Breaking Into Freelance Medical Writing

July 21, 2016
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When I speak at freelance medical writing seminars, I can always count on someone who is just getting started in the business to come up to me and ask, “Now what should I do?”

Join the American Medical Writers Association

I’m delighted to give up-and-coming freelance medical writers a little personal advice. And my first tip always is to join the American Medical Writers Association, AMWA for short. I know when you’re just starting out, annual dues to a professional organization might not be in your budget. But the value you’ll get from an AMWA membership will outweigh its cost. Besides, you’ve got to spend money to make money, and membership in AMWA is an investment in your future success.

AMWA and its regional chapters sponsor workshops where you can learn different aspects of medical writing. These workshops, and the annual national conference, aren’t just for newbies, though. You’d be surprised by what even an experienced writer or editor can learn in a basic AMWA workshop! Plus, when you attend regional AMWA meetings, you’ll meet other medical writers as well as prospective clients. This face-to-face networking will go a long way in getting freelance work. And you’ll get a feel for the writing needs and the competition in your geographic area.

Decide the Type of Medical Writing

As for the next step, anyone considering freelance medical writing needs to decide what type of medical writing to pursue, and whether to be an employee or a freelance. In my opinion, medical writing can be divided into 3 broad categories: Regulatory, promotional, and educational.

Regulatory writing is highly scientific and involves creating documents that are often submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration. Promotional writing is any writing created for the purpose of selling or promoting a drug, intervention, or medical device. Educational writing includes any materials created for the purpose of educating health care professionals or the general public. This includes writing content for continuing medical education programs, as well as creating patient-education brochures.

Once you decide what type of medical writing you want to do and how you want to work, the next step is to identify the companies that employ writers or purchase that type of writing. They include pharmaceutical companies, CROs (contract research organizations), medical education companies, medical communications companies, and medical advertising agencies. Of course, you could also decide you want to write for a medical journal or a hospital, or even start a health column in your local newspaper. There are lots of avenues to explore.

Begin a Targeted Promotional Campaign

For anyone who decides to become a freelance, one final suggestion is to begin a targeted promotional campaign to reach prospective clients. An easy way to do this is to join an online social network for professionals, such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn is just one such network, others exist. Use it as a tool to enable future clients to get to know you. Create a profile, seek out contacts, and join groups in your industry. Once you’ve become a group member, start discussions and respond to discussions that are already ongoing. Prove to group members that you have valuable information to contribute.

I can’t stress enough the value of networking, especially virtual networking. But it takes a lot of time, and you need to be consistent in your approach. Make sure everything you put out there looks professional and portrays you in a positive manner. That means inserting a real photo rather than an avatar, using proper grammar and punctuation rather than “text-speak,” and responding to contacts in a timely manner. Once you start your virtual networking, keep at it. You’ll soon find that it pays off.

About the Author:
Cyndy Kryder, MS, CCC-Sp, has been a freelance medical writer for more than 16 years. As one-half of the Accidental Medical Writer writing team, she offers advice and writing tips for aspiring medical writers at:

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