How blogging can enhance your career as a medical writer
I know what you’re thinking: nobody wants to read a blog about medical writing. You don’t want to write for free. There are enough blogs out there already. Right?
Here’s the truth: blogging is one of your most important business strategies. It’s a must-have for all medical writers (freelance or permanently employed, beginner or old-hand) who want to build a profile, get more clients, network with other writers, and stay ahead of the game.
What’s it all about?
In a nutshell, blogging enhances your business. Blogging shows that you care about being a medical writer and that you have something interesting to offer. It establishes you as a credible expert, and it showcases your writing skills to the rest of the community.
Great bloggers encourage their audience to choose their services over someone else’s by posting excellent content and building trust with their readers.
Medical writing and blogging
As a medical writer, you would know that medicine is an exciting industry for writers to be a part of: it’s ever-changing and controversial. There’s massive potential for debate, discussion and education. Health affects everyone, and there’s always something to say about it.
If you’re blogging to grow your business, try to write about an area of medicine with good potential for dialogue that also relates to the services you offer. You need to be confident that you can tackle the big issues with authority. Some ideas include: clinical research, medical ethics, evidence, complementary and alternative medicine, issues in practice, the craft of medical writing, and medical ghost writing.
When blogs first began to emerge in the digital realm, they were often used as online diaries in which writers could express their own private thoughts and frustrations.
Over the last few years, blogs have evolved considerably and now function as highly-regarded business tools offering expert opinion and advice. They are breaking news outlets, collaborative spaces, and digital portfolios.
Blogs are also places where writers can provoke thought and encourage debate on particular topics that they feel passionate about: for example, “10 Reasons Why Randomised Controlled Trials Are Useless”.
The best blogs focus on one particular subject – in order to be relevant and engaging. One of my all-time favourites is the emergency medicine/critical care blog Life In The Fast Lane.
Materials and methods
Luckily, you already have the writing skills down pat. Here’s what else you need to add to your medical blogging toolkit.
- Software: Firstly, you’ll need a free account with a specialty blog provider like blogger.com or wordpress.com – it’s easy to set up and after a few clicks you can be blogging immediately. If you already have a website, consider speaking to your web developer about integrating a blog.
- Target audience: Who is your ideal reader? Try to pick a specific niche (medical students) as opposed to a small segment with limited potential for growth (paediatric gastroenterologists based in northwest Tasmania).
- Inspiration: What do you care about in medical writing? What makes you happy, sad, angry, or frustrated? Find your passion, because this is where your great writing will come from.
- Motivation: There’s nothing worse than blogs that flatline after a few weeks, so think of some motivational strategies to keep up your good work.
- Commitment: Find a way to commit to regular blogging. Some busy writers find it easier to blog to a schedule, while others prefer to wait until they’re inspired by a topical news item or something interesting that’s happened while working.
- Consistency: Decide on your theme, and stick to it. Consistency is one of the foundations of authority.
- Strategy: How will you market and leverage your great content? Share your content on your other online platforms and in other relevant groups. Ask others to repost your blog on their blogs, and return the favour.
How blogging can get you more clients
Blogging helps you to get the best results in a Google search – but only if you produce relevant, topical and engaging content that your target audience would be searching for and want to read: for example, “5 Ways For Medical Students To Make More Money”.
Your blog can also help you to rank well in Google if it is optimised for search engines, meaning you should make the effort to use relevant key words and terms in your page titles, headings and content: “In Stitches: A blog For Medical Students” as opposed to just “In Stitches”.
Tip: Choose relevant page titles for your blog. Google “medical writing blog” and see who comes up first!
Blogging on a regular basis helps to build your credibility in your niche as the go-to person in your field. When issues break, others will begin to look to you for comment. If you have a blog with regular posts, some good reader feedback and original content, you’ll appear more credible which will provide you with more followers (and more paid work).
Tip: The more controversial your post title, the better! It’s your hook to lure the reader into your digital realm.
Networking with other high profile bloggers will get you more exposure and help to build your credibility. You can write guest posts for other blogs and encourage other bloggers to do the same on your blog. Links to your blog from other websites also help your Google ranking. Commenting on popular blogs with a link to your blog is another great way to get more traffic.
Tip: Join as many industry and writing groups as you can on Linkedin and Google+ to stay up to date with the latest issues and industry trends.
Blog posts are published articles you can use to build your online portfolio – a bonus being that you can generate comments and debate, showing that your posts are widely read and appreciated. If you’re an emerging writer who is just considering a career in medical writing, a blog is a great way to practise and build up a base of published work. Novice writers have secured book deals off the back of only a blog.
Tip: Ask other writers to check your work before you publish it if you’re unsure of the quality. Your blog is just as important as any other published work and should be treated as such.
- If I have a blog, do I need a website? These days, many businesses and writers have their blog as their main website. Here at AMWA, we like to keep the two separate. Both options work, so it comes down to personal preference.
- What should my writing style be? The style of writing of your blog can be as casual or as academic as you like. Don’t feel that your blog should be peppered with complex medical terminology because you’re a medical writer. Blogging should be instantaneous, and medical writing is very detail-orientated. Decide on one approach and stick to it.
- What if I really don’t want to blog? Blogging isn’t for everyone, and you certainly want to avoid blogging for the sake of it – if you do, your writing will become stale, uninteresting and you won’t bring new, fresh ideas. You can build a dedicated community of followers through Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin without having your own blog. Social media still allows you to talk to your readers, share valuable content and engage with other writers.
- Can I blog for someone else? If you don’t feel as if you can commit to your own blog, consider finding other blogs and writing guest posts for them. In order to leverage this you should always link your guest posts to Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.
Remember: blogging is one of your most valuable marketing tools, and every medical writer who is serious about growing their career should blog regularly.
Do you have a medical blog? Or do you have any questions about getting your blog going? Leave a comment below.
Michelle Guillemard is an Australian health and medical writer. Follow her on Twitter @michellegwriter, add her on Google+ or visit her health writing community, Health Writer Hub.