Unlock the Secrets to Making Six-Figures as a Successful Freelance Medical Writer

By Guest Post •  Updated: 04/25/23 •  12 min read

Working from home with complete control over my own schedule while making good money has been a goal of mine for years. And if you’re like me, you may be looking to do the same.  

For me, becoming a freelance medical writer was the answer. It was a natural transition from my education and career as a pharmacist. 

And I believe, just like Sean teaches at LocationRebel, that freelance writing is the best way to start an online business as a beginner.

I was a complete beginner when I started freelancing. But as I built my skills and my business, I became more experienced, and I continued to level up my work and my income.

Today I work remotely and make multiple 6-figures per year in revenue with my freelance medical writing business, Ulrich Medical Writing. I have complete control over my schedule and more lifestyle and financial freedom than I thought possible when I was starting out.

Here are a few tips about how I built a successful freelance medical writing business.

What is a Medical Writer?

First, let’s cover one of the most common questions I get asked — what is medical writing?

Screen Shot 2023 04 12 at 11.59.55 AM

According to the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), “Medical writing involves the development and production of print or digital documents that deal specifically with medicine or health care.” 

It’s a very broad niche that spans multiple types of deliverables. And medical writing can really involve any form of communication that covers medicine or scientific topics.

Common deliverables within medical writing include:

There’s a lot to know about medical writing — it’s a huge field with a lot of sub-niches. I still learn new things about the profession even after years of experience. But you don’t need to know everything to get started.

How to Become a Successful Freelance Medical Writer

Becoming a successful freelance medical writer isn’t complicated, but it’s not easy either. Many medical writers begin with employed medical writer jobs, such as working at a medical communications agency or regulatory group. 

Some people even may have worked as a senior medical writer before transitioning to freelance. 

You don’t have to have years and years of employed experience to be a great freelance medical writer. In fact, I started freelancing with (technically) zero experience.

But I did have a background as a pharmacist and worked on the right inputs to be a successful freelancer.

Tip 1: Learn about the profession

For most of my pharmacy career, I hadn’t even heard of medical or health writing. I just happened upon it when I was researching how to make more money as a healthcare professional. 

The more I learned, the more I knew that I could succeed as a medical writer. 

Don’t try to set yourself up as a medical writer if you haven’t put in the time to know what you’re getting into. The best place I’ve found to learn about medical writing is AMWA.org — you can learn just about everything there is to know about medical writing.

Other places that are helpful for learning about medical writing include:

Do your research, and if your interests and skills line up with what you’re learning about medical writing, then commit and go for it.

Tip 2: Leverage your current skill set

To jump right into freelancing as a medical writer, you absolutely need to leverage your current skills. 

If you say that you’re interested in medical writing but you don’t have any experience or skills, you’re underselling yourself, and no one’s going to hire you

I leveraged my background and extensive drug knowledge as a pharmacist when I first started out. I also had some writing experience from different projects I had done in pharmacy school and during residency. 

Having an advanced degree like a PharmD, MD, or BSN can be a great marketing point to showcase when pitching to potential clients. 

If you have clinical patient care experience, that can also be valuable. Specifically, your clinical knowledge can help you create great educational content for other healthcare professionals, as well as health writing content for the general public.

You should match the type of medical writing you’re pursuing with your experience and skill set.

For example, I didn’t have direct experience in regulatory writing, so I didn’t pursue that subset of clients at first. It requires specialized knowledge (like how to write clinical study reports), but there are companies that train new medical writers in regulatory writing.

Over time, I’ve gained additional experience and expanded into other areas of medical writing based on my interest and the market need for that type of work.

If you don’t have any writing samples, create some!

Create writing samples that showcase your writing skills and help you gain experience. 

Writing samples and a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) are really all you need to get started applying for freelance jobs or pitching potential clients.

Can you become a medical writer without a medical background or degree? 

The short answer is yes. But it’s going to take persistence and overcoming a steep learning curve.

AMWA acknowledges that most medical writers have either an advanced degree, a degree in journalism or communications, or other credentials demonstrating their ability. But this isn’t required.

You do need a strong desire to clearly communicate concepts in medicine and science and attention to detail.

If you’re interested in transitioning to medical writing from a non-medical background, I’d suggest considering a formal training program such as the Essential Skills Certificate from AMWA or the Medical Writing and Editing Certificate Program from The University of Chicago.

These certificates are well-recognized in the field, but they don’t guarantee that you’ll land medical writing work. 

Your biggest gain from these programs will be building your skills so you can generate writing samples and show potential clients the awesome work you can do.

Tip 3: Find and keep steady clients

Finding freelance writing clients is the first major milestone in earning income. If you don’t have any clients, you aren’t making money. 

