This is an edited version of one of my recent posts on Health Writer Hub (which is a global community for health writers and medical writers).
At the recent Australasian Medical Writers Association annual conference last week, I chatted to a few attendees who were thinking about a career as a freelance medical writer.
Some asked me whether it was an enjoyable career, others wanted to know how it compared to being employed – and, everyone asked me how they go about getting started.
This is a question I see all the time on LinkedIn as well.
While there’s no simple answer, I do have a concise response – you need a personalised toolkit.
This means a toolkit that accurately reflect your medical writing ambitions andyour business goals.
This comes down to the fact that there’s a lot to consider before you even think about getting started with a website, social media and client work.
Know why you want to be a freelance medical writer
You may love writing and be fascinated by health/medicine. Maybe you’re fed up working for a company. Or perhaps you just want a flexible career.
Whatever your rationale – and I’m sure it’s a great one – you should be certain that you’re making the choice to go freelance for the right reasons. Be realistic about your motivations for wanting this career change. Know that you need to put in a lot of hard work to make this idea a reality.
Become clear on where you’re going
- the type of medical writer you want to be
- medical and health publications you could write for
- the writing style you want to focus on
- how experienced you are in writing, health and medicine (and whether you need further training)
When you have answers for these points, you can focus on collecting the tools that will work together to make these goals a reality.
Without thinking these things through, it’s like you’re trying to build a house with no blueprints. You might have what you need to get started, but planning is what differentiates the great from the average – to the downright disastrous.
Consider the financial side of freelancing
- Are you someone who can handle the uncertainty of freelancing?
- Are you good with money and expense tracking?
- How do you feel about chasing clients who don’t pay?
- Have you thought about your freelance medical writing rates?
If any of these questions make you uneasy, freelancing may not be an ideal career option for you. A lot of the business of freelancing means being careful and considered when it comes to finances, and you’ll need to spend a lot of time planning, tracking and chasing invoices.
Set business goals
- where you want to be in 12 months, 2 years and 5 years
- whether you want to expand and bring in other writers
- if you may want to offer services in addition to writing one day (ie graphic design, website design)
Thinking about your business goals and development is vital before you get started. Try not to make decisions that may restrict your potential for future growth – particularly with regards to your business name and domain name.
Get comfortable with marketing
Will you be able to:
- write a website that unashamedly sells your services?
- use social media to network and find clients?
- put yourself out there and develop a digital footprint?
If you can’t do any of these things, you may find it difficult to grow your business. These days we aren’t just freelance medical writers – we’re marketers, accountants, salespeople and networkers. You need to be able to market your business comfortably and confidently.
As appealing as it sounds, hiding in a corner and pretending social media doesn’t exist will only harm your own prospects in the long run.
There are ways to be involved with social media and online without jeopardising your privacy, so feel free to join our closed community and talk to other health writers about how we do this.
Have I given you enough to think about?
So if you’re considering a career as a freelance medical writer, I hope this post has helped you to get your head around some of the key decisions and processes that are involved in this career change. Still have questions? Leave a comment below!
Are you thinking about becoming a freelance medical writer? What’s motivating you – or stopping you from moving forward?
About the author: Michelle Guillemard
Michelle is a health writer, medical writer, health copywriter and medical editor with more than 12 years’ experience. Michelle is also an Executive Member of the Australasian Medical Writers Association.
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This article was first published by Michelle Guillemard