by Michelle Guillemard
Every week, writers contact me with questions about becoming a freelance medical writer. There is no one easy solution, I’m afraid. The answer is different for everyone, as we all have our own aims, objectives, needs and desires. However, there is one thing that I tell each and every person: You need a personalised toolkit.
You need a variety of tools that accurately reflect your health & medical writing ambitions and your business goals. We are all on our own health writing journey – some of us want to become journalists, while others want to write marketing content.
Some want to work for not-for-profits, and others want a family-friendly business that allows them to work around young children. There is no one-size-fits all approach to becoming a freelance health & medical writer. But, there are common systems you can put into place to help guide you on your journey.
Before you get to this point, though, there are questions you need to consider.
Because, while your freelancing toolkit needs to contain all the gear you need to make the financial aims and business objectives of your freelance medical writing business a reality – everything from rates, to your mental health – it also needs to contain the answers to the questions that will shape the direction of your business.
These answers will encourage you to think carefully about your freelancing future. Think about why you want to become a freelancer. Consider your current financial status. Ask yourself whether you’re the type of personality that’s suited to freelancing (not everyone is).So, before you come to the practicalities of freelancing (setting up a website, getting on social media, starting a blog and finding new clients) consider the answers to these questions.
1. Why do you want to be a freelance medical writer?
Is it because you:
- Love both writing and health/medicine
- Don’t want to work for a company anymore
- 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. There are no quick wins in the freelance world – though, if you can stick it out, the rewards are golden.
2. Where do you see yourself in one year’s time?
- 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.
3. How do you feel about having no guaranteed income?
- 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.
4. What are your goals for your business?
- 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.
5. Will you be comfortable marketing your business online?
Will you be able to:
- Write a website that promotes and sells your writing services?
- Use social media to network and find clients?
- Put yourself out there and develop a strong 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.
Have I given you enough to think about?
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. If you’re ready take the plunge, check out our online course, How To Become A Freelance Health Writer.
Are you thinking about becoming a freelance medical writer? What’s motivating you – or stopping you from moving forward?