Nurse Turned Writer: The Ultimate Guide to Freelance Writing for Nurses

Woman sitting at laptop computer with child sitting next to her

It’s 9 am, my kids are finally off to school and daycare, and I’m on my second cup of coffee. I have a few hours before my mani/pedi appointment, and then my oldest gets off the school bus around 2:30 pm. 

It’s just enough time to draft an article for one of my clients, a major wellness website. I spend an hour outlining and researching and then take a break to fold laundry and have a snack. It takes me two more hours to finish the first draft, where I pull in research from PubMed and MedlinePlus to help readers understand an important mental health disorder and how it’s treated.

Now it’s time for my nail appointment, and I use the downtime to read a book about business mindset. Afterward, I meet my daughter at the bus stop and pick up the little ones from daycare. I spend the afternoon helping with homework, providing endless snacks, and ferrying kids to extracurriculars. After everyone is in bed that night, I spend an hour revising and editing the piece before sending it off to my editor.

I worked about four hours today, plus another hour of professional development and responding to emails. Mainly from my couch. And I made $700. 

What is freelance nurse writing?

Freelance nurse writers use their advanced knowledge of patient education, disease processes and management, and the healthcare system to produce clear, accurate, and engaging health communications.

Nurse writers create a variety of content, like:

  • Blog articles (like this one!)
  • Patient brochures
  • Professional training materials, including Continuing Education Credit (CEC) courses
  • Newsletters and emails
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Textbook chapters
  • Articles and entries for medical apps
  • Recruitment materials for clinical studies
  • Advertising for pharmaceutical or medical device companies
  • And much, much more

Some nurse writers choose to join a writing agency or large healthcare organization, which can provide job stability and benefits. On the other hand, freelance nurse writers are self-employed. This means they choose their own clients, what types of projects they accept, and when they work.

What qualifications do you need to become a nurse writer?

Freelance writers can work from anywhere in the world, at any hour of the day or night. All you need is a laptop, wifi, and strong writing and research skills.

To be successful as a nurse writer, you need a few basic qualifications. These include:

  • Clinical experience working as a Registered Nurse (at least one year)
  • Strong writing and research skills
  • The ability to manage your time and work without direct oversight

Other qualifications can help you find clients or specialize in a particular niche. 

Beneficial qualifications include:

  • Advanced degrees, like a Masters or Doctorate in a health-related field
  • Additional years of clinical experience or deep knowledge of a particular specialty
  • Facility with technology and social media (or a willingness to learn)
  • Strong motivation to learn new skills
woman sitting on bed with laptop as a large dog naps next to her

Why become a freelance nurse writer?

Nurse writing is the perfect career path for nurses looking for remote work with flexible hours. The job is scalable, allowing you to work more or fewer hours depending on your goals and other professional and personal responsibilities.

Nurse writing can be a side gig or a full-time job. It’s something you can start while still at the bedside, allowing you to establish your business and build a client list before going full-time. 

Some nurses turn to freelance writing to supplement their income or to build a viable retirement option if they know they want to leave the bedside in the future. There are nurse writers who write just 1 or 2 blog articles a month for a little extra cash, and there are other nurse writers who earn a full-time living from their work.

Some of the benefits of freelance nurse writing include:

  • Scalable work: Your business can grow when you’re ready and take a backseat when you’re busy with other things
  • Flexible hours: Work can be completed while your kids nap, while on vacation, or on your day off from bedside nursing
  • Healthy income potential: It’s possible for nurse writers to support themselves and their families solely on their freelance writing income
  • Autonomy: The ability to choose your own projects and clients based on what you most enjoy
  • Independence: No boss to report to and no one to ask permission if you have a dentist appointment or one of your kids wakes up with a fever and can’t go to school that day
  • Growth potential: The opportunity to learn exciting and relevant new skills based on your interests and goals

One of the greatest benefits of freelance nurse writing is that it’s possible to earn a healthy, full-time income from 25-35 hours per week. 

Since freelance writing is incredibly flexible, this allows nurse writers to take their kids to the doctor’s office, attend a daytime yoga class, or do their grocery shopping on a Tuesday morning, all without impacting their bottom line.

Types of Nurse Writing

There is enormous variety in the types of writing available to nurse writers. Each type requires slightly different skills and experience.

Health Writing

Health writing typically refers to patient-facing materials like blog articles, patient education materials, newsletters, health journalism, and other health materials written specifically for patients and general readers.

This type of writing is the easiest to break into for new writers. To be successful as a health writer, you should be able to translate complex ideas into simple language. It can also be helpful to understand concepts like search engine optimization (SEO) and writing for the web, which requires a particular tone and style.

Medical Writing

Medical writing tends to be more technical. The audience for medical writing includes healthcare providers, researchers and academics, and healthcare organizations. 

