Health writing is a wonderfully unique profession that allows you to work as a freelancer or employee, full-time or part-time. Whether you’re looking for an entry-level medical writer job, a senior role or want to go freelance, opportunities are plentiful.
Even though the type of work you do is still health writing, both options obviously have quite different working days and conditions.
If you struggling with making a decision or are currently weighing up the pros and cons, in addition to personal circumstances, preferences and lifestyle choices that can all play a part in the decision, there are also considerable professional differences in what you can expect from both options.
What does working as a freelancer involve?
Often, freelance health writers start out thinking freelancing means working for yourself and not an employer. The reality is every new client you have is someone you work for, and working freelance means you still are accountable and answerable to your clients.
This doesn’t mean you should lose focus on what it means to be a sole trader. Working freelance means you are essentially running your own business and you may spend many working hours not on writing, but on making sure your business runs smoothly to keep the work coming in.
This means you are in charge of the many processes that are normally covered by different departments in small and large organisations:
- freelance pricing strategies
- business planning
- running a website
- accounts and quoting
- organising a home-office set up
- legal issues, including liability and professional indemnity insurance.
The pros and cons of freelance writing
There are various positives for working as a freelancer not an employee, including having independence, getting to pick the types of clients you work for and being able to say no to work if it doesn’t fit in with your health writing niche or ethics.
However, there are some drawbacks to working as a freelancer, not an employee. The biggest downside is not having a steady income each month.
You may have your regular clients who consistently give you work, but the reality is there will be busier weeks than others and this does mean keeping an eye on your accounts every month to identify when you need to find more work.
Working as an employee
If you’ve decided that freelancing isn’t for you, working as an employee writer is a great way to learn from others who have been in business for a longer time.
You can expand your experience in a shorter time frame learning from both colleagues and clients, and you may get to work on projects that you may not have the opportunity to work on as a freelancer.
And the luxury of being employed means you have a steady income, paid leave, time off when you’re sick and no time spent on running a medical writing business.
However, depending on where you work, you may find you’re working on the same types of projects without a lot of autonomy. The biggest difference between working for an employer compared to freelancing – aside from the financial aspect – is not being able to choose the clients and work.
Freelancer or employee: How do you know what’s best for you?
Even with a clear distinction of what’s involved for working as a freelancer or employee, you may still be wondering what’s best for you as a health writer.
Ultimately, the decision whether to work freelance or for an employer really comes down to your personality – as well as what you’re looking for in your health writing career. It may also be time to evaluate your personal goals.
A few examples of personality-driven goals you may like to consider may come from considering the following questions:
- Do you enjoy working with a team of people or do you prefer working on your own?
- Do you like being told what to do, or do you prefer to be the one in charge?
- Do you have lifestyle needs or personal priorities that require you to work at home?
- Do you have dreams of climbing the proverbial ‘corporate ladder’?
- Are you business-savvy and do you enjoy the minutiae of running a small business?
- Would you feel lonely working by yourself and would you miss the social aspect of an office?
- Does the thought of no guaranteed income every month make you feel stressed?
- What are your long-term career aspirations?
Taking the plunge – freelancer, or employee?
So, have you decided which option suits you best?
Still unsure? Check out our post on the 10 freelancing lessons the FIFA World Cup can teach you.
If you’re seriously considering freelancing, our freelance medical writing course will show you everything you need to know to get there.
And, if you’re thinking you may prefer to be an employee than a freelancer, check out our careers in medical writing course, Breaking Into Health Writing.
Have you recently made a lifestyle or professional change as a health writer to become either a freelancer or employee after doing something different?