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  • Writer's pictureKrista Frahm

Transitioning to Medical Writing: Insights for Healthcare Professionals

Updated: May 9

Medical writing offers a unique avenue for healthcare professionals to leverage their expertise without adding more clients to their caseloads.

It can be an excellent side-gig or new career, but it's not as easy as you may initially think. I assumed that since I was a pretty good writer, liked writing, and had healthcare and medical knowledge, it would be a piece of cake to be paid to write.

But it was a bit more complex than that.

Safe to say I've learned a lot along my journey, so I'm going to share it with you so your journey can be a bit smoother.  

No matter what path you take to enter medical writing, you should be aware of the nuances, challenges, and opportunities that await you as you step into this non-clinical healthcare career. This article dives into insights and strategies to be aware of while transitioning to medical writing. If you want specific steps to become a medical copywriter, check out this blog instead.

Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll cover: 

  • Why your healthcare credentials, while valuable, are not a golden ticket to success in medical writing.

  • How to navigate the competitive landscape and carve out your unique space.

  • The importance of balancing medical knowledge with the art of effective copywriting.

(I use the terms writing, content writing, and copywriting relatively interchangeably in this article. To learn more about the difference between copywriting and content writing, check out this article.)

Armed with these insights, you'll be better prepared to transition into medical writing. You’ll be able to make informed decisions that align with your skills, interests, and the needs of your future clients. 

Let’s start with something I see most frequently… non-clinical writers leaning heavily on their credentials to prove their worth. 

Beyond Credentials: Proving Your Worth as a Medical Writer

Stepping into medical writing, it's tempting to think your degrees and advanced credentials will do the heavy lifting. 

The reality? 

They open doors and build trust, but it's your skill as a writer that secures clients and gets outcomes. Clients are looking for writers who can transform complex medical concepts into engaging, outcome-driven content or help turn website visitors into clients with effective copywriting. 

Having healthcare knowledge and degrees doesn’t automatically mean you can get results with medical writing, especially copywriting. 

If you’ve ever been passed over for a writing job and then found out someone without any medical background got the gig, you’re not alone. It just means you have to better articulate your worth and how you can get clients results.

The goal is to achieve results that matter to your clients—whether that's educating patients, selling a product, or simplifying complex research. 

Your ability to do this effectively is what sets you apart. So, how do you prove your worth? 

After you learn how to write effective content or copy with an online course, you’ll need a way to share your new skillset with future clients.

(I'll share some copy course links here soon, I'm doing some research on affordable options.)

Start with a portfolio that showcases diverse writing samples. Highlight projects where your work led to tangible outcomes, like increased engagement, sales or even improved patient comprehension. Feedback from past clients, especially those noting how your writing got outcomes for them, is gold.

Remember, it's not the credentials next to your name that count the most; it's being able to get the results your clients are looking for.

Focus on building a track record of effective content or copy and excellent client satisfaction. That's what gets you noticed, hired, and referred to in the world of medical writing.

Next up, let’s address the feeling you’re almost guaranteed to get, which is that the field of medical writing is already saturated. 

Managing Competition and Opportunities in Medical Writing

👀 You're not the only clinician eyeing medical writing as a side gig or career change. 

It feels crowded, which can get disheartening when you’re trying to gain momentum, right? 

Here's the twist: the market's vastness means there's room for everyone. 

Your job? Find your unique angle... and don’t freak out.

The secret sauce is differentiation.

What experiences or insights do you bring to the table that no one else does? 

Maybe it's your years in pediatrics, your research in mental health, or your knack for breaking down complex surgical procedures into bite-sized, understandable pieces.

That's your goldmine.

If you’re a generalist, that’s ok too! (The next section is specifically for you!) You can market that angle or share specific experiences with your client’s target audience to show how you understand more than a writer who has never gowned up and gloved up. 

Building a network is just as crucial. 

Connect with other medical writers, attend webinars, and join forums. Share your knowledge, and don't shy away from asking questions. 

Every interaction may be a stepping stone to your next opportunity.

Side note: Don’t spend all your time scrolling on social media and looking at other medical writer’s content. This is a guaranteed way to feel inadequate or that you’ll never get clients. 

