It's easy to see why so many physicians contemplating a non-clinical business or career change feel a sense of nervous excitement and apprehension about branching out on their own. After all, you've put a ton of time into becoming this highly-trained professional, and being a doctor could be all you've ever known.
Starting your own non-clinical business can be a nerve-wracking experience. Perhaps you're wanting to get out of clinical practice but are still looking for that "perfect" business idea to take to the next level. Thankfully, there are many non-clinical career options that will not only let you get a taste of the world of business, but also allow you to put your medical knowledge to good use.
One great example of such a business is copywriting. There is currently a significant demand for copywriters with deep insights into healthcare - from hospitals and medical start-ups that need website content, to private research firms and surgery insurance firms. All sectors of healthcare need technical, scientific and promotional materials.
Let's start by looking at what medical copywriting is, and how you could turn your current knowledge into a new revenue-generating career.
What is medical copywriting?
Copywriting, if you don't already know, is the process of writing words to promote a product or service. Whenever you read an ad anywhere, it's very likely that a copywriter has had a hand in writing it. They are the custodians of the written word in advertising, ensuring that all text content (or copy, as it's known) is accurate, grammatically correct, and that it works conceptually. Don't worry if you don't think you're a great fiction writer; being a copywriter is driven by facts (or at least, making those facts sound as appealing as possible).
Medical copywriting is a more technical discipline, sometimes crossing the boundary into technical writing (another writing-based profession). Consider it to be a subset of medical communications. Most medical copywriters spend time describing devices or various effects of medications, possible side effects, chemical composition, and more. This factual non-poetic writing demands concise, clear factual writing and it's easy to see why those with a solid medical background can find success in this field.
How easy is it to transition into medical copywriting?
Pharma is an industry that continues to grow. Unlike others that have been negatively affected by an economic downturn, drug companies have tended to thrive - because people always need drug therapies in one form or another. This is great news for a medical copywriter or someone looking to enter such a role. There are many medical copywriter needs in the market, so it's likely that demand outstrips supply - someone with the right qualifications and writing experience can step in and take on the role. Even if you don't feel your writing skills are up to scratch, there are employers who would be happy to offer training in exchange for the right knowledge. As a former physician, you should be able to display this level of knowledge with no problem.
Tips for good medical copywriting
There is a large divide between 'regular' copywriting and the medical stuff. The language must always be accurate and factual, using medical jargon appropriately, and should not be overtly promotional. This latter difference marks a large separation from the copy you read in typical ads. Whereas regular copy will make promises of benefits to the consumer, a medical copywriter needs to use more measured terms. For example, rather than saying a product will 'cure' a medical condition, the copywriter may choose to say that it relieves symptoms. These clarifications are far more important with medical writing.
So now you're asking 'what are the next steps?'
The first step is to create a portfolio of writing. This may mean offering to write copy for free for a while. Some aspiring copywriters start blogs, to communicate their writing style, practice writing and market themselves for future positions or freelance projects. Consider joining the AMWA (American Medical Writers Association) - they offer training programs. Or sign up for a certificate program (google "medical copywriting certificate program"). One of your biggest challenges down the line will be to find clients or employers; with a solid clinical background, you should have no problem convincing someone that you're up to the task of the actual writing. Your job as a self-marketer is to persuade your audience that you are worth the investment. After you've got your first gig, simply rinse and repeat. You might just find that medical copywriting was right for you all along! Good luck!
Philippa Kennealy ran a private family practice, and a hospital, before building her coaching business helping MDs launch and run successful practices and businesses. Visit her online at www.entrepreneurialMD.com to learn more.