This is probably the most common question that we are asked by prospective writers. The answer is “it all depends”. If you really want to start a career in medical content writing then don’t focus on the earnings just yet. Hopefully you have a day job to sustain you financially until you build up your writing career.
The reality is that you will be lucky to make $300 per month in the beginning but you could be coming home with as much as $5,000 per month once you have grown your client database. Of course, making $5,000 a month often means working late nights, pushing to meet tight deadlines and giving more than what was asked for.
The rates vary greatly but if you want to make a few thousand dollars a month as a medical content writer then you cannot always be freelancing. Some clients will contract you for maybe 60 hours per month and pay you $2,500. You will then also have to take on freelance medical writing jobs to make up the rest.
What you shouldn’t be earning is $500 per month and working 40 to 45 hours per week. Unfortunately there are many medical writers who trapped in such work situations. It is practically slave labor and nine times out of ten the clients that pay such low rates will never sustain you in the long term.
As for full time job as online medical writers that pays several thousand dollars a month, these are very difficult to come by. It does exist.
You could live in New Zealand and get hired as a full time medical writer in the United States for a $4,000 per month salary, and can work from home everyday. We know of such cases. But it is few and far between and only reserved for the most proficient writers with a health care qualification and some degree of SEO and social media expertise. These job openings are never openly advertised and only offered to well known online medical writers.
Rates for Medical Writers
The rates that medical writers charge can vary greatly. We had a few projects where we were paid as much as $150 for a 1,000 word article. These projects were few and far between and are non-existent in recent years. Rather aim for an upper limit of $80 per 1,000 word article although in most instance you will have to settle for $50 to $60.
One of the common mistakes that new medical writers make when quoting clients is that they only talk about their rates in terms of their local currency. Stop right there! If you are going to quote your client in INR (the Indian Rupee) for example, your client will very likely walk away.
Talk in US dollars. This is the industry standard. Also do not discuss your rate per word or even 100 words. Rather put down a set figure for 500 word articles and 1,000 word articles, and then mention that you will charge a certain additional amount for every 100 words thereafter.
How much should you charge clients?
Your rate should not depend on what you think you are worth. This is a common misconception and poor advice that is given to newcomers in the online medical writing field. Your worth is entirely dependent on what a client is willing to pay you. Otherwise you may be waiting around for months to even land a single job.
There has to be some room for negotiation but if a client is offering too little, rather walk away. You will never be able to deliver quality work if you are unhappy with the payment you are receiving. However, on the flip side if you are trying to get your foot in the door then accept lower paying jobs for the short term can prove to be beneficial.
You can leverage the opportunity to grow your career by asking the client to either publish your name on the article or provide you with a written reference of your work.
Without references to back up your experience and quality of work, you will never secure high paying jobs. Some clients will refuse to provide references. They are usually the type of client who will not return with repeat work for you. If they are paying a high enough rate then you might as well accept it, complete the job and move on.
However, for clients who are not willing to budge on low rates, a written reference should be part of the deal. In these cases you are still getting value even if it is not monetary wise. That written reference can play a huge part in developing a successful career as a medical content writer.
Can I quit my day job?
Don’t quit your day job yet. We all started as freelance medical writers, working after hours, while we kept our regular jobs during the day. Eventually we managed to break free from the rat race and pursue full time careers as online medical content writers.
It was not easy. It did not happen overnight. But we made it happen for ourselves. Never quit your day job until you get a well paying contract. A single project may sustain you for a few weeks or even months but contract work will keep you earning a living for a long time to come.
Contract work is not easy to secure these days. You will usually have to get in with a media agency that specializes in developing medical websites for clinics, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. There are a few of these agencies but most do not market themselves extensively as they have an established clientele. They also do not source writers openly but rather hire based on referrals.
If you are looking for contract work with an agency then you need to start networking with other medical writers and on platforms such as LinkedIn. Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn for professional advancement. We know of writers who solely used LinkedIn to establish a full time medical writing career.
What should be a starting rate?
Keep your starting rate low, especially if you live in a country where English is not one of the official languages. Clients should not judge you by your nationality but they do judge you by your grasp of English. If you have a difficulty with English then we’d advise you to think twice about a career in medical writing.
Many clients will still hire you if your English writing abilities are mediocre but they will pay you less. As you become more proficient with the language you can always demand a higher rate. Do not forget to use tools like Microsoft Word’s grammar check to ensure that your English grammar is correct.
Very few people have perfect grammar – even native English speakers. But grammar that is blatantly incorrect is a certain way to end your career as an online medical writer before it even starts.
Native English speakers with the experience as a medical writing and academic credentials in the health sciences should look at a starting rate of around $15 to $20 per 500 word article. If you are not a native English speaker, no matter how well you speak and write in English, then ask for a lower rate of $5 to $10 per 500 word article.