We love what we do. We say it all the time. But freelance medical writing is not all puppies and unicorns. You need to be aware of some of the unsexy realities of this profession. Here goes.
1. Just because you’re good doesn’t mean you’ll get work. It’s true. No matter how good you are as a writer, project manager, editor, or strategic thinker, if clients don’t know who you are and where to find you, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting at your desk worrying about how you’ll pay the mortgage. If you’re not out there marketing your services, you won’t get work. Don’t know how to market? Buy The Mighty Marketer, a step-by-step guide filled with practical steps to help you market your freelance medical writing business.
2. Clients don’t really care about you. This may be a hard truth to accept, but most of your clients don’t care if you make money on a project or you have to work nights and weekends to meet a deadline. It’s all about them and their needs–your needs don’t matter. Don’t get us wrong, the truly good clients do care (and there are a few out there). They want you to be paid fairly for the work you do; they empathize with you if your cat dies in the middle of the project or your kids come down with chicken pox days before a deadline. Nevertheless, they don’t want your personal circumstances to adversely affect their project, so make sure they don’t.
3. At some point every freelance leaves money on the table. Regardless of how well you estimate projects, there comes a time in every freelance’s career when he or she blows one and ends up losing money. Expect it, and don’t beat yourself up when it happens. Learn from the experience and do better the next time.
4. If you don’t pay Uncle Sam every quarter, he’ll come after you. We recall a freelance just starting out. She wasn’t making much money–perhaps she earned $30,000 annually from medical writing–and she didn’t think she needed to pay estimated taxes throughout the year. Uncle Sam hit her with a hefty penalty she wasn’t expecting, and she didn’t have available funds to pay it. Don’t make the same mistake. Get advice from an accountant who can tell you how much money to put aside from your earned income each month to cover your quarterly taxes.
5. Sitting at your desk day after day ALONE gets boring. When we tell people we’re freelance medical writers, they imagine us wearing bunny slippers, sipping tea (or beer), and eating bon-bons while we type away at our keyboards in an immaculate home office. The reality is much less exciting. It is boring to work in isolation plugging away on our computers, and sitting for hours is bad for our health. That’s why we arrange lunch dates with colleagues and clients, volunteer in our communities and for AMWA, and try to get up and walk around a couple times each hour. We do it for our physical and mental health and well-being, and you should, too. In fact, we’re even considering Standing Desks as an alternative to sitting.
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