Technical Writing Portfolio Ideas

You’re new and shiny and have no credentials. You’d like to become a technical communicator. What to do?

Hiring managers and teammates want to know:

  1. Are you allergic to technology?
  2. Can you use clear, precise and simple vocabulary? When you have to use complex terms, are you able to give context?
  3. How well can you organize and present information?
  4. Most people don’t know what metrics or KPIs define good writing. Can you assert and define standards?
  5. How much of a science can you bring to an art, or visa versa?

Your portfolio should answer these questions.

Produce enough portfolio samples to cover all 5 bases. This way, you will be armed with enough self knowledge for any interview. You can lead the narrative and emphasize the advantages you bring to the company. When you’re starting out, you probably won’t know exactly what are your strengths and weaknesses are. Your goal is to amend that lack of confidence.

Also, don’t plagiarize. If you’re going to be borrowing material for practice, please give proper credit.

General Ideas #

Look for technical documentation in the wild. If an instruction manual catches your eye, snap a picture for reference and dissect what works or doesn’t.

  1. Become aware of a type of documentation.
  2. Find an example.
  3. Analyze the structure.
  4. Make your own original piece.
  5. Get feedback, revise, rinse and repeat.

Most importantly, show people your work. If you write an instructional guide, ask them to follow the steps, without you explaining or prompting at them. Observe, then make improvements.


  • Recreate a TV/cable brochure
  • Kitchen appliance guide
  • Book club newsletter

Revise and Edit #

Pick an existing work, like an essay, and revise it for clarity.

I DO NOT recommend editing the work of random internet articles. Unless you’re familiar with the industry, or you are affiliated with the author, you’ll probably screw things up. You can do it for fun, but one-sided changes are not worth making into a portfolio piece. It’s better to revise your own work.

How-to Guide #

Create a DIY guide, like an instructable. Use Microsoft Word or any software of choice.


Checklist #

A simple checklist is good. If you noticed little inefficiencies in your day-to-day, now is a good time to toot your horn about how you hold up the fort. Are you a cosmetology graduate who works at a salon? Did you make a checklist—where none existed before—which streamlined or raised the quality of work? Were you able to get others to adopt a checklist?

Gaming Guides #

Write and design (or redesign) a manual for board games, video games, niche sports, trading cards, etc. Anything that requires an explanation of rules.

For physical prints, understanding the limitations of print, color, and paper types is a bonus.

Product Reviews & Analysis #

Write a report comparing features in similar but different products. I.e. InDesign versus Madcap Flare. What are their strengths and weaknesses? If you can’t afford these products, then pick free or open-source alternatives. Also, charts. Lots of charts. People love charts.


Accessibility Audit #

Take a look at a manual or a website and gauge its accessibility. Take on the perspective of a colorblind, deaf, or legally blind user and identify metrics which pass or fail.


Journalism #

Whether it’s a script for film or radio, a blog post, etc. your ability to interview experts will cast you as a flexible and engaging candidate. If you’ve directed your own video and podcasts, have proficiency working with digital mediums, or work with subtitles and closed captioning, that’s a bonus.


  • Script for films and podcasts
  • Magazine and journal articles

Proposals & Bidding #

If you plan to work as a freelancer, or had any hand in the bidding process, these documents are especially helpful.


  • LOI
  • RFP
  • Grants proposals
  • Feasibility reports.

Translation & Interpretation #

While your English skills are going to be tested the most due to the nature of English dominating the business world in this era, multi-lingualism is received positively.

Wordless Instructions #

Visual Development & Graphic Design

Create an IKEA-style, wordless instruction set for an international audience. If you have drawing and composing skills, this is a great way to show rather than tell. You’ll need a vector drawing program (like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape) and a 3D models to create diagrams from (CAD programs like Solidworks, Autodesk, or modeling programs like Blender and Zbrush).


Marketing Collateral #

Create a procedure, pamphlet, or other promotional material for a technical or highly specialized product and service. Examples include medical access pamphlets, car mechanic upgrades, whitepapers.


Infographics #

Informative graphics are like a hybrid between telling and showing. Although they aren’t typically technical, they can be. It depends on the subject. Charts, figures, and flow diagrams also count.


Host a Website or Blog #

Creating a GitHub Pages site is great for the software industry, and there’s many more static host providers: Netlify, Vercel, Heroku or Surge which all have generous free tiers, more than enough for personal blogs. Conversely, setting up a Wordpress instance and consistenly posting on a blog shows a drive for writing (I’m biased, but also I don’t mention this blog to prospecive employers since I’d rather keep my stuff anonymous).


Teaching & Instructional Design #

Coaching is a valuable skill. It’s easier to teach a teacher the skill they’re supposed to teach than to teach someone to be a teacher (hah). Typically educators use an LMS to organize their material. ESL has a lot of overlap with technical communication.


Market Analysis #

This is venturing into business analyst territory, but if you’ve been following a market or industry for a long time, why not write up your opinions on the future of an industry? If your hobby is consuming literature and fiction, write up about fiction markets, trends and concerns. What’s gotten easier for authors, what’s gotten harder, etc. It’s better if you’ve actually worked in publishing and have those credentials, but if you’re a youngin’ without credentials, better start now.


Fancy One-Pager #

I read a blog post about someone who created a PDF slideshow-type of portfolio. They were a manager, so they didn’t have the usual IC work to show. However, they could still summarize their accomplishments through colorful splashes, charts, and glimpses into their thought process. Many of their interviewers appreciated the visual aid.

Timelines, schedules, and zinger email lines: any artifacts from your day-to-day business are a great way to bring levity and honesty to the table. Also makes excellent cover letter material. Even if you’re not a technical writer, you can glamorize your own accomplishments for fun.


Tools needed #

Check the list of Technical Writing Software. Most stuff only needs a basic word processor, but it’ll give you an idea of hybrid roles.

Don’t learn everything. Pick a tool which accomplishes the task at hand.

I’ll leave it to you to find educational discounts or whatever you need. The tools really aren’t as important as the attempt, as you can accomplish necessary tasks with free programs.

Additional Resources #

More practical stuff I put onto my Tech Comm List.