How entry-level UX Writers can sharpen their skills amidst layoffs

You probably did some combination of the steps listed below after learning about UX Writing/Content Design over the last few months or years:

  • read recommended books
  • listened to popular UX podcasts
  • learned Figma
  • practiced with the 15-day UX Writing Challenge
  • completed paid UX Writing courses
  • learned the best UX research methods
  • and built a portfolio with case studies

This is what I did, and upon graduating my course, I even landed a short-term contract.

Things looked great. This was exactly how other people described breaking into UX, and I was doing it. Finally, a somewhat linear pathway into this career.

I considered myself a “Junior” UX Writer.

But then layoffs happened, roles dried up, and I’ve felt kind of lost during this bleak period. Sure, I’m applying to jobs, even the mid-senior level ones, but I don’t have 5+ years experience (or even 3).

I knew I needed something else to do in the mean time. Another way to gain experience.

I had been introduced to Product Hunt during my short-term contract with Sessions, where they strived to make their Version 2.0 launch “blow up” on the website (and they did, quite successfully–which is easier when your product is great).

Product Hunt shows different newly released tech products (or version releases) every day, usually with a foreword and description of the product from the owner/creator.

Product Hunt home screen

I started checking out products that interested me, and one thing I noticed immediately was that a lot of these products need their content audited.

I found problems I could solve that would have a direct impact on the product.

I now had a way to take action.

If you’re a “Junior” UX Writer also feeling stuck while endlessly applying for whatever scarce roles you come across, consider these five reasons you should use Product Hunt to keep your UX skills locked and loaded.

(all products featured in this post have been anonymized as much as possible for privacy; also, I don’t work for Product Hunt in any capacity.)

There is a wide range of startups that have released their products on Product Hunt, from well recognized names like and Asana in the past, to products created by only one or two people.

Smaller brands with a limited product team likely don’t have the budget for a UX Writer (or even a UX anybody), so are typically rife with inconsistencies related to the user-experience.

Below are three examples I found almost immediately after downloading some apps that I came across. You’ll likely recognize something is off, or could be improved, even if you haven’t seen the full product.

Three examples of poor microcopy, onboarding, and a dashboard.
Each screen belongs to a different product

How could these be improved? Instead of telling you, I’ll let you decide as a way to practice.

All of these examples were found in less than 10 minutes of using the product, and come from various fields, so you can practice empathizing with different types of users on real products.

You’ll likely find that, not only are there microcopy changes that could be made, but full re-designs of user flows may be necessary to be clear, concise, and helpful for the user. Prepare to practice your overall UX Design skills as well.

If you’re like me, you’re probably not too confident tackling a project like a cryptocurrency dashboard without being fully immersed in that industry.

Although there are a lot of jobs in fintech (financial technology) fields, most of the releases on Product Hunt are from startups. That doesn’t mean they lack the aforementioned attributes, but simpler interfaces are more common (like the blog dashboard in section 1).

If you want to test your skills on a basic platform, try social or entertainment apps, as these are often more accessible.

If you want to dig deep into an established product or software, filter through some of the top-rated and ranked launches where products likely have more complex user flows and larger teams dedicated to crafting them.

Let’s look at some differences:

Onboarding for social app startup
Only 2 out of 7 Onboarding screen for

You have the power to control your own project length and scope. Less complex products will require less time for you to audit, revise, and iterate new content.

For example, if you just want to practice your empathy and microcopy skills, you could audit and iterate wireframes for the 3-step onboarding process above in as little as one day.

For products such as, you’d have to challenge the “big picture” goals of the product while aligning yourself with the audience members, user insights, pain points and needs, and other minute processes involved.

This type of project would range much further but comes with the added benefit of potentially being able to feature a recognizable brand in a Case Study for your portfolio (or pitching it to the brand itself, which we’ll talk about later).

Either way, walking through audits and revisions at your own pace builds confidence. While you’ll face deadlines and collaborative efforts as part of a product team, here you can decide the scope of your projects as you feel ready.

In every single creative field, “picking a niche” is advice given to newcomers as a way to stand out, hone their skills, and appeal to a certain market.

But how exactly do you decide which niche to choose? Some, like fintech, are quite profitable but oversaturated. Others are directly related to your hobbies and passions–but might not offer many hirable positions within them.

On Product Hunt, you can search for product launches by Topic. So if you’re unsure what niche you’d like to focus on–then don’t.

Browse through topics that interest you, or topics that are the most popular, or topics that you’ve heard about but aren’t sure what tech is involved.

Search by topic screen

Either way, by checking out some of the new product launches in these fields, you’re guaranteed to find UX writing mistakes. Fintech is daunting because it’s complex and deals with people’s money.

But freshly released Fintech products are probably less so. Instead of searching for micro mistakes in Quicken software, start with these newer products to sharpen your skills and see if that’s the field you want to niche into.

You may not even like it. Or you might find that it’s exactly the type of work you want to do.

While finding a niche is usually related to freelancing, these days, it’s just as helpful to niche down for a full-time role.

Here’s what Slater Katz, author of the Gig Gal Encyclopedia (a 900-page collection of UX Writing lessons, practice prompts, and frameworks), had to say about niching down.

From page 758 of the Gig Gal Encyclopedia

Revising microcopy isn’t enough to make yourself a viable candidate. Hiring managers and other UX-ers want to see that your implementations come from qualitative and quantitative research. Some of that is really hard to get if you’re not on the “inside” of the brand/company.

Not only will you lack the qualitative research already done, such as user interviews, but the innate user base and constantly updated analytics will be impossible to replicate.

Yet, you can still do user research. Especially if you know potential users.

What industries are you already a part of?

If you work in Marketing, check out some of the marketing tools being launched, and audit them (or do this with tools you use for your role).

Need users to test the product and your content decisions? Well, I’m sure your co-workers wouldn’t mind a few coffees on the house (house=you) for some feedback. You can run usability tests, A/B testing, diary entries, card sorting, and more.

You don’t have to find a user base at your job. I play on a flag football team. And pickup hockey on Sundays. And I’ve also been skateboarding for 20 years.

So naturally, when I was asked to create an e-commerce product during my UX Writing Hub course, I chose “sports,” because I already had access to a large potential user base for research (Case Study for my sports app)

If you’re not up for creating your own fictional product, you don’t need to. Just search your favorite communities on Product Hunt and see what’s already out there.

Products related to “football”
Products related to “music”

By cake, I mean UX audits and microcopy recommendations. If you’re really good in Figma, you can create frosted mockups with aesthetic sprinkles on them.

Personally, I get by on the basics. Plus, it’s probably not worth your time to do all of that before reaching out to the product owner.

As I’ve learned so far, networking in this field can be consolidated into one word: conversation.

And if you have something to offer, why not start a conversation with the product owner?

Product Hunt doesn’t allow you to DM product owners or CEOs, but most people either link their LinkedIn to their profiles, or can be found by searching on LinkedIn.

I’m not suggesting this as a cold-call method, but if you just want to start conversations with people in the field and stay connected, this is a great way to do it.

Three reasons why:

It’s also possible you’ll audit a product, plug everything into a neatly designed UX Audit template, reach out to the product owner…

And hear nothing in return. This has happened to me and it’s disappointing. There are, of course, more traditional networking methods you can refer to.

Yet, you still practiced your UX skills, and you have content for your portfolio, if you need it.

Jobs are scarce right now and the industry is unpredictable. I refuse to stagnate as I continue my search.

How else can you get to 5+ years experience or explain the gap between contracts? At the very least, you can fall back on practice as both a guide and a way to keep your skills sharp.

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