Picture of hand with five fingers: Friday Five.Every Friday I’m sharing five tips to launch, amp up or maintain your freelance health writing career. You should implement one tip per day, Monday through Friday. Have fun!

Until today, I’ve focused the Friday Five posts on nurses who are just starting down the freelance path. Today, I’m offering some tips to those of you who have been testing the freelance waters and would like to amp up your career. Enjoy!

Tip 1 (Monday): Identify Your Weaknesses

Last week, we began a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis of ourselves. This week, we’re moving to the weaknesses portion. Write these down on the same piece of paper you wrote your strengths on last week.

What are your weaknesses as a freelance nurse-writer? Common weaknesses might include:

  • Inefficient researcher
  • Trouble identifying markets
  • Difficulty saying “no”
  • Not detail-oriented

Only YOU can determine where you’re weak as a freelancer. It could be on the business side or on the writing side. This exercise won’t work if you’re not totally candid with yourself, and no one will see your SWOT analysis but you. So, be blunt with yourself.

Tip 2 (Tuesday): Find markets

The most common question I receive is: How do you find clients/markets? The answer is simple: research!

Would-be nurse journalists, ask yourselves: Who publishes the types of stories I want to write?

Would-be commercial (aka: corporate, content, marketing) writers, ask yourselves: What types of companies, organizations, hospitals, etc., already publish content of the type I want to write?

Once you’ve answered these fundamental questions, get on Google or LinkedIn and hunt down contacts at these publications and organizations. Your mission today is to identify at least THREE new markets to query or send an LOI. Make a list, and then…

Tip 3 (Wednesday): Hone your LOI or query

Marketing writers: Scrutinize your LOI, word by word. Is it as good as it can be? Could you be more concise? Could you be more descriptive? Today, I want you to polish your LOI to gleaming perfection. Here are some resources for doing it:

Reporters: Do you have a boilerplate query? You should. At least, the part Kelly James-Enger calls the “I’m-so-great” paragraph should already exist somewhere in your electronic files so you don’t have to rewrite it every time. Work on your query template today and polish it up nice and shiny. Some resources for you:

If you’re feeling bold, post your LOI or query in the comments section, and I’ll critique it!

Tip 4 (Thursday): Establish a workflow

If you’ve been freelancing for awhile, you probably already hew to an informal workflow. It might go something like this:

  • Assignment gets green-lighted
  • Correspondence ensues
  • Interviews scheduled/completed
  • Draft submitted
  • Edits returned
  • Final article accepted
  • Client invoiced

This is OK, but the problem with it is…

  • That second email — the one with the word count and other details — where did it go? Why can’t I find the @*(*%$&#%^ thing??!
  • Was I supposed to submit an outline first? Or just the draft?
  • Who did they tell me to invoice, again? What’s his name?
  • What style guide is the client using? Did they indicate AP, or…?
  • And why can’t I find that #*@(#&$^ email again??!

If you see yourself in that, don’t despair. We’ve all been there. But you can work much more efficiently (i.e.: increase your effective hourly rate) if you develop some written workflow procedures and follow them every time. Look at it like this: If you were in a cubicle, you’d be given a procedure manual, right? So start creating your own procedure manual today.

In answer to your unstated question: Yes, I have a written workflow procedure. It starts like this:

  • Assignment gets green-lighted
    • Put deadlines on Planner Pad
    • Enter complete contact information for all individuals into ContactMe
    • Create an email folder for the project (if not already done)
    • Create a physical folder
    • Complete the client intake form and staple it inside the folder
    • Print out all style guides, if required (that’s just me; I work much better from printed materials — trees be damned)
    • Add the project to OfficeTime (my time-tracking software)
    • Start a draft invoice

You get the picture.

Tip 5 (Friday): Show your appreciation

Do you enjoy receiving an unexpected “thinking of you” card in the mail? Well, guess what — so do clients and editors.

I purchased some elegant, monogram-style notecards from Vistaprint, and I make it a point to send notes to clients at random times, to thank them for their business. And while, yes, this can be considered a marketing tactic, the truth is I do it from a very genuine place of gratitude. I think sending a brief, handwritten thank-you note (or “I appreciate you” note) is simply a nice thing to do. I send these cards because I enjoy doing it, not in a blatant attempt to garner more work.

Your mission for today: Get some professional-looking notecards and send some off to your editors and/or clients.

That’s it for this week! Tell me in the comments what you’d like to see me cover in a future Friday 5!

Wishing you well,