I hope you’re having a super January. I’ve been prospecting my fanny off. Yes, even as a seasoned freelance writer I must constantly prospect for new work.
To find clients, I’ve espoused Jennifer Goforth Gregory’s “Audience First” approach in the past, and that is an excellent method that I use frequently. But there’s another path that works, too: Deciding what type of content writing you excel at, and then finding clients who publish that type of stuff.
Let me explain.
Types of Content Writing, Demystified
The term “content writing” often throws people. What the hell is it, exactly?
Well, honestly, I consider the term “content” to be a nouveau replacement for the stodgy term “marketing.” Really, any type of writing that contributes to the marketing effort can be considered “content writing” these days.
An extremely brief list of examples:
Web pages (though some people consider this “copywriting” or “SEO writing”)
Consumer health reporting for a non-journalism outlet (more on this later)
Social media status updates
The list goes on and on and…on. As I said before: If it’s something written that contributes to the marketing effort, then it’s “content.”
Reduce Overwhelm by Choosing One or Two Content Types to Focus On
One of the biggest issues new freelance nurse-writers face is overwhelm. Where should I start? Should I pursue blog writing opportunities or white papers? Or should I just take any opportunity that comes along and be grateful?
These are all excellent questions. One way to avoid this sort of overwhelm is to decide which types of content you’re most comfortable writing, and then look for those types of opportunities.
When I started out as a freelance content writer, I wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea of writing white papers. I didn’t even know exactly what a white paper was!
I felt much more comfortable crafting web pages, blog posts, and doing consumer health reporting. So those are the opportunities I chased.
Succeeding at those opportunities gave me the confidence to expand into other areas. And, eventually, one of my health reporting clients asked if I’d be willing to try writing a white paper. Voila. Instant white paper experience.
To help you get out of the gate quickly with your new career in freelance writing, I thought I’d offer you three types of content writing I think nurses excel at – and where to find opportunities for producing these types of content assets.
1. Consumer Health Reporting for a Non-Journalism Outlet
OK, here’s a distinction: If you write a health article for the New York Times (or Cosmopolitan magazine), that is real, honest-to-goodness journalism because the principal business of those outlets is journalism. If you write a health article for Healthgrades or Eddie Bauer magazine or your local hospital’s digital newsletter, that is a type of content writing called “brand journalism” because the principal business of those outlets is not journalism.
Does that make sense?
You will use the same skills to write both articles, but the “rules” are different for content marketing when it comes to “separation of church and state,” along with several other points, such as whether or not sources are allowed to review their quotes.
I’m not going into all those details right now, but I want to be clear there’s a difference between straight journalism and brand journalism.
I’m writing here about brand journalism.
Nurses make excellent health reporters because of our knowledge base and real-world experience. Many times I’ve interviewed doctors who didn’t know I am an RN, and they asked me during the interview if I was a clinician. When I responded in the affirmative, the doctor replied s/he thought so, “because a lay person wouldn’t have known to ask me that question.” We nurses can use our experience to dig deep and unearth nuggets that non-clinicians would never uncover.
If you’re interested in health reporting, you should look for opportunities with brands known to publish health articles. I suggest these potential clients:
Local hospitals and health systems
Major health systems (such as Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, etc.)
Health and wellness brands (such as your favorite energy bar maker, outdoor gear retailers, etc.)
TIP: Google “writer guidelines” and watch what pops up. You’ll have to wade through these and do some research, but you’ll find many brand magazines to pitch with a health article.
2. Blog Posts
Blog posts are short and easy-to-construct, which make them an excellent type of writing to build the skills of a novice freelancer. A great many healthcare brands publish blogs; the trick is figuring out who handles their blog – the brand itself, or an agency.
You can try approaching the brand directly, particularly if there’s someone listed with a title like “content manager.”
But your best bet for potentially landing many blog writing gigs in one fell swoop lies in contacting agencies. The best way to do this is by Googling “healthcare content marketing agency.” Identify a likely person (content director, editor, or some related job title) and send them an LOI that calls attention to your desire to write blog posts, specifically. You may want to further clarify that you want to craft blog posts for the agency’s healthcare clients, just to be sure you’re on the same page.
Lastly, you can try reaching out to local private practices that you know publish a blog. Some of these may have an agency handle their marketing, which is great – you can find out which agency and then approach them!
The reason I think nurses can excel at scripting infographics is because we understand how to interpret statistics, and we understand how “flows” and processes work – crucial for an infographic. Plus, infographic writing requires the ability to concisely and accurately convey important information – not unlike charting!
In my limited experience with infographics, the process usually involves the client providing you with source material or asking you to perform research into the subject of the infographic. Then, you’ll compile data and other information into a “script” that may or may not include suggestions for the graphic design portion of the infographic.
To find opportunities in infographics, I suggest:
Offer infographic scripting as one of your services to local hospitals, health systems, etc.
Send LOIs to large health associations (like the American Heart Association)
Google “health infographics” and find entities that have published them in the past
TIP: One strategy that’s not worth your time? Approaching U.S. federal agencies like NIH or CDC for work. All government work requires first jumping through all the hoops to be approved as a contractor and then responding to requests for proposals. It’s not worth it for one-person shops like us.
And there you have it! Three types of content writing nurses can excel at, and where you can find opportunities for pursuing them.
What types of content do you feel most comfortable writing? How do you go about finding opportunities? Please share your strategies in the comments!