Setting up as a freelance health writer: three things I’ve learnt in my first 18 months in business

The end of the year approaches. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. (Or so they say!)

Let’s face it, it’s also the busiest time of year for many of us. As a freelance health writer, I took my final brief of the year today, in mid-December. I have cards to write, presents to wrap, and food to buy (and eat).

Like the Prime Minister once said, I’m very busy and important (IYKYK).

If you’re a fellow freelance writer, you’re probably itching to get those last words on paper, file those outstanding invoices, and set aside some hard-earned cash so you can take a well-deserved festive break.

Maybe, you’re also reflecting on the year past – and setting goals for the months to come.

Reflections of a freelance health writer

If you have a moment amongst all the festivities, please…

… get those slippers on, settle into your wing-backed arm chair by the fire, grab yourself a hot coffee / cocoa / eggnog… (are you with me?),

… as I share the three key actions that I have found to be most important in my short time going it alone.

And just to say, what I’ve learnt will be relevant to you, whatever your niche.

1. Cultivating relationships as a freelance health writer

You guessed it. Of course, ‘relationships’ is number one. The most important action in my business so far has been establishing relationships with people.

By this I mean:

  • Building on existing relationships
  • And, establishing new ones.

Existing relationships

Perhaps you have reams of contacts in your little black writing book and are ready to MAKE. SOME. CALLS. Or perhaps not.

I’ll be honest. Before I went freelance, I was lucky enough to leave a great salaried writing job, where I’d made contacts and had relationships I could tap into. Even if this isn’t you, I’m willing to bet you know people out there who know people.

Tap into that network.

Work back through your career. Go job by job. Who can you reach out to? Who can you add on LinkedIn or your other social channels? Who knows you – and knows what you can do?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been surprised to be contacted by friends of friends, or contacts of contacts, over the past 18 months.

You never know who is talking. It’s true, relationships really matter.

Especially as a freelance health writer, or any kind of freelancer, for that matter.

Establishing new ones

Let’s be honest, this is a little harder.

So, what are some of the best ways to reach new people and cultivate new relationships?

  • Be interactive on social media – don’t just post, engage with your community
  • Contact people on LinkedIn – find people who look interesting, and add them to your network
  • Check in with those recruiters.

2. Creating (and holding) boundaries as a freelance health writer

Creating – and holding – boundaries a freelance health writer has been essential. Why?

I chose freelancing for the (supposed) freedom and flexibility – to choose what work I wanted to do and when. As soon as I drop my boundaries, work begins to encroach on other aspects of my life – suddenly, I am no longer free and there is no flex.

Establishing boundaries has been challenging, but has paid off, allowing me to find a balance between writing work and mum-ing.

Here are my top tips for creating effective boundaries as a freelancer:

Hours

  • Establish working hours and communicate them to your clients
  • Only reply to emails within those established working hours (I admit, I find this hard!)

Location

  • Establish where you will work and try to separate ‘working’ space from ‘living’ space – I personally like to mix it up, sometimes working at home and sometimes in a great local coffee shop

Contract

  • Agree a contract with every client – it’s important that both parties set their expectations from the start. Scope creep is a real thing, let me tell you.
  • Decide what your rate is going to be, and don’t go below. Even if you charge by the project, think about how long it will take you to complete, and keep that rate in mind at all times. (FYI, your client doesn’t need to know what it is.)

And one last thing, remember why you are doing this freelancing thing. The one thing I need to work on: not taking on more than I can chew.

3. Setting goals as a freelance heath writer – and celebrating when you meet them

Finally, and fitting as we enter a new year, is goal-setting. Goals provide purpose, direction and focus as a freelancer. They help you to decide what success looks like to you, measure your progress and determine whether you’re on track.

So, what goals do I have in my business for 2024? What will success look like for me?

  • Increasing revenue – in particular, by creating new revenue streams within by business
  • Cultivating this very blog
  • Increasing social media engagement
  • Outsourcing aspects of my business that I don’t have time for.

As I enter 2024, I’ll be:

  • Creating actionable steps towards meeting these goals
  • Regularly measuring my progress
  • Cheerleading myself when I meet a goal – yes, I do bring in cake when I meet a metric (by which I mean, nipping to Tescos for a cheeky lunchtime snack).

What goals could you set for your business? How about:

  • Increase income by X%
  • Get finances in order (check out my accountant who specialises in working with freelancers and creatives: www.threeboxesaccounting.co.uk)
  • Establish and stick to set working hours
  • Increase client base
  • Enhance networking skills
  • Take a training course
  • Improve automation of everyday tasks
  • Take time out for self-care
  • Build a presence online.

Final thoughts for 2023

For more top tips for freelance health writers, keep reading, keep following (@rachelpascalwriter) and keep writing (drop me a note using the CONTACT form above).

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