Tell me about becoming/being a UX editor or copywriter
July 19, 2016 3:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm an experienced editor (of all sorts) and writer (primarily journalism but also have had short gigs writing copy for social media and for a mobil app interface). Long ago I analysed a client's website to see if it was user-friendly or hostile. I'm really good at understanding customer perspectives and advocating for users. Also, I'm an old. How might I go about getting such a job? And would such a job, in the Bay Area, be lucrative?

A bit more background on work history. I've been many different types of editor and writer, including managing and executive. I love working with a bunch of different people in different departments. (At one publication I managed to broker a peace agreement after getting hired at a place with long-established hostilities between the design and editorial.) I can do my current contract gig in my sleep. It's fine for now but boring. I'd like to learn something new that, ideally, suits my user-advocate orientation. Might UX work be a good fit? How might I make such a transition? All advice welcome, even gloomy advice because I don't want to waste my time if this is a no-go. Thanks!
posted by Bella Donna to Work & Money (7 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: That would be "between the design and editorial departments". Yikes!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:33 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might want to look into Content Strategy. It is a hot role in the UX world and there are lots of these jobs on the west coast. Perhaps start by looking for some local Meetups or professional org networking events where you can learn more from people already doing this kind of work.

Here's a thorough resource from somebody I know in the field:
posted by joan_holloway at 3:37 PM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Speaking as someone who writes B2B and B2C web copy for a living, including blog articles, ebooks, white papers, infographics and more more (I also work as a reporter for an online news site, and am the social media marketing lead there), the challenge is finding orgs that are sophisticated enough to know they ought to care about UX and copywriting.

At the same time, things are really good right now in that, more than ever before, people are willing to pay for copy. The challenge is finding those clients. There are a number of sites like Contently (and others) that act as brokers, adding a layer between the writer and the end client. While Contently offers very good rates, many of the other agencies do not. So it is best to make direct connections with the end clients.

In terms of copywriting, the most powerful thing you can do is demonstrate you understand the stages of the marketing funnel, and you understand how to construct, and then write for different customer personas — and understand the unique needs of each persona at different stages of the funnel.

That's where true content strategy comes into play.
posted by My Dad at 3:57 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: From over here in the pessimists' department, I believe the only three ways to get a UX or content strategy job that lasts are:

a) Get hired into the 1-3 in-house positions available at a multimillion-dollar company with a strong online presence but NOT ad-funded. So, like, Land's End or Amazon, in which case you have to be better than your coworkers at every review or you may lose your job.
b) UX consulting at a top-tier ad/marketing/development agency for which UX is a service offered but not the primary revenue stream.
c) be an experienced developer who does UX when needed

Otherwise you will always be at the mercy of the economy, because the C-level/board/clients will cut you loose first when it comes time to tighten the belt, and you will always be at the mercy of every new C-level hire who wants to burn the website to the ground and bring in their own buddies. Most companies do not value User Experience or Content Strategy, figuring it's something they can figure out themselves or hire an intern for.

Of the maybe 3 people I still know working in any aspect of user experience, one of them has a PhD in it and one is really a full time consulting manager who jumps in to do the UX stage of projects. The third has been struggling to keep their firm afloat for several years.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:32 PM on July 19, 2016

Best answer: You could also do UX if you work for an agency... if the agency has clients that care about UX. A pathway to UX design might be to learn about web development (your local community college probably has a diploma program, and there are private schools as well) and start out building sites.

With UX, however, you're talking about a mid-career position (i.e., someone with more than 5 years of experience in the field). There are technical things you have to learn (about how sites work), and cultural things (how to "present" as a UX designer, and also how understand how business works), too.

So getting hired by an agency — that actually cares about UX — is a good place to start.

"Copywriting" can be an entry-level position (very few decision makers really understand the purpose of content, so copywriting is deprecated), a mid-level position, or a senior position.

But to get paid those higher rates you have to be good, and you have to be fast. The problem with copywriting is that it's not scalable. At all. You can start writing quality copy faster and faster, but only up to a certain point.

And so, in order to receive the rates that allow you to live comfortably and save money — while still making the decision-maker comfortable about paying you that rate — you have to specialize, and, once again, truly understand the business.

So, starting out at an agency is a good way to get your foot in the door.
posted by My Dad at 4:54 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

A sibling's partner is a content strategist (in-house), and he makes a point of saying that he doesn't consider himself a writer--writing is about 15% of his job. The sibling is in UX and also, I believe, writes very little. Just something to keep in mind if the writing is what you really love.
posted by praemunire at 9:00 PM on July 19, 2016

Response by poster: Belated thanks for all the great answers. Thanks so much!
posted by Bella Donna at 8:58 AM on August 12, 2016

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