13–15 minutes to read
The First Step Every Nurse Should Take Before Pursuing a Writing Career
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The most common comment I get from nurses who want to become writers is, “I don’t have a clue where to begin.”
Well, I’ve got you covered.
In this post, I’m going to discuss the very first step every nurse should take before deciding to pursue a writing career.
Find Your “Why” – Is it Passion…or Profit?
The first thing you should ask yourself is WHY you want to become a writer. The answer will fall into one of two broad categories: Passion or Profit.
These categories are not mutually exclusive, but in general the types of writing best suited to pursuing a passion-based writing career do not lead to a lot of profit. Let me explain.
As I said in the post “What is Essay, and Can I Make a Living at It?”, nurses often want to become writers to advance a cause or issue they believe in. This is certainly a noble reason for becoming a writer. Unfortunately, that type of writing often doesn’t pay very much.
If you want to become a writer to advance your cause or passion, you’ll be best off pursuing:
- Op-Ed (opinion)
- Non-fiction book
Let’s delve into these types of writing a bit more deeply.
Blogging for Nurses
Blogging represents an excellent way to exercise your creative muscles, practice the craft of writing, and get your message out to the public. And, yes, blogs can be monetized (this one is, for example), and eventually a blog can make you rich.
I personally know a writer who built her blog into a million-dollar enterprise over the course of 10 years. I suspect she would be the first to tell you it took hours of hard work, dedication, and a commitment to learning skills like social media, affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, and many others.
If that’s your jam, then you should go for it!
Blogging is a great avenue for promoting your cause, and you can even make some money from it. Just understand that blogging generally does not offer a fast track to financial freedom.
Essay Writing and Op-Ed
Since I covered essay in that previous post, I won’t go into detail again here. Closely aligned with essay is “Op-Ed,” which refers to opinion pieces that run opposite the editorial page of a newspaper. Op-eds make an excellent way to get your voice heard on a wide array of timely issues. Some outlets pay for op-eds, but many do not. Usually, your “payment” lies in seeing your name in print and receiving the ensuing publicity.
Memoir is sort of like autobiography, but instead of telling the whole story of your life it reflects on one particular aspect or episode of your life. For instance, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings doesn’t provide a complete overview of her life. Instead, the memoir reflects upon the many abuses Angelou suffered during her childhood – and how they shaped who she became as a person.
Memoir writing can provide a wonderful outlet for nurses who want to discuss how a particular cause or issue affected them. One example might be an oncology nurse who writes a memoir about how her own experience with a cancer diagnosis shaped the way she provided care to her patients. This topic also could make a salable essay.
Unless you’re famous or have a very compelling story to tell, you may not be able to find a publisher to publish your book. You might have to publish and promote it yourself, which requires a large time investment.
If you love creative writing, then writing fiction – short stories or novels – might be a great way for you to talk about your cause or issue in the context of a fictitious story. You can create entire worlds, real or fantastical, that employ characters to discuss your issue or cause. One non-healthcare example of this type of writing might be The Hunger Games series, which is considered to be, in part, the author’s commentary on the dark side of an all-powerful government.
As with memoir, finding an agent and publisher for a novel can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Writing a novel and seeing it published can take years, and the vast majority of new authors never earn a penny beyond the initial advance of a few thousand dollars – if they can interest a publisher enough to get an advance, at all.
Authoring a non-fiction book can pay dividends in many ways. Writing an authoritative book can enhance your professional reputation as a nurse writer. Nurses definitely can build a brand on a non-fiction book.
If you can interest a publisher in your non-fiction book, you might receive an advance of a few thousand dollars, plus royalties on sales. Most non-fiction authors do not make a ton of money from their first book, though subsequent books may sell more copies and, thus, produce more revenue.
Many non-fiction authors these days choose to self-publish and self-promote, thereby retaining all of the profits for themselves (instead of paying a commission to both an agent and a publisher). However, promoting a book to generate enough sales to compensate you for the time invested in creating the book can be difficult.
Writing for Profit
If, instead of writing to advance a cause or passion, you want to become a writer in order to make money, then I have good news: it’s definitely doable. You can make a good living as a freelance writer, though I caution you it will not happen overnight.
The key to becoming a paid, working writer lies in setting aside your own nursing causes, passions, and opinions and, instead, writing about whatever topics someone will pay you to write about. It’s pretty much that simple.
I mention this because some nurses who contact me for writing advice labor under the misapprehension that I earn six figures in revenue by writing about my nursing passions. I do not, and I want to make that crystal clear.
If you see something I wrote that contains an opinion or “take” on something, you can be sure I’m expressing the client’s opinion or take, not my own – not even when it’s under my byline. That’s the nature of being a professional, working writer. Your client provides you with specifications, and you write to meet them. Your own opinion doesn’t factor in.
Profitable freelance writing for nurses generally falls into two types: journalism and content marketing writing. Let’s look at those in more detail.
Health Reporting for Nurses
Nurses make excellent health reporters, which is why I developed an entire course and coaching program on how to become a health reporter. I transitioned from nursing to writing by pursuing healthcare journalism, and it’s the path I recommend to other nurses because…it’s so easy. Once you understand the fundamentals of journalism, you can start selling stories right away.
As a nurse reporter you can report on a massive array of healthcare topics for a wide range of audiences, from consumers to physicians to other nurses to business managers to healthcare finance gurus..the list goes on and on. But, as a reporter you will not inject your own biases or opinions into your reporting. That would be unethical.
Health journalism can start putting real dollars in your pockets right away. While there’s no set fee range for health reporting, you can expect to earn anywhere from $100 to $1500 for a single article, depending on the length, complexity, and outlet you’re writing for.
Healthcare Content Marketing Writing
A second path to profitable writing for nurses is content marketing writing. In this type of writing, you produce marketing content like blog posts, newsletters, web pages, infographics, and many other types of assets for companies and brands to communicate their messaging to their target audience. Content marketing writing tends to pay extremely well, even in the current COVID-19 climate.
I would say healthcare content marketing writing is more lucrative than health journalism, but I also believe it requires a lengthier learning curve to master it. I’m currently developing a new, comprehensive workshop on how to become a healthcare content marketing writer. In the meantime, watch this blog for articles on how to do it.
So, What’s Your “Why”? Passion or Profit?
Now that you understand your options better, what’s your why? Do you want to become a nurse writer for passion or for profit?
Once you know the answer to that question, you can start down the appropriate path to a fulfilling career as a professional nurse writer!