5 Steps to Become a Full-Time Nurse Writer
If you have a passion for nursing and love to write, consider becoming a full-time nurse writer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports growth in the writing industry at a 9% increase over the next 10 years.
Traditionally, becoming a writer required either journalism, English, or a communications degree. But in the current digital age, having expert knowledge of nursing, medicine, science, and preventative care puts you in high demand.
"If you ever got a 'C' on a college paper, you have enough writing skills to go pro," says Elisabeth Hanes, founder of RN2writer.
Do you want control over your schedule? Are you thinking about working remotely? Consider these 5 steps to becoming a full-time nurse writer.
Study Your Favorite Publications and Blog Posts
Familiarize yourself with your favorite publication or blog's writing style. Instead of reading for pleasure, begin studying the structure of the articles. Pay attention to details of articles, including:
- Style of writing
Take notes on who they interview and what sources they use. Practice writing on nursing and healthcare topics you find interesting. Practicing your writing will build confidence and sharpen your skills.
"Many nursing skills actually translate beautifully to writing," Hanes points out.
Nurses are also jugglers. You juggle taking care of patients, prioritizing tasks, and scheduling. These skills will only complement and improve your writing.
Articles that are engaging to readers involve knowing the art of interviewing and which questions to ask. Luckily, in nursing school, nurses are taught how to interview patients. This skill only prepares you to get the most pertinent information from an interviewee, a skill essential in journalistic writing.
"Nurses are great at interviewing patients, and they can use those same techniques as a writer to conduct great subject matter expert interviews," Hanes says.
Now that you've practiced your writing skills and studied the layout of articles, it's time to get published. Getting published is not as difficult as you may think. To ease into the industry, try becoming a freelance nurse writer first.
"The beauty of freelance writing for nurses is that the barrier to entry is low," Hanes says. "You don't need a ton of skills to do this, just patience and a general understanding of how the writing industry works."
The tax process for on-staff nurse writers versus freelance nurse writers isn’t the same. It’s important to know the difference before starting your freelancing journey.
As an employee, your employer automatically withholds funds from your paycheck to cover your estimated tax bill for the year. As a freelance nurse writer, your clients will not withhold any money from your check; it is up to you to set aside funds to pay estimated taxes to the IRS on a quarterly basis.
Working with an accountant is the best way to know how much you need to pay quarterly as a freelance nurse writer. An accountant can also advise you on what you can and cannot deduct as a business expense and which tax benefits you can claim.
Hanes always advises nurses to seek professional legal and accounting advice when setting up their business.
Starting as a freelance writer also helps in building your writing sample portfolio. Here are several ways to get published:
- Pitch your article
- Search job sites
- Start blogging
Pitching Your Article
Pitching an idea for an article sounds scary, but it is a simple email. First, get an idea of the tone, writing style and article topics of the publication you want to write for. Who is their audience? Is it fellow nurses or patients and families?
It can help identify a topic the publication has not written on yet, and pitch that article topic to the publication. Even if the publication does not accept your article idea, your nursing expertise will help sell you the most.
"I think it's important for nurses to understand how much support you receive from clients as a writer," Hanes says. "They will supply you with all the information and tools you need to produce the work they want written."
If they accept your pitch, the client will provide you with their guidelines. This includes:
- Word count
- A template or examples of previous blog posts
- A style guide
Networking can be powerful. Reach out to writers on social platforms like LinkedIn or Instagram to get your foot in the door. Find out what they did to get their writing position. Then, ask if they know of any writing opportunities.
Search Job Sites
Searching job sites for "freelance nurse writing" positions will also get you leads on writing gigs. Job sites like Indeed or LinkedIn are great places to start.
Blogging as a nurse writer is another way to publish your work without looking for a job. Starting your blog is less restrictive, and you do not have to follow a specific style guide. You also can direct prospective job opportunities to your blog page to showcase your writing samples.
Consider Taking a Course
Hanes says the best way to become a full-time writer is to:
- Create a strategy for learning the business
- Start your writing career on the side
- Ramp it up into a full-time proposition over six months to a year
If you still need extra support, consider taking a writing course. Courses given by nurse writers are designed to help you break into the industry.
"[Taking a course] removes any financial pressure to succeed quickly," Hanes says. "Writing is not a get-rich-quick proposition, but you can start making serious money at this within a couple of years."
Polish Your LinkedIn
Many recruiters use LinkedIn to find nurse writers. Create a professional LinkedIn page if you want to be discovered as a nurse writer. Update your profile and add your nursing experience and writing samples. Lastly, check your LinkedIn inbox often. You do not want to miss a writing opportunity.
Apply to Writing Jobs
Applying for a job is your next step to becoming a full-time nurse writer. Nurses work in many areas in the writing industry. As a nurse writer, you might be writing or working for:
- Specific health websites
- Marketing materials for health systems
- Tech companies
- Patient-facing blogs
- Newsletters for insurers
- Case studies
- White papers for healthcare brands
"Content marketing writing encompasses a huge variety of types of writing, so it never gets boring," Hanes says.
You can choose to work with one company or continue working with multiple clients as a full-time freelance nurse writer.
"You can make a lot of money as a nurse writer," Hanes says.
In Hanes' career, she booked multiple six-figure years. In Hanes' highest-earning years, she made $115,000.
Remember to always negotiate your salary when applying for writing jobs. As a nurse, negotiating is a must because you have expertise in your field.
Being a nurse writer is not all roses and dandelions, especially in the beginning. It involves pitching to multiple publications and networking. But becoming a full-time nurse writer can help you pivot from the bedside and explore other avenues in nursing.
You will also be an expert in your field and build trust with your readers.
Hanes wants nurses to know that the writing industry welcomes asking questions. Do not be afraid if you do not know everything off the bat.
"Honestly, anyone who is friendly and willing to learn on the job can become a nurse writer," Hanes says.
Meet Our Contributor
Elizabeth Hanes RN
Elizabeth Hanes RN not only is a nurse but has played one on TV. In 2014, she founded RN2writer, a business dedicated to helping nurses become freelance writers.
An award-winning health journalist and content marketing writer, Elizabeth was awarded "best online commentary" by the Online News Association for "Dad Has Dementia," her 36-week chronicle of caring for her father as he declined and died of dementia. She also founded local blog "ABQ on the Cheap," which took home the "best blogger" award from Albuquerque the Magazine.
Formerly a perioperative and cosmetic surgery nurse, Elizabeth launched a full-time freelance writing business in 2010 to bring her wealth of nursing knowledge to consumer and corporate health materials, such as articles, blog posts, white papers, case studies, video scripts, webpages and more.
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