Finding a niche, and then branching out

It’s been a while – sorry for that. I’ve been pretty busy, which, for a freelancer, is a very good thing to be. Not so good for keeping up with my blog, though, since it naturally falls to the bottom of the to-do list.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I offer–as a writer, as an editor, as a former bench scientist, as someone who has some experience in pretty much all types of science and medical communications–and the pros and cons of carving out my own niche in medical communications versus offering a little bit of everything. Over the years, I have gravitated towards certain projects more than others, and I have ended up carving out a really nice little niche for myself as an academic author’s editor, helping write and refine research manuscripts and grant submissions.

Most of my grant experience has been with planning, writing, and editing the research strategy section of NIH grants – the introduction, the abstract, the specific aims, the research design, etc. In the past year, I have had the opportunity to write (and rewrite) a couple of NSF grant proposals. Now I am helping to plan out federal and private grant submissions from the ground up. While I’ve really enjoyed getting into all these projects, and they still lie within my cozy niche of academic writing and draw upon my strengths as a strategic planner and storyteller, grant writing and grantsmanship are really skills in and of themselves. There are a huge number of courses and books out there on how to write and submit an NIH grant alone!

Even though I know I am fully capable of becoming a professional grant writer, the question is, do I officially branch out? I guess it becomes more of a business strategy question than anything else. Do I add grant writing to my repertoire, to my services card, to my marketing materials? Is this an area in which I want to continue to develop expertise over the long-term?

I am heading to the American Medical Writers Association annual meeting this week, and I am taking a couple of courses that may help me with this. One is on the business aspects of a freelance career and the other is on preparing NIH grants. I am hoping that it will become clear to me that developing my grantsmanship skills is a good fit for my freelance career and business, and that this is an area where I can successfully branch out–just a little bit–from my little niche.

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