I didn’t have much of a plan when I started freelance writing full-time about a year ago. I happened to be signing up to whatever leads I could find on sites like Elance and Odesk and wanting to build a portfolio that may get me more simply work. Because of this, my focus was scattered: a resume here, a series of blog posts there, the occasional ghostwritten eBook.

This worked, in a way of speaking. But I became losing more bids than I happened to be landing—and the main weapon I experienced was to bid low and bid often. It was bad not merely for my own bottom line but for the freelancer community at large 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.


Before going into freelance writing full-time, I spent a true number of years as an investigation biologist. I originally started on that path because brilliant science writers like Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Zimmer had opened within the world of the natural sciences to me with creativity and wit. I experienced finally found something worth going to college for. As an undergraduate I fell in love with Ecology—the branch of biology for creative types—and spent the second few years immersed in that world.

After college and a stint in grad school, I quickly realized that there aren’t many jobs for ecologists within the world that is real and so I went to work with many other areas. I did so research in public areas health, infectious disease, and neuroscience, while volunteering with all the Audubon Society as well as in community gardens. All the while I became building a solid foundation that would help me to eventually find my specialization, although I didn’t know it at that time.

Finding my niche

Fast-forward to about half a year ago, once I realized that almost all jobs I was landing were in Science and Medical Writing. Not only this, but these jobs paid significantly more than most of the other jobs I became fighting over along with other freelancers even as we all slashed our bids to the minimum. I already had a portfolio of articles on avian ecology, molecular biology, organic gardening techniques, and public health. I experienced real credentials and a solid resume. And I could present myself as website to write essays an expert writer in these areas. And so I rebranded myself as exactly that: a professional science writer specializing in environmental news, medical writing, research, gardening and green tech.

My proposals became more targeted. I happened to be submitting fewer of them, but immediately saw a much higher acceptance rate. Because I happened to be only trying to get jobs by which I knew I was the most qualified writers when you look at the room, I could spend more time on my proposals and request higher rates. I already knew which buzz words would demonstrate that I happened to be comfortable with scientific nomenclature. And clients responded to that. I occupy a great niche: I’m not a med student seeking to generate income in 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 vital that you avoid them. Try not to make your section of expertise so specific that you could only bid on one form of job. Instead of being just a science writer or perhaps a medical writer, I’m both. But We have a portfolio that is diverse 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 health, but also 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 could be drawn directly from Evolutionary Biology. Several of the most successful organisms use a strategy called optimal foraging behavior: they seek out the meals that they know will offer the payoff that is biggest, but are prepared to seek out other sources of income in the meantime. As an expert science writer, We have a couple areas that are my specialty, but I’m not above writing a number of gardening guides if I can’t find a big job when it comes to week.

Secondly, know your limitations. As a case study, when I first rebranded my freelance business, I made the mistake of bidding on a job that was 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?

Because it turned out chromatography that is liquid very complex. Along with no direct experience or theoretical training in them, I couldn’t learn them overnight. It does not matter how much scientific training you have various other areas, or how quick an autodidactic study you are. I ultimately needed to cancel that job and lost a client that is potentially long-term. Therefore the rule that is second: don’t believe that being a professional science writer allows you to a Science Expert. Adhere to the fields you understand very well, and you will certainly be consistently publishing quality material.

Thirdly, always be on the lookout for opportunities to become better at your job. I no longer work as a researcher in Ecology and Evolution, but that doesn’t mean I ever lost my passion for the niche. I still attend conferences about environmental issues during my area, however now as a member regarding the public instead of a researcher. I never stopped subscribing to magazines that concentrate on nature and ecology, and today personally i think confident to send query letters in their mind. And organizations such as the National Association of Science Writers have lots of resources for science writers.

Finally, enjoy yourself. I love writing, and I also love science. Specializing in science writing has allowed me to take on projects that I find interesting and engaging. I’m able to produce work I’m pleased with, and I’m constantly learning more info on the world that is natural.

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 gone back to his first love—writing. He contributes content to science and gardening websites. On his blog, jimdaleywrites, he explores the process of balancing endeavors that are creative professional freelance writing.

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