Five teething problems I experienced as a freelance health writer

teething problems as a freelance health writer

As soon as you make the call to run a freelance writing business, everything you know changes.

As a new freelance health writer, the new routine (or lack of it) hit me pretty quickly. In the nervous euphoria of getting started, there were inevitable ups and downs.

When I reflect on the start of my journey into freelance health and medical writing, five teething problems really stand out…

Marketing, branding and self-promotion

This is a good place to start. In May 2022, I had a breadth of experience in the bag from 10 years agency-side, and was all set to go freelance. I had the contacts and the ideas for how I wanted to present my services. But turning those ideas into something a little more tangible – actually defining my offering and how to sell it to people – took time and effort.

Getting my website set up, planning SEO, and having branding photos taken were exciting parts of the launch, but they were also time consuming. Throw into the mix the tiny task of building a presence from scratch on social media, and the whole launch became quite a mission!

All of these things are still a work in progress for me, and will be for you too. But, they will come together as business grows.

Getting a freelance writing portfolio together

Another early consideration was my portfolio. I got to work early, filling the portfolio page on my website with my experience and expertise. The issue was that I didn’t have permission to showcase some of my work or name all of my clients.

This obviously served as a frustration as I wanted to shout out loud about my success stories. So, I had to find creative ways to showcase my work without breaking the rules. Definitely one to consider when you begin writing for your next client. Check their stance on what you can or cannot publicly display when you start the project, perhaps.

Finding that first steady client

I knew early on that I wanted a long-term client to get me started. Having regular work to guarantee income while I built my client base was the target.

This took a few months of research and meetings, but eventually I landed a client I could rely on for regular work while I continued networking. I ended up working with them for nine months, until I went on maternity leave.

These days, I primarily work with clients on individual projects or retainers, rather than on long-term contracts (this usually works out to be more cost-effective than charging by the hour, particularly as you become more experienced and proficient). However, I can recommend searching for an income guarantee when first starting out.

Time and capacity management 

Deciding how much work (and what kind of work) I can feasibly take on, while still having time to work ‘in’ my business and make time for family was challenging from the start. And, I’ll not pretend this was just an early issue! Even now I find it hard to get the balance right all the time. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever truly perfect ‘balance’.

When work comes your way, it’s so appreciated and often difficult to consider saying ‘no’. Still, you must always look at the bigger picture and assess your priorities.

I’m fortunate now to be in a position to outsource some of my marketing, which has helped massively in allowing me to plan my time. But, I’ve also learnt to ask myself a few questions when a potential new job comes my way: Why are you freelancing (time, flexibility, freedom)? What kind of work do you want to be doing? If you take this work on, will you have capacity for your existing clients? Will it be cost-effective to take on this work?

Managing my finances

I’m pretty sure this one will be relatable…! Before I knew it, jotting down clients and income in my notepad just didn’t cut it. Neither did my very basic spreadsheet. I knew I needed a professional here and made moves to find help. I found a great accountant who also manages my bookkeeping, giving me time back to focus on my business.

I’ll not add it to the official list, but it’s also worth mentioning I fell pregnant with baby number two about three weeks after leaving my full-time job and going freelance…! It’s fair to say that whether it’s business-related or personal, there’s always a curveball or two when you work for yourself.

Early teething problems give you the opportunity to work out how you want to run your business. They force you to think creatively. Whether you’re forced to react to a curveball regarding your marketing, portfolio, time management or finances, the way you react and deal with it is a crucial part of running your own successful business.

These curveballs made my business stronger, without doubt. I’m confident every obstacle we face does. Could I have done without them at the time? Definitely!

As always, thank you so much for reading. 

If you’re interested in other blogs about positive approaches to the problems we face as freelancers, why not have a read of my piece on ‘Freelancing and Mental health.’

If you’d like to discuss your own teething problems on a mentoring call, just drop me a message and I’ll take care of the rest. Investment for a one-off mentoring call with me is £150. 

Or, get to know me a little better by checking out the words on my website.

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