Many people like the idea of making a living as a freelance medical or health writer. You'll have freedom, independence, and a job that satisfies your creativity, without the hassle of office politics or demanding bosses. Right?
Well, not quite. Making a living at freelance health or medical writing is not easy. Before you jump in, consider that a freelance writing business is just that, a business, and sometimes you'll need to make decisions that sacrifice creativity for the bottom line.
When I started freelancing in 1990, a number of writers I spoke with told me not to do it. It was a choice that was too financially risky, they said. In fact, it was a personal and financial risk; my first year I only made a profit of 6K. But those days are gone, and I now run a successful, money-making freelance business that also gives me a creative outlet, and the chance to write about health issues.
Here are some answers to common questions about freelance writing.
There are several secrets I've learned in 18 years of freelance writing. These include:
I have several regular clients, but I also work on marketing myself continually. Several good sources of freelance work include the job boards of the National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Association of Science Writers and the American Medical Writers Association. Media Bistro also has a directory, which can be good for obtaining clients and work. I've also met clients through social and professional networking sites such as Linked In.
No. I'm probably different from most freelance writers in this regard, because I was trained on a metropolitan newspaper and can write fairly quickly. So even jobs that don't pay top dollar can be profitable for me. That said, I try to limit myself to clients who pay at least 50 cents to $1 per word. Often these clients are medical trade magazines, and while they don't pay as much as national consumer publications - where rates can run from $1-$2 per word - the work is often easier and more regular. Writing for trade magazines can be less interesting than consumer magazines, but it has its own rewards. Often a writer for a medical trade publication is called upon to handle a difficult or intricate subject-and write about it with ease. And that often brings a feeling of accomplishment.
There are a number of avenues you can explore if you want to be a health or medical writer. If you have a science or medical background, try enrolling in a writing course to brush up on your communication skills, and then write about a health topic for your local newspaper or a regional magazine. If you are a writer by trade, and have a literature or writing degree, you can often enter the field by selling yourself as a wordsmith and a good editor. Often scientists and physicians know science, but they need help with expressing themselves in writing. Many healthcare publishing companies are also eager to find excellent wordsmiths, editors and writers.
Remember that freelance medical writing is a business - sometimes a very difficult business - and it's not always easy for neophytes to break in. As a freelance writer, you have to deal with difficult or slow-paying clients, and even challenging assignments. But don't get discouraged, and don't let anyone talk you out of your chosen field!
You can make a living as a freelance medical writer, and achieve a career with flexible hours and interesting work. And above all, it's bound to satisfy your creativity and your desire to write about science and health.
A Few Words About Freelance Writing - and Health and Medical Writing
Copyright Barbara Boughton. All Rights reserved.