How 4 Freelancers Make More Money as Specialists

Being a specialist helps you get high-paying freelance jobs and clients with less work and in less time. Learn how four freelancers are getting bigger, better clients and making more money as specialists.

When clients hire a freelancer, they want a specialist, someone with expertise in the type of freelance work they need help with. And good clients are willing to pay well for a specialist.

That’s why being a specialist is the fastest, easiest way to get bigger, better clients. And why freelancers who are specialists, like Kathleen Labonge, MBA, T. DeLene Beeland, Margaret Johnson, PhD, and Elizabeth Hanson make more money than freelancers who are generalists.

Specialists Get Clients by Focusing on Client Needs

By being a specialist, you’ll learn more about your clients (your target markets). You’ll know who your prospective clients are, where to find them, what they need, and how you can meet those needs. And you’ll be able to show clients that you understand their needs and have the expertise to help them.

The best specialty(ies) is neither too broad nor too narrow for where you are in your freelance career. It needs to be just right. Most freelancers, including me, start out more broadly and narrow down their specialty(ies) over time.

Newer freelancers should have a broader specialty. This gives you more freelance opportunities and lets you learn about where to find the type of projects and clients you like best.

More experienced freelancers already have that experience and knowledge. But you probably need to evaluate your freelance business, better define your specialty(ies), and revise your marketing messages.

Industry specialization is the most common type of specialty. Kathleen, DeLene, Margaret, and Elizabeth are all industry specialists. Kathleen, DeLene, and Margaret all work in one of the top specialties: medical communications. Elizabeth is a specialist in medical and science writing.

Industry specialization is a great choice for most freelancers because it lets you choose industries where:

  • Clients can pay freelancers well
  • There’s lots of opportunity now and in the future.

Medical communications is a strong specialty, but it’s too broad to build a stable, successful freelance business. By focusing their specialty within medical communications, Kathleen, DeLene, Margaret, and Elizabeth were all able to develop marketing messages and tools to attract steady, high-paying clients.

Kathleen Finds Bigger, Better Clients

When Kathleen started Write Point Editing Solutions in 2015, she had some ideas about what she wanted to do as a freelance medical copyeditor. But she didn’t know enough about opportunities in medical editing. Initially, Kathleen wanted to focus on specialties that seemed interesting to her like continuing medical education (CME) and health literacy.

As a new freelancer, CME was too narrow and it was going to be harder to get health literacy projects than projects where the audience was health care professionals. Through the online freelance marketing course Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, Kathleen broadened her specialty, which gave her access to many more freelance opportunities.

Now, Kathleen’s specialty is helping medical communication and education companies, hospitals, and other health and health care organizations produce accurate, clear, and consistent content for health care professional and lay audiences. CME material and health literacy are both part of, but not the main focus of, this work.

Once Katheleen had clearly identified her specialty, she was able to develop marketing messages and materials to attract steady, high-paying clients.  She is maximizing her freelance opportunities by putting medical communication and education companies and health care professional audiences first in her marketing messages. Kathleen mentions health literacy and other work where the audience is patients and the general public after the type of work that offers the most opportunity.

“I no longer am floundering around all over the map trying to find clients to work with. I now have a plan of attack,” says Kathleen.

Read the case study about how Kathleen markets her business.

DeLene More than Double her Income

DeLene was shocked at how little she was earning when she returned to freelancing in 2019 after taking some time off to start a family. She knew that she could do better.

Shifting from science writing to a high-demand specialty—medical writing—helped DeLene more than double her freelance income in about 18 months. Now, DeLene has more work than she can handle.

DeLene learned about medical writing through the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and the University of Chicago Medical Writing and Editing Certificate Program. Through AMWA and the certificate program, DeLene was able to explore many types of work she had never thought about before.

“I spent the first part of my writing career focused on science news writing and thinking of my writing through the lens of journalism,” says DeLene. “But AMWA and the University of Chicago courses changed my perspective regarding how I conceived of potential clients and deliverables. I realized I could write white papers, slide decks, company blogs, marketing content, and continuing medical education. It was eye opening and refreshing!”

InsightMed Communications LLC delivers “insightful medical and health content to educate and engage healthcare providers and patients. DeLene crafts “clear, accurate, and lively strategic content” for a range of clients from major universities to life science services companies, continuing medical education companies, and medical communications agencies.

Read How DeLene More than Doubled Her Freelance Income.

Margaret Becomes Fully Booked

When Margaret moved from academia to freelancing in 2019, she had strong experience in medical writing and got two clients. But they didn’t pay her well. The owner of Mackenzie MedWrite needed more clients and better clients to earn a living as a freelancer.

Then COVID-19 swept across the United States and the world. Succeeding as a freelancer got harder. When the pandemic quickly led to a recession, things got even worse.

Like Kathleen, Margaret found the help she needed in the coaching version of Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve. While Kathleen needed to broaden her specialty, Margaret needed to narrow hers to tap into her extensive experience.

After narrowing her specialty to medical education and research communication, Margaret choose high-demand target markets for this work: medical communications agencies, medical education agencies, and research organizations. Then she overhauled her LinkedIn profile and her website to focus on the needs of her target markets and how she meets those needs.

Despite taking the course during the COVID-19 pandemic, Margaret got four new clients within a few months of completing the course. Three of the clients have become steady clients.

Read the case study on Margaret.

Elizabeth Finds a More Reliable Way to Make a Living

Like many freelancers, Elizabeth was so busy meeting client deadlines and running her business that she didn’t think strategically or do enough freelance marketing. A freelance science and medical writer since 2007, Elizabeth was doing fairly well. But she knew that she could be doing better if she could just get motivated and organized to do these things.

Through the self-study version of Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, Elizabeth got the structure and support she needed to evaluate her business and focus more on marketing. She started by evaluating her specialty, which included two distinct types of clients and work:

  • Science and medical writing
  • Natural history museums and other science-based organizations.

Elizabeth decided to make science and medical writing her primary specialty, since demand and fees are much higher than writing for natural history museums and other science-based organizations. After making this decision, Elizabeth was able to develop marketing messages and tools (LinkedIn profile and her website) to attract science and medical clients.

Read the case study about how Elizabeth markets her business.

How to Become a Specialist

Choosing a specialty and moving toward it takes time for most freelancers. Your specialty(ies) can—and usually should—change as you get more experience and learn more about the market for your services. Start more broadly and narrow down your specialty over time.

Finding your moneymaking specialty(ies) does take time and effort, but the work you put in now will help you get great clients throughout your freelance career.

Learn more about becoming a specialist

The Easy Way to Get Bigger, Better Clients: Your Specialty

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Learn More About Being a Specialist

Content from The Mighty Marketer

The Easy Way to Get Bigger, Better Clients: Your Specialty

Blog posts and case studies about freelancers who are specialists

How to Thrive Like Kathleen Labonge Despite Ongoing Economic Uncertainty

Case Study: Kathleen Labonge

How DeLene More than Doubled Her Freelance Income

The Proven Way Margaret Grew her Freelance Business in a Recession

Case Study: Margaret Johnson, PhD

Case Study: Elizabeth Hanson

7-Week Online Course in Freelance Marketing

Build Your Freelance Business (video)

Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve