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Life is hard. Finding the best science writer for your organization doesn’t have to be. If you are looking for information on how to source and hire the best science writers, here’s a quick guide, some advice, and a free job description template from Kolabtree’s freelance medical writer Morgana Moretti, Ph.D.
What does a science writer do?
Science writers combine scientific knowledge and writing skills to inform, educate, or raise awareness of science-related topics in an accurate, accessible, and contextualized way.
Depending on the target audience, two forms of science writing exist: technical writing or popular writing. Technical writing intends to educate experts on the details of a research finding or method. Popular science writing aims to inform non-scientists about scientific insights and discoveries, equipping them to make more informed decisions.
Science communicators write in various formats, including scientific journals, regulatory documents, white papers, books, news stories, promotional brochures, blog posts, and newsletters. In addition, digital science communication now involves creating videos, vlogs, podcasts, and animations, while stoking the social media engines that currently drive it all.
Logical thinking skills and a systematic approach to researching information are essential for science writers. They also need to understand scientific terms, principles, and methods to communicate information to others. That’s why a science degree and some years of scientific research experience make entering the field a lot easier. Scientists cultivate several transferable skills that are crucial for a good science writer. For example, academic training gives science writers the ability to understand scholarly articles, interpret and question data, learn about new topics quickly, and understand other scientists and their day-to-day work.
However, there is no perfect formula or single path into science writing — successful science writers can come from a science background, a journalism background, or a writing background. It’s all about developing the right combination of skills, experience, and technical knowledge, which can be done in several ways.
Why does an organization need a science writer?
Life sciences, pharma, and medical technology organizations compete in a rapidly evolving environment and need trusted and engaging content to position their brands as industry authorities. A company involved in covid-19 vaccines production, for instance, might want to show people why vaccines should be available and accessible to all or how a virus mutates and what it means for a vaccine. A health tech company can provide insights on how wearable technology helps scientists understand patients and diseases. Informative and regular content keeps customers informed and active, assisting brands to stand out.
Science writers with a research background and a Ph.D. can also provide expert knowledge and help companies prepare quality documents supporting their programs. For example, they can document and communicate scientific studies to get new products regulated. Science writers can also help pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations, and communications agencies promote or explain research results or products to health professionals and the public.
Government agencies, universities, research institutes, and professional societies need science writers specializing in public communications to prepare press releases and reports. Science writers can also prepare grant proposals and manuscripts for those working at universities and research institutes. Finally, editors need science writers to research and communicate science concepts in newspapers and magazines pitched to the general public or scientists. A science writer will ensure deliverables are backed up with data, consistent with high scientific standards, and logically organized.
Why is hiring a freelance science writer a good investment?
Time is one of the most valuable commodities, and scholarly research shows that spending money on time-saving services instead of a material purchase is associated with greater happiness. You can hire a freelance science writer in a matter of days or even hours. Because they have specialized skills, freelance science writers cut off hours of research, writing, and editing you would have to do yourself when explaining scientific topics to your target audience. This means you and your team can devote time to other things important to your core strategic objectives.
Hiring a freelance science writer also creates an opportunity to expand your company’s diversity and bring a new perspective to a project. People from different geographic areas, educational and cultural backgrounds may have a different way of understanding your customer’s needs or different solutions to the problems faced by your organization. Diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation and better business solutions.
Kolabtree offers companies and individuals access to highly skilled freelance science writers in instances demand or even cost would not justify an in-house resource. With top writing experts from around the globe offering their services on-demand, at hourly rates ranging between $20 to $150, companies can improve performance while eliminating many overhead costs. Outsourcing science writing to a freelance professional means no training costs, benefits, health insurance, paid time-off, and payroll taxes.
Whether you are dealing with a complicated topic, find science writing frustrating, don’t want to learn new skills, or don’t have room for a new employee, freelance science writers can use their expertise to develop compelling, impactful content to help your business grow.
How to draft a job description for a science writer!
When it comes to attracting freelance science writers, some simple actions can help you optimize your search and ensure that you get exactly what you are looking for. A thorough job post creates an excellent first impression of your organization, makes your project more compelling for science writers, and attracts experts that meet your requirements. On the other hand, incomplete, vague, or poorly written job descriptions might fill your inbox with a lot of proposals from unqualified applicants.
Here are some advice and a job description template to help you find the freelance science writer that best fits your organization and goals.
Project title: This is the first thing that potential applicants will see, so the key aspects of your project have to come across immediately and clearly.
Project description: The project description section of your job post should provide a clear and concise snapshot of what the science writer role will involve, so freelance experts can easily understand the key responsibilities, tasks, and skills the job requires. This also allows job seekers to decide whether or not they are qualified to apply.
You can start by describing your company and the project scope, including the audience you aim to reach, the content type you need, and the specific activities and deliverables you expect the freelancer to complete. After that, you can elaborate on must-have or preferred requirements or qualifications for the freelance writer. You can also emphasize the benefits of working with your organization, including any interest in long-term collaboration.
An appealing and accurate project description can attract some of the best, most creative freelancers. To inspire you, here is a good list of action verbs for job descriptions.
Budgets and Deadlines: After defining the scope of the work and the skills of your ideal freelance science writer, you need to start thinking about time allocation and the budget that best accommodates your business’s needs. You might want to pay your freelancer based on the number of hours it should take to complete the project or suggest a project-based fee. A flat fee makes the most sense if you have a clear and structured brief and a good idea of how much work the project will entail. An hourly rate is preferable for projects that don’t have a clear scope or are prone to changes.
Apart from the price, specifying your deadline allows freelancers to evaluate if they have the time capacities to deliver the work you envision.
When estimating your project budget and deadline, remember that time and money required to complete a deliverable are directly proportional to the experience of the freelance science writer you hire. In addition, keep in mind that more inexperienced freelancers will often have lower rates, but they will take more time to get work done.
Here is a sample to help you write a concise and informative science writer job description:
Project Title: Science writer needed for blog posts on personalized nutrition and health
Project description: We are a nutraceutical company looking for a freelance science writer to help us create blog posts that speak to a lay audience. We will provide topics for each blog, which must contain 3-4 subsections and be approximately 1000 words in length. The ideal applicant holds a Ph.D. in science-related areas and has previous experience developing blog articles for the general public. We will give preference to science writers with experience in personalized nutrition and health. You will be working closely with our marketing team in a collaborative, remote working environment. We expect you to create one blog post per week.
Proposed Fee: USD 400 – USD 600
Hiring Timeline: Within a week – I’d like an expert to get started as soon as possible.