“I left my full-time healthcare professional career a little over a year ago to build a freelance business as a grant writer, healthcare technical writer, and medical/scientific editor. I have signed contracts with reputable firms that continuously send me work based on the timely, high-quality deliverables I consistently produce. All of my current work is performed remotely. I have clients in California, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, as well as in China, India, and Japan.”
Why did you decide to become a health writer?
Writing and research in a creative, learning environment is my first love. One of the things I missed the most as my professional career evolved was writing -i.e., manuscript development, report generation, development of proposals and grant applications. In addition to utilizing my strengths and passion, I feel that I offer “value add” with my intellectual curiosity and strategic thinking in that I probe those who I am writing for/with to further develop their ideas to strengthen the business case and communicate clearly the key points and overall vision.
How did you get your ‘big break’ as a health writer?
I wouldn’t say I had one “big break,” since I had writing roles sporadically throughout my professional career; however, I believe the experiences I have had and the network I have developed have led to my success in securing work as a freelancer. Much of my new work comes through referral, either from previous colleagues or from current freelance clients of mine.
What’s your best piece of advice for those who are considering a career in health writing or who are just starting out?
Learn to collaborate well with others, whether it be strictly in the writing sense or as subject matter experts from which you can gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter, as well as the context or “big picture.” Effective collaboration is key to producing quality deliverables in a timely fashion. For instance, I have been a key player in grant proposal development for many organizations. Almost every grant proposal involves multiple contributors, supporters, and stakeholders from both inside and outside the organization. By honing my ability to collaborate effectively with others, I consistently succeed at securing commitments and deliverables in a timely manner from all players. Not only does this make your job easier, your employer or client will be very pleased as well.
The most challenging work I do is editing medical and scientific papers that are written by non-native English speakers, particularly if the topic is not one of my areas of expertise. The lesson learned is to stick within your areas of expertise. While a good writer can write about anything, it is difficult to determine what an author is trying to convey in a language that is not his/her primary language, and tight deadlines do not allow for additional research to shore up one’s knowledge of the topic. This work has improved my writing, and my ability to communicate in a simple, clear manner with individuals from other countries and with varying academic backgrounds.
What’s the hardest thing about being a health writer?
Because I am still building my client base, the most challenging thing for me is the irregular flow of work. It is often “feast or famine.”
What do you love most about health writing and why?
Intellectual stimulation, and creating something tangible. I enjoy building the business case or developing a story from the idea(s) I am writing about. I am well suited to aid organizations in strategic planning due to the content knowledge and perspective I bring. I have found that being a “big picture” thinker is easier when you are not mired in the day-to-day operations of a business. As an outsider, I am able to facilitate development of a clear, convincing “story,” whether it be in narrative form or through visuals, such as a logic model. One of my strengths in the clinical setting was my ability to tie together discrete change initiatives into something larger and more meaningful – aligned with the organization’s mission and vision.
What inspires you in your career?
Helping others, continuously demonstrating my “value add,” and enhancing the capacity of those I work with so that their future success is not dependent upon me or any one individual.
Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn.