Category Archives: Beginner’s Medical Writing Series
Time for Step 6 of the “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing – an extremely basic guide for making the first move into medical writing.
If you’re just arriving, feel free to check out the earlier steps:
The next best step, if you haven’t already jumped the gun and done so, is to join AMWA – the American Medical Writers Association.
Here are the Top 10 Reasons To Join AMWA!
The current annual membership fee is $155 ($55 if you’re a student). If you’re hesitant to spend this much money without really knowing what it’s about or what it might be able to do for you, I’d advise checking to see if there’s a local chapter anywhere near you. Local chapters hold meetings throughout the year, and you can still attend these without being a member – you just end up paying about $5 extra on the local meeting fee than members pay.
This way, you can attend a meeting and get to network with some friendly medical writers local to your area – this will certainly help you get a feel for the organization and how you can benefit from it.
So check out their website and at least consider attending a local meeting – I guarantee you’ll feel inspired afterwards!
Time for Step 4 of the “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing – an extremely basic guide for making the first move into medical writing.
If you’re just arriving, feel free to check out the earlier steps:
Hopefully by now, you’ve set up a blog, and maybe even started out with some business-related social networking. On that note, I’ve been asked to discuss what purpose a blog can serve for a medical writer, so here goes!
WHY USE A BLOG?
To Advertise Your Business:
If we’re not out there, nobody will find us. Work is a little bit like dating (any kind of work, whether you want to be an employee or self-employed) – if you don’t put yourself out there, it’s difficult to be found.
Whether we like it or not, the world’s gone digital. The days of locating businesses purely through those huge, hard copies of your telephone book or Yellow Pages are history – the first port of call for most people looking for any kind of business service is now an online search. I don’t consider myself a very digital person, but I know this is the case for me. The instant gratification of finding what you want after hitting a few keys on your keyboard, is tough to beat – I can’t remember the last time I ever picked up a Yellow Pages, let alone owned one. So if we don’t take advantage of this venue, we are missing out on an important way to self-advertise.
To Showcase Your Potential:
Your blog can provide a perfect way for you to show off your work. This can be especially useful for non-scientists who want to break into medical writing, but have no prior work clips to share with potential clients. I don’t know about you, but although I love the ability to shop online, I tend not to order things that are “sight unseen”. Your blog helps your work to be seen.
It Makes You Real:
A blog can also allow readers and potential clients to get a sense of who you are. The digital arena has a real-time advantage over a listing in a telephone book – it allows you to engage with people as often as you choose to do so. Updating your blog regularly provides something that a telephone book listing cannot deliver – the ability to connect with others. Everything you share on your blog allows readers to get a glimpse of your personality and passion. These regular connections help to make you real – potential clients will see that you have a zest for writing, and also get a feel for your writing tone – these things definitely help when it comes to deciding who to choose for help with a writing project.
To Use As Your Portfolio:
You can also put your blog to good use as a showcase for your resume or portfolio. The ability to add different pages to your blog enables you to use it to almost any advantage. Some people add a resume page, or a portfolio page where readers can link up to clips of the writer’s work that may have been published online. Or you can even upload pdf versions of manuscripts for viewing.
To Keep You In The Loop:
A blog is such a great way to keep you from feeling as if you’re all alone in the writing world, and this is probably especially true if you are working 100% freelance. In an office environment, you have instant connection with workmates if you need to bounce ideas off someone, or get a second opinion on something. When running a solo business, you don’t have this luxury. Your blog, however, can serve as a medium for this. It provides you with an almost instant way to receive ideas, comments, feedback, opinions etc. And from all across the world too! The cyber-connectivity can keep you grounded in your business venture, allowing you to network with others who can help you out, even if just by way of moral support.
To Help Others:
Never underestimate what you might have to offer someone. Whether it’s an encouraging word, a snippet of information, or just simple enjoyment, I guarantee that your blog will provide something for someone at some point. Someone will leave you some positive feedback, or send you an email to thank you for something, or ask more questions. And you can guarantee that your blog will be useful for many who don’t let you know – think of all the material that you read online each day – do you leave comments each time you find something fun, interesting, useful etc? I know I don’t – but it’s certainly not for the lack of interest – we all read a lot, but simply don’t have the time to comment on everything we enjoy. So don’t forget, someone loves you! A little altruism never hurt anyone.
Having a blog isn’t going to make you successful overnight, and it won’t bring clients flocking within a month if you’re new to the business and still trying to get your foot in the door. It does, however, get you out there, and lets clients see that you are real and also serious about what you do. I feel that it keeps you accountable too - a huge help for someone starting out, especially a non-scientist without publications to use as a springboard – your blog can help you to “keep on keeping on”. Given that it’s easier to give up than keep fighting the fight, if you commit to writing a little something regularly – even once a week – you can maintain business motivation while trying to catch some initial projects, and also build up your online portfolio in the meantime.
So if you are new to your medical writing business, think of your blog as the first step in self-marketing. Maintaining it can be time-consuming, but nevertheless, very beneficial. Writing begets writing.
What’s your favorite use for your blog?
Time for Step 2 of the “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing. Remember – this is not a “get rich quick” guide, but merely an extremely basic guide for those of you who are pondering branching into medical writing, but don’t quite know how to make the first moves.
A couple of days ago, I suggested in Step 1 that it would be a good idea to start right from scratch – literally just trying to decide which area of medical writing you wanted to focus on initially. So hopefully you now know whether you are going to venture into the scientific or the non-scientific/marketing side.
Step 2: Get Yourself Out There
Now that you know you want to branch into freelance work, it’s time to put yourself out there. Let’s face it, if you don’t tell the world where you are & what you can do, it can’t find you!
So you need an online presence. There are numerous ways for you to accomplish this – you can set up a website or a blog yourself – free or paid – or you can pay someone to set you up with either one, with all the bells & whistles that a web designer can throw your way. If you are a procrastinator, you could spend weeks or more, just pondering on how to do this perfectly. During this time, you might lose time that could be spent working on your first project, & earning your first $100.
So why procrastinate? Obviously if you’re extremely organized & focused & know exactly what you want, then go for it in however which way you prefer. But if you’re hesitating because you’re still not sure what you ultimately want your site to look like, & if you’re living in a world of “what ifs” then my advice is this:
Just sign up for a free blog now!
But What If?
I know, you probably can’t make up your mind about what to name your business. Maybe you’ll even want to change its name later? And what if you don’t like the blog in 3 months? Maybe you’ll change your writing focus at a later date too?
None of these things matter – your business will be forever evolving. The most important thing right now is that you get started. If you’re not even sure what to call your business right now, just register the blog under your name initially. You’ll be able to change the header of the blog page any time you like – it could start off as your name & progress to a business name at a later date. Likely you’ll be more tech-savvy than I am too, so if I can cope with an online presence, then so can you!
Should I Buy My Own Domain?
Many business-related sites advise just buying your own domain from the start – go for it if this is what you want, but if you’re still wondering where the freelance world might take you, then starting out with a free blog gives the advantage of zero financial risk for you. If you decide that this isn’t for you in a year’s time, then you’ve lost nothing financially. If your business takes off, however, you can break into your own domain whenever you feel comfortable. There are plenty of talented web designers around who can help you convert your current free blog over to your new domain if necessary (and if you’re lucky, you may even have a friend in the business to help!).
Back To The Free Blog
Probably the two main, free blog-hosting sites are WordPress.com (which I use for this blog) and Blogger.com, although there are other options available too (do a Google search so you can be sure you’ve covered all bases). I’ve used both of these options, and have found pros and cons with both. Overall though, I do prefer the cleaner, crisper look that the WordPress themes seem to offer. You can easily do some shopping around though and check out the free themes that the blog hosting sites offer – this will help you decide which site to choose initially. And again, you can still swap sites whenever you choose, so all is not lost if you have second thoughts somewhere down the line.
My Blog Is Set Up – What Now?
Very basically, to get you started you’ll want to at least add the following:
- Title header (your business name, or just your name)
- Descriptive subtitle (be as descriptive as you like, but write something so that when visitors land there, they immediately see exactly what your blog is about
- About Me (tell visitors who you are, what you do, any relevant qualifications, & how to contact you)
OK, so now you’re moving! Next up is your homework assignment. I’m going to ask you to decide on titles for three posts (maybe around 500-1000 words each) – then plan an outline for each of them, and lastly, get started writing them.
If you are stuck for ideas to get you started, why not make your first post an introduction to who you are, and what kind of medical writing you are offering? Other ideas include choosing to write about a couple of medical conditions that interest you, or maybe a condition that’s prominent in the news right now.
Step 3 will follow soon, but in the meantime, get your thinking caps on & enjoy writing……..
I was astounded by the response. In addition to a few people dropping in on Anne’s site with comments & questions about how to further themselves in freelance medical, I also received many emails from folk looking for any information on actually breaking into the medical writing world.
So I decided it might be a good idea to share some of my insights for starting-up. Maybe a “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing.
I can’t tell you how to get rich quick, how to become an overnight success, or give your any links to sites advertising heaps of high-paying writing jobs. But I can share some tips based on how I got started in the freelance medical writing world.
I’ll be sharing some very basic things from the ground upwards – most of the people who contacted me had questions that focused around the “breaking in” aspect, so I hope to be able to provide some encouragement for anyone thinking of becoming a freelance medical writer (or a freelance “anything” writer, for that matter).
I’m no techno-guru (quite the exact opposite, as it happens!), so if I can do this, you can too!
Which Branch Of Medical Writing?
Just as for any career, whether online or offline, you first need to decide which area of medical writing you’d like to be involved in. Naturally this may change as time goes by & you take on different projects and develop different preferences; however, at least initially it is wise to target some area to get you started. In determining which type of writing you would like to do, you will also have to take into account your educational qualifications and professional experiences.
Although there are large numbers of medical writers who do not have any scientific educational qualifications, there is no doubt that having some scientific qualifications is necessary for some areas of medical writing. Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, typically employ scientifically qualified individuals as regulatory medical writers.
Of the medical writers who I know who are non-scientists, the majority either have a degree in English, or journalism, or some other field that translates into “communication”. Additionally, some have professional backgrounds in marketing, public relations, as well as other similar careers. And certainly, much of the work undertaken by non-scientific medical writers tends to revolve around marketing.
So certainly your initial leap into medical writing might be better accomplished if you focus in on an aspect that you can more easily lever your way into, based on either your educational qualifications, or previous professional experiences.
Examples Of Work Typically Undertaken By Scientific Medical Writers
- Preparing scientific journal articles, abstracts, posters or presentations
- Medical editing
- Preparation of medical education materials
- Writing white papers
- Preparing regulatory documents
Examples Of Work Typically Undertaken By Non-Scientific Medical Writers
- Patient education material
- Proposal writing
- Public relations
- Training manuals
- Magazine articles
- Internet content
These are by no means exhaustive lists, and there’s no divisive wall between the two types of writers – you’ll certainly find both types of writer in both types of work category. But hopefully this is a general guide that will help you decide what type of medical writing might be a good area for you to kick-start yourself into.
So I’ll conclude “Step 1″ by encouraging you to spend a little time thinking about which area of medical writing might be for you initially.
Stay tuned for Step 2!