's just growing pains. We're all feeling it to some degree.

“I would also say that not all companies value design in the same way, and that has implications for how much work someone will get to ship and how much autonomy they'll have; especially when their leaders have strong opinions/differing sensibilities than their own. I'm not sure I didn't expect this, though—it's more that I didn't consider it until later in my career.”

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Dan AdamsUX Writer, Google

Are there any expectations you had about this career path that you have found different to reality, in both a good or negative way?

“I started working in traditional copywriter/content writer roles. These assignments usually came with a specific brief: ‘Write an About page for our new website’, ‘create concepts for a mailer we want to send to account holders’, etc.

“When you start working in UX, you realise that your scope is much larger. Your brief could be something as broad as ‘improve conversions by 20% in the next calendar year’. How you go about tackling that task is up you and your team.

“It could be something small like rewriting a line of legal text to make it easier for people to understand. Or it may be completely redesigning an onboarding flow because you can identify drop-off points.

“That freedom of choice is great, but it can also be quite overwhelming.”

Lastly, we asked, ‘if you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice early in your career, what would that be? Read on to find out what our senior UX writing pros had to say.

Photo of Nicole Michaelis
Nicole MichaelisSenior UX Writer, Spotify

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice early in your career, what would that be?

Set boundaries and set them early. At the beginning of our careers, we tend to get really excited and may overextend ourselves. Many companies will take advantage of this, and you may end up hating your job because it becomes overwhelming.

“It’s important to remember that you have the power to change this. Speak up. Organize yourself. Try new processes. Say no.

“Careers are long, and yes, you can work too hard. The earlier you get a grip on your work/life balance - without feeling guilty - the better.”

Photo of John Campbell
John CampbellLead UX Writer, Airbnb

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice early in your career, what would that be?

“I started out working on Help Center content, webinars, email series, customer portals, and other utilities for scaling account management teams at SaaS companies.

“It certainly wasn't my favorite kind of writing, but I found things interesting enough about it, so when the opportunity arose for me to work more directly on the design/UX of core product experiences (rather than bottom-of-the-funnel issues), I was able to make a strong case for how what I'd learned could be helpful.

“Things worked out for me in the end, but I spent a long time fretting about making that transition—or what transition to make exactly.

“So now, I'd go back and tell myself that the worry was for naught, and that when it comes to UX writing, most teams/organisations are happy to have some cross-pollination from other related disciplines.”

Photo of Patrick Stafford
Patrick StaffordCo-CEO, UX Writers Collective

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice early in your career, what would that be?

“It would be to spend less time taking critique personally. It’s something that’s taken me years to learn, and I have to be careful - even now - to not take feedback personally.

“If critique is objective (not personal) and from someone you respect, treasure it!

“Feedback is a surgeon’s scalpel - it hurts but ultimately it makes you better.”

Photo of Nicole Whitton
Nicole WhittonLead UX Writer, Tide

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice early in your career, what would that be?

“UX copywriting is still quite new, and I've often been one of a few (or sometimes the only) UX copywriter within a team or even company.

“I've learned to reach out to other non-UX copywriters and build my copy support network. It’s invaluable to have colleagues who have some understanding of the work you do.”

Photo of Dan Adams
Dan AdamsUX Writer, Google

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice early in your career, what would that be?

Be picky about what projects you work on.

“In my early career, I took whatever work came my way; particularly when I was freelancing. But once you get a bit of experience, and start building up a portfolio, you can start working on projects that really interest you - and for companies that share the same values as you.

“The same pickiness should apply to the ‘culture’ too. If people aren’t nice to you or don’t value your work, leave. You won’t regret it.

“Also, it’s easy to feel ‘imposter syndrome’ as a writer. Copy is a subjective thing; everyone will have an opinion on what you write. I’ve had lawyers rewrite my strings because they prefer their choice of phrase. Unless there’s legal justification for doing that, you can push back. After all, you’re the guardian of your brand.

“Remember that the most experienced writers are using their best judgement (aka: winging it) a lot of the time. You are not alone.

General resources for UX writers

Book coverArticulating Design Decisions
by Tom Greever LinkedIn icon Twitter icon Published 25 Aug 2020

This practical guide focuses on principles, tactics, and actionable methods for presenting your designs. Whether you design apps, websites, or products, you'll learn how to get support from people who have influence over the project with the goal of creating the best user experience.

Book coverThe Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition
by Don Norman LinkedIn icon Twitter icon Published 05 Nov 2013

The Design of Everyday Things shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time.

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