By Dr Kathryn White, 2nd edition published April 2021 [Download your copy]
Freelancing in MedComms offers a great way of making a living for medical writers. Reasons for becoming a freelancer are many and varied: redundancy, a long daily commute to the office or changing family commitments. Some people leave employment because of bad experiences with their employers. Others feel they’re moving further away from the work they love as their careers progress and line management responsibilities take precedence. Within organisations, a medical writer’s role may be quite narrow, focusing on one specific type of writing or document or
a particular therapeutic area.
However, freelancing is not for everyone. Some people can find it difficult to work from home without colleagues around to spur them on. Becoming a business owner requires a mindset shift from employee to employer and a significant degree of self-confidence. You may not employ staff, but you are responsible for your own success and for leading business decisions. In short, ‘the buck stops with you’! Success is never guaranteed, nor is the level of income you’ll generate. Despite the challenges, there are a lot of plus points to freelancing, including the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects, the autonomy of being your own boss and without line management responsibilities, and the possibility of flexible working hours to fit around your chosen lifestyle. The more experience you gain as a freelancer, the more your comfort zone expands. Furthermore, the skills you gain from being a business owner are transferable should you decide to go back into employment.
The 2nd edition of this careers guide about being a freelance writer in MedComms is freely available here, published by Burntsky Ltd in April 2021, and it will now be updated every year.
About the author; Kathryn White
Kathryn is a freelance medical writer, equestrian journalist and author. A postgraduate in organic chemistry from the University of Nottingham, Kathryn didn’t have the typical background for medical writing. However, through a series of perfectly timed secondments within the pharmaceutical industry, she transitioned from lab scientist to medical writer via clinical research. After working for 15 years for global healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, Kathryn wanted more time at home and to learn business management. In 2010 she became a freelance medical writer and business owner of Cathean Ltd. Since then she has not only written regulatory and medical communications documents for a wide range of clients across the world, but has also enlisted the help of business coaches to learn how to manage a successful freelance company. As an active member of the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA), Kathryn co-hosted their Freelance Business Forum and co-edited the freelance section of their journal, Medical Writing. In 2011, she launched her own annual freelance gathering during which fellow medical writers discuss and share their business challenges. In addition, she presents seminars and webinars, and has written published articles1–3 on how to run an effective freelance business. Kathryn has now adapted some of the content of these articles to write this guide, with the aim of sharing further what she’s learned from her own experience and from her business coaching colleagues.