Embracing abundance and building a network of writers is key… even though it feels awkward at first. 

Remember, the field may seem saturated, but healthcare's ever-evolving nature means there's always a demand for fresh perspectives and new voices. There are also a zillion different specialties within medical writing, so you’ll find a niche that’s far more specific than “medical writer.” 

Your mission? Keep trying, keep learning, and keep connecting. Your unique angle and persistence will pay off.

But how to you set yourself apart in this non-clinical world if you haven’t specialized during your clinical career? Keep reading to hear why you don’t have to be a specialist. 

The Generalist Advantage in Medical Writing

Embracing the fact that you’re a generalist (or general practice clinician) as you move into medical writing might initially seem counterintuitive. 

After all, wouldn’t a clinician who specialized in pelvic health be a better writer for pelvic health? 

Wouldn’t a pediatric therapist be a better writer for a pediatric therapy sales page? 

Not necessarily. 

Being a generalist can be a superpower. Let me explain. 

Jargon is a big no-no in most medical writing, especially when you're trying to speak to people who aren’t healthcare professionals. 

Specialists can be too close to their subject and the intense levels of jargon become common language without them realizing it. They lose sight of what's understandable to the layperson or even to peers from other specialties. 

As a generalist, you're in a prime position to bridge that gap. You can cover a wider range of topics with the right balance of expertise and relatability.

This helps you avoid the trap of writing over your audience's head. By staying grounded and focusing on clear, accessible language, you make your content more valuable to a wider audience. 

When I write for specialists who are selling courses to general practice therapists, I always explain how it’s an advantage that I’m a generalist. If I read their blogs, sales pages, or emails and don’t really understand the information, I know they’re running the risk of scaring clients away… because no professional wants to feel stupid when they’re considering making a purchase. 

By bringing it down and connecting with the general practice clinician, we’re sure to take them step by step from where they are to a place where they want to become a specialist, without overwhelming them.

Remember, your goal is to connect with your readers, not to showcase every detail of your medical knowledge. The ability to simplify without dumbing down is an art—and as a generalist, you're well-equipped to master it.

Speaking of jargon… 

Communicating with Clients: Jargon vs. Clarity

As a healthcare professional, you’re steeped in medical terminology. It's a language you speak fluently, often without a second thought. But when we shift gears into medical writing, especially for the general public, that fluency can become a barrier.

You can absolutely speak the language of the healthcare system when you’re speaking to your clients or future clients. If they’re also healthcare providers, then they’ll be right there with you. 

But it’s important to let them know that your writing needs to be different and include far less jargon. 

It's a delicate dance. On one hand, you need to respect the intelligence and knowledge base of your clients and their audience. On the other, you have to ensure the content is accessible.

Explaining this balance to clients is crucial—they need to see the value in stripping back the jargon and focusing on clarity.

Ultimately, it's about finding that sweet spot where professional insight meets reader-friendly communication. Making this clear to your clients not only sets the right expectations but also positions you as a thoughtful and effective communicator.

Understanding the importance of clarity in medical writing can help you explain to specialists why your services will perform better than if they write it themselves too. 

Educating Clients on the Value of a Medical Writer

As you enter the world of medical writing, you’ll realize that a LOT of healthcare professionals pride themselves on their writing skills.

I can’t tell you how many Discovery Calls I’ve been on where someone says, “I’m a pretty good writer” or, “I’m a great writer, I may just need a little guidance to get all my emails and blogs done… but nothing big.” 

You don't get into the medical field by being a C student, right? Other clinicians are likely A+ students, just like yourself, so they often worry about bringing in someone else to write for them. 

They’ve written term papers, research papers, assessment reports, daily notes, and possibly even their own marketing materials before they meet with you. 

Many clients you meet, especially when you’re new, won’t know the difference between the writing you provide for them and the writing they could do themselves. 

And, as it turns out, the difference between academic writing or documentation and copywriting or content writing is drastic. 

(A quick look at a potential client's blog posts will tell you if they understand copywriting vs content writing and if they have any education about SEO optimization. It’s a great, tangible place to start to give them insights.) 

