In May, I started my own business