I became a UX writer with zero product experience

And you can too!

Sarah Kessler
6 min readApr 2, 2021
woman’s hands typing on a laptop
Me, pretty much all day long now

Part 1

How I got started

My career path included roles as a retail manager, customer service specialist, office administrator, human resources professional, executive assistant, and e-commerce operations manager. Many of those were roles I held simultaneously.

It was exhausting.

Being a “jack of all trades” can be useful, but I ended up often feeling underpaid and overworked. I looked at all of my friends who had tech jobs and how much freedom (financial, time, emotional…) they all had, and I was jealous. I spent a few months trying to teach myself to code with some success, but ultimately I could see that this was not something I was going to want to do all day long every day with deadlines.

So what, I wondered, could a person with my non-technical background do in the tech industry?

Part 2

In which I discover user experience writing

I met up for lunch with a friend of mine who was working as a UX writer for a large national bank. I had never heard of UX writing or microcopy before so I asked a ton of questions. What is UX writing? What do you actually do all day? What is microcopy? They really pay you HOW MUCH to write error messages?

Animated gif of a surprised looking owl
Actual footage of my face when I heard her annual salary

I was hooked.

When I got home I went into research mode to learn everything I could about UX writing as a profession. It turns out UX writing is a major growth industry right now with a ton of opportunity for people to break into it.

Part 3

Practice makes… better

With zero experience at product writing, I knew this was going to be an uphill battle. Most job listings asked for degrees in English, Journalism, or Psychology, which I did not have. Even entry level jobs were asking for 2 years of experience!

To be able to put “Freelance user experience writer” on my resume, I signed up for Fiverr. I don’t recommend it as a way to make a living, and I don’t recommend it for hiring managers either. But, it did allow me to practice on some low-stakes, shorter projects while making a few bucks on the side.

I also took a few courses through udemy.com (Check out Joe Natoli’s UX design courses, I found them very helpful).

I freelanced for about a year while I kept my day job and looked for more permanent work. Getting no interest at all from potential employers in that time was pretty humbling.

Clip from Arrested Development, sad guy walking with head bowed
Getting rejected from like a million jobs

But it made me think that if I was really going to do this, I was going to need to make a bigger investment in myself.

Part 4

The bootcamp conundrum

It turns out there really aren’t very many courses you can take to learn UX writing. After many hours searching online I found two. I wasn’t sure an online course was going to be enough for me and I really wanted to do some in-person learning (this was back in January 2020 when such things were still happening). Eventually I figured I’d learn UX design, and then leverage my natural writing ability with my new design skills to get hired.

My plan was to quit my regular job and do the General Assembly UX Design Bootcamp. At the time it would have cost about $15,000.00. A hefty price tag for sure, but if I was going to get a 6 figure income out of it, it would be worth it. I saved up for months so I could afford to be unemployed for a little while.

And then COVID happened.

Rather than quit my job while so many folks were losing theirs, I had to pivot. Instead of UX design bootcamp, I would focus directly on UX writing and do an online course. The UX Writing Hub’s UX Writing Academy was perfect. I could do it in my spare time while I still kept my job, the tuition was less than 20% of the General Assembly bootcamp, and it still came with 1:1 mentor sessions and individual attention from the company’s founder, Yuval Keshtscher.

Part 5

In which I become a UX writing student

I already had a little bit of UX knowledge and plenty of English writing skills under my belt by this point. What I really needed help understanding and practicing was research, testing, and working with tools and teams. The UX Writing Academy course materials did a great job covering all of that and more.

I built an imaginary e-commerce experience from landing page to checkout over the course of 3 months. I found the workload to be just right for the amount of time I wanted to put in (a few hours a week).

Pusheen happily typing away on a laptop with his little paws
Me having fun doing classwork

We had regular check-ins as a group and I’m still connected to most of my fellow students.

Our final project was to work as a team on a real website. My team got assigned to localize.city and the case study I wrote for that project helped me land two jobs very shortly afterwards (more on that later).

The whole academy took about 4 months.

Part 6

Portfolios and positioning are everything

I can not stress enough how important it is to have a good portfolio. It doesn’t need to look nice, although it certainly doesn’t hurt! You can even build one with Google Docs, but you need to have writing samples ready to show potential employers.

Even with my portfolio site ready to go — Yuval went through all of my portfolio pieces and offered extremely valuable critiques—I still had the issue of not having a lot of UX writing experience on my resume.

Frantic guy trying to get through a gate shouting “Let me in!”
Sending in my job applications

When I worked as an e-commerce operations manager I learned a bit about marketing and the importance of positioning. Selling myself was all a matter of showing employers how my work experience was in fact relevant even if it didn’t seem like it based on my job titles.

Empathy for users and customers? I worked in customer service and retail.

Writing and editing skills? I was a Classics major in college, and I worked briefly as a children’s book editor.

Working well with designers and developers? I worked in HR and had lots of practice getting along with different personality types.

Part 7

In which the offers come rolling in

A few weeks after graduating from the UX Writing Academy it all started to come together.

I got a job offer within 2 months for a short-term contract position that ended up turning into a much longer term contract position.

I also received several offers from referrals that Yuval made.

And I got a gig volunteering as a UX writer for helpinghands.community which I found out about from a fellow UX Writing Academy student.

After 6 months working my butt off post-graduation, I secured a permanent role with a 20% increase in annual salary over my old job.

Donald Duck counting a big wad of cash
Getting PAID

Part 8


I went from not having any idea what UX writing was to being a professional UX writer with a full-time staff position (great salary, work from wherever, benefits, the works!) within 2 years. And the UX Writing Academy helped me cross the finish line.


Comprehensive certification course— The UX Writing Academy

Less comprehensive, no individual instruction, but still useful—The UX Writer’s Collective

Not writing focused, but great for self-paced intro to UX—Udemy

What even is UX writing?

UX writing is a 6 figure job



Sarah Kessler

User experience writer—Improving the world one word at a time