You’ll need to explain the unique aspects of copywriting, specifically it’s ability to connect, persuade, engage, and drive action. Unlike academic or clinical writing, copywriting is all about crafting messages that resonate with a specific audience to achieve a specific outcome, like persuading a practitioner to sign up for a course.

To bridge this knowledge gap, use examples clinicians can relate to. 

For instance, compare documentation that's strictly compliant and serves its purpose well against patient education brochures that need to be engaging and easily understood. Both require good writing, but each has very different objectives and techniques.

Moreover, emphasize the time and energy they'll save by outsourcing this task. Highlight how this allows them to focus on what they do best—caring for patients or running their practice—while you take care of converting their expertise into compelling content.

To succeed in this non-clinical space, you must show them that copywriting not as a cost, but an investment. Once they understand the strategic value you bring to the table, the conversation shifts from "Why should I pay for this?" to "How soon can we start?"

But honestly, clinicians may keep trying to take back the reins or change your work… because clinicians like to have control, right? 😉 (You probably feel this too. A lot of us are extremely type A, so let's dive into perfectionism next.) 

Navigating Perfectionism: Working with High-Achieving Clinicians

Clinicians are a unique breed: high achievers accustomed to a world where precision and perfection are valued and often required. 

This mindset introduces distinct challenges when venturing into the less predictable realm of marketing and copywriting.

Here's the reality: marketing, much like clinical care, is an iterative process. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. What works wonders for one practice might not make a dent in another. It's about trial, error, and continuous improvement. 

Drawing parallels between clinical care and marketing can help clinicians understand this process better. 

I like to explain the marketing process in terms of a treatment process.

Just as patient care involves assessment, diagnosis, treatment, reassessment, and adjustments to the treatment, effective marketing follows a similar cycle—strategy, implementation, analysis, and adjustment.

To manage expectations, it's crucial to communicate that marketing, especially content marketing, is a long game. Immediate results, while possible, are not the norm. 

It's about building trust, establishing authority, and nurturing relationships over time. Emphasize the importance of setting realistic goals and being open to adjusting strategies based on performance data.

Sales funnels can bring faster results, but also require a larger investment, like paid ads to keep them going. But either way, it’s not a magic lever that will guarantee money. 

As you guide them through the marketing process with patience and empathy, you can use clinical parallels to explain marketing principles. I like to acknowledge their high standards and put checks and balances in place so that no marketing is published without their approval. 

This approach not only eases their apprehension but also builds a foundation for a productive, collaborative relationship.

Each clinician you work with is unique too, so it’s a balance between structure and flexibility, which we’ll dive into next. 

Processes vs Flexibility: Collaborating with Busy Clinicians

Clinicians lead incredibly busy lives, balancing patient care, administrative duties, and personal commitments.

As a medical writer working with clinicians, understanding and accommodating their schedules (without causing your own burnout) is key to a successful collaboration.

Flexibility is your friend. Some clinicians may prefer quick calls to outline content ideas, while others might opt for email exchanges or even video messages to communicate their thoughts and feedback. 

The traditional sit-down Zoom call might not fit into their hectic day. You have to identify what works best for both of you, ensuring the process is efficient and respectful of their time… and yours!

Setting clear expectations from the outset is crucial. Outline your communication plan, including how often you'll check in, the preferred methods of communication, and turnaround times for drafts and revisions. This clarity helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures the project stays on track without adding stress to their already full plate.

Remember, the goal is to make the content creation process as seamless and unobtrusive as possible. By being adaptable and clear about what you need from them (and when), you can build a working relationship that is mutually beneficial.

This is the key to long-term client relationships that benefit both your business and their business, while keeping you both sane. 

Crafting Outcome-Focused Content for Educational Offerings

Often, when clinicians step into online course creation, they want to share information with people who need it, because they think this information will help clients solve problems. 

They're experts in their fields and passionate about educating others, but there's a common pitfall: focusing too much on information rather than the transformation that their course offers.

Clinicians don’t know this yet, but the real value lies in guiding these learners through a journey—from where they are now to where they want to be. 

