Do You Want to Learn What Medical Writers Do?

11.04.2018

Do You Want to Learn What Medical Writers Do? Read What Debra Gordon, an Award-Winning Medical Writer Has to Tell You.

I recently interviewed Debra Gordon, an award-winning medical writer with more than 25 years of experience in the profession. For the last 13 debra gordonyears, she has worked as an independent consultant and her projects are all over the map. 
 
Debra has authored and co-authored a significant number of books, book chapters, white papers, web sites, newsletters and promotional and scientific publications. 
 
Her list of services is one of the most extensive I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a lot during my 12 years of independent consulting. 
 
She epitomizes the successful medical writer: she works hard and it shows. 
 
We will be interviewing medical writers, regulatory writers, educational writers and many others with diversified backgrounds and education so that you can see and evaluate the many opportunities exist for you, online or off, once you complete your training. Most of the writers will also delighted to answer any question you may have for them privately. 
 
Based on my years of experience, the medical writers group contains wonderful personalities that are eager to help others to learn and grow. 
 
I am delighted and grateful that Debra agreed to take some time off from her busy schedule to talk with us. She offers some very useful information about the profession, how she got into medical writing, what types of writing she does, how she got to her current position and if whether she would do it all again. 
 
Since our current format does not allow us to conclude the interview with a Q A session, Ms. Gordon will be delighted to respond to any question you may have following conclusion of the interview. 
 
I can’t say enough good things about Debra, so I’ll stop here with her introduction; otherwise we will have pages and pages of introduction and you may even fall asleep before we get to the important part. 
 
Let Debra herself tell you about her background, education and experience and how she got to the successful and happy place she is now. 
 
During this interview you will learn about one of the methods you can use in becoming a medical writer, how to develop a successful consulting business and what types of writing projects are out there for you to pursue. 
 
You’ll also learn a little bit about how to create and support a lifestyle many people only dream about. 
 
Jayne: Debra, I would like welcome you on behalf of our readers, writers, team members, and friends. We are looking forward to a learning experience! 
 
We would very much appreciate it if you could you please give us a brief overview about your background? How did you end up being such a successful medical writer? 
 
Debra: I have been an independent writer specializing in health, medicine, and health policy for consumer, medical, and corporate audiences since 1999. Before that, I was a newspaper reporter, worked for a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), and employed by a healthcare book publisher, as a senior writer. 
 
I maintain a diverse list of clients and projects (many of them satisfied repeat costumers), which allows me to avoid the “feast-and-famine” cycle, a known experience by many freelancers. 
 
Jayne: Very smart decision, Debra. It appears that it worked out well for you. Could you also tell us what is your educational background? What degrees have you earned? Have you pursued any additional training in medical communication? 
 
Debra: I have an undergraduate degree in English and a Master Degree in Biomedical Writing. In addition, I have taken a significant numbers of continuing education courses in Health Care Financing and Marketing. 
 
Jayne: What made you to decide to become a medical writer? Was there a particular role model that influenced you? Debra: I started out covering health and medicine for newspapers and have never looked back. I can’t say there was any one person who influenced me in my career. 
 
Jayne: What steps did you take to enter the profession? 
 
Debra: I made a decision to enter journalism early in my career. In order to make it acceptable and desirable in the market, I went back to school to obtain a degree in biomedical writing at the University of Sciences of Philadelphia. 
 
Jayne: Did you know which areas of medical writing you wanted to specialize in initially, or have your projects and clients determined your path? Debra: In my case, mostly my projects directed my career vs. the other way around. Initially, I was writing consumer-oriented publications. As I progressed I was able to obtain more and more scientific-type projects at a higher professional level. 
 
In the past year, my work has shifted to more toward business-to-business healthcare policy projects, an area I am trying to deliberately break into. 
 
Jayne: How many years were you working as a medical writer when you decided to start your freelancing business? Debra: I worked for 12 years as a medical writer before embarking on my “solo” freelancing business. 
 
Jayne: What qualities and skills do you think a person needs to succeed in your area of medical communication? Debra: I would say number one is patience. Other important needed characteristics should include intelligence, curiosity, drive, and outstanding research and writing skills. 
 
Jayne: How long did it take you to earn enough money to replace your earnings as a full-time employee? Debra: About 6 months. 
 
Jayne: So what are you saying here is that a person interested to start a freelancing or consulting business should have funds to cover living expenses, until the business becomes self-sustaining. For you, that was about six months. 
 
Jayne: What methods did you use for growing your business? Debra: The number one thing is networking, networking and networking. That includes things like AMWA meetings, other association’s meetings, conferences and other industry events. I highly recommend to anyone interested in becoming a medical writer or adding this expertise to their experience to register as a member at AMWA. You’ll get your investment back multiple, multiple times. 
 
I also set up a blog as early on under my name. The site contains detailed information about my services, my qualifications and what therapeutic areas I am experienced in. There, clients can review samples of my work and read what other clients say about my work ethics, the quality of work I deliver and how I work with people at all levels. 
 
I also produce a quarterly newsletter that covers issues in medicine, healthcare policy and managed care. 
 
I make sure to send out a New Year’s cards to all my clients every year. I registered on the e-mail list of freelancers at AMWA, which was one of my best decision as a support for my consulting business. I am on Social Media, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I would say LinkedIn is the number one source from Social Media for building a clientele and reputation. Twitter is not far behind. 
 
Jayne: What do you like best about your freelancing business today, and why? 
 
Debra: I can’t really identify one specific area like looking for someone to write my essay; I just love what I do. I guess I am lucky to have the opportunity to work on all sorts of projects, which also helps me to be in demand. As the years go buy, I find I’m pursuing fewer and fewer projects because projects are pursuing me. A few years back I needed to hire help because I did not want to disappoint potential clients by sending them away. 
 
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of how the freedom of working from home benefits my mental and physical health, as well as my family life. My children are growing to be well-adjusted young adults, in part because I’m available to them at any time they need me. 
 
The ability to be my own boss and even “fire” clients who don’t work out is priceless. The fact that I can go in whatever direction I want in my career path is just icing on the cake. 
 
And how about the money? I do not believe I would make the kind of money I make as a freelancer if I were still an employee somewhere. So, the benefits of working from home, on projects that I am interested and like to work, is just invaluable. 
 
Jayne: How do you measure success? Debra: The number one criteria would be whether I am sitting at the computer and doing my nails, or you see my eyes are running back and forth and ups and downs on the computer screen. That’s always a good sign that I’m busy. 
 
Number two is my face. If you see me smiling a lot and my face appears to be smooth and relaxed, it’s a good sign. However, if wrinkles are dominating my face and projecting a stern, “oy-vey!” look, or if my brow is furled it’s safer to keep a distance from me. 
 
Finally, my bank account is a great barometer for measuring my success for the month. 
 
Jayne: Debra, our readers like raw data. Could you please share with us some data about your earnings? Debra: Jayne, all I can say is this: my earnings are significantly higher than I ever thought possible. 
 
Jayne: What is your advice for readers considering a similar path to yours? What do you think their future looks like? Are there still enough opportunities waiting? Debra: Opportunities in this profession are still plentiful. I can honestly say that there are plenty of projects that I need to decline because I’m too busy already. I know other freelancers would agree. 
 
The fact that I do not even conduct any overt marketing anymore means that there is quite a bit of work out there. Your readers just should go after it. 

Article last time updated on 13.04.2018.

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