3 Easy Ways Marina Damiano Became Successful

Having an in-demand specialty, getting referrals from clients and colleagues, and following-up regularly made it easy for Marina Damiano, PhD, to succeed as a freelancer. 

When Marina  started her business in 2015, she only had a few years of work experience post-graduate school. Yet, the freelance medical writer and communications consultant was able to quickly build Damiano Group Scientific Communications into a successful business. Marina did this by focusing on three easy ways to succeed as a freelancer.

1. Developing a Clear and In-Demand Specialty

When clients hire a freelancer, they want an expert who can meet their needs. And they’re willing to pay well for this. That’s why specializing is the fastest, easiest way to get bigger, better clients.

Before launching her freelance business, Marina was a specialist in scientific communications for a medical communications agency, where she was the lead content developer and public relations contact for the medical device and diagnostics arm of a global contract research organization. “I got familiar with the device space, FDA guidance, and other hot topics to help my client become a thought leader. I also developed good relationships with the organizational leaders in that space,” she says.

So there are many clients—now and in the future—who need Marina’s expertise.

Learn more about freelance specialties

The Easy Way to Get Bigger, Better Clients

2. Getting Referrals from Clients and Colleagues

Nearly all of Marina’s new business comes from referrals from her clients and from colleagues. She also did some freelancing for the medical communications agency she had worked for and gets some clients through networking.

Marina gets referrals from clients because she builds strong, trusting relationships with them and always delivers great work. Colleagues give Marina referrals because they know and trust her.

Clients want to do business with people they know—or people recommended by people they know. And it’s not easy for clients to find freelancers they can trust.

Referrals are an easy way to build a freelance business, because the client is likely to trust you based on the referral. Also, if you’re working for great clients and have a network of people you trust, the referrals are likely to be to other great clients who pay you well and treat you right.

Instead of just waiting for referrals to come to her, Marina asks clients for referrals. Once she knows that a client is satisfied with her work, she asks, “who else do you know who would be interested in our services?” Notice that Marina doesn’t say “do you know anyone?” By asking “who else do you know?,” she is prompting her client to really think about this.

Learn more about referrals, including how to ask for them

Word of Mouth: The Best Way to Get Better Freelance Work

3. Following Up to Be First in Line for Work

Following up with prospects, past clients, and colleagues also puts Marina at the front of the line when clients are looking for freelance help. Past clients, for example, have hired Marina again when they moved to new organizations because she stayed in touch with them.

Learn more about how to follow up

How to be First in Line for Freelance Work

Marina mostly follows up through LinkedIn and by email. “I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with people when they move on and to re-start a conversation. It doesn’t always directly lead to business and if it does, it often takes a while,” she says.  And that’s okay.

In her email follow-up, Marina sends prospects, past clients, and colleagues relevant articles or other content. She also sends holiday cards. These are professional, low-key ways to stay in touch with people.

Along with building trust over time, clients rarely need freelance help right away. That’s why frequent follow up is so important: the client needs to think of you and not another freelancer first when they are do need help.

“Instead of thinking in terms of transactions with your clients, consider building long-term relationships. You need to put in the effort and be genuine if you want the best outcomes,” says Marina.

Going Beyond Freelancing

Marina differentiates her business by providing communications strategy and visual communication services along with freelance medical writing.

Communications strategy and management was part of Marina’s role at the medical communications agency. She expanded her business services to meet client needs.

“My first freelance client was a startup and another ran like a startup. They had so many different needs and I had the experience, so I flexed to meet their needs,” she says.

Her business also provides scientific communications coaching and workshops for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) PhDs.

Cultivating strong skills in strategic research communication is typically not a focus of graduate STEM education, even though it’s necessary for success within and outside of academic research. But to be really effective you need someone who understands the pressures of academia and the world outside of the ivory tower, she says.

“I’ve been a PhD trainee, I’ve taught in academia, and I work with industry. I understand those unique environments and integrate those perspectives into our workshops and coaching,” says Marina.

Participants in Damiano Group’s workshops and coaching learn and use techniques from journalism, public relations, and marketing to strategically communicate their research.

More About Marina’s Business

As Marina describes her business, “Damiano Group partners with scientific and medical innovators from academia, industry, and government to create impact through communication. We combine years of experience in strategic communications and PhD level scientific staff to provide accurate and engaging communication of scientific information to a variety of audiences.”

“Being a one-stop shop is very attractive to clients because they don’t have to manage multiple vendors,” says Marina. “And once you build trust, they can relax because you’re handling the whole process, collaboratively with them, of course.”

Offering communications strategy and management services enables Marina to do more business with her clients. Also, she attracts clients who need more than freelance medical writing.

To meet the needs of her clients and continue to grow her business, Marina started subcontracting work to other writers, a graphic designer, and editors about a year after she started her business. Like offering communications strategy and management services, subcontracting enables Marina to offer more services to clients. It also gives her more time for business development.

While subcontracting has worked out well for Marina, it’s not for everyone. “You have to vet and develop trust with your contractors because it’s your name and reputation on the line with your clients,” she says. “You also have to think about what you’re trying to achieve by bringing on contractors. It’s not always about profit. Maybe you’re having personal issues and you need to offload some work. Maybe you are swamped and need support. Maybe you have a colleague who has the skill needed for a project, but you want to maintain ownership of the client relationship that you’ve nurtured. Or maybe you want to grow your business. There are many things to consider.”

If you do decide that you want to subcontract work to other freelancers, Marina recommends developing a solid contract for them and checking how your insurance policy covers contractors and how your client contracts address contractors. Some clients like being able to get more work done faster when freelancers use subcontractors. Other clients prohibit the use of contractors.

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The Easy Way to Get Bigger, Better Clients

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