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Why It Pays to Write Tutorials

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When it pays to write tutorials

I’ve been obsessed with vector art for over 10 years now. When I say obsessed, I mean that I have sat with nothing on my mind, scanning the room for objects which would be interesting to render in vector. I’ve had dreams where I’m a tool in Adobe Illustrator. I’ve often stared at people in public thinking, “Damn, they’d make an awesome subject for a vector portrait.” There’s nothing I find more relaxing than to vector a complex illustration.

If we rewind back to four years ago, I wasn’t in the line of work I am now. I was in a government job, doing monotonous tasks I had no passion for. I would have loved to make a career out of my passion—I just lacked confidence. I was confident enough to post my illustrations online in the usual art communities out there and had even built up a following of thousands, but when it came to the idea of people paying for my work, I didn’t think I was good enough. I had an interest in writing tutorials and, within the communities I was a part of, I used to share the odd trick or tip for others. I got a kick out of helping people learn.

When I first started looking at becoming a freelancer, I looked at the paths of others in my field. I asked questions about how they got started, and many came back saying they entered the freelance world by writing tutorials. It seemed natural for me to take a similar path.

Why Start By Writing Tutorials?

First and foremost, you’re getting your name out there to people who are interested in your field. Your name will become known in those circles. It’ll pop up in search engines, attached to more than just a pretty picture on an art community site. Writing a tutorial is asserting yourself as an expert in your field. Scary word that, expert. But it’s true. If you’re good enough to be teaching your skills, you’re an expert. You’d be surprised by how much you know and how much people want to know what you know.

A lot of sites ask you to pitch ideas for topics you feel confident teaching. You get to choose what sort of things you want to teach and more importantly, the things you most enjoy. All of this work is then part of your professional portfolio.

It’s Not All About the Money

Writing tutorials is a fantastic way to break into the industry. Assuming you have the skills and knowledge to back it up, what you can teach is valuable. People are always eager to learn and if you’ve got something to teach, there’s an audience for it. Pay the bills with those skills! There are several sites out there who offer to pay for tutorials and I probably enquired about writing for all of them, years ago. The rates of pay and requirements are different site to site, and the budget is usually reflected in the audience they have. Quality standards vary from site to site and so does the amount of exposure you’ll get.

However—be realistic. Unless you’re a big name in the industry, you’re not going to command huge fees. Play the field and find out which sites work for you. If the end goal is to use it as a stepping stone, find the sites which offer you lots of exposure. If you’re wanting to get into professional teaching as your career, find the sites who can offer you constant assignments.

Why Did I Focus on Writing For Tuts+?

When I first started writing for Tuts+, I was able to take on enough tutorials each month that I could quit my desk job and start freelancing full time. I got along with my editor (hello to Sean Hodge, who is now the Tuts+ Business Editor!) and I admired the community of instructors on the site. Tuts+ has a reputation as a quality educator, especially in my industry (vector art), which is right up there with its competitors. This reflected well on me and made my portfolio of tutorials all the more valuable.

Writing for Tuts+ is great and even though I’m now working remotely full time as the Tuts+ Vector and Drawing Editor, I still take on additional freelance work, including creating vector courses for Tuts+ Premium.

Tips on Writing Tutorials For Websites

The following advice is based on my personal experience as a freelancer writing tutorials, and now as an Editor for Tuts+.

  • Prepare an example of your writing skills. A tutorial you’ve made on your own website or for another blog is a good indicator of your skills.
  • Pay attention to the website’s formatting and style. Research the type and style of tutorials they want. The more your work conforms to their formatting and style, the less work the editor has to do. Editors don’t just proofread and format tutorials, this is only a small part of their job. The less they have to spend on sorting out your work, the more attractive as a long term writer you’ll be!
  • Keep deadlines. Keep the quality up. Keep original. If you tick those boxes, you’ll end up being a “go to” person. If an editor is in a fix because they need content as soon as possible on a given topic, they’ll always go to the people who tick those boxes.
  • Keep an eye on what you’ve had published. High traffic sites will get comments and even the best written tutorials will get questions from readers. Be sure you’re on hand to answer them as soon as you can and to interact with their audience.
  • Promote your work. A lot of sites gain money from traffic, therefore if you’re helping by driving traffic to their site, your value goes up.
  • If you get turned down on your first tutorial pitch, don’t let it discourage you. Go back to the drawing board and come up with new ideas or improve the idea you have. Do your research, and offer ideas for tutorials that are different to what they already have.
  • Just because a site isn’t actively looking for writers, doesn’t mean they don’t want them. If you truly believe you have something to offer them, then pitch it. The worst they can do is say no or not reply. You’ve not lost anything but you may gain something!
  • Finally, have fun. Only get into doing tutorials if you’re passionate about the topic and you enjoy helping others. This passion comes across in your writing style and will make the process all the more enjoyable.

Writing tutorials helped kick-start my career in vector. Not only am I now an Editor here on Tuts+, I’ve also gained many high profile clients, worked on graphics for a movie featuring an Oscar-winning actress, and written a book for Adobe Press

Passing on your knowledge is a great way to boost your income, and you may even be able to make it your career. If you work in a particular niche and people want to learn how to do what you do, why not try pitching an idea to Tuts+? You never know where it might take you.

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