Even the most self-proclaimed, unskilled person is usually skilled at something. Perhaps it’s something that is profitable, like coding, or perhaps it’s a hobby nobody really thinks about, like juggling. This includes even you, the reader who is reading this post right now. You too are good at something not everyone is. No matter what you’re good at, it may have crossed your mind at one point or another if you should pass your skills onto another. By this, I mean make a tutorial.
Personally speaking, I love all manner of tutorials. I believe strongly that sharing knowledge is a powerful force we should all pursue at one point or another. However, this is not so easy. For many, they struggle to figure out what to share, how to share it, or any sort of combination between the two. This is unfortunate, as everyone has worthwhile knowledge to share. Yet, I also believe that anyone can learn how to make a tutorial. Today, this is my goal. Yes, I am essentially making a tutorial for making tutorials. If you are one of those struggling people who want to make a tutorial but can’t, I hope you’ll stick with this post and learn a thing or two.
With all that said, let’s dive in.
- Pick a manageable topic you’re passionate about and have experience in
The first step in the tutorial process is to pick a topic. Obviously, this seems like a no-brainer. Yet, I see quite a number of people struggle with this for several reasons.
First, let’s take a look at that last point. In order to share knowledge, you have to have actual knowledge to share. In other words, if you’ve never ridden a bicycle in your life, don’t write a tutorial about riding a bicycle. Make sure the topic you pick is a hobby or career you have experience in doing. However, don’t think you have to be a master. Many people get caught up on this idea that they need to have eons of experience to teach something, but that’s rarely true. If you feel comfortable enough talking about your skill with your friends and explaining it to them, you probably have enough experience. It’s okay to still be learning too, as it just means you’ll have more experience in the future to share.
Briefly, for the second point, you also want to make sure you’re passionate about your topic. If you hate art but are creating a tutorial on drawing for popularity, your hate is going to show through. Do something you enjoy, because your enjoyment will help you explain the topic better and your passion will show through as well.
Last, but most importantly, make your topic manageable. This is often the part that stops people from creating a tutorial, as their topics are not manageable. For example, say you’re passionate comic creator who wants to create a tutorial about creating comics. Now if you go in thinking, “I’ll create a tutorial about creating comics,” this is probably going to be too broad a topic to create an effective tutorial on (not that it can’t be done, but it’s quite difficult). Rather, it would be better to break the topic down further. In this example, you could create a tutorial about paneling, or script writing, or where to host the comic. No matter the topic, breaking down the topic makes it easier to deal with, both for you and the tutorial consumer.
All in all, these three points are critical to get right.
- Determine your audience
Before you begin composing your tutorial in your head, the next step is to determine your audience. This is an important step that can often be neglected in the process, as many think the audience is obvious. However, this is a misstep, as not having a clear picture will often muddle the information you’re trying to convey.
Now when I say audience, I don’t mean this in the marketing sense of the word. Instead, what you need to know about your audience is the amount of knowledge you expect them to come in with. Is your tutorial intended for beginners who wouldn’t know any of the technical jargon more experienced people are used to? Is your tutorial intended for intermediate craftsman who don’t need every piece of technical jargon explained? Is your tutorial part of a series that relies on information from previous lessons?
It’s up to you to decide who your audience is. Just make sure you know who it is, as this dictates a lot of the style and explanations that need to go into the tutorial. Also, don’t feel pressured to make your tutorial always accessible to beginners. It is perfectly fine to create tutorials intended for intermediate users. Create the tutorial for the audience you want!
- Break down the tutorial into steps/chunks
The next step in creating a tutorial is to mentally break the tutorial down into smaller chunks. Once again, this has to do with issues of broadness. Without breaking the tutorial itself down, you’re going to get yourself a hamburger too large to take a bite from. Further, this is a crucial step for organization as well. If your tutorial isn’t organized in any fashion, readers are just going to get confused. It would be like telling someone to put peanut butter on a sandwich before mentioning they’re going to need to get the bread out.
So, break down your topic into smaller elements. Are you writing about the hero’s journey? Create bullet points for each step of it. Are you creating a drawing tutorial about anatomy? Break the tutorial into the various body parts. Creating a tutorial about coding a website? Pick crucial steps for the code or divide the website into sections you can explain separately. Much like audience, the choice is yours on how to break your topic down.
Of the steps, this is one you want to spend a great deal of time on, as this pre-production step will largely influence the resulting product. As such, don’t rush it if you’re feeling unsure.
- Create a first draft
Now it’s time to create the first draft. What constitutes a first draft is up to you, but regardless this first draft should not be the final draft yet. In other words, make sure you finish the final steps and at least edit the draft you create in this step.
Another thing to keep in mind with this step is that the form your draft takes will depend on your personal preference and the final medium of the tutorial. For example, since my tutorial is on my blog, my first draft is essentially the tutorial itself, since it is completely written with no visual components to compose. However, if I was to create this draft for a video for example, I might prefer a simple outline that bullet points basic talking points. This allows me more freedom to create more natural sounding words versus reading a script. Again though, this is up to your personal preference and depends on the type and medium of the tutorial.
Remember that with this first draft, you can be free with your words. If you find it easier to just word vomit on the page and edit it later, go ahead and do so. Don’t be afraid to do what you need to do to get your first draft done.
- Edit your first draft to be concise, on topic, and clear
This step is just as important as your first draft. With editing, there are three points you want to check your tutorial for. First off, you want your tutorial to be concise. Don’t over-explain points that don’t further the skill being taught, and clean up any rambling where you sounded unsure how to perform what you were trying to teach. Second, make sure your tutorial is on topic. In other words, don’t ramble about your favorite bicycle if you’re teaching someone how to change their bicycle tires.
Third, and most importantly, try to make sure your points are clear. Like being concise, evaluate whether the points you make sound like you knew what you were talking about. If needed, add steps or explanations if something is unclear. Sacrificing simplification for clarity is often better than leaving a point unclear.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask friends for a second opinion on the draft. Even if you only want to ask about specific points, there’s no harm in getting help.
- Create the tutorial
Last but not least, create the tutorial from your drafts. For me, this means collecting pictures and scheduling it on my blog. For you, it might mean recording and editing a video. For someone else, it might mean drafting examples and then creating a visual document with text in Photoshop. Whatever it is, you are now free to create it in its fullest form.
For this step, I merely want to mention that it is still okay to make changes to your drafts as you go. If you notice a point needing more clarity or something similar, don’t be afraid to fix the element right then and there.
With this guide, I hope you feel a little more confident about creating tutorials. Tutorials can be fun, they can be work, but they can also be great. They are a fantastic medium that allow us to share our knowledge with others, which is always something to be admired. Even if a tutorial has been done before, don’t hesitate in creating one if you would like to. Your unique way of explaining something may hit the mark with certain audiences where other tutorials didn’t. Also, don’t be afraid to make some bad tutorials first either. Like most skills, it is a learning process. So no matter your skill, I hope you will share your unique knowledge with the world. Until next time, happy creating!