This means focusing on outcomes in their course and their marketing.

Explaining this concept is crucial. 

You'll find yourself guiding clinician clients to pinpoint the specific problems their courses solve or the exact transformations they promise. 

It's about shifting their mindset from "What can I teach them?" to "What can my audience achieve with this knowledge?"

For example, instead of a course that merely details the intricacies of pediatric nutrition, frame it as a journey towards healthier kids who have energy to learn and grow. This reframing makes the content more compelling and, importantly, more marketable.

Your job includes digging deep into the intended audience's needs, desires, and challenges, then aligning the content to address these points directly. By doing so, you transform educational content from a mere transfer of knowledge into a powerful tool for change.

Highlighting the importance of outcome-focused content not only enhances the value of your client’s offerings but also aligns more closely with what modern learners seek—practical, transformative education that offers clear benefits and solutions.

It helps boost sales too, which certainly makes you a more valuable writer. 

Of course, we can’t talk about the value of your work without also discussing the realities of tight budgets for healthcare providers.

Every time a reimbursement cut is announced, I see the trickle down effect in clinical businesses.

Navigating Budget Constraints with Clinicians and Therapists

Clinicians and therapists, despite their critical roles in healthcare, often face budget constraints that can impact their willingness to invest in medical writing or content marketing services. 

The reality is, many healthcare careers don’t pay exceptionally well, so they HAVE to be cautious about their spending.

When approaching potential clients in this sector, it's essential to be mindful of their budget concerns while also articulating the value and return on investment (ROI) your services can provide. 

Frame your services not as an expense but as an investment in their practice's growth, patient outreach, and educational impact. (Then make sure you can deliver that ROI by creating the absolute best marketing assets for them.)

Here are a few strategies to navigate these budget conversations:

Highlight Long-term Benefits:

Emphasize how quality content can attract more clients, establish their authority in a particular specialty, and lead to business growth. For educational content creators, focus on how your writing can increase course enrollments and satisfaction, contributing to a stronger reputation and referrals.

Offer Flexible Solutions: 

Within reason, be open to tailoring your services to fit their budgetary constraints without compromising quality. This could mean starting with a smaller project, such as a series of blog posts or a single landing page, to demonstrate the value you bring to the table.

Demonstrate ROI: 

Whenever possible, use case studies or examples from past projects to show tangible returns on investment. If you've helped another clinician increase their online visibility, attract more patients, or sell out a course, share those successes as concrete evidence of what you can achieve. Also be aware of each client’s full marketing situation so you’ll have a better idea if they can get similar results or not. Your writing is only one piece of a marketing machine.

Educate on Industry Standards: 

Sometimes, clinicians and therapists may not be fully aware of the going rates for professional writing and content marketing services. Providing context about industry standards can help recalibrate their expectations and understand the costs involved in producing high-quality content.

Build Trust through Transparency: 

Be upfront about your rates, the scope of work, and what's included in your services. This transparency builds trust and can alleviate concerns about hidden costs or fees. Having a proven process and frameworks also helps potential clients see you as a professional and worth the higher rates. 

Sometimes, even though you’ve demonstrated the value of your services and they see the value, the client simply won’t have the budget. You can choose to adjust your project, bring on a Jr. writer, or refer the client to a different writer.

Not every client is a good fit for you, and that’s ok. There are other fish in the sea. 

You can even consider working with companies that are owned and operated by non-clinical founders. It’s possible they’ll see even more value in your services and healthcare background. 

The Value of Credentials In Medical Copywriting

Want to know something strange? 

I’ve found that clients who aren’t healthcare providers find more value in the fact that I’m a clinician compared to when I’m working with other clinicians. 

Other clinicians are initially interested because we’re from the same professional culture and it’s an easy connection… but they also hesitate because they still see me as an OT instead of a marketing strategist or copywriter. 

On the flip side, companies who are marketing to medical professionals but aren’t clinicians themselves find my perspective and experience more valuable. They understand that I can draw from my hospital and clinic days and make connections that will improve their marketing. 

