Nursing skills transfer to freelance writingIn case you’re feeling overwhelmed by two days of posts about the things you need to do to get your freelance business up and running, I want to offer some encouragement. Nurses bring unique skills and characteristics to the freelance table — skills and characteristics that vastly reduce the learning curve and make you a  valuable asset to any editor. Let me tell you about the many ways you stand out from the freelance pack.

Nurses solve problems

Freelance writing involves solving other people’s problems. Every day, I help editors and clients solve their content problems. Sometimes that means simply providing great stories. Other times, it means helping them define and communicate their brand value to the public. Sometimes I assist in framing an issue or in translating medical jargon. Problems in the writing field take many forms.

I daresay no one problem-solves as well as nurses do. We have to be able to figure out work-arounds and refine our practice to maximize efficiency.

Believe it or not, people in other lines of work don’t necessarily spend much time solving problems. When those people go into freelancing, it takes them awhile to figure out how to bring value to their editors and clients. They may even exacerbate problems instead of bringing solutions to the table.

When nurses go into freelancing, they already understand the process of identifying and solving problems. That’s a big plus.

Nurses remain calm under pressure

I’ve developed a bit of deadline anxiety over the past couple years, which I find rather amusing. Seriously, a deadline makes me feel stressed? Because, really, I took care of some pretty fragile patients in the PACU and managed to stay calm and focused.

Whether it’s stress from staring at a blank page or pressure to find a source at the last minute, freelance writers struggle with occupational tension. But nurses can take these stressors in stride because, let’s face it, a looming deadline just doesn’t pack the same punch as, I dunno, running a code. Right?

Nurses bring specialized knowledge to the table

I’ve worked with plenty of clients and editors responsible for assigning articles on subjects they didn’t understand. More than once an editor has chuckled while saying something like, “The clinical team really wants an article on Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome. Whatever that is.”

I’m not saying nurses know the particulars of every obscure disease. But nurses have the ability to see through jargon, to read studies and actually understand them and to ask intelligent questions of physicians and researchers — because we share their language. We can talk to sources on a peer level.

Nurses also possess a unique understanding of the way healthcare really works. Not the way it’s ‘supposed’ to work, or the way others ‘think’ it works, but the way it really, truly works in various milieu from acute care hospitals to home hospice. That knowledge is invaluable to editors and clients in the healthcare industry. That knowledge means your learning curve is significantly reduced compared to lay people trying to write about these issues.

Nurses can do math

You might think that’s a silly or insignificant point. Trust me, it’s not.

I’ve had assignments that required me to calculate incidence and prevalence. I’ve had assignments that required me to evaluate studies. Math creeps into many non-health related stories, too. All writers should have a good grasp of math. My friend Laura Laing even penned a book on this subject: Math for Writers. Buy it. (Not an affiliate link.)

Editors don’t like it when readers find statistical or math errors in a story. Editors don’t like printing corrections. Your math skills give you an advantage in turning in mathematically clean copy.

Math also will be an essential tool for running your business. Sure, we all like addition (adding up the checks coming in each month!), but you’ll need to perform many types of calculations for various aspects of business management. None of it is complicated or arduous. Your grasp of nursing math will serve you just fine.

The nursing process makes an excellent business management method

People who come to freelancing without a business background often face a steep learning curve. Nurses, on the other hand, already have an excellent business management method ingrained in the fiber of their being: the nursing process. Let’s run through a scenario of how this might work.

Assessment: What is the temperature of your business right now? It’s very cold; I lack clients. How is it doing financially? Looks like low cash volume to me. What tools are you employing to measure the health of your freelance business? My accounting software, and it says I have three invoices past due.

Diagnosis: Lack of readiness to support me in a full-time capacity.

Planning: Identify three new clients and send letters of introduction (LOIs). Set a minimum project fee to improve cash flow. Follow up with delinquent clients.

Implementation: I sent the LOIs and got an assignment from one. (Yay!) However, the assignment falls below my proposed minimum project fee. (Boo!) But I took it anyway because it’s a subject area I want to work in. (Yay!) And I followed up with my delinquent clients, who assure me the checks are in the mail.

Evaluation: My response rate to three LOIs was pretty good, but I will try tweaking the letter’s wording to make it even more effective. I was able to complete the assignment faster than expected, which will put cash into my bank account sooner than I’d anticipated. All three clients paid up, which tells me a phone call is an effective means of getting the payments I’m owed.

Beauty, eh?

I’ve always been amazed at the many situations in which I can apply the nursing process. It’s a great way to run your business.

Do you see why, as a nurse, you’re a natural to become a freelance writer? I sincerely believe that, and I hope you do, too!

If you are enjoying this 30 days of RN2Writer, please invite your friends (they don’t have to be nurses) to subscribe to this blog. And by all means post your questions and comments in the comments section.

Wishing you well!




Image via Quinn Dombrowski