Hiring a specialized writer for your science communication project can sometimes be confusing.
Should you hire a science, technical, or medical writer?
Finding the right specialist could save you a lot of time and improve the quality of your projects.
On the other hand, hiring the wrong type of writer can cost you time, money, and sometimes your sanity (who likes having to do a complete rewrite?).
Let's look into these terms and what they mean so that you can make the right choice for your projects.
If you're an aspiring writer fresh out of school, this will also help you choose the right path for your future career.
3 personas of the specialized writer
Science writers: bridging the gap between science and society
Science writers are translating complex scientific concepts for a broader audience, bridging the gap between scientific research and public understanding.
They work across diverse mediums, including newspapers, magazines, websites, and blogs, to make scientific information accessible and captivating.
Science writers have the ability to demystify complex studies and communicate their implications to engage and educate readers.
They're your best bet if you want to turn a scientific paper into an article that a non-specialist audience can understand.
It's also where you'll find the most diversity in degrees and backgrounds.
For example, it's common for journalism graduates to specialize in science writing without necessarily having a science degree, while this will be rare for technical or medical writing.
This is actually a positive feature if you are looking for someone with more writing experience than pure science experience.
Not having a science degree or Ph.D. also means they'll be priced lower.
- Great for general audiences
- More versatile
- Cheaper to recruit
- Sometimes, less technical skills
- Large gap of expertise within the talent pool
- Can be less accurate if writers don't keep up with advancing science
Technical writers: simplifying complexity with precision
Technical writers specialize in making intricate, technical information understandable for a specific audience.
From instruction manuals to software documentation, technical writers simplify complex concepts, procedures, and specifications into user-friendly content.
They pay meticulous attention to detail and ensure accuracy, clarity, and consistency in their writing.
Collaboration with subject matter experts is a crucial aspect of technical writing, as it requires a deep understanding of the product or technology.
In most cases, technical writers will have a degree in a specialized field, which can be an essential factor in your recruitment process.
A technical writer who has spent time at the lab bench will always make your life easier when it comes to translating complex protocols into easy-to-understand instructions.
So, in this case, experience does count.
- Great for collaboration with scientists
- Best fit for instruction manuals and documentation
- Attention to detail
- Less creative freedom
- Highly specialized projects might have a small talent pool depending on the field
- More expensive than science writers
Medical writers: merging compliance and communication
Medical writers can be seen as a subset of technical writers with strong healthcare or medical knowledge.
Medical writers are particularly useful in producing research papers, clinical trial reports, regulatory documents, patient education materials, and promotional content for pharmaceutical companies.
In the highly regulated and sensitive healthcare field, medical writers play a crucial role in developing accurate and persuasive content.
If your project involves any form of regulatory compliance, it is better to work with a medical writer to ensure that your content is compliant.
The best medical writers possess previous experience in clinical trials or regulatory affairs, which will help them navigate the most complex projects.
The downside, of course, is that they are more expensive to hire.
- Best for medical compliance
- Deep understanding of healthcare
- Writers usually have a PhD
- A smaller pool of talent
- Most expensive type of writing
- Risks when hiring the wrong person
5 factors to consider when choosing a writer
Now that you know more about each type of writer, let's look at the recruitment phase.
When looking for a specialist writer for your marketing team, consider the following factors:
1/ Audience relevance
Before hiring, always identify the specialization that best matches the interests and needs of your target audience.
Think about the scientific or technical aspects of your products or services and determine the level of expertise required to communicate and engage with your customers effectively.
If you're targeting a general audience, there's no need to hire an expensive medical writer who is likely to deliver less engaging content.
On the other hand, don't hire a science writer for your clinical trial report (unless you enjoy living dangerously).
Also, consider their previous experience.
Business-oriented writers may write differently to academic writers because they have different audiences and objectives in mind.
They also tend to come from a journalism background, which gives them a particular perspective when writing.
2/ Portfolio review
Always ask for writing samples and review previous work to gauge the writer's style, tone, and communication ability.
Look for evidence of their competence and adaptability to different writing styles.
A writer without a portfolio should be a red flag.
3/ Skills assessment
If your project is not a one-off, you can assess writers with a short writing exercise.
Give them a writing assignment that mirrors your larger projects to make sure they're up to the task.
They should be up for it if you make it clear that you're looking for a long-term relationship.
Of course, it's also important to pay them for the time they spend on the evaluation so that they feel motivated to do the best job they can.
When reviewing their work, consider their ability to research and translate complex information, attention to detail, and compliance with industry-specific guidelines or regulations.
4/ Collaborative skills
Determine the writer's ability to collaborate seamlessly with your team and experts.
Strong communication skills, a willingness to learn, and the ability to meet deadlines are essential to an effective writer-team dynamic.
Think about the team dynamic before you start recruiting, as each type of writer will come with its own affinity.
Science writers can collaborate effectively with your design and creative teams to bring visual elements to life alongside scientific content.
Technical writers can collaborate closely with experts and product development teams to ensure accurate documentation.
Medical writers can collaborate with healthcare professionals or regulatory affairs to create compliant content.
Higher education, long experience, and specific niche areas will increase the writer's rate.
In general, it will always cost more to hire a medical writer than a science writer.
They may have more degrees and qualifications, but if your project doesn't target a specialized healthcare audience, you should consider working with a science writer who could lower your costs and make your content more engaging.
It's also important to shop around.
Don't just accept the first offer that comes your way.
Rates can vary widely for the same experience.
Hire carefully, save time in the long run
When it comes to hiring specialized writers for your marketing team, understanding the distinctions between science writers, technical writers, and medical writers is crucial.
Each specialization's unique strengths and expertise can be used differently to meet your marketing objectives effectively.
By considering audience relevance, evaluating skills, reviewing portfolios, and assessing collaborative aptitude, you can pinpoint the perfect fit for your team.
By conducting in-depth interviews, requesting relevant writing samples, and engaging writers in trial assignments, you can ensure that the specialist writer you choose will support your marketing goals and take your brand's content marketing efforts to new heights.
And for those considering a career in writing, thinking about specialization early on can be a competitive advantage to build your experience.