How much does a medical writer make?

Virginia Chachati in a YouTube video talks about how much a medical writer makes as an employee or as a freelance medical writer

Hello my name is Virginia and in this video we are going to talk about how much a medical writer makes.

So for the purpose of this video I’m going to talk about two types of medical writer: one is a medical writer that is employed, so you are an employee on a full-time job, you are salaried, and the second type is a freelance medical writer – which is what I do now – but I have been a employee and employed as a medical writer at a medical communications agency, but also as an in-house medical copywriter for a specific brand.

So how much do you get paid as a medical writer?

Employed or salaried medical writers

So as an employee you will get paid somewhere between 16 and maybe 30 or 50 pounds per hour, depending on your seniority level as medical writer. So what that means is if you are just getting into medical writing and if you are part-time or you are training or learning on the job then you are going to be an associate medical writer or a entry level medical writer and you will probably earn between 20 and 30,000 per year and that’s in GBP or Great British pounds.

And if you then become a medical writer then the average salary tends to be above 30 and around £40,000 if you have a healthcare background or a PhD and you’ve been writing for a couple of years – two or three years – then you’re probably going to get into the 50,000 mark, so about 50,000 per year.

So if you are working more on marketing and medical communications (medcomms) your salary is going to be lower than if you are a medical writer working in a pharmaceutical company and you are a regulatory medical writer, so you’re working on things like clinical trials and getting medicines approved, so that you can sell the medicine on the market and so those jobs will be more than 50,000. And if you become a senior medical writer or a principle medical writer, or then a director, or a head of content, then you’re looking at the 60 to 100,000 range of salary for that.

Now when it comes to freelance medical writing you will probably start off at around 20 to 30 pounds per hour depending on your experience level and also the budget of your client as well.

Freelance medical writers

There tends to be a bit of a mix of hourly rates for medical writers who are freelancers so when I recently spoke to a recruiter they said someone with two to three years with a variety of clients their hourly rates will be about 55 to 65 pounds per hour.

And then you can also charge as a freelance medical writer you can charge per piece of content that you create and you can also charge per project and you can offer a discount if the client is happy to sign a contract that is 3 to 6 months or maybe even 12 months so you know you have a fixed amount of work and that you are essentially booked up for that time in your calendar and you know you can rely on that income but again keep in mind that if you’re employed you can be made redundant at any time it happened to me twice in two years. It depends on the business – and if you are a freelancer the same thing can happen so you could be dropped from a project at any time and it’s not a case of whether you’re employed or a freelancer as to how easy that is for the company it really depends on their cash flow so if they do not have enough money to keep you then they will have to let you know.

Normally there is a notice period whether you are employed or you are a freelancer so just double check that your contract has something like a one month or two month notice if they want to stop working with you so then that gives you time to find a new job or to find a new client to work with if you are freelancing.

So with freelance medical writing you can charge anywhere from £150 per article maybe that’s around 600 to 1,000 words and then if it’s something bigger and more comprehensive like a manuscript some people do charge into the thousands for that because you’re talking about maybe 30 to 80 pages and that’s a lot of research and also a lot of referencing as well so if you’re going to be putting a lot of hours into something you need to consider how long it will take for you to research to create that piece of writing, and then how long is it going to take for you to actually write the first draft, and then how many revisions are you going to be happy to do.

So a revision is when you send your work to the client and then they send it back with feedback and then you make changes and then you might send it back to the client again and then they send it back to you and then they ask for more changes so that will be another revision and sometimes there can be this back and forth between you and the client and that’s totally fine.

With some clients there may be several steps or several people that are involved in the review process and that’s because they have certain guidelines that they want to follow because they want all of their content to be consistent and that is fair enough you will have to go through that process. But you also need to make sure that you consider asking that at the very beginning of the project and then you include those hours in your fee so whatever you are charging them.

So when it comes to freelance medical writing, I recommend that you work out what your cost of living is: so how much do you spend per week on food, on rent, on bills, all of your life essentials and then how much extra would you like and what would you do with that money if you had it. So would you go on holiday would you start to go to dance classes or maybe join the gym or something like that.

Consider taxes

You want to make sure that you are considering all of the possible expenses that you have and what type of lifestyle you want so once you have that number you then need to add about 30 or 40% extra because that is what is going to be taxed,

Consider insurance

and if you haven’t already added to your essentials, you should add any health insurance any medical writing insurance and any professional liability insurance as well because those all add up so for me my insurance costs I think £44 a year for liability insurance and then it cost me £25 a month for business insurance and then I’ve got health insurance which is about I think it’s 14 or 50% no 14 or 15% of my total earnings.

How to set your rate as a freelance medical writer

So all of these things I have to add up and then divide that number by the number of hours you want to work each week so let’s say you have a goal of earning £200 a week and you only want to work for 10 hours a week so you would have to make sure that you do 200 divided by 10 which gives you 20. 20 an hour that would be your hourly rate as a freelance medical writer.

So if your number ,which I’m sure it is is much higher than 20 per hour, you can see how you can get into the 30 to 50 an hour range quite easily and you really need to consider your expenses and even if you are not sure how long the the project will last make sure that you are happy doing the project for the amount that you have asked for and if they are not happy to pay that then that is totally fine.

You will not win every client and you can always find a different client that you are happy to work for at the rate that you want to work for in order to live the lifestyle that you want.

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