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By Marithea Goberville, PhD
The project-based nature of medical writing lends itself exceptionally well to freelancing. With thousands of medical writers completing nearly $1 Billion in projects annually, the industry is flush with talent at all levels, including freelancers. So just how do you go about finding them? Once you find them, what criteria can you use to select the right one for your project? And finally, once you have found and selected a medical writer, what steps can you take to ensure an effective working relationship? This three-part mini-series addresses these questions for the benefit of anyone seeking the services of a medical writer.
Part 1: How to Find a Professional Freelance Medical Writer
The 5 Top Internet-Based Methods
While there really are countless methods for finding a freelancer to assist with your project, I will list and discuss only the top five internet-based techniques here. However, as with many things, hasty, last-minute searches often create disappointing results. Consider starting your search by “looking” for a freelance medical writer even before you need one. Let your colleagues and others in your professional network know that you need contract medical writers from time to time. Keep a handful of promising prospects ‘on file’ as you come across them. This will shorten the ‘search time’ to near zero when the need genuinely arises, so you can concentrate on the selection process and ensuring your choice is a good match for the project (and is available!). That said, once you find yourself needing to begin your search, here are five best places on the Internet to find what you are looking for:
- AMWA database -American Medical Writers Association, the primary trade association for medical writers in the U.S., maintains a searchable database of its members. A small $50 ‘subscription’ is required by non-members for three months of search privileges. Other professional societies (RAPS, ISMPP, DIA, etc.) also maintain databases of members, a portion of whom are freelance medical writers, but membership is required to search them, and none are as vast and detailed as the AMWA freelancer database. Furthermore, I suspect that most of the individuals in these other databases are also listed in the AMWA database.
- Google – One of the best ways to find anything these days, Google, is also a reasonably efficient method for locating a freelance medical writer. I say ‘reasonably efficient’ because larger medical writing firms tend to have greater resources to make themselves visible, so the freelancers tend to be somewhat harder to find (not on Page 1 of Google). However, by including specific terms such as the therapeutic area, document type (manuscript, slide deck, study report, etc.) and target audience (clinical, patient, consumer) to narrow your search, you can speed up and improve your results. Even so, it may be difficult to find more than just the small population of medical writing freelancers who have also managed to acquire some level of proficiency with search engine optimization.
- LinkedIn – In addition to finding people by searching, if you are a LinkedIn member, you can search, read and post in one of numerous specialty ‘Groups’ within LinkedIn (e.g., Professional Medical/Scientific Writers) to help find a writer with the criteria you are seeking. Placing a ‘Wanted’ ad in the form of a posting publicizing your project need can prove very effective, as it will likely move with lightning speed through the LinkedIn network.
- Facebook – The business use of Facebook ‘Pages’ is relatively new but expanding rapidly, and thus represents an upcoming contender in the methodology for finding medical writers. Here,too, identifying and searching groups specific to the writing community and/or therapeutic areas heighten the probability of finding the right skill set for your needs.
- Freelancer Websites – A number of more general freelancer websites have medical writers who pay to advertise their services on them. Although these sites tend to have greater numbers of non-medical writers (copywriters, journalists, etc.), you can again use more specific search terms (therapeutic area, document type and audience) to find the medical writers who do use these forums to market themselves. Websites in this category include elance.com, guru.com, freelancer.com, findafreelancer.com, and ifreelance.com, among others.
There you have it – access to all the medical writing talent you might ever need without leaving your desk. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for companies to find their medical writers 10+ years ago. Frankly, much of the growth in the industry is due to the ease with which freelancers can now be found. You just have to know where to look, and now you do!
Marithea Goberville, Ph.D., is President & Principal Medical Writer of Science Author, Inc., providing medical writing services to clinical audiences since 2004. Visit www.scienceauthor.com to learn more about her expertise in regulatory documentation, journal publications and presentations for medical meetings and CME.