Jessica Martin, PhD
In our last blog post, we reviewed the 11 questions that you should ask a potential freelance NA writer. Now we’ll discuss a few common questions that may not get you the information you need to make an informed decision about who can write your NAs. While these questions might seem helpful on the surface, they are either unanswerable or likely to be uninformative. To help guide you through some other questions that may be helpful, we’ve included some questions that you can ask instead. This will save you time (and, ultimately, money), and help you find an NA writer that can address your needs.
Instead of asking: Do you have experience in therapeutic area?
Ask: How do you get up-to-date in a new therapeutic area? What resources do you use?
All medical writers will have a couple therapeutic areas that they prefer to write about; however, because of the nature of freelance writing, any good medical writer will be able to write about a wide range of therapeutic topics. A huge part of the job is knowing how to quickly get up to speed in a therapeutic area. Finding out a medical writer’s past experience in a therapeutic area—especially for rare diseases or other niche topics—will usually not be relevant to whether they can write a good NA.
Instead of asking: What proportion of your NAs are funded?
Ask: Can you provide us with references for a client for whom you write NAs? OR What proportion of your clients return to you to write more than one NA?
Freelancers will have a tough time answering the first question most of the time. Good medical writers will often hear back from happy clients about an NA being funded, but clients are often busy, and medical writers don’t hear about every success. Furthermore, while the NA is a big component of funding, several other factors play into whether a grant is funded: the characteristics of the CME company submitting the grant, available funds from the sponsor, timeliness of the submission, etc.
Instead of asking: What is your standard fee for NAs?
Ask instead: Here is a sample of an NA that we were happy with in the past. How much would you charge for this?
The best way to find out what a medical writer will charge for an NA is to send them a past sample that you are happy with (and, preferably, that received funding). NAs can vary in length, depth, content, and involvement from the medical writer. For example, I’ve seen NAs that range from less than 800 words to more than 10,000. Some companies provide gaps and learning objectives. Other companies depend on the writer to develop this content. It’s very difficult to provide a standard fee for an NA—it's much easier to provide a quote based on a sample or a complete scope of work.
Of course, there are some exceptions to all of these "rules." Sometimes, for example, you might need a writer who is familiar with a specific therapeutic area because they need to find and interview KOLs.
Do you have any additional questions that you've found to be helpful when scoping out freelance NA writers? Or alternatively, questions that haven't been very helpful or informative?