Morgana Moretti is a biologist by trade, and takes up freelance scientific and medical writing projects on Kolabtree. She has a doctor’s degree in biochemistry, and her main area of study is analyzing biochemical alterations in the brain in order to deduce how this alteration is associated with depression.
Here, she talks to Kolabtree’s Naren Madan on various topics such as transitioning to full-time freelancing on Kolabtree, how the pandemic influenced this decision, and how clients can tap into the growing knowledge economy of independent scientific consultants.
NM: Can give us a brief overview of your career and educational background?
MM: I’m a scientist with a doctoral degree in Biochemistry, postdoctoral training in Neuropharmacology and Biochemistry, and over 12 years of biomedical research experience. Three years ago, when I finished my maternity leave during my second postdoc, I realised I wasn’t satisfied doing academic work and the benchwork that comes along with it. That’s when I slowly started exploring alternate options in the industry.
The advent of the pandemic opened up new opportunities for me. When lab activities ceased, I came across freelancing opportunities for scientists, majorly in the capacity of a consultant. It started as an experimental activity, but I ended up feeling quite comfortable. I started doing this part time initially, balancing it with working in the lab.
I gradually decided to start taking up more freelancing and consulting opportunities as a scientific expert on platforms such as Kolabtree, and was successfully able to apply my science knowledge and expertise outside the lab. Six months ago, I transitioned to full-time freelancing, working extensively on projects sourced through Kolabtree and LinkedIn, amongst others.
NM: That’s amazing. Talk us through your transition to full-time freelancing
MM: I had the opportunity to make a slow transition to a full time scientific and medical writer. I worked as a part-time freelance scientist during my first year (out of 3 years of freelancing so far), wherein I tried to build a client base, understand how the industry works and build up an online presence and network. Since I knew that my postdoc contract would end in May 2022, I was prepared to start full-time freelancing by the end of the following month.
By April 2022, I had a definitive idea of how to establish and sustain a successful freelancing career. I had also built my portfolio, had some client work and had enough savings to support myself in case of emergencies. These three criteria played an important role in my decision-making process and helped me dive into full time freelancing. I’d say these aspects are crucial for anyone considering a part-time or full-time freelance scientific career.
NM: Great, that sounds very exhaustive. Can you tell us more about how the pandemic played a role in directing you on this path?
MM: Well, I started freelancing due to and in the middle of the pandemic, around December 2020. Despite all the negative consequences brought about by this pandemic, I’d say it positively affected me by accelerating my freelancing journey, so you can call it a silver lining of sorts amidst a dark period for the entire world.
Since labs were closed due to the long lockdown, I got the opportunity to work on many freelance projects on the side because of Kolabtree. This allowed me to experiment whilst also keeping me in a stable financial condition.
It was encouraging to witness that due to the pandemic, companies had become more open to remote work which made it easier to collaborate with international clients. This shift in perception was also bolstered by the increasing influx of subject matter experts and scientists such as myself into the freelancer ecosystem.
NM: Exactly, there was a massive perception shift towards tapping into the freelancing ecosystem amidst the rise of lockdowns and remote working. What change did you notice in the mindsets of businesses towards freelancers?
MM: Like you said, companies are more open to hire freelancers, especially from any country. Geographical borders are not a factor anymore. I have clients from Australia, Canada and the USA.
People are more open to remote work because of the effect of the pandemic and big firms are willing to outsource work to freelancers. I think this is great for the freelancer ecosystem, as it lets them offer their expertise to clients across the globe. Likewise, this is great for companies looking to test ideas, collaborate with PhDs on short term, cost-effective projects.
NM: How do you foster business relationships with new clients and maintain relationships with recurring ones?
MM: I think the most important criterion is, of course, doing quality work. On top of that, I value the advantages of having good communication in aiding the fostering of a great business relationship. Meeting deadlines is also essential for clients. These three dimensions are, according to me, crucial to maintaining a great relationship with clients, be it new or existing ones.
NM: Could you give us some examples of some high impact projects you have undertaken using Kolabtree?
MM: In terms of consulting, I worked with a medical team interested in knowing more about neuromodulation devices and how they could be used to improve mood and cognition. This was a very challenging project for me.
I also worked with a research group in a clinical study design and protocol writing in in the field of neurology. This is another project that immediately stands out due to how niche and interesting it was.
Nowadays. I am more involved in medical writing and medical content creation for scientific news publications and for companies interested in preclinical and clinical talks. I also perform regulatory writing for companies interested in submitting documents to government regulatory bodies like FDA.
