How to become a medical writer with these freelance medical writing tips today!
So, you looking to become a freelance medical writer from home but have no idea where to begin?
You have SO MANY questions about freelance medical writing –
How much does a medical writer make?
What does a medical writer do?
How to find medical writing jobs that pay well?
What kind of freelance writing clients do I work with?
Ok… just hold on. Take a deep breath!
I want to clear something upfront before we move on to learning about medical writing.
You do not NEED an advanced medical or healthcare degree to be a qualified medical writer. It is a misconception that keeps many people away from this lucrative writing opportunity.
ok.. so let’s begin!
The healthcare industry is a tricky one to dive into. No doubt!
Not only will the clients expect you to understand medical terms and processes while you do the writing, but they will also expect you to explain them in an easy to understand manner (which is understandable!).
But, if you are interested in freelance medical writing and have the gift of gab, you can learn that quickly. As I mentioned before, you do not need any degree to become a freelance medical writer.
Let’s learn a bit more about what is medical writing and how can you begin your career as a medical writer.
What is Medical Writing? What does a medical writer do? What is a freelance medical writer?
Most people assume medical writing is all about doctors writing about doctor-stuff. But, that is far from the truth.
Medical writing can be a lot of things and covers many types of writing.
It can be writing for a medical journal, writing for a well-known medical website such as WebMD or the Mayo Clinic, contributing to a medical-related blog, a natural or holistic website, doctor’s office or any other medical or health website.
To give you further clarity, medical writing can be divided into –
- Regulatory writing – It deals with government bodies relevant to medicine and bioscience. For example, any documentation that pharma companies have to submit to the FDA (Food and Drug Authority) before they market the medicine. Another example of this would be to documenting clinical trials.
- Patient education – Have you ever searched for your symptoms online? I am sure you did! People need information on their conditions in order to understand it accurately. You are required to translate highly technical terms into simplified English.
- Journalism – This branch of medical writing cover clinical trial results lab-findings of disease mechanisms, conference proceedings, and company or university press releases. The goal is to accurately convey new development in this field.
- Peer-reviewed – Many doctors, PhDs, and scientists do not have the time to write down an article. They have found something amazing, want to contribute to a peer-reviewed journal and hire a medical writer to help them out.
- You could also be writing reports, newsletters, press releases, speeches, presentations, etc for your clients.
The type of freelance medical writing that you can do will depend on the type of writing you feel most comfortable with.
Who will you be working with as a medical writer? Who needs medical writing regularly?
You can target –
- Research Institute
- Pharma companies
- Health and life insurance companies
- Medical billing companies
- Medical information blogs
- Employee wellness companies
- Medical communication agencies
- Food companies etc.
Note – This post may contain affiliate links to products I trust. This means if you make a purchase using the links I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Is freelance medical writing a profitable career choice? How much does a medical writer make?
Freelance medical writing rates vary a lot. It also depends a lot on your quality of writing and the client you are working with!
For highly niched articles in the medical field, medical writing rates can be as high as $1 to $5 per word. On the other hand, for many health-related articles, you are paid 10 cents and up.
In my experience, it is good to start at 20 cents a word for any kind of medical writing. Remember that you want to research well and write a value-packed article for your client.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual Freelance Medical Writer salary in the United States is $86,660 a year.
Note: I highly recommend you to check out this Ultimate guide on freelance writing and How to start freelance writing: List of the must-have resources
What qualifications do you need to be a medical writer? How do you become a certified medical writer?
According to this, AMWA and Science,
Most freelance medical writers have bachelor’s or master’s degree in journalism or English. They build experience in the medical writing field by contributing to scientific publications and association newsletters.
Many others take medical writing courses offered by universities.
On the other hand, scientific medical writers, including regulatory medical writers (those who write proposals and applications for new FDA drug and medical device approvals), often have advanced training in the medical field; many are PhDs or MDs who put their specialized knowledge to work in writing.
Some medical writers, especially those in the scientific arena, earn continuing education certificates from the AMWA.
So, if you have no degree at all or have a basic English degree, you can work your way up and gain expert knowledge by investing in yourself and getting online freelance medical writing courses.
Usually, freelance medical writers consider furthering their education in a healthcare area and get medical writer training. This helps them charge a higher rate and gain expert knowledge.
For this purpose, you can take a certification or a degree. You can also consider community colleges to pursue courses on medical terminology, psychology, biology, and such.
Should you stick to medical writing as a freelance writing niche?
No. But, I recommend you do.
*Wait. What is she talking about?*
This might sound confusing but try to understand what I am trying to tell you –
Select one freelance writing niche and stick with it. This will help you narrow down the kind of clients you want to write for (which, in a general “I write all” niche, is very difficult) and create a writing portfolio just for them (which makes it relevant and you will have more chances to land a job).
That said, you do not have to stick to it if someone approaches you for writing outside of this niche.
It is important that you explore your interests and market to see which is most profitable for you.
If you’re considering furthering your career, you can also consider one in writing and editing so that you can boost your income.
If you are new to freelance writing niche, download this guide to understand all about it and whether you should have one
6 tips and strategies to become a successful freelance medical writer
#1 Learn as much as you can about the medical industry you are targetting
It is important that you learn as much as possible about the specific field or industry that you want to write in. Having in-depth knowledge in your domain will help you land freelance writing clients faster.
