i_am_a_writer_david_turnbullWriting makes a great second career for nurses because your specialized knowledge gives you an edge when trying to enter a variety of market segments, including:

  • Consumer health and wellness reporting (e.g.: WebMD magazine, Self magazine, various websites)
  • Writing about healthcare policy
  • Blogging for physicians and other healthcare professionals
  • Co-authoring or ghostwriting non-fiction health and wellness books
  • Crafting Continuing Medical Education and Continuing Nursing Education units
  • Creating patient engagement materials
  • Writing newsletters for healthcare institutions

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s easy to talk about becoming a freelance writer, but how do you actually do it? Follow these three basic steps.

1. Don’t quit your day job

I would never recommend anyone try leaping full-time into a writing career. On that path lies failure. Instead, use your days off to learn as much as you can about the business and art of freelance writing. Buy great books on the subject. Study websites about freelancing. Start thinking about specific niches you want to specialize in (more about that in a future blog post).

2. Tend to the business details

Freelance writing is a profession, but it also is a business. As a freelance writer, you are self-employed. You are wholly responsible for everything about your business, from making money to paying taxes to saving for retirement. This means you need some business knowledge. If you don’t have any, go out and get some.

Before you ever send that first query or letter of introduction (more about those two items in a future blog post), you need to “get your factory up and running” – as one of my favorite authors, Carl King, puts it. Every freelancer needs to get these pieces in place, at a bare minimum:

  • Business name and entity (It need not be any fancier than your legal name, but I advise you to create a real business entity instead. I’ll tell you why in my June 4th post.)
  • Federal tax ID number (Employer Identification Number or EIN)
  • State and/or local tax certificates or identification numbers
  • Business license if required where you live
  • Business bank account (This is an absolute must!)
  • At least a bare-bones website (I recommend self-hosted WordPress. Either build it yourself or hire a designer to create one for you.)
  • Mastery of Microsoft Word
  • Familiarity with Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint

You also should preferably have a dedicated business computer with the appropriate software. I’ll talk more about how to set up your home office in my June 19th post.

3. Start marketing yourself (and landing gigs!) in your spare time

First, let me say it’s entirely possible to earn the equivalent of a ‘full-time’ income while working only part-time as a writer. I’ve done it. In fact, when I transitioned from full-time nursing to full-time writing, I employed the very strategy I just outlined for you. I began by getting my factory up and running, then gradually took on clients until I was able to replace my nursing income by writing in my spare time. Once I hit that watershed, I left clinical nursing for full-time freelancing. If I can do it, so can you.

Marketing is a key (possibly the key) element in finding success as a freelance writer. It’s unlikely you’ll ever stop marketing in your entire career. Don’t let that fact deter you. Marketing yourself may feel odd at first, but you will become more comfortable with it the more you do it.

When I talk about “marketing yourself,” I mean three things:

  • Directly contacting individuals who might hire you on a contract basis
  • Passively marketing yourself via your website and listings on legitimate freelance platforms
  • Actively participating in social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)

If you do those three things on a consistent basis, you will be successful in your new career as a writer. I’ll expand on all of these marketing methods in future blog posts (or in the RN2Writer newsletter, so don’t forget to sign up!).

When you land your first writing assignment, you will feel a sense of accomplishment rivaled only, perhaps, by the way you felt when you graduated from nursing school. But landing the assignment isn’t the end of the process — it’s the beginning. Once you’ve won the assignment, you have to actually deliver — find sources, interview them, meet deadlines, cheerfully accept editorial criticism and write revisions. Again, I’ll cover these aspects of freelancing in greater depth as we go.

Are you excited yet?

I hope so! Freelance writing is a rewarding career that will confer a rich sense of personal fulfillment. I’m glad you’re allowing me to help you on this journey. Please post any questions in the comments section or send me an email.




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Image courtesy David Turnbull.