NM: As a freelance medical writer, how do you have conversations on data confidentiality and security of intellectual property with your clients?
MM: My basics are covered by Kolabtree already, with it being a highly secure platform to work on, with custom NDA agreements etc. However, I also take into consideration what each client wants. For instance, in case the client wants extra assurances, I sign a personalized NDA in line with their company terms. Of course, this encompasses specific confidentiality points depending on the client, such as whether or not they want the information deleted after projects or not, who can access that information etc. So yeah, it’s very subjective.
NM: Another debate in recent times is the mental health of academics and researchers during the pandemic, which was reported to be at all-time low. What has been your experience and observations on this?
MM: In academia, we do work very long hours, and it’s very common for us to work on weekends to conduct experiments in the lab, writing papers, or a grant proposal. It can be very exhausting. The pandemic exacerbated this by adding unprecedented stress caused by the social isolation.
One of the things I value as a freelancer is the flexibility as I can set my own schedule. It has been helpful for my mental health and I would like to continue to lead my life this way. This is a great opportunity for other freelancers too, as working from home on a freelance basis offers the chance to set your own hours and take constant breathers.
Of course, working from home, especially as a freelancer because you are on your own, can also get lonely at times. So it’s always a great idea to connect with fellow freelancers or people that have similar goals and interests as you.
NM: What are the main differences in what you can offer to a firm as a freelancer, as opposed to a full-time employee?
MM: As a freelancer, I can work on specific projects, such as medical writing, on specific timelines. This is helpful for clients with a limited budget, as they don’t need to hire me full-time. This also applies to clients who have a short term project in mind, as they can collaborate with me just to have their specific needs met within a stipulated timeline. This is both cost-effective and time-effective for the client, with minimal paperwork hassle to handle too.
Freelancers like me work on-demand in a specific subject area, which is a main advantage for clients. For example, on Kolabtree clients can hire freelancers on flexible contracts. Say you’re looking for a medical writer – you can collaborate with one as and when the demand arises. This helps clients avoid the whole ‘minimum duration contract’ clause that is mandatory with agencies for instance, as they can decide the timeline of the contract. This, I guess, helps them test prototype ideas by hiring an expert to test the idea on a pay as you go basis.
NM: What is your advice to clients to ensure that they hire only relevant freelancers for their projects?
MM: Clients should be as specific as possible, in terms of the project description and scope. For instance, they should describe the details of the project as much as possible and be clear on the expertise they are looking for. These will help them in receiving more focused proposals, and weed out personnel whose skill sets don’t match with the project requirements.
Secondly, vetting freelancers thoroughly by researching their profiles on Kolabtree or professional social media platforms like LinkedIn, is crucial before the contract is signed. Also, make sure the conversations on project timelines, budgets and milestones are discussed explicitly with the expert before you hire them.
NM: Conversely, what advice do you have for freelancers, especially medical writers and product consultants, who have just started out?
MM: To begin with, apply for projects unique to your skill sets and experience, in order to ensure high success rates. However, as you grow in confidence, you could try to apply for projects which are slightly different from their area of expertise.
Being open to new projects will help develop new skills and expand horizons to new areas of learning. Crucially, it will optimize constant volume of work to help sustain your freelancing journey. For example, I have never worked on projects in the field of depression, which is my main area of expertise. Being open to new areas of knowledge has not only ensured that I get constant new projects, but I’ve also learnt a lot about many other related fields. This is probably the primary advise I’d offer to other freelancers.
NM: Thanks a lot for the chat, Morgana. Any last thoughts on your freelancing experience on Kolabtree before we conclude?
MM: Kolabtree has significantly contributed to my work as a freelance scientific writer and consultant. I think the idea of a platform with such a diverse range of scientific experts, right from medical writers to product developers, is quite unique.
Ever since I started freelancing, I’ve only used Kolabtree for my work. It was the first freelance platform that I used, my first contact with the freelance market and my first experience outside the lab. It was particularly great for me because Kolabtree focuses on connecting clients with scientists in well-defined, niche areas.
Thanks to this secure environment fostered by the platform, I’ve been able to get relevant projects matching my skills, build up my client network and offer my services to clients across the world. I’m quite enjoying being a full-time scientific and medical writer on Kolabtree, and hope to continue doing this for a long time.
Looking to consult Morgana for a project? Get in touch with her here.