I didn’t have much of a plan when I started freelance writing full-time about a year ago. I was applying to whatever leads I could find on sites like Elance and Odesk and wanting to build a portfolio that could get me more simply work. Because of this, my focus was scattered: a resume here, a few blog posts there, the occasional ghostwritten eBook.
This worked, in a fashion of speaking. But I became losing more bids than I was landing—and the main weapon I had was to bid low and bid often. This was bad not just for my own bottom line but for the freelancer community at large and I also knew it. Eventually, though, as I began to get steady operate in a couple of areas I realized that I had a background i possibly could draw on that would let me specialize.
Before going into freelance writing full-time, I spent a number of years as a research 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 natural sciences to me with creativity and wit. I experienced finally found something worth going to college for. As an undergraduate I fell in love with Ecology—the branch of biology for creative types—and spent the following years that are few in that world.
After college and a stint in grad school, I quickly realized that there aren’t many jobs for ecologists in the world that is real thus I went to operate in many other areas. I did so research in public health, infectious disease, and neuroscience, while volunteering with the Audubon Society and in community gardens. All the while I became building a stronger foundation that will help me to eventually find my specialization, although I didn’t know it during the time.
Finding my niche
Fast-forward to about half a year ago, when I realized that most jobs I was landing were in Science and Medical Writing. Not only that, but these working jobs paid a lot more than lots of the other jobs I became fighting over along with other freelancers once we all slashed our bids to your minimum. I already had a portfolio of articles on avian ecology, molecular biology, organic gardening techniques, and public health. I experienced real credentials and a resume that is solid. And I could present myself as an expert writer in these areas. Thus I rebranded myself as just that: a specialist science writer focusing on environmental news, medical writing, research, gardening and green tech.
My proposals became more targeted. I became submitting fewer of them, but immediately saw a much higher acceptance rate. I knew I was one of the most qualified writers in the room, I could spend more time on my proposals and ask for higher rates because I was only applying for jobs in which. I already knew which buzz words would demonstrate that I became comfortable with scientific nomenclature. And clients responded to that. I occupy a niche that is great I’m not a med student looking to make money in the side—I’m a freelance writer. But I’m also not a generalist freelance writer—I’m a professional Science and Medical freelance writer.
You can find pitfalls to specializing—and it is vital that you prevent them. Do not create your part of expertise so specific that you could only bid using one style of job. Instead of being just a science writer or simply just a writer that is medical I’m both. But I have a diverse portfolio in both of these areas as well. We have several years of experience as a gardener, but am formally trained as an Ecologist. And I also have worked in public areas health, but also understand biology that is molecular. I would be severely limited in terms of the jobs that would be available to me if I could only bid on one of these areas.
The first rule to being a successful expert science writer could be drawn directly from Evolutionary Biology. Probably the most successful organisms use a strategy called optimal foraging behavior: they search for the foodstuff which they know will provide the biggest payoff, but they are ready to try to find other types of income in the meantime. As an science that is expert, We have a couple of areas which can be my specialty, but I’m not above writing a number of gardening guides if I can’t find a big job for the week.
Secondly, know your limitations. As an incident study, whenever I first rebranded my freelance business, I made the mistake of bidding on a job that has been frankly beyond my scope of expertise—liquid chromatography, a laboratory procedure for purifying mixtures. I became vaguely familiar I had a background in molecular biology techniques like PCR; how hard could it be with it, and?
Because it turned out liquid chromatography is highly complicated. In accordance with no direct experience or theoretical training inside them, i really couldn’t learn them overnight. It doesn’t matter exactly how much scientific training you have in other areas, or how quick an autodidactic study you are. I ultimately needed to cancel that job and lost a client that is potentially long-term. So that the second rule is: don’t think that being a specialist science writer makes you a Science Expert. Stay glued to the fields you understand very well, and you will be quality material that is consistently publishing.
Thirdly, often be searching for opportunities to become write a college paper for me better at your task. 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, however now as a member associated with the public in place of a researcher. I never stopped subscribing to magazines that focus on nature and ecology, and from now on I feel confident to send query letters in their mind. And organizations just like the National Association of Science Writers have lots of resources for science writers.
Finally, have fun. I like writing, and I also love science. Devoted to science writing has allowed us to take on projects that I find engaging and interesting. I will produce work I’m proud of, and I’m constantly learning more about the natural world.
In regards to the author:
Jim Daley is a freelance writer situated in Chicago. After being employed as a research biologist in avian ecology, public health, and infectious disease, he returned to his first love—writing. He contributes content to science and gardening websites. On his blog, jimdaleywrites, he explores the process of balancing creative endeavors with professional freelance writing.