Writing for medical devices, products, or even insurance companies can allow you to market your healthcare experience as an asset. (Just remember, it can’t be the only thing you’re marketing!) 

This isn't a hurdle to overcome per-se, but an aspect to be aware of. The healthcare community values practical outcomes and evidence-based information, so they might prioritize content effectiveness over the writer's professional background.

This awareness should shape your approach:

For non-healthcare clients:

Leverage your credentials to highlight the depth of knowledge and insight you bring to their content, enhancing its credibility and engagement. Also highlight the outcomes you’ve seen with other clients so they know you’re actually a writer and not a newbie. 

Within the healthcare sector: 

Focus on your expertise in marketing and writing, even highlighting advanced training you’ve completed as a writer. As always, show them outcomes and happy client testimonials so they can see you’re a legit professional in the marketing field. 

Understanding these dynamics enables you to tailor your pitch and services to match the unique values and expectations of each audience, making your career in medical writing as smooth and successful as possible.

Whether you work with clinician-owned businesses or adjacent companies, you’ll still be riding the wave of unpredictable freelancing income as you get started. 

The Financial Realities of Medical Writing

Here’s what every clinician wants to know when considering a switch to a non-clinical career, especially in copywriting or writing… 

Can I earn more as a writer than I can as a clinician? 

The answer is, MAYBE. 

(I know. Not the answer you wanted, but it depends on SO many factors.) 

The potential for earning an excellent income exists. But, it requires time, effort, and strategic positioning to reach levels comparable to clinical work.

I believe in setting realistic expectations for your earnings, especially in the early stages. 

Building a clientele, establishing your niche, and honing your skills take time, and income will initially fluctuate. Freelancing is known for its boom and bust cycles. 

However, this doesn't mean financial success is out of reach. Medical writing can be a lucrative career or non-clinical side hustle. 

If you want to dive into this topic more, here are a few other blog posts for you: 

How to Become a Medical Copywriter: This blog post delves into salary expectations and offers a deeper look into the earning potential within the field. It's an essential read for anyone looking to understand the financial aspects of medical copywriting.

Starting a Non-Clinical Copywriting Career: For a personal perspective, my journey outlines the real-world financial ups and downs encountered during the initial years of medical copywriting. You’ll probably earn more than I did, but I’m happy to share my experience.

I think half the struggle is that we’re used to being underpaid and overworked. We bring this mentality and expectation into our businesses and continue the cycle. 

When you step into a non-clinical role such as copywriting, you get to set your rates.

There’s no insurance company dictating (and decreasing) your rates. You don’t have to take on clients who are a guaranteed loss of income. You can specialize and actually get paid more as a writer instead of being paid the same as a specialized clinician. 

Remember, while the transition might involve financial adjustments, the long-term benefits—flexibility, the joy of combining your clinical knowledge with creative expression, and the potential for substantial income—can make it a rewarding path.

This brings us to the big question… 

Is Medical Writing or Copywriting Worth It? 

That’s absolutely up to you. I happen to think the answer is yes. 

My answer is yes because I have… 

  • Successfully transitioned out of clinical care

  • Worked with amazing clients who are doing good in the world and need my marketing services

  • Control over my schedule and take time off when we take vacations

  • A business that will come with me when we move so I won’t have to restart my career

Krista Frahm and her two kids laying on a towel in the back yard with books and snacks.
Snacks, homework, and business books.

It’s an exciting but challenging journey to start a writing business. It’s full of personal and professional growth because, believe me, you’ll face challenging situations that spur you to step up or step out. 

But in my opinion, it’s totally worth it. 

If you’re looking to learn more about specific copywriting courses so you can get started as a medical writer, shoot me a message. I'll share some of my favorite courses.

Also, if you want to create your own online course, and learn a bit of copywriting/marketing in the process, I highly recommend Course Creator School by Gemma Bonham-Carter.

As you continue on this path, keep learning, keep connecting with others in the field, and most importantly, keep writing. Your unique perspective as a healthcare professional is a powerful asset in the world of medical writing. Embrace it, and let it guide you to success.

The world of medical writing is vast and varied, and there's a place for you within it.



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