5 Ways Nurses Can Make Money by Writing

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When you’re trying to get started as a nurse writer, it can be hard to figure out exactly how you can make money at this writing thing. There are so many avenues to pursue. Which ones actually pay well, and which ones might lead to a dead-end?

I know I went through that when I was first starting out – even though I had an advantage because I’d already been freelancing for a few years before I went into healthcare writing. Today I’d like to help you separate the wheat from the chaff of writing opportunities by outlining my top five ways nurses can make money by writing.

1. Healthcare Content Marketing Writing

I always say content writing pays the best of any type of freelance writing, but the truth is a lot of prospective clients do not pay well. The secret is figuring out which ones do, and then pursuing them.

In general, I always recommend starting out working with agencies. Medical marketing agencies do all the legwork involved in finding clients with deep pockets, and all you have to do as the writer is…write. At least, that’s often the case. Many times, I’ve found the rates I get from agencies are better than those I negotiate on my own to work directly with companies.

For those who don’t understand what content writing is, let me explain. It’s producing myriad types of marketing assets for companies. Marketing assets can include blog posts, newsletters, web pages, infographics – anything produced for a company that is not a media outlet like a newspaper. Because marketing obviously represents a key expense for any major brand, marketing budgets tend to be rather robust – with plenty of room for hiring freelance nurse-writers.

2. Health Journalism

Content writing pays better than journalism, but I believe health reporting represents the shortest path to success as a freelance nurse-writer, which is why I created a workshop on health reporting before one on content writing. Plus, journalism skills transfer excellently to content writing. 

As a health reporter, you cover health news stories (such as reporting on new research), write feature articles, conduct interviews, and so on. I love putting my reporter hat on because it’s like a golden key that gives me access to top health experts. Nothing stimulates my nerd mind more than asking questions of a medical expert and getting her fascinating answers back. Once I got to interview the inventor of an LVAD pump, and I felt a geeky afterglow for days.

Anyway, becoming a health reporter is not very difficult for a nurse, and once you develop a good relationship with an editor or two you can expect to receive regular assignments that pay decently.

3. Blogging

It definitely is possible for nurses to make money by publishing their own blog. In general, people make money blogging through affiliate marketing. To develop a profitable blog, you need to educate yourself about:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Social media promotion
  • Earned media publicity

There’s more to it than that, but I think grasping these fundamental concepts would be enough to bring in at least a trickle of income from your own blog. And if you get really good at affiliate marketing, then you could make a substantial income from it. I personally know a (non-nurse, non-health) blogger who grew her publication into a million-dollar enterprise over the course of 10 years.

4. Pharmaceutical Writing

I lied when I said content writing pays the best. It’s actual pharma writing. Unfortunately, I know very little about this type of writing because it requires a far higher level of scientific understanding than I possess.

Pharmaceutical writing encompasses lots of different stuff, including:

  • Regulatory writing
  • Abstracts
  • Scientific reviews
  • Patient narratives
  • Monographs

My take on pharma writing is that it requires a very high level of expertise in conducting research. Most of the pharma writers I know are experts at searching PubMed – and also at collating results and interpreting them.

If you’re interested in this type of highly scientific writing, I recommend you check out the resources at the American Medical Writers Association.

5. Continuing Education Writing

Writing CME or CNE can be very lucrative. I’ve known non-nurse writers who earned six figures a year almost exclusively writing needs assessments for CME.

Although I’ve never done this type of writing myself (again, it’s very scientific and I prefer more humanistic writing), I have a basic grasp of how it works. As a CE writer, you might be called upon to produce:

  • Needs assessments
  • CME/CNE modules
  • Board or licensing prep guides
  • Disease and condition monographs

And many other components of medical or nursing continuing education.

If your writing style leans more towards the heavily cited, scientific voice and tone, then writing CME/CNE might be a good fit for you. To get started in this niche, you need to seek out the companies or agencies that create and distribute continuing education materials, send a letter of introduction, and keep following up. 

Not all continuing education companies pay well. Part of the reason I haven’t gotten involved in it is because the opportunities that came my way paid very poorly, as a matter of fact. Don’t get buffaloed into thinking something like “$200 per CE” is a common rate. It’s not. As far as I know, that’s actually a terrible rate.

Five of 100 Ways a Nurse can Make Money by Writing

What I’ve provided here is a very brief overview of just five of hundreds of ways a nurse could make money by writing. You might opt to specialize in patient education materials, for example. Or medical scriptwriting. Or white papers. 

The great thing about becoming a nurse-writer is you can create your own profitable niche, based on your own interests and skill set. 

Which of these five ways to make money by writing do you find most appealing? Let me know in the comments!

Elizabeth Hanes

Elizabeth Hanes

Elizabeth Hanes BSN RN is known professionally as "the nurse who knows content." By day, she uses her nursing knowledge and creative writing acumen to produce content that drives results for clients. By night, she teaches other nurses how to achieve their dreams of a professional writing career. In between, she takes frequent breaks to drink Cosmos and walk her dog, Mitzi. Elizabeth lives in Albuquerque, NM. She has never met Walter White or needed Saul Goodman.

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