Ready to finally hear some good news? Health writing is a stable career pathway that will survive and potentially thrive during and after this pandemic.
- The medical and healthcare industries are lucrative, essential and growing
- Health writing is a remote job
- Freelance health writing jobs mostly pay well (as long as you aren’t finding work through freelance marketplaces)
- The barriers to entry – niche skills and experience – keep competition reasonable, meaning there’s enough work to go around for us all.
Still, those who follow emerging trends, offer innovative services and recognise the new opportunities – as well as the lost ones – will be best placed to survive.
To succeed, you will need to innovate
Innovation will be an essential part of your success. You will need to be proactive, not passive. Don’t just wait for people to contact you; even with a search engine optimised website that ranks well, you may not get enquiries right now.
I’ve seen plenty of examples of medical writing innovation in the face of COVID-19 already, including writers who are:
- Successfully pitching COVID-19 stories to websites that accept health article pitches, including this recent one from Health Writer Hub student Dr Marwa Saleh about COVID-19 and medical professional burnout
- Proposing to write COVID-19 news, blogs and columns for brands and businesses
- Helping to produce information addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
- Installing website popups that say they are now available for COVID-19-related writing with a quick turnaround.
Think creatively about the different services you, as a health communicator, can provide – beyond traditional writing services like features and blogs.
The industries that will benefit from the pandemic
According to Michael Wade, Professor of Innovation and Strategy, Cisco Chair in Digital Business Transformation, International Institute for Management Development (IMD), key winners in the business world will include:
- Ecommerce marketplaces
- Logistics and delivery
- Video conferencing
- Streaming services.
“Those in winning sectors have found themselves serendipitously on the right side of history,” he wrote recently in The Conversation.
“By applying a basic level of competence, they should thrive.”
Interestingly, he lists healthcare as an inbetweener.
“Some players in this sector emerge with new ideas that could improve healthcare,” he writes.
“Others will be pushed past breaking point and will never return.”
To understand which players in healthcare have the best chance of survival, consider the opportunities created by the fact that most of the population are now at home for the foreseeable future – and think about what that means for healthcare communication.
Most health writers already write about health services for providers’ websites and blogs. That shouldn’t change, as health businesses will always need new and revamped content for their sites.
With a large number of providers now offering telehealth, though, new opportunities may arise to support healthcare professionals who are delivering their services remotely.
Freelance projects could consist of creating content promoting these new services, patient education materials, evergreen online courses and training support materials.
Tip: Know of any health professionals providing telehealth services? Get in touch, and offer to support them with quality content.
Ecommerce for health products
Before COVID-19, people were already buying health products online. But, there could be increased competition in this area as traditional retail industries suffer, and more businesses opt for online-only services.
There could also be more businesses choosing to create online stores, offering opportunities for health communicators to write for those stores and eCommerce campaigns.
Tip: Noticed an increase in healthcare shopping? Find businesses who are ramping up their online sales, and enquire about content support.
Health and medical brands and companies will be communicating about COVID-19 for a long time. These businesses will require ongoing content, including:
- Health topics explaining the disease
- Evidence-based prevention strategies
- Research summaries
Entrepreneurs will launch new health products, too. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I’ve already had enquiries from several people either working on or registering health products related to COVID-19, like hand sanitisers.
Tip: Are there any reputable businesses who need quality content about COVID-19? Contact them and pitch your services.
Supporting businesses with innovative content
There’s already no shortage of new health challenges to write about in this new normal. You could pitch ideas to magazines and publications or think of other ways to address them (creating an online course, for example). Our populations are facing challenges such as:
- Mental health – increased symptoms of depression, anxiety
- Increased screen time
- Maintaining a healthy diet in isolation
- Exercising in a restricted environment
- Productivity loss
- Balancing work and home-school
- Relationship breakdowns
- Dealing with multiple sources of information
- Information overload and fatigue
- Increased racism
- Poor communication and health literacy.
Tip: Pitch your ideas to credible blogs that accept guest posts and websites that accept pitches from freelance writers.
Other opportunities in medical writing
In her webinar, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the medical writing industry, Emma Hitt suggests that future possibilities for work in the medical writing industry will consist of:
- Online learning – schools, universities, medical schools, Udemy
- MSL and sales training
- Regulatory writing
- Weight loss and other health issues that may have emerged as a result of being at home
- Rebound work.
Tip: Now could be a good time to upskill in a new niche like regulatory writing.
Now for the challenges
For all the new projects that arise, there will, of course, be challenges. Many brands and businesses have had to cut back on expenses and slash their freelance budgets.
Additionally, many people are working from home, attempting to home-school and adjusting to this new way of life; as a result, productivity is low and everything takes longer.
The good news is this lull can’t last forever. As clients adapt to these new circumstances, they will learn how to work from home and run their businesses effectively – and, they will soon reach out to freelance health writers again.
What to do if your workload has slowed
If you’re a freelancer and your enquiries have dropped, or if you were just about to start your freelance career and make 2020 the year you would smash your goals, don’t despair.
COVID-19 may not be what you expected, but you can make the best of a bad situation.
Now could be the perfect time to upskill in some online training, so check out our health writing courses.
You could also consider working on a side business if you have the motivation. If not, no worries – try to enjoy the forced break and most importantly be kind to yourself.
Stay positive and trust that freelance writing work will pick up again – and, if you’re proactive and strategic, you might even be able to kickstart your career sooner rather than later.