To begin with, start reading blogs and websites that deal in your niche. Reading content on drug companies websites, medical magazines, and foundations can also help you gather relevant medical information and enhance your industry knowledge.
You can also start reading the target client’s website and other known blogs in your freelance medical writing niche.
#2 Join the American Medical Writer’s Association
Joining the American Medical Writer’s Association will provide you the credibility to show that you can and are qualified to write for businesses in the medical industry.
To earn credentials, you will have to pass a specific editing and writing test. You can then promote yourself as an AMW credited writer which can really help you boost your medical writing career in the beginning (especially when you do not have an impressive portfolio or client testimonials)
Besides that, joining a professional organization such as AMW, will allow you to network with fellow writers. You can learn so much from them and remember, it is important to make friends in your niche.
They will come to your rescue in times when
- You are stuck or having trouble figuring out client work
- You are not motivated enough and feel low
Besides this, freelance writers also tend to share leads and give out references in case they do not have the time or expertise to pick it up.
#3 Knowing AMA Style is a Must
You must the American Medical Association‘s style of writing. You will need to know this to write for most of the reputed medical-related businesses and websites.
AP and Chicago styles are only used for other publications that are not related to the medical field, as they are not as professionally recognized.
#4 Create a Specific Portfolio with medical writing samples only
If you want to become a medical writer (or any freelance writer of any sort!), you need to have a freelance writing portfolio. It is a collection of your best work to show a potential client that you are the right choice.
By creating an impressive and relevant writing portfolio, you can easily show prospective clients what you can do and how you do it.
Not only does it help them analyze your skill set, but it will also help them understand your style and knowledge about the industry.
You cannot blame a client for not hiring you if you call yourself a medical writer but have NO samples to show them, right?
So, what to do to land remote freelance medical writing jobs?
Start writing samples that you can show them even if they are “self-published” or “not published at all”. You can even start writing on Medium or other free platforms
Note: I highly recommend you to check out this Ultimate guide on freelance writing
Write guest posts for medical or health-related websites and blogs
You should always try to expand your reach with guest posting.
Because this is how you increase your chances to be found by a potential client.
Create your own writer’s website
A good way to get your foot in the door is to start your own website. It provides you with a space to write and brand yourself.
If you want to become a freelance medical writer who is easily searchable, then having a website is a must. It is a tried and tested technique to generate traffic, land clients and boost income.
You can use this step by step tutorial to get your WordPress blog up and running. If you have difficulty in understanding the basics (like domain name, wordpress.org or .com, hosting etc), you can read this article on website basics.
If you do not want to invest in a website designer (which I did not, and created this website on my own), buy a theme builder like Elementor. It is super easy and is almost drag and drop.
#5 Take online freelance medical writing courses
As mentioned above, you should consider taking online freelance medical writing courses to develop the required skills and expertise.
Treat it as an investment in yourself and if you land 1-2 clients, the courses will end up paying for themselves. You can check on Udemy or Coursera.
I highly recommend you to sign up for Skillshare to get free classes on freelance writing
#6 Always Be Confident
You want to be confident when approaching your prospective clients in any manner – whether it is a call or an email.
For example, if you are on a call with a client, you want to talk about your relevant experience and highlight any results that you have driven for past clients (like, number of social media shares or having been able to rank on Google).
Whether or not you are “actually” confident about the requirement, trust your skills and ability to learn – do not use words like “maybe”, “I think I can”.
No one wants to give work to someone who is not confident in their own skills.
You need to prepare yourself and let them know why they should hire you and why you are better than the other writers they may have come across.
Don’t worry, you are likely to make mistakes in the first few. With experience, you will get better at handling calls and conversations with clients.
Where to Look for Medical-Related Writing Jobs
Remote freelance medical writing jobs can be found everywhere if you know where to look.
You can easily find medical writing jobs on many online job boards.
Indeed, Monster and other similar job websites also have many copywriting and editing jobs, especially those in the healthcare field.
If you do not want the headache to weed out spam job postings, sign up for FlexJobs.
Every single job on FlexJobs is hand-screened for legitimacy, with no ads or scams mixed in, and every single job offers work flexibility such as telecommuting, freelance, part-time or other flexible options.
You can also use online writing platforms such as Freelancer, Guru, and Upwork to start with. They do have many medical writing jobs. Check out this post on 37+ remote job websites to find your dream job.
While job boards are a great way to land medical writing jobs quickly as a beginner, it cannot be your long term strategy. I was able to make $900+ from the first month of writing because I invested time and effort to learn cold emailing. Check out How to find and pitch clients your freelance writing services
Free online Medical writing course, resources, and links to help you break into medical writing
- Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) – A great place to network with editors.
- Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS) – A place to find almost anything about medical writing
- Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA)
- National Association of Science Writers (NASW)
There you go.
This is all about freelance medical writing as a career choice for now. If you are interested in medical writing, I would say go for it. Just do not make these 7 rookie mistakes most freelance writers make.
I will write a sequel to this where I go in-depth – Do let me know if you want me to do that.
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This is a guest post by Adam Durnham. He is a freelance blogger that specializes in writing about mental health and wellness. He currently lives in Detroit, Michigan with his dog Beignet.