For freelance medical writing, my favorite way to get new clients is to look through the AMWA job board regularly.

Potential employers of medical writers and editors post positions most days of the week for both employed and freelance positions.

medical writer job board

The AMWA job board is one of the best ways to find good clients because you won’t encounter fraudulent or deceptive postings very often, and these employers value the skills medical writers bring to the table.

Keep in mind that you do need to be an AMWA member to see the job board, but landing even one steady client can pay for the membership many times over.

Networking with other medical writers is also a great way to get your name out there and potentially be referred to more clients.

Once you’re working with a client that pays well and values your work (and you like working with them), make sure you’re doing great work for them so they’ll keep coming back to you with more projects.

Other ways to get freelance medical writing clients


You can also pitch potential companies that work with freelance medical writers using LinkedIn

This even includes companies that don’t say they are “actively hiring” – most companies that hire freelancers are always on the look for great people to work with. 

Sending a connection or a message to the right person at the right time could land you a discovery call or freelance work pretty fast.

Direct email

This can be complementary to your LinkedIn outreach. Think of types of companies that hire medical writers that you would be interested in working for, then email them (best if you can find a content or editorial manager’s email address at the company) asking if they need freelance writing help. 

When I was starting out, my target was CME (continuing medical education) companies. I’d spend a few minutes each week looking up CME companies and sending them emails and/or LinkedIn messages asking if they had a need for freelance work.

Yes, this is sending cold emails, but you’re not having to make a hard sell. Describe your skills and experience and see if they’d be open to a conversation. 

The majority of CME companies and medical communications agencies always have a need for freelance work, so you’re offering to fill a need they already have.

Freelance websites and job boards

This is last on my list because, in some ways, I think it rewards individuals who price their services low, which I never recommend. 

You’ll find potential clients for freelance medical writers on sites like Fiverr and Upwork. 

But these companies may be looking for just a one-off job, or they may be trying to hire someone at the lowest possible cost, or both. Neither of these are ideal for freelancers.

However, landing jobs from these websites can be a good way to get your foot in the door if you don’t have any experience. And maybe you’ll land a great client this way – it’s certainly possible.

Tip 4: Do great quality work

This tip should speak for itself. If you’re going to say that you’re a great writer, follow through and deliver great content. 

Make sure you know your client’s expectations before starting a project and meet those expectations.

If you aren’t going to put in the time or effort needed to do great work, clients will not ask you to work with them again. 

But consistently delivering high-quality work helps you maintain your client base and often leads to more work

And not only that, but it’s one of the parts of freelance writing I thoroughly enjoy — seeing the finished product that results from putting in the hard work to create it.

Tip 5: Improve your efficiency by using the right tools

In our digital age, you need computer and software skills to succeed as a freelance writer. 

Knowing Microsoft Office (especially Word and PowerPoint) is a must as a medical writer. I also use software to track time and generate invoices. 

Running a freelance writing business is great because you should have relatively low costs — but make sure you have the writing tools you need. 

A great computer and functional software stack will help you work efficiently and smoothly. 

For example, having a website to showcase your writing samples and establish your professional reputation can help your writing business. But it doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant. Here’s a screenshot of my simple website:

ulrich medical writing

So don’t skimp on the necessary writing tech, but at the same time, don’t go out and spend thousands of dollars on the newest gadgets. Find what works for you.

Recently, writing tools using artificial intelligence (AI) have become more popular, and they are getting better every day. Figuring out how to use AI writing tools can help automate and speed up your writing process. 

But don’t rely completely on AI to write your content – you still need to be the content creator. Just use the tools to improve your efficiency.

Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

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Don’t Make Excuses

I could have had tons of excuses not to take action on building my freelance medical writing business. I was “too busy” doing a residency and working full-time. But I did it anyway. 

I could have quit freelance writing because I had a “good job” and been tethered by the golden handcuffs, submitting to working for someone else and limiting my potential.

My wife and I have 4 kids. Two were born during my timeline to freedom. I could have said I don’t have time because of my family. But they have been so supportive, and it’s been a joint effort.

I’m not saying it was easy — far from it. But it is simple — put in the work on the right inputs, and success comes.

If you find yourself making excuses as to why you can’t do things, those are only excuses, and you have to push past them. Determine what you’re really trying to achieve.

If achieving lifestyle and financial freedom from freelance writing is what you really want, and you truly desire it, you can accomplish it. Empower yourself to reach your goals, and don’t let yourself stand in the way.

Austin Ulrich is a blogger, entrepreneur, and freelance medical writer. He spent 8 years in the pharmacy profession prior to going full-time with his freelance medical writing business. On his blog austinulrich.com, he writes about creating freedom and time by earning and keeping more income. He enjoys running, music, and traveling with his wife and 4 kids.

Guest Post

Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

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