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    This is one of a series of contributions that provide useful insights and tips from experienced freelancers who already participate in the MedComms Workbook service. We hope you find it useful. If you make the move to freelancing then please do join us - and we wish you good luck with your venture!

    Freelancing in medcomms - my experience
    By Jane Tricker, posted 11 February 2017

    I took the long road into medical communications, having spent 10 years as a development chemist in the fine chemicals industry (with SmithKline French, Tate and Lyle and Zeneca) and then another 10 years in business-to-business publishing first. The publishing house that I worked for (PJB Publications - now part of Informa) published newsletters, business reports and competitor intelligence for the pharmaceutical, medical devices, biotech and agrochemicals industries. It seemed the perfect answer for me - a job that would allow me to develop my writing and editing skills without completely losing touch with my R&D roots. My last job with PJB was as Editorial Manager for the business reports division. This job came with opportunities to mentor new in-house writers and editors, to provide input into the content of the reports and to commission freelance writers.

    When my job was made redundant at the end of 2002, I took the decision to go freelance. I was very fortunate that several of the freelance writers and editors that I had worked with provided me with contacts and recommendations for potential sources of work with other publishers. (I think that access to contacts is something that would-be freelancers still need to bear in mind, although the growth of recruitment websites - including, of course, LinkedIn - and initiatives like the MedComms Workbook do make finding work easier.)

    When I first went freelance, my lack of agency experience meant that I couldn't get work from medcomms agencies. I signed with some of the recruitment agencies that handle freelance and interim contracts, and, eventually, in mid-2004 I had a call from a recruiter who was looking for a freelance editor who could also work in-house for a medcomms agency near to where I lived in Berkshire. I got the job, and MedSense is still a client now (although since moving to Kent I no longer work in-house). Not long after that, I got a call from an ex-PJB colleague who was working with Quintiles - again they wanted a freelance editor who could work in-house when they needed extra help. This in-house work allowed me to build up experience of agency life beyond writing and editing - liaising with clients and KOLs, helping to run advisory boards, preparing working up designs with the studio and preparing and participating in pitches - and this really opened up doors into other agencies. These days, almost all of my work comes from medcomms agencies, although every now and then I get to do some work for a food company, or an agchems company or even something that's not at all science related.

    I still occasionally do some in-house work, it can be refreshing to have contact with other people every day, to maybe have the opportunity to lead a team, and to take a broader picture of medical communications. Mostly, however, I am based at home - and mostly writing (although I still enjoy editing and proofreading work when it comes).

    There are downsides to freelancing, of course: I've learned - though it took a long time - to go with the feast and famine of the workload; I do occasionally wish that I had an IT department to rescue me when things go horribly wrong; and I do recommend all would-be freelancers that ask me to get an accountant (accounts are not my idea of fun). Overall, though, the variety that my work brings me outweighs all of those possible concerns - I'm not just working for a salary, I'm doing something that fulfils me.

    Jane Tricker
    Linkedin profile:


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