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The Fastest Way to Launch a Freelance Writing Career

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Elizabeth Hanes Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RN (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in Freelance Writer, 'the nurse who knows content'. Has 13 years experience.

Are you interested in becoming a freelance writer?

Got an extra hour? You can launch a freelance writing career sooner than you expected.

The Fastest Way to Launch a Freelance Writing Career

If you’re interested in launching a side hustle that can bring in extra money (and eventually even become your full-time profession), you may be surprised to know you can become a freelance writer in as little as one hour. It’s super easy to get started if you choose one of these two “entry points” to the profession: health reporting or content marketing.

When nurses approach me for tips on how to become a freelance writer, I often tell them I consider health reporting to be the “fastest” way to enter this profession. I consider content marketing writing to be the “easiest” way, but in my experience, it can take a little longer to ramp up. Either way, though, it’s super simple for nurses to launch a freelance writing career.

How Freelance Reporting Works

To become a freelance health journalist, you will need to develop article ideas and then pitch them to editors who buy stories from freelancers. Most publications and media outlets pay freelance writers to produce at least a portion of their stories – and some outlets rely heavily on freelance writers for most of their content.

Because the news cycle moves very quickly, I’ve found that many nurses can get started fast just by developing some article ideas and then pitching away. It’s a numbers game, so the more stories you pitch, the more sales you’re likely to make.

Freelance journalism follows a predictable process that goes like this:

  1. Ideation: developing a salable story idea
  2. Pitching (also called querying): sending the idea to an editor, in hopes s/he will buy it
  3. Assignment: having an editor assign the story idea to you to write
  4. Writing/Reporting: creating the article, including finding and interviewing sources, locating and evaluating secondary sources, adhering to style guidelines, etc.
  5. Revising: receiving the draft article back from the editor and making the requested revisions

The most successful freelance health reporters are actively engaged in almost every step of this cycle at all times. In other words, they’re always developing one story idea while pitching another, while they’re writing an article that was previously assigned and revising one they sold earlier. That’s the path to rapid, sustained success.

How Content Marketing Writing Works

I said that I consider content marketing writing to be an “easier” path to success, and I feel that way because content writing doesn’t require you to develop story ideas constantly. Maybe it’s just that I, personally, find that “easier” because I’m not strong at developing article ideas.

Content marketing writing involves creating a wide range of marketing materials for healthcare corporations, such as:

  • Blog posts
  • LinkedIn articles
  • Web pages
  • Patient education materials
  • Infographics
  • Video scripts
  • Webinar slides
  • Digital newsletters

…and many, many others.

This type of writing doesn’t require you to pitch ideas because you’re generally writing to the client’s specifications. For instance, you probably wouldn’t “pitch” a blog post idea to a health system’s blog. Instead, the system’s marketing director would contract with you to regularly write blog posts on topics they assign you.

Content marketing writing follows a process, too, just like journalism does. But you work the sections of the process only as needed to expand or advance your career:

  • Identify prospective clients
  • Send Letter of Introduction (LOI) to them
  • Hop on a phone call to discuss providing services
  • Execute a contract
  • Perform the services specified in the contract

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Many times, you can secure ongoing work with content marketing clients. For example, I’ve worked with Healthgrades [for more than four years now. This ability to nail down steady work is part of what makes content writing an attractive option for nurses just starting out.

On the flip side, it can be hard to identify prospective content marketing clients. And the LOI approach (like the article pitch approach in journalism) is a numbers game. You need to send a high volume of LOIs before you find one prospect interested in talking more about how you can help them with writing services.

No matter which of these paths you choose, though, you can get started pretty quickly and easily as a freelance writer. Take an hour this weekend to figure out which path you want to try, and then start pitching stories or sending LOIs and see where it leads! You just might find that you’ve become a professional writer over the course of a weekend.

I'm an RN but make my living as a freelance writer. I produce health articles, patient information, web pages, blog posts, video scripts - and so much more - on behalf of clients like hospitals, health systems, insurers and digital magazines. I work from home, set my own hours and find plenty of time to care for my elderly mother, go to the gym, take vacation, fill my house with antiques....

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