Laura Moro-Martin, freelance medical writer on Kolabtree, provides a guide to pharma and biotech companies looking at outsourcing medical and scientific writing.
Are you considering outsourcing medical or scientific writing projects? Maybe you intend to try outsourcing a project for the first time, or you have done it before but without the expected results. Whether you are a business in the medical/healthcare/pharma/biotech space, a medical or healthcare communications agency, a publisher, researcher, or scientific society, this article will help you to smooth the process of outsourcing your medical and scientific content and get the most out of it.
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Why Outsource Medical & Scientific Writing Projects
In the life sciences, writing requires specific skills and a good amount of time and energy that are often needed for other important tasks. In these situations, it can be helpful to sponsor a professional life science writer outside of your company to provide this service. Even if you are a medical/healthcare publisher or communication agency who has in-house writers, you may be looking to start using more freelancers. One of the main reasons to outsource medical content writing is to reduce costs while improving productivity. But you may also need to cover tasks that fall outside of your core business functions, to ensure continuous fresh perspectives that cannot be achieved when constantly using the same writers, or to produce documents based on in-depth scientific or medical knowledge that require working with experienced life science writers. In any case, outsourcing medical content writing can help you to consistently deliver highly specialized quality content.
The 3E Principle of Outsourcing proposed by Lele and Rothman outlines key areas of consideration for outsourcing in the context of knowledge-based functions in the area of life sciences and healthcare.
The first E of the principle corresponds to ‘Effectiveness’, which refers to the delivery of quality, regulatory-compliant, consistent, and reliable content. The second E stands for ‘Efficiency’, defined as the ability to manage peaks of workload without highly impacting productivity and costs. The third E stands for ‘Economics’, referring to cost reduction without compromising quality and compliance. In the case of outsourcing medical writing content, efficiency is the main driver and a major criterion for partner selection, while economics comes in second place, and effectiveness is the third principle that plays a role.
If outsourcing is pursued just as a cost-cutting manoeuvre, rather than an investment designed to synergize capabilities, increase agility and profitability, or foster competitive advantage, it is more likely to fail. Whatever the kind of project that you want to outsource, the relationship between the company and the contractor will succeed only if both achieve the expected benefits.
Medical writing outsourcing: Kinds of projects
So what kind of projects can be outsourced? Once you have clearly defined your need and the target audience, medical writing outsourcing can be applied to a wide array of content: from large, autonomous projects that may require several months of work to specific documents, including online content for blogs or websites, grant proposals, posters or presentations for scientific meetings, articles for different publications, clinical reports, study protocols, regulatory documentation, etc. Experts can also help you to edit, review or fact check scientific and medical content (an example of this type of work can be found here). Some businesses are also looking for ways to ‘create a voice’ and deliver consistent, quality content to their target customers via their blog or website.
But how to hire a reliable professional writer? One of the best options to find experts is to use online freelance platforms. However, due to the highly specialized nature of medical and scientific writing,the most straightforward−and advisable− option is to use a science freelancing platform to immediately narrow the freelancer pool only to highly qualified scientists and academics. Among science freelancing platforms, Kolabtree offers the largest global pool of trusted experts with over 15,000 freelance scientists, practising clinicians, and professional medical/science writers covering an extensive variety of fields and specializations. Using science freelancing platforms, it is also possible to outsource regular medical content writing on an ongoing basis.
How much does it cost to hire a freelance medical writer?
Although medical writing rates depend on many factors, you may expect hourly fees from a freelance science/medical writer typically starting from $30. Project-based pricing, regardless of the time it takes the writer to complete the project, is also a common model, with typical rates ranging from $500-1500 for writing a 3,000-word article. As in any other employment process, giving high-quality applicants reasons to apply−which include paying a decent rate and, whenever possible, giving some level of creative freedom− will help you to find the right person to work on the project. When using a science freelancing platform, it is always a good idea to invite the most suitable candidates personally, in order to obtain a proposal and further discuss the work with them. In many online platforms, previous clients have the opportunity to rate the work of a freelancer, which can be an additional consideration when making a selection.
Tips for outsourcing medical content writing
Following we offer a few tips that can help you to make the process of outsourcing as painless as possible:
- Clearly define your need and your intended target audience: Be honest about your expectations and inform the writer about the specific audience that you are targeting. For example, if you look for help to prepare a grant proposal, the writer will need to exactly know the funding agency and have access to the requirements of the call to prepare a proposal that meticulously follows the specific requirements. If in doubt, the writer can help you to define these initial points, so do not be afraid to ask questions.
- Provide detailed indications: Be very specific about the type of deliverables, the length, the timeline, the revision cycle, and the form of payment. Besides, you have to give clear instructions about any company guidelines (for example, regarding the writing style or specific format requirements). Establish clear briefs and guidelines from the outset. It is always useful to ask the writer to prepare an outline of the work. It can be appropriate to hold a project kick-off meeting with the contractor.
- Keep in mind that outsourcing implies a co-creation process (which means a collaborative development of new value together with experts and/or stakeholders): A fluid communication is key to ensure the success of the project.To facilitate that, the company should ideally nominate a single point of contact for the project. You also need to establish adequate channels to communicate with the freelancer, be available in case the freelancer requires clarification or your opinion, and ask about updates on the work if needed. When a first draft of the document has been produced, the life science writer will ask you to review it. You (and all the pertinent people in your company or other stakeholders) need to take the revision process seriously and provide your feedback, which should be based on constructive criticism. The first review will be mainly focused on the structure, content, quotes, and wording of the piece. If you have the opportunity of further review, you can double-check aspects such as the spelling, format, image captions, subheadings, or hyperlinks.
- Establish realistic deadlines: Planning ahead will help you to avoid hurries and unnecessary mistakes.
- Be ethical: Avoid ghost-writing or other questionable practices. Outsourcing is an opportunity to create synergies and generate added value so if you act professionally, it is more likely that the other part will behave in the same way.
As this article in the Scientist Blog states: ‘To say the last 10, much less 15 or 20 years, have seen a continual evolution in organizational outsourcing strategies by pharma and biotech companies is an understatement. One could even say that the outsourcing landscape has not only changed immensely over the last two decades but appears to be nowhere close to slowing down’. There is no doubt that outsourcing is a strategic tool for companies working in complex multi-disciplinary projects that will increase its presence in the following years, so why not take advantage of it for your medical and scientific writing?
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- How to Outsource Your Content Creation Process to a Life Science Writer (accessed on 27th August 2020)
- The 3E Principle of Outsourcing (accessed on 27th August 2020)
- What is outsourcing? Definitions, best practices, challenges and advice (accessed on 27th August 2020)
- How to Outsource Your Content to Freelance Writers (4 Steps) (accessed on 27th August 2020)