Kolabtree’s freelance medical writer and stem cell scientist Dr. Arianna Ferrini on her scientific career, transitioning into a full time freelance scientist on Kolabtree and the high-impact projects she’s delivered as a freelance consultant.
A freelance medical writer on Kolabtree, Arianna has a PhD in Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering from Imperial College London, and has expertise in biology, bioengineering, stem cell research and gene therapy amongst other domains.
She holds several prestigious positions, such as Director of Communications for the Association of the Italian Scientists in the UK (AISUK) and Chair of the Student and Young Investigator Section of the European Chapter of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society (TERMIS).
As part of the ‘Spotlight’ series, I had the chance to interview Arianna in order to understand her niche areas of expertise, personal journey and what motivated her to start offering on-demand expertise on Kolabtree.
NM: Hi Arianna, could you give us a quick introduction to you and your career?
AF: I’m a medical biotechnologist by training. I studied at the University of Florence, which is also my hometown. I moved to London ten years ago, subsequently studying for my masters, PhD and postdoc here. I hold a PhD in Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering from Imperial College London, and did my postdoc at UCL in Neuroscience. Now, I’m a full time medical and scientific writer on Kolabtree.
NM: Congratulations on transitioning to freelancing full time. What made you turn to freelancing as an option in the first place?
AF: Writing has always been one of my biggest passions – be it creative writing or scientific writing. During my PhD thesis, I realized that most of my colleagues weren’t enjoying writing theirs, but I did. I found Kolabtree amidst the lockdown by chance, thanks to having extra time to browse around. I started getting writing projects like blogs and online magazines, and slowly moved to medical writing projects with healthcare communication agencies. As a freelance medical writer, I enjoy the variety of projects I get and the chance to work with clients from all over the world. I’d say Kolabtree has let me club my two passions – science and writing – together, so I’ve decided to make freelancing my full time career.
NM: How do you envisage the future of freelancing shaping up beyond the pandemic?
AF: At the moment, I feel there are enough opportunities in freelancing. The pandemic has taught us that scientists and science communication is important, and I can see in the fact that I have clients from all over the world. I only started freelancing during the pandemic, but I can already see that businesses are more willing to outsource projects to freelancers. I can see that in particular in the fields I work in, such as stem cell research, where companies are more willing to go online and try to find an expert who offers on-demand services. My perception is that it’s becoming apparent that freelancers have niche skills that are more cost-effective to outsource rather than build in-house, such as medical writing.
NM: What do you enjoy most about freelancing?
AF: The exciting part of being a freelance medical writer is that you get to work on interesting and important projects – such as white papers for clinical trials or patient education material. Being a freelancer, I get to collaborate on a lot of projects that make me feel I’m doing important work with an impact on patients and healthcare. Apart from writing, I also take up many consultancy projects on Kolabtree that require me to offer my professional scientific opinion on several subjects, mainly stem cell-related. These are all projects and people I wouldn’t get to know about and collaborate with otherwise, and I find this extremely stimulating.
NM: Are there any challenges, both physical and mental, that scientists and researchers are facing amidst the pandemic?
AF: Yes, I think so. Take working from home, for instance. It boils down to personal preference at the end of the day. And, for those who are used to leaving their house often or working amidst a group, it has been quite difficult to navigate. It can get quite isolating, and you have to be self aware and realize what works best for you. You can go work in a coworking space, library or cafe if things get too overwhelming staying at home.
The pandemic has been hard for a number of reasons. Researchers have spent all their careers in labs, so switching to remote working comes with its own set of challenges that you have to adapt to. At the start of the lockdowns, in particular, people were working in shifts, either at the start of the morning or late at night. You wouldn’t have much contact with colleagues, whether it’s in the lab or the office, and that was hard to get used to.
On the other hand, it’s also important to acknowledge the benefits of remote working, such as being able to work how and when you want. I hadn’t been able to go see my family for a year, but I recently spent 7 weeks with them in Italy, something I would not have been able to do before remote working was an option.
NM: With more businesses slowly transitioning to hiring more freelancers, what do you think are some of the hurdles that still exist in the process, for both businesses and freelancers?
AF: I think the presence of companies like Kolabtree provides that financial incentive to both clients and freelancers, helping businesses find cost-effective solutions whilst enabling freelancers to make a secondary income. Confidentiality is probably the biggest concern, which freelance platforms generally put in a great deal of effort to smoothen out through NDAs and custom agreements.
From a freelancer perspective, I’d like to see Kolabtree come out with an app, which will make collaboration a great deal easier. Businesses and freelancers work in labs most of the time, especially those in scientific research or something similar, so an app would streamline communication and make coordinating in real time a lot simpler.
NM: Can you tell us about some high-impact business case problems you’ve solved as a freelance scientist?
AF: I work a lot on the medical education side, creating content about the latest scientific discoveries targeting medical doctors and healthcare professionals. I really like the idea of bridging the gap between science and medicine. I do a lot of consulting on Kolabtree, such as for charities for patients suffering from rare diseases, and I use my expertise in stem cell therapy to offer research consultancy on various subjects for them.
NM: What tips would you give freelancers and clients on Kolabtree in order to optimize their experience?
AF: For people getting into scientific freelancing, I’d say keep applying to as many projects as you can, until you find your niche and identify what type of clients you like working with. I work with a lot of corporate as well as private clients, so it’s simply a matter of preference. It’s also important to constantly build your profile and keep it updated whilst waiting and bidding for projects. It’s also important to apply to projects that align with your expertise and experience. It’s great to go outside your comfort zone for your projects, but make sure it’s relevant to your skills and career.
For clients, I’d say the project description is quite important. Sometimes, the project descriptions are very vague, so the freelancers don’t really know what they’re signing up for. So, curating your description and letting the freelancers know precisely what you want from them is a great way to avoid getting redundant proposals to your projects and finding the right expert easily. I think even a system to regulate this through Kolabtree, such as a series of questions whilst posting the project, could help achieve this. Apart from that, going through the freelancers’ portfolios and asking for relevant previous samples will help you filter through multiple experts and narrow down on the right fit.
This piece is part of Kolabtree’s Spotlight feature, where we showcase the lesser-known aspects of our extensive network of freelance medical content writers, regulatory specialists and other PHD-qualified experts who are available for on-demand hire.