A day in the life of a freelance science and medical writer

A month has now passed since MedComms Day, when writers from all around the world who are involved in the Medical Communications industry were encouraged to give a snapshot of their day.

I thought this initiative was a great way to give people an idea of what we actually do as medical writers. So here is my own “day in the life of” tale.


With my soy latte in hand (thank you Nespresso machine!), I enter my office, open my laptop, and begin my workday. And no, despite what my hubby thinks, I am not still in my PJs! I have showered and am dressed in “real” clothes (though admittedly I am still wearing my slippers).

The first thing on my agenda is to check my emails. As many of my clients are based overseas, their working day typically ends just as mine begins. So I try to respond to any urgent issues they may have before they log off for the day (“Can you please add reference XX to paper YY—we want to send it to the journal tomorrow!”)

I then respond to a few emails regarding my availability over the next month—one is from a new client asking whether I can help write some short articles for their quarterly newsletter.

There is also a request from a regular client to provide a quotation for editing a manuscript that has been translated into English. As the time taken to edit a scientific paper depends on the quality of the text, these quotes do take a bit of time. So, I edit a couple of pages to see how long it will take me. An hour later, I have an idea of the cost that will be associated with this task and email my client an offer.


It occurs to me that I haven’t moved from my desk in two hours (my resolution to overcome back pain and RSI is not off to a good start!). I get up and go back to the kitchen to make another coffee. I do a few exercises while the coffee machine does its thing. I talk to my cat. She yawns, stretches, and then promptly falls back asleep. Realising I’m not going to get anything more from her, I turn to Facebook for some human interaction, and have a quick chat with my sister-in-law.

And then it’s time to do some actual billable work. Today I have a PowerPoint presentation to proofread for a medical education company, and a couple of minor corrections to make on a manuscript I am writing for a team of medical researchers.

I start with the proofreading. It is meticulous work, but at least it is an interesting topic—so I get the added benefit of learning about a new disease treatment.


Time for a break. I go for a short walk around the block to get some fresh air and sunshine. It is another warm Brisbane winters day here. While walking, I come up with a better title for another article I am working on. I write it down on my iPhone before I forget and it is lost forever…

I get back to my apartment and make myself a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. While eating lunch, I watch a webinar from the European Medical Writers Association on Client Management. Trying to find the clients I work best with (and keeping them happy) is a unique skill as a freelance writer. I jot down some new ideas from the talk.


I finish proofreading the slides, and email the file back to client with a few minor comments. She responds quickly, happy that I have met their tight deadline. I add the details of the job to her weekly invoice.

I start to have the mid-afternoon slump (read: more caffeine needed), so I make myself another coffee and return to my desk.


I open the manuscript I had written for a client to view their comments. I am relieved to see that it is nothing too major—I only need to add two references, delete one point in the discussion, and make a couple of changes to a figure. I make the changes, proofread the text again, and email the new version and figure back to the client (I also update my timesheet to keep track of all the hours I have spent on this project).


The cat comes in and sits on my keyboard (her way of demanding that I feed her). I throw her off and check my emails one more time. My client has approved my quote, so tomorrow I will begin editing the 5,000-word paper. I add this to my to-do list for the next day (which also includes writing a set of research highlights, editing a response to reviewers letter, and chasing up a couple of unpaid invoices).

Finally, I close my laptop and begin the long commute home (j/k).