If you’re considering a career in health writing, you might have started with the basics. You might even have your first paying clients. But there is more to the business than getting money for your writing skills. There are a handful of traits you’ll need to succeed as a health writer.
It’s important to know that you don’t need to be born with these traits! But if you want to succeed as a health writer, you will need to develop them.
5 Traits To Succeed As A Health Writer
A Successful Health Writer Is Comfortable With Being Alone
Self-employment has its perks. As I write this, I’m underneath an electric blanket and wearing fluffy dog slippers from Kmart. But I have also been completely alone since 5.45am this morning, unless you count the TNT delivery guy. And I probably won’t see another human in the flesh until 5-6pm this evening. Most people write best when they are away from distractions, and that includes other people. So you will need to get comfortable with longer stretches of being alone.
However, to succeed as a health writer, you’ll also need to make sure you don’t stay isolated. There have been many times when I have written about the health benefits of socialisation for a client, but haven’t left the house in days. Find the balance that works best for your physical and mental wellbeing.
A Successful Health Writer Is Adaptable
One day, you might be writing 5 articles about the same topic, with only slightly different bents. The next, you could be editing an ebook. It can depend on which part of the industry you go into, but the life of a freelancer is always unpredictable. So you need to be able to roll with it.
This is particularly true when it comes to your mind. As a writer, your talent is completely reliant on your brain working. So what happens if you get brain fog or writer’s block? You need to have tactics to help you adapt, and you need to build time into each project to allow for brain-dead days.
However, there is the flip-side of this to consider. If you don’t give yourself any structure, you can end up aimless and lost. So it can be good to have a rough routine for each day, but some flexibility built in.
A Successful Health Writer Networks Daily
Very few people can just trip over clients, especially in the beginning. It can take time to get a steady stream of paid health writing jobs. So what on earth should you do in the meantime? This is the perfect time to get out there and network.
If you’re naturally introverted, you don’t have to shout your work from the rooftops. But marketing yourself is a non-negotiable if you want to succeed as a health writer. So let’s use this time to get you comfortable with talking about what you do.
Are you a coffee lover? Start with your local barista. When they ask you what’s on for the day, tell them what you’ll be writing about. Or let your uni friends know when you go for a catch-up drink. Telling someone what you do is the simplest form of marketing. And you never know – they might know someone who could use your services.
A Successful Health Writer Can Take Criticism Without Getting Offended
I know it’s shocking. But not everyone in the world thinks that your writing is wonderful – no matter how good your writing skills are! Writing is like language – we all have our way of speaking, and we connect best with people who speak like we do. It can also take time for you to adjust to a client’s preferred structure and approach to writing, especially if you’ve never written that way before.
The important thing is to make sure that at the end of the day, your client walks away happy. I’d rather spend an extra hour tweaking an article if it means they will rave about me to all of their friends in the wellness industry.
It’s also important to remember that being a health writer isn’t about being perfect. You’ll misspell a word occasionally. You might even make a grammatical error. And that’s ok! I remember checking an article of one of my first clients when it had been uploaded. I found a spelling error and was so embarrassed. But I messaged my client, and it took her two seconds to fix up. It’s not the end of the world!
A Successful Health Writer Has A Passion For Evidence-Based Wellness
If you’re in the health writing business, I really hope it’s at least partly to educate people about health. So that means you need to get familiar with your old friends Google Scholar, Pub Med and any databases you have access to.
Even if you’re 90% sure about something you’ve written, do a quick double-check. There are quite a few health ‘facts’ out there that we’ve read everywhere, but that doesn’t have any evidence to directly support it.
It’s also ok to educate your client if they give you something to write that isn’t quite right. Let them know what you found while researching and link them to the evidence you found. The more practitioners that are teaching evidence-based methods, the better!
Looking for personalised advice about how to succeed as a health writer?
I offer mentoring for aspiring health writers. To book in a session, click here.