Medical Writing

What types of medical writing opportunities exist?

There are lots of options depending on whether you want to write more scientifically versus colloquially and who your target audience is (other scientists versus the general public).

  • Content for consumer health websites

  • Content for healthcare related companies - sales literature or lead markets

  • Health Blogs

  • Regulatory writing - documents related to pharmaceutical sales or trials

  • Clinical guidelines

  • Grant writing

  • CME questions

  • Board review content

  • Manuscript writing or peer review - editing before publication

  • White papers

  • Thought leader/key opinion leader pieces

  • Pitch decks for startups

  • Medically themed writing or review for media, TV shows, movies

  • Medical textbooks

  • Medically themed fiction

 

How do you find opportunities?

There are lots of different avenues, but they predominantly involve brand-building, networking, and Google searches.  Someone may come to you because they view you as an expert in a relevant space, because they’re introduced by a friend or contact, or because they saw you writing about a similar topic elsewhere.  

 

How can you increase your chances of finding opportunities?

  • While you are a physician and have the knowledge, you will need a portfolio that demonstrates your writing in different settings.  They will likely ask for writing samples.

  • Create a website that showcases your expertise and your portfolio.

  • Create a LinkedIn profile and indicate that you do medical content writing.

  • Sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out) or submit guest blogs or opinion pieces to media outlets - although these won’t usually be paid, they may lead to paid opportunities if others see that content.

  • Search on job sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and run Google searches for medical writing jobs.

  • There are some courses that you can take. You can also get listed in directories such as the American Medical Writers Association directory and our brand partnerships directory.

  • Once you become established and are freelancing, let your clients know to feel free to pass your name on for other gigs.
     

What do these opportunities pay?

  • This varies widely, based on things like how much readership you can bring them or how much their readers are interested in hearing from you, the particular client, the industry, specialty, and experience.  Doing work for pharmaceuticals or larger global companies usually pays the best ($250+/hour), while work for others can be as little as $50-150/hour.  Some pay by word or project as well.  

  • Don’t be afraid to ask what other physicians are getting for similar roles on the group.  Know your worth and ask for it - although many companies start low, particularly if they sought you out instead of the other way around, you will usually have quite a bit of wiggle room.  

  • Unless you have a formal full time role doing this, don’t expect this to replace your clinical income.  The work is usually as a 1099 contractor and may come in waves.  It’s hard to build a steady, reliable stream of income from it as a side gig.  The full time roles are sometimes offered by pharmaceutical or medical device companies, medical communications companies, regulatory/compliance arms of companies, consumer health information sites, or board review companies.

  • Freelance (directly contracting with different companies instead of as a gig with one company) tends to pay better, but you need to be pretty established in both years and breadth of portfolio before you can do this, which can take 5-10 years.  

 

How do I know if I’ll like this/it’ll be a good fit?

  • You obviously have to love writing.  You’ll have to be okay with others editing your work.  If you are writing for the general public, you’ll also have to comfortable writing about medical topics in lay terminology and a style that everyone can understand.

  • You work alone, for the most part, and often are just given a deadline without much in the way of instruction.  You likely need to be detail oriented.  You’ll need good communication skills, and basic computer/formating skills.  

  • Certain specialties tend to have more opportunities available, especially areas where there is a lot of drug development, studies being published, or new technology.  These include cardiology, endocrinology, oncology, immunology, orthopedic surgery, and neurology.  However, there really are opportunities for everyone!  Who wouldn’t want to hear about pediatric issues from a pediatrician or pregnancy issues from an OB/GYN?  There are always general medicine topics being written about on consumer health websites, and family medicine and internal medicine are perfect specialties for that. Think outside of the box when you consider who may be interested in your skills.

 

Do I need an LLC?

  • It depends on how much of a business you're making this and what your perceived liability is.  LLCs are for liability protection.  If you’re being paid 1099, you’ll get taxed the same as a sole proprietor.  Once you formalize your work into a freelance company or an agency, you may want to create an entity for ease of banking, business credit cards, accounting, etc. Consider getting an EIN so that you don’t have to keep sending W9s with your social security number.