Nine years ago I sat in my dermatologist’s waiting room mentally shuffling the remaining working hours left in my day. I felt unproductive, stalled… and itchy.
I’ve gone to the same dermatologist for years; catching up is always the first order of my visits-zits and skin irritations must wait patiently. That day, as we chatted, I mentioned that I was working on some materials for a local company. Suddenly, my doctor might as well have been in my office, sitting at my table. Could I edit some professional letters and help him write a brochure?
I left with a prescription, a paper bag full of skincare samples and a new client.
The working relationship I stumbled upon that day (no SASE required) turned into one of the healthiest of my freelance career. When the letters were edited and the new brochure completed, I took on his clinic newsletter. He showed me some articles on seasonal skin concerns that he was writing for a local publication, which I helped him rewrite. I hadn’t intended to write about warts when I embarked on this business, but his office paid my invoices on time and I kept busy. A few years later, when the same doctor decided to run for local office, I was one of the first people he called; the arena changed but our work relationship continued.
Doctors are in the business of helping people. But they’re also in business. Like other businesses, they happily benefit from – and pay for – a writer’s skills and marketing savvy.
Start with the one you’ve had the longest relationship with – you’ll have more of an understanding about the practice and its needs. Conversely, a newer practice might not know you, but may have more needs.
A newsletter. Practices periodically announce new doctors, new treatments, insurance or payment changes, and address common questions or seasonal concerns. If the practice already has a newsletter, ask who handles it. In a smaller practice, it’s likely being written by a staff member. Contracting the work out to you frees office staff to tend to patient needs.
“Welcome to our practice” letters for new patients.
A practice brochure, or revision of the old one with updated doctors’ bios, partnerships and treatments.
A website or updated content for sites currently in existence.
Patient handouts explaining treatments, tests, and procedures. If these handouts have been written in-house, ask if they are easy to understand or need updating.
Other ways a doctor may enhance his or her presence in the community and expertise in his or her field. A cardiologist might like your help in writing (or ghost-writing) a series of articles for a local publication aimed at seniors, for example.
Advertising copy. Suggest markets unique to the practice demographic.
Stress your ability to explain medical procedures and terminology in everyday English. Ask for a contact within the practice to consult on any items you do not understand.
Build out your business. If you can layout newsletter copy or are adept at html and willing to maintain the website, let them know. If you can’t provide these services but have professional partners who do, offer names.
In a smaller city $30 (editing) and $40 (writing) per hour worked for me several years ago. Today I would charge $50 or $60. Stay competitive with your area. If the work involves a regular format like a newsletter, consider a job rate; once you’ve set up the basic format/template, your time per newsletter will likely decrease, leaving you with better rates for your time.
If you hit a lull, offer other suggestions that help promote the practice or the doctor’s professional image. Suggesting that a local radio show might welcome the guest appearance of a local doctor (to talk about summer tanning or foods that prevent cancer, for example) might not net you any work time, but it will keep you positioned as a communications consultant and partner for calls in the future.
Tosca Lee has assisted local area businesses with brochures and online training programs, helped doctors and local organizations with their newsletters and marketing needs and local political candidates with their campaign materials. Learn more about Tosca at: http://www.toscology.com