7 things you need to be a great health writer
If you’re new to freelance writing, you may be wondering whether it’s better to develop a niche, or to keep your market wide open.
For a newbie, developing a niche market can seem scary. After all, it does mean a smaller pool of potential clients. And when you’re starting out, you need all the clients you can get, right?
Developing a niche can be one of the best things you can do for your freelance business. It means you no longer have to be ‘all things to all people’. Instead, you focus on becoming an expert in area or field. This means you can more effectively market yourself and bring in more clients than before.
If you have already been working in a particular industry or field, you may have already developed your niche. You just don’t know it yet.
That’s how I developed mine. During the 3 ½ years I wrote for a corporate wellness company, I developed many skills that most freelancers don’t have. And so when I eventually went out on my own, I decided to utilise these skills and market myself as a health writer.
The future of health writing
Personally, I believe health writing has a bright future. It’s no secret the healthcare industry is booming right now. A combination of an ageing population, along with an increased interest in health and well-being, has made this one of the fastest-growing industries.
As a result, there are more companies and agencies popping up devoted to healthcare. Along with them, are many more opportunities for health writers. Potential clients can range from pharmaceutical clients to health-related brands, through to government health organisations and private practitioners.
What makes a good health writer?
However, just because there are health writing opportunities doesn’t mean you are right for the job. If you want to make it as a health writer, there’s a few key attributes that may come in handy.
- Have an interest in health
It sounds simple but it’s true. You really need to have some kind of interest in health. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing about, you’re going to find your work pretty boring.
- Know your market
Who will you be writing for? While you may write the odd thing for an overseas client, chances are you will be focusing on content here in Australia, so you need to understand your market. What are the primary health concerns facing Australians? What barriers do we face when it comes to improving our health? Does our culture influence our health? Knowing your audience will help you tailor your content accordingly.
- Know how to research
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of researching health content. There is so much conflicting advice in the health arena, it’s crazy. Many writers base their content on anecdotal evidence rather than fact. Or they simply rewrite copy from other websites without checking the facts. Publishing incorrect health information not only leads to lost credibility, but it may lead to a loss of income, or even a hefty lawsuit!
- Only use credible sources of information
The information you present is only as good as the sources you glean it from. When researching health articles, ensure you use only credible sources of information, such as peak health bodies, government websites, or internationally accredited organisations. A newspaper report, or information posted on someone else’s blog is not credible.
- Be able to interpret scientific studies
This skill goes hand in hand with researching. Being able to read and interpret scientific studies is a valuable skill. Referencing bona fide health studies improves your credibility as a writer, and adds weight to your story. Your readers will walk away knowing the information you presented to them is true. They also have a reference to go to if they wish to read further on the subject.
- Write in simple language
When it comes to all writing, simple is best. When it comes to health writing, simple is a must. Writing on health, disease and illness can involve a lot of complex information. As a health writer, it is your job to ‘de-code’ this information, and write it in a form that the average person can understand.
- Write to empower
While you are busy translating complicated information into an easy-to-understand format, please take the time to write it in a way that will empower the reader, rather than frighten them. There are many topics that are quite scary for the average reader, so it is your job to present the information in a way that will inform, not scare.
As a health writer, my job is to present accurate, up-to-date health information in a way that is easily understood. I also see it as my role to empower and inspire people to make a change to their personal circumstances. By all means present facts (i.e. we all know that smoking causes cancer), but present them in a way that empowers and inspires change, instead of trying to ‘scare’ people into action.
Writer or blogger?
Finally, you need to know whether you are a writer or a blogger? You can actually be both, but you are likely to be more one than the other. If you are a blogger, then you probably have your own following and know your readers quite well. Your readers probably know your brand and what you stand for. You will also be used to writing in one ‘voice’ and this will be understood and embraced by your readers.
If you are primarily a writer, you need to be more diverse in your skills. You may be asked to write on a range of different topics and for a range of different clients. Each client will have a different target audience and therefore a different ‘angle’ for their story. They may also want you to use a different ‘voice’ (i.e. informative, expert etc.).
Knowing which category you fall into will make it easier for you to adjust your writing style accordingly.
So there you have it. My 7 tips for being a great health writer.
And if you are looking to engage a great health writer, please contact me. I’d love to help.