Julia Walton at Media Contacts has chatted with Corinne Swainger, Freelance Copy Writer…
What attracted you to this career in the first place?
Like many MedComms professionals, I fell into the industry by ‘accident’. I’m originally from Devon but spent my teens in Florida. In American high school, I worked on the student newspaper, where we also had to lay out the printed articles by hand. I also loved to sketch people in my spare time.
When I started university, advertising copywriting seemed like an ideal subject to combine my creative and communications skills.
So, I pursued a BA in Mass Communications at the University of South Florida. This involved studying traditional advertising, PR, journalism, photojournalism, and economics. At that point, I had little interest in medical science.
What was your first job in healthcare communications?
As part of my BA degree, I was lucky enough to get a Summer internship at the communications department of a private Florida hospital. That gave me the chance to learn how to sell clinical services to a wide range of healthcare consumers.
When I returned to the UK after university, recruiters automatically classified me as a ‘junior medical writer’, although I’d never heard of the role. I started working at a small ethical healthcare advertising agency in St. Albans, Herts. The staff taught me the ABPI Code of Practice, and I got a chance to help launch the first UK prescription drug for HIV.
It wasn’t until several years later that I completed a BSc in Life Sciences at the Open University. By that time, I had worked as a senior medical writer, editorial manager and PR account manager.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
After 14 years a freelance writer, (now trading as MediQuill Ltd), I still enjoy the flexibility of dealing with different healthcare projects, rather than a limited number. Plus, I love the freedom to set my own hours, and work-life balance.
What is the most challenging experience you have faced?
Shortly after I began freelancing, one of my biggest challenges was deciding to remain independent or not. One month I could be juggling five new clients, while the next, I was twiddling my thumbs. I eventually conquered this challenge by deciding to specialise in certain areas, rather than trying to take on every new brief.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Over the past 20 years, I’ve volunteered for the Tuberous Sclerosis Association (TSA) ─ a rare disease charity ─ to publicise a national adult support group. I’m also a former trustee of the charity. Today, I’m still involved in the TSA’s Research Review Committee as a lay member, and I recently chaired its first virtual meeting on Zoom, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Renée Zellweger because she reflects the changing roles you need to adopt to succeed as an independent healthcare writer in MedComms.
What would your key tasks in a typical day be?
My main daily focus tends to be updating clients about the progress of their projects. Around 50% of my time is spent on researching background resource and developing ideas for new briefs before I put pen to paper. I’m a big fan of LinkedIn and try to dedicate some time to it on a regular basis. Overall, I’ve found it’s a valuable way to network with potential clients and other freelancers.
Thanks, Corinne. Have a great #MedComms Day!