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How to become a high-income freelance medical writer with no experience

By June 14, 2024 29 Comments

Freelance medical writing is a money-making specialty that’s interesting and offers plenty of work. And even better, you don’t need experience to get started. If you love to write and can understand health and medicine, you can become a freelance medical writer. That’s exactly what happened to American writer Lori De Milto when she started out as a medical writer — within 18 months, she was making six figures.

How to become a medical writer

A guest post by Lori De Milto

Today’s guest post has been written by Lori De Milto, an expert freelance medical writer and coach who runs the awesome Mighty Marketer blog.

And if you’re interested in finding out exactly how to get started in medical freelance writing I’ve developed a step-by-step guide to landing your first client in the health or medical field. You can download it below 👇

 From bedpans to healthcare content marketing

When I wrote a press release for a new bedpan in my first job at an advertising agency, I didn’t know that I had stumbled upon something called medical writing.

More than a decade later, when I launched my freelance business, I decided to specialise in medical writing.

Today, I focus on healthcare content marketing, consumer health content, and health journalism, writing mostly for patients and consumers.

My main clients are hospitals/health systems, healthcare marketing agencies, an integrative health organisation, and a professional association.

Here’s how I became a high-income freelance medical writer—with no experience—and how you can too.

What freelance medical writers do

At first, I thought all medical writers (freelance or staff) were like me: people with a journalism or English degree who learn about health and medicine.

It was a shock to learn—at my first annual conference of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA)—that there was another type of medical writer: people with scientific or medical degrees who learn how to write.

Medical writers like me do the most creative work.  

We write blogs, health news, newsletter and magazine stories, patient education, patient profiles, web content, and more. Scientific/clinical medical writers work on projects like journal articles, continuing medical education, and regulatory writing.

4 tips for getting started as a freelance medical writer

It’s a lot easier to become a successful freelance medical writer today than it was when I started back in 1997.

Today, the Internet has lots of information about the specialty and potential clients.

Here are four tips for getting started.

1. Learn about health and medicine

You don’t need to know much about health and medicine when you’re starting out. But you do need to be willing to learn. There are many credible websites where you can learn about diseases and conditions, wellness, and more, including:

·       MedlinePlus (a U.S. government portal to credible medical information for the public)

·       WebMD

·       Disease associations like the American Heart Association

·       Patient websites from professional associations, like CancerNet from ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology).

Joining professional associations like AMWA and signing up for e-newsletters will help you learn about what’s happening in health and medicine and in medical writing.

[Note from Lindy: The Australian equivalent is the Australasian Medical Writers Association and in the UK it’s the Society of Medical Writers]

2. Choose Your Focus

Medical writing is a big specialty.

Start somewhat broadly and narrow your specialty over time.

But you shouldn’t be just a “freelance medical writer” like I was when I started, because that’s too broad.  As I learned more, I evolved into a freelance marketing communications medical writer.

Now my specialty is much narrower: healthcare content marketing, consumer health content, and health journalism.

Professional associations are the best way to learn about medical writing, and to build your network.  AMWA, for example, offers a journal, web-based resources, webinars, online courses, and more to help you learn about the field, along with an annual conference packed with workshops and sessions. Through workshops, you can develop medical writing samples.

3. Build Your Strategic Network

A strategic network helps you learn about medical writing and freelance gigs, get referrals, and find clients.

Joining—and volunteering for—professional associations is the fastest way to build a strategic network.  Volunteering helps you build the trusting relationships that lead to referrals. I’ve been volunteering for AMWA since I joined, and have gotten many referrals. I started out doing small tasks like sitting at the registration desk before a meeting. Since then, I’ve helped my chapter as newsletter editor, an officer, and more.

For the national organisation, I’ve been on many committees and give presentations at the annual conference.

4. Choose Your Clients

Networking and direct email are the two best ways to get medical writing clients. Referrals are a key source of new business. But it takes time to build a strategic network and get those referrals.

Direct email lets you choose the high-paying clients you want to work with and attract them.

It works because you focus on helping clients solve their problems, not trying to sell your services.

Back in 1997, I used direct mail because no one was using email for marketing. I switched to direct email in 2014 and it really works.

Developing your prospect list is the first step in direct email.

When I started out, I had to go to the library. Now, you can do it all online. Professional association membership directories make it easy to find great prospects. You can also use industry directories and lists and LinkedIn. Once you have your prospect list, write a customised direct email for each client that shows you understand what the client needs and can meet those needs.

My Direct Email Swipe File gives you step-by-step instruction on how to do direct email. It includes templates and examples.

Stay away from content mills and freelance job sites like UpWork.

You’ll find freelance medical writing gigs, but they’ll be low-paying. And you’ll be competing against hundreds of other freelancers. Direct email takes time, but if you do it right, you’ll get the high-paying freelance medical writing clients you deserve.

Don’t forget –  if you’re interested in finding out exactly how to get started in medical freelance writing I’ve developed a step-by-step guide to landing your first client in the health or medical field.

You can download it below 👇

Where to learn more about freelance medical writing and a medical writing career path

Free Resources

AMWA New Medical Writer Toolkit

Health writing checklist

e-Newsletters (also free)

Pencil Points e-newsletter from The Accidental Medical Writer

Subscribe to the e-newsletters of your local hospitals and national disease associations

Smart Brief for healthcare marketers (one of my favourites)

Smart Briefs on healthcare (many to choose from)


The Accidental Medical Writer


American Medical Writers Association (we have international members too)

Association of Health Care Journalists

About Lori

Lori De Milto is a freelance medical writer who also helps freelancers get the clients they deserve.

If you haven’t already, it’s totally worth getting your free roadmap to high-income freelancing and Lori’s Direct Email Swipe File that takes you through the exact steps you need to do direct email and get high-paying clients.

Have you considered becoming a medical writer? Do you have any questions for Lori?


  • Rashida says:

    How interesting! I’ve been thinking of branching out in medical writing because of a keen interest in health and there are some helpful insights here from Lori. I’ve just joined the AMWA and looking forward to developing a niche in this area. Thanks Lindy!

  • Lara says:

    Interesting. I’m a freelance writer but the money I’m making definitely isn’t cutting the mustard…I happen to have a Pathology degree though so this could be perfect for me as a side-gig. Thanks.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Ooh Lara, that sounds like a perfect match for you – do let me know if you try and how you get on.

      • Shanna says:

        Hi lindy
        I am a registered nurse and would like to get started.
        Is it all I need to know in your step by step book to get started?

        • lindyalexander says:

          Hi Shanna,
          Thanks for your message. Yes, I think my free download will help you get started. Have a look and see what you think. Let me know if you have any questions!

  • Sharon says:

    This is my bag! I’ve been writing content for medical and healthcare trade magazines for a number of years before going freelance and I agree that you don’t necessarily need to be a medical expert to write about it.

    That’s a great tip about volunteering at writers associations to make contacts – I’ve been an AMWA member for a while but I think I’ll put my hand up for some local event assistance.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks so much for your comment Sharon, I’ll be interested to hear how your local volunteering goes 🙂

  • Saima says:

    I found your website about a week ago and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts!

    I really want to get into freelance writing but I never actually thought about medical writing until now. I was initially thinking of travel writing but perhaps medical writing makes more sense since I have a pharmaceutical background. I’m a regulatory affairs professional in the pharmaceutical and consumer health industry in Australia, and I would love it if you had some feedback on what sort of avenues there are with my experience and knowledge.

    Thank you for another great post!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Saima,
      Welcome! There would be many freelance opportunities for you to write content for organisations, businesses and publications within the health industry in Australia. I know health writers who write for trade magazines (for doctors, dentists etc), some who write for health insurance websites and magazines, others who write content for hospitals (such as case studies and blogs) – so the opportunities are endless. It just depends what part of the pharmaceutical/health industry you want to target and you’d go from there.

  • I truly enjoy this article. I’ve been a nurse now for about 30 years with a focus in critical care and cardiac disease. I would love to venture into this side of medicine. With My experience, I have a lot to say!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Phyllis, thank you so much for your comment. With your wealth of experience, I’d say you would be very well placed to break into medical writing!

  • Writer says:

    I’m so glad to you for sharing this awesome and useful content. I believe that medical writers are really important in our lives. How do you think, does it really hard to become a medical writer without medical education?

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Andy, as Lori says in this post, it’s absolutely possible to become a medical writer without previous experience.

  • Tanya says:

    Thank you for your wonderful article and insight, Do opportunities exist in medical writing for practitioners with a vast knowledge of natural health care. I have a Master’s of Science, in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and 23 years as a natural health practitioner. Would The AMWA Certificate be an avenue to start?

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Tanya,
      Thanks for your comment. I imagine that there would be many opportunities for someone with your experience and knowledge. The AMWA certificate looks like a great place to start. Best of luck and let us know what you decide!

  • Thanks for this inspiring article! I only just stumbled on it, because I’ve graduated as a registered dietitian recently and decided to combine this with my 10 year experience as a communications advisor (mainly in science communications, outreach). I would love to specialize in medical writing for health care organisations (hospitals, health care professionals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies), but struggle since I have no experience to show yet on my website in this field. In the Netherlands (where I’m from), I can’t seem to find useful information that helps me further (it’s all mainly about how when you have a PhD you can specialize as a medical writer, but I have no PhD). So I’m going to take the advice in this article to write direct e-mails and see if I can volunteer for professional writing associations!

    • lindyalexander says:

      Thanks for your comment Femke – it sounds like you have the ideal background to move into medical writing. All the best with this – let me know if you have any questions.

      • Femke says:

        Inspired by your blog, I searched for medical writing jobs online and came across one at an organisation that develops e-learning courses for health care professionals. I’m really interested in everything relating to eHealth (even wrote a thesis about it), so this is right up my alley! I applied and they want to interview me next week! Amazing, I never searched with the specific keywords “medical + writing” before and it already pays off. Thanks!

  • Tamara says:

    Thank you for this great article.
    I am thinking about becoming medical writer in marketing..
    And to be freelancer..
    I have ecpirience as Medical advisor in phrama industry- generic medicines..
    I am wondering what skills exactly I need to have..
    What is best online course/best steps..
    Where I can be volunteer, of course, in online version..due covid..place of living..

    Thank you in advance..

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Tamara, thanks for your comment. Have you downloaded my free step-by-step resource about how to become a medical writer? That takes you through the first steps.

  • Rhonda Watts says:

    I love to type so I was looking for an outlet to express my passion. I like working in healthcare but I want to work behind the scenes.
    I always wanted to write a blog. This article is the channel and conduit I definitely needed to activate, awaken, and get my creativity flowing in the write😊direction!
    I can’t wait to help others like you did!
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  • Dennis says:

    Thanks for quick tips! Im a Registered Pharmacist and a Certified Medical Coder from AAPC is gradually branching out to freelance medical writing. Do you think I can join the AMWA even if im not American? Im based in the Philippines

  • Linda Hansen says:

    With eight years experience in healthcare as a Certified Nursing/Restorative Aide, Pharmacy Technician, Therapy Support Staff (working with mostly geriatric patients) and Film Librarian, but no degree, do you think it possible for me to do freelance medical writing? I’ve always had an interest in healthcare.

  • Mia Evans says:

    It’s interesting to know that freelance medical writers would also be people who have practiced or have had medical degrees in the past and not just those who finished journalism. I guess it is important to be aware of those things if you are a client looking for a freelance medical writer or whatever purpose you need them for. So you know what to expect and what to look for when hiring someone to help you with your projects.

    • lindyalexander says:

      Yes absolutely, freelance medical writing isn’t just limited to people with a journalism background. Many people with medical backgrounds (doctors, nurses etc) become freelance medical writers.

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