Working with marketing agenciesMany freelance writers don’t like working with agencies because agency rates typically are lower than what you can get for the same writing on the open market. However, working for an agency confers one huge benefit: they bring clients to you. Let’s look at the pros and cons of working with healthcare marketing agencies.

What is a healthcare marketing agency?

Like many industries advertising, marketing and public relations agencies have gone niche. Sometimes they call this ’boutique.’ I’ve seen a wellspring of marketing agencies working solely with healthcare companies, and I’ve seen major ad agencies develop arms exclusively to cater to health industry clients. Type ‘healthcare marketing agency’ into Google, and you get 21,000,000 results. More or less. That’s a lot of potential clients for you.

Healthcare marketing agencies run the gamut from ad agencies that need snappy copy to public relations firms that issue news releases on behalf of health organizations.

Those 21,000,000 or so healthcare marketing agencies contain all types of ad/marketing/PR agencies aimed at the health industry sector, but only a handful will work with freelance talent or will be a good fit for your skill set. It’s up to you to winnow down those Google results into a manageable list to send an LOI to.

What are the benefits of working with an agency?

One major benefit is not having to market yourself relentlessly. When you work with an agency, they send work to you; you don’t have to pitch them or otherwise solicit work from them. You work for their clients, producing materials to the agency’s specifications.

Often you will never have direct contact with the agency’s client. All of your interactions will be handled through an agency employee.

However, if you do have direct contact with the agency’s client, you must always comport yourself with the same professionalism as an employee of the agency. And you must never, ever try to poach an agency’s client. It is never OK to solicit work directly from the client of a healthcare marketing agency after your assignment with the agency ends. To do so would be highly unethical.

What are the drawbacks to working with an agency?

The main downside to working with an agency is reduced pay. The agency has to make money, too, so they retain a hefty percentage of the overall fee for any project. You may never know how much the project was worth, in fact. The agency will negotiate a rate with you in advance, and that rate usually is considerably less than you would make if you were working directly with the client.

Why would anyone do that? See ‘benefits,’ above. Many people hate marketing. Another good reason to work with an agency is to get clips. Sometimes an agency will take a chance on a less-experienced writer because they have plenty of staff people to edit and rewrite if necessary.

How do you figure out which agencies are likely targets?

There’s no surefire way to vet an agency by looking at its website. You can evaluate certain factors regarding the type of work a given agency does, and what their culture is like, and then you simply need to send a letter of introduction to see if they use freelancers.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Screwpile Communications. Right off the bat, you can see in this company’s banner they provide inbound marketing services for healthcare, medical technology and devices. If these are industries you’re interested in, then this agency might be for you. You might expect they would require freelancers to have some knowledge of how inbound marketing works, since that is their focus.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage, you’ll see the company’s recent blog posts, one of which is titled “10 Healthcare Content Marketing Tips to Become a Better Writer.” This tells you the company presumably provides content marketing services. Again, if that’s your thing you might want to drop them an LOI.

A quick perusal of their blog archives lists about four author names, total. This leads me to suspect Screwpile is a small shop. I could be wrong. I know nothing about Screwpile Communications; I just pulled their name off the list of Google results.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t approach smaller agencies. I think it’s less likely you’ll get work, though.

Grey Healthcare Group. You can tell this is a larger agency almost immediately. For one thing, it pictures six staff people on the homepage. For another, the ‘careers’ list has 33 open positions on it. Third, when you click on the ‘Our Company’ link, you discover GHG has 10 specialty divisions. The chances this agency works with freelance writers is very high. They make a good candidate for a letter of introduction.

Who should I contact?

Tracking down the ‘right’ person to contact with an LOI can be tricky with agencies. Many people have the same or similar job titles, and sometimes it’s difficult to discern whose title ranks higher than someone else’s. Don’t fret about this too much. If the agency’s website doesn’t list individuals, try checking LinkedIn to find someone at the company with a title like “VP of marketing” or “marketing director.” Then send your letter off. Even if you’ve sent it to the wrong person, he or she might pass it along to the right person.

That said, don’t just send LOIs at random. Do your homework. Make your best effort to identify the most appropriate contact person at the agency.

What should I expect if an agency wants to work with me?

If a healthcare marketing agency wants to bring you onboard as a contract writer, they likely will have an application process and possibly a writing and/or editing test to pass. You may have to provide references.

A word about writing tests. Many agencies require prospective freelance writers to complete a test that demonstrates their writing abilities. This test should be the same for all applicants, and it should never require you to produce a publication-ready piece of work. If any individual or company asks you to produce a “test story,” “test blog” or other “test material,” be very wary. This could be a scam to obtain free content.

Once an agency has onboarded you, work might come quickly — or it could take awhile. Work may come regularly — or it may come sporadically. You should not count on making a living by freelancing for a single agency. They probably won’t be able to keep you that busy.

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Wishing you well!




Image via Ed Schipul