7 red flags freelance medical writers need to know

Here’s an example of an experience I (Virginia) had last week with a potential client which had plenty of “red flags” you should look out for…

1. The Director of a clinic reached out to me on LinkedIn to ask if I was interested in writing for their website. I thanked them for reaching out, and said yes I am interested!

2. The Director sent my email to their SEO consultant, who then emailed me to have a Zoom chat about the work within a week. This made me feel good as they were responsive and communicated in a timely manner. I had to set up the Zoom meeting though as they were “too busy” – first red flag 🚩

3. The SEO consultant had sent me 8 documents to read about “how to write” what they want. This included instructional videos and an “example piece” already published on their website. This made me think – wow, hopefully, they will pay well as there’s a lot of upfront reading and training which will take a few hours before I even start writing. However, the documents were poorly written and featured lots of angry writing in capital letters – second red flag 🚩

4. I came up with some questions to ask about the documents to make sure the brief was really clear. Some of the language used in the example piece was not appropriate for patients … and it became clear that they were unsure who they were writing for as they were focused on SEO and not their audience – third red flag 🚩

5. When I had the Zoom call with the SEO consultant, they identified themselves as a freelancer, this was another red flag 🚩- so I wasn’t speaking to someone who had authority on pay or was even going to review my work. I found out that my writing would be reviewed by someone over a Zoom call, over possibly multiple sessions – again, red flag 🚩

6. The SEO consultant expressed to me that they were “burned” after using “cheap” writers from abroad as the “quality” of the writing was not up to “their standard”. They wanted a more “seasoned” writer to produce content, and they were in “panic mode” as the Google algorithm had recently changed – leading to a drop in visitors to the website. Imagine needing to update all your content every time an algorithm changes- red flag🚩

7. After the SEO consultant spoke to the Director about pay, their final offer was $30 per 1000 words which could be “negotiated” after a paid test piece – the biggest red flag of all 🚩
I politely rejected their offer, saying that the number of hours required to read, research, write and edit did not justify their price.

I had the “time” to entertain this circus act… and in the end I had the strength to say no, as I could not see any advantages (disregarding the pay) of working with them.

When I first started out I did write for less than $10 per 1000 words – and later realised the value was more than 10 times that.

So ask for their rate up front, or offer your own acceptable price. Never be afraid to say no and walk away. There are plenty of other opportunities πŸ™‚

You may be wondering why I went through this whole process only to reject the offer. And why didn’t I just ask for their rate upfront? Well I was curious and wanted to learn more about their process, hear their story and see if I could work with them for a fair price after finding out exactly what their problems were and how I could help solve them.

But unfortunately the work they wanted and the reimbursement they offered did not match up. And the best thing you can do with a story like this is to reflect on what happened and share it with others like you in this community.

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