It was during my post-doc research post in the USA that I realised I was never going to find that one area of research that I felt I could dedicate my life to. I enjoyed the laboratory life, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I did, however, enjoy writing up my work and soon found that my colleagues were coming to me to edit their research proposals and manuscripts. I returned to the UK to be closer to my family and decided to explore other career option
Medical writing was not a well-known career choice at that time, and it was difficult to get an entry-level position. I eventually found a position as an account executive for a MedComms agency. The pace of life and the range of projects that I worked on were completely different to my experience of working in a laboratory, but I thrived in that environment and gained a good introduction to the industry. I knew I really wanted to be a medical writer, so when the right position came up a another agency, I jumped at it. I worked there for over 5 years, learning the trade and becoming part of a successful team.
I left when I was due to have my first child and decided that I would like to have a go at freelancing. I went to a freelancer meeting run by MedComms Networking and gained some valuable advice on how to go about setting up and running my business. I set up as a sole trader, got my LinkedIn profile up to date, connected with my previous colleagues and contacts, and let everyone know that I was starting freelancing. It wasn’t long before I was working for my first client, who I was recommended to by an ex-colleague. In fact, most of my clients have been ex-colleagues or contacts of ex-colleagues. So, if you are in an agency and thinking of going freelance at some point in the future, my advice would be to keep your colleagues on side!
After a couple of years of freelancing, I moved from the North-West of England to Norfolk. We found a property with a separate annex so I could have my office away from the main house and I set up a limited company. I feel exceptionally lucky to be able to close the door on work at the end of the day, a luxury that not many freelancers have, but one that I would highly recommend. I have been freelancing for around 10 years now and as the children have grown older, I have been able to add in more working days, while still retaining the flexibility to maintain a good balance between work and family life.
Another thing that I would highly recommend is to take every opportunity for training and networking. MedComms Networking, the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) and the International Society for Medical Publications Professionals (ISMPP) all offer excellent training and networking opportunities that are definitely worth the investment of both time and money. You never know when you might bump into a potential client or glean a new piece of information that could transform the way you work.
This personal profile first appeared in the FirstMedCommsJob careers guide, Making it my own business: a guide to being a freelance writer in MedComms, published April 2022