I didn’t have much of a plan when I started freelance writing full-time about a year ago. I was signing up to whatever leads I may find on sites like Elance and Odesk and trying to build a portfolio that could simply get me more work. As a result, my focus was scattered: a resume here, a few blog posts there, the occasional ghostwritten eBook.
This worked, in a way of speaking. But I was losing more bids than I was landing—and the main weapon I had would be to bid low and bid often. It was bad not merely for my bottom that is own line for the freelancer community most importantly and I knew it. Eventually, though, that I had a background I could draw on that would allow me to specialize as I started to get steady work in a few areas I realized.
Before going into freelance writing full-time, I spent a number of years as a study biologist. I originally started on that path because brilliant science writers like Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Zimmer had opened up the realm of the sciences that are natural me with creativity and wit. I had finally found something worth going to college for. As an undergraduate I fell so in love with Ecology—the branch of biology for creative types—and spent the second couple of years immersed for the reason that world.
After college and a stint in grad school, I quickly realized that there aren’t many jobs for ecologists when you look at the real life, so I went along to work with various other areas. I did so research in public places health, infectious disease, and neuroscience, while volunteering using the Audubon Society and in community gardens. All the while I happened to be building a good foundation that would assist me eventually find my specialization, although i did son’t know it during the time.
Finding my niche
Fast-forward to about six months ago, whenever I realized that most jobs I was landing were in Science and Medical Writing. Not just that, but these jobs paid significantly more than most of the other jobs I was fighting over with other freelancers once we all slashed our bids into the minimum. I already had a portfolio of articles on avian ecology, molecular biology, organic gardening techniques, and public health. I had real credentials and a resume that is solid. And I also could present myself as an expert writer in these areas. Thus I rebranded myself as exactly that: a professional science writer specializing in environmental news, medical writing, research, gardening and green tech.
My proposals became more targeted. I was submitting fewer of them, but immediately saw a much higher acceptance rate. Because I was only applying for jobs by which I knew I became probably the most qualified writers in the room, i really could save money time on my proposals and ask for higher rates. I already knew which buzz words would demonstrate that I became comfortable with scientific nomenclature. And clients taken care of immediately that. I occupy a niche that is great I’m not a med student seeking to make money regarding the side—I’m a freelance writer. But I’m also essay writers not a generalist freelance writer—I’m a professional Science and Medical freelance writer.
You will find pitfalls to specializing—and it is crucial that you avoid them. Do not create your part of expertise so specific that one can only bid on one form of job. In place of being just a science writer or simply a medical writer, I’m both. But We have a diverse portfolio in both these areas as well. We have many years of experience as a gardener, but am formally trained as an Ecologist. And I have worked in public health, but also understand molecular biology. If I could only bid on one of the areas, I would be severely limited with regards to the jobs that would be offered to me.
The rule that is first being a successful expert science writer can be drawn directly from Evolutionary Biology. A few of the most successful organisms use a method called optimal foraging behavior: they look for the food which they know will give you the biggest payoff, but are ready to seek out other sourced elements of income in the meantime. As an expert science writer, We have a couple of areas that are my specialty, but I’m not above writing a number of gardening guides if I can’t find a big job when it comes to week.
Secondly, know your limitations. A laboratory procedure for purifying mixtures as a case study, when I first rebranded my freelance business, I made the mistake of bidding on a job that was frankly beyond my scope of expertise—liquid chromatography. I was vaguely familiar with it, and I had a background in molecular biology techniques like PCR; how hard could it be?
Since it ended up chromatography that is liquid highly complex. In accordance with no direct experience or theoretical training I couldn’t learn them overnight in them. It does not matter just how much training that is scientific have various other areas, or how quick an autodidactic study you are. I ultimately needed to cancel that job and lost a potentially long-term client. So that the second rule is: don’t believe that being an expert science writer makes you a Science Expert. Stay glued to the fields you realize very well, and you will certainly be quality material that is consistently publishing.
Thirdly, often be looking for possibilities to become better at your work. I no longer work as a researcher in Ecology and Evolution, but that doesn’t mean I ever lost my passion for the niche. I still attend conferences about environmental issues during my area, nevertheless now as a member of the public instead of a researcher. I never stopped subscribing to magazines that focus on ecology and nature, and from now on I feel confident to send query letters to them. And organizations just like the National Association of Science Writers have a lot of resources for science writers.
Finally, have fun. I adore writing, and I also love science. Specializing in science writing has allowed us to take on projects that I find engaging and interesting. I could produce work I’m pleased with, and I’m constantly learning more info on the natural world.
About the author:
Jim Daley is a freelance writer based in Chicago. After working as a research biologist in avian ecology, public health, and infectious disease, he returned to his first love—writing. He contributes content to gardening and science websites. On his blog, jimdaleywrites, he explores the entire process of balancing creative endeavors with professional freelance writing.