Most clients look for medical writers with advanced degrees like a Masters, Doctorate, or Pharm.D. It also helps if you’ve published research articles in the past.

Given the specialized nature of this work, the earning potential can be quite a bit higher. Potential projects in this genre might include:

  • Research articles for publication
  • Grant writing
  • Articles, case studies, or white papers for healthcare providers or health executives
  • Textbook chapters
  • Content for apps used by medical and nursing students
  • Continuing Education Credit materials

This type of writing requires excellent research skills and the ability to assess research studies for methodology and statistical validity and then translate that research into something meaningful or actionable for providers and healthcare professionals.  

If you are interested in this type of writing, check out the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) for more information. AMWA offers continuing education, an active member forum, and a job board.

AMWA also offers a certificate program for aspiring medical writers. Other options include well-reviewed continuing education programs at UC San Diego and The University of Chicago. This course by a current medical writer is also highly reviewed.

Before investing in a pricey certificate program, it’s worth exploring this career path in-depth and speaking with others in the field. While many medical writers earn six figures (or more) with this type of work, it does require a specialized background and more start-up effort than general health writing.

Copywriting

Copywriting is marketing and advertising. This may include Facebook ads, email campaigns, patient handouts, recruitment posters, or Google search ads. 

There are many online copywriting courses for nurses interested in this type of work, though most focus on general copywriting instead of health-specific writing. Copywriting has a high earning potential for those who can demonstrate how their writing increases sales or patient recruitment.

Marketing might seem like an odd choice for nurses, but advertising and marketing copy plays an essential role in medical research. 

For example, clinical trials require skilled copywriters to help find qualified patients who could benefit from new and emerging science. Pharmaceutical companies need ethical, experienced healthcare providers who can explain new medications or complex procedures to patients. Nonprofits need writers who can share their message with the public and help explain their mission to donors.

As a freelance writer, you can choose the projects and clients that fit your skills, background, and personal values.  

What do freelance nurse writers earn?

Earning potential for nurse writers can vary widely based on the type of writing and the number of hours you commit to client work each week. It’s important to know that freelance nurse writing takes time to develop. Nurse writers must be committed to their long-term goal to make it through the early months of building their business.

It’s also important to understand that self-employed freelance writers are responsible for their own taxes and business expenses. Nurse writers should expect to set aside anywhere from 20-40% of their income for taxes, professional development, retirement savings, and business expenses, depending on their goals.

General health writing earning potential

Many nurse writers start by writing blog articles for general health sites. With around 10 hours of work a week, many nurse writers find they can write 3-5 simple blog articles a month at a starting income of about $200 per 1000-word article. This rate can – and should! – increase quickly once a nurse writer has a decent portfolio of quality clips to demonstrate their expertise. 

Nurse writers with 1-3 years of experience usually earn anywhere from $300 – $700 for articles in the 1000-2000 word range. Experienced nurse writers who write for specialty clients can earn $500-$800 per article (or more), especially if they can demonstrate how their writing adds extra value, like optimized search strategy or increased sales potential. 

As a side hustle, nurse writing can generate $1500-$2500 per month after around six months of dedicated, persistent effort. Nurses who write blog articles full-time may earn up to $5000 per month within their first year or two. Of course, this will depend on the individual writer, their marketing strategy, and whether they specialize in a particular topic or niche.

New writers will find many opportunities to write for “content mills” that assign dozens of articles monthly at very low rates (as low as 2 cents a word). 

While these might be tempting to beginning freelancers looking to land their first few clients, nurse writers should remember that, as nurses, they have exceptional experience and training that should command higher rates than the average freelance writer.

Business writing and medical writing

There is greater earning potential for health and medical writing that requires additional skills like marketing strategy, technical language, or highly-specialized knowledge. In general, these are all skills that can be acquired through self-study and practice.

Nurse writers who work for business-facing clients (sometimes called B2B writing) and those who write highly technical pieces for academic or research clients can earn much more. For example, a well-researched case study that includes multiple interviews could be worth anywhere from $500-$4000, depending on the client, length, and topic.

Direct-consumer copywriting, patient recruitment, and advertising also have exceptional income potential for experienced and talented writers. Depending on the client, a single landing page directly tied to sales for a health-related product could be worth $2500 – $10,000 (or more!). Some writers even negotiate for a portion of the profit in addition to a base fee, guaranteeing continuing income from one piece of work.

The beauty of freelance writing is that you can experiment and try new types of writing until you find the exact kind that you love to do. This business can grow and flex as interests and life circumstances change.

Ready to launch your freelance writing career?

If you’re curious about freelance writing and want to learn more about starting your own freelance health writing business, check out part 2 of this series to learn all the nitty-gritty details, from creating a website to finding clients.

There are so many career options beyond the bedside. Learn more about remote nursing jobs and discover the right remote nursing career for your goals and lifestyle.

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