Once I started freelance writing full-time about a year ago, i did son’t have much of an idea. I happened to be 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 ghostwritten eBook that is occasional.
This worked, in a fashion of speaking. But I happened to be losing more bids than I was landing—and the main weapon I had was to bid low and bid often. It was bad not just for my own important thing but for the freelancer community most importantly and I also 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.
Prior to 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 natural sciences to me with creativity and wit. I had finally found something worth planning to college for. As an undergraduate I fell so in love with Ecology—the branch of biology for creative types—and spent the next few 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 within the real world, therefore I went along to work in various other areas. I did so research in public areas health, infectious disease, and neuroscience, while volunteering aided by the Audubon Society plus in community gardens. All the while I was building a good foundation that would assist me eventually find my specialization, although I didn’t know it at that time.
Finding my niche
Fast-forward to about 6 months ago, once I realized that almost all jobs I was landing were in Science and Medical Writing. Not only this, but these working jobs paid in excess of many of the other jobs I became fighting over along with other freelancers as we all slashed our bids into the minimum. I already had a portfolio of articles on avian ecology, molecular biology, organic gardening techniques, and health that is public. I experienced real credentials and a resume that is solid. And I could present myself as an writer that is expert these areas. Thus I rebranded myself as exactly that: a professional science writer focusing on environmental news, medical writing, research, gardening and green tech.
My proposals became more targeted. I happened to be submitting fewer of those, but immediately saw a much higher acceptance rate. Because I became only applying for jobs for which I knew I happened to be one of the most qualified writers within the room, I could save money time back at my proposals and request 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 trying to make money regarding 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 will find pitfalls to specializing—and it is important to avoid them. Try not to create your section of expertise so specific that one can only bid using one style of job. Instead of being just a science writer or just a medical writer, I’m both. But I have a diverse portfolio in both of these areas as well. We have many years of experience as a gardener, but am formally trained as an Ecologist. And I also have worked in public places health, but additionally understand molecular biology. 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 rule that is first being a successful expert science writer can be drawn directly from Evolutionary Biology. Several of the most successful organisms use a method called optimal foraging behavior: they search for the foodstuff which they know will give you the biggest payoff, but they are ready to try to find other sources of income in the meantime. As an expert science writer, I have a couple areas that are my specialty, but I’m not above writing a series of gardening guides if I can’t find a huge job when it comes to 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 means of purifying mixtures. I became vaguely familiar I had a background in molecular biology techniques like PCR; how hard could it be with it, and?
Since it turned out chromatography that is liquid highly complex. Along with no direct experience or theoretical training I couldn’t learn them overnight in them. It does not matter exactly how much training that is scientific have various other areas, or how quick an autodidactic study you might be. I ultimately needed to cancel that job and lost a client that is potentially long-term. So that the rule that is second: don’t believe that being a specialist science writer enables you to a Science Expert. Adhere to the fields you realize very well, and you will certainly be quality material that is consistently publishing.
Thirdly, always be on the lookout for opportunities to become better at your work. I no longer act as a researcher in Ecology and Evolution, but that doesn’t mean I ever lost my passion for the topic. I still attend conferences about environmental issues in my own area, nevertheless now as a member associated with the public in place of a researcher. I never stopped subscribing to magazines that focus on ecology and nature, and today personally i think confident to send query letters in their mind. And organizations like the National Association of Science Writers have a lot of resources for science writers.
Finally, www.essay-911.com/ have fun. I love writing, and I also love science. Specializing in science writing has allowed me to take on projects that I find intriguing and engaging. I’m able to produce work I’m proud of, and I’m constantly learning more about the natural world.
Concerning the author:
Jim Daley is a freelance writer situated in Chicago. After working as an investigation 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 entire process of balancing creative endeavors with professional freelance writing.