First, see the Toolkit for New Medical Writers; it applies to medical editors too.
To develop a clientele in medical editing, you may want to contact the managing editors of various medical journals to pitch your services to them. There are plenty of places online where you can find lists of medical journals so that you can then hunt down their web sites to find contact info, including these:
- Instructions to authors for more than 6,000 peer-reviewed journals in the health and life sciences (from the Mulford Health Science Library of the University of Toledo)
- PubMed and NCBI Molecular Biology Database journals (download text-only files listing information about biomedical journals indexed in PubMed and the NCBI Molecular Biology Database, to search them for journal-name abbreviations; NCBI is the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the U.S. National Library of Medicine)
I also suggest that you consider joining the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA); it counts medical editors among its members, including me. The AMWA web site has lots of excellent resources for both medical editors and medical writers. Its private e-mail lists are great for networking and learning from colleagues, and members who are freelancers can purchase an entry in the web site's freelance directory. You can also follow AMWA on Twitter. And once you are a confirmed member of AMWA, you can join the AMWA LinkedIn group.
There is a large market, for those who are persistent, in doing medical editing for researcher-authors who are non-native speakers of English and need their journal-article manuscripts polished before submission to U.S. and UK journals. See the article "Building Good Relationships with ESL Authors" (PDF) from Science Journal, the publication of the Council of Science Editors (CSE).
In response to my post to the Freelance e-mail list, Susan posted some additional helpful information, and she gave me her permission to share it with others as long as I credited her. So here's what she posted to that list:
What Katharine said! All great advice. I'd add just a few things.
The Council of Science Editors also has a Job Bank open to all.
The National Association of Science Writers (NASW) has many medical writers and editors among its ranks, a great freelance discussion list open to all, and job postings for members.
The Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) also occasionally posts job opportunities for members.
Katharine interrupting here: And, I add, BELS offers certification of applicants' skills as editors in the life sciences through a rigorous 3-hour examination. I have this certification, and it has made my services more desirable to some clients.
A wonderful medical writer, Emma Hitt, sends out a list of medical writing and editing jobs weekly (the HittList), although it goes out to hundreds (maybe thousands now) of subscribers, so standing out is hard.
[If you are] interested in a certain genre of medical writing or editing, [you] might want to look into organizations specific to that area, such as the Association of Health Care Journalists, mainly for reporters and feature writers.
I'm still a big fan of cold calling, as hard as it can be. Just prepare a brief pitch, research some companies, and give them a call and be sure to get to a top person in publications. The worst that happens is they decline. In that case, always ask (1) if they know of someone else who might be looking for a medical writer or editor and (2) if you could send along a résumé for them to keep on file should their needs change.
As with all types of freelance writing and editing, you have to get a foot in the door, [and] then things get easier.
If you're a medical editor, what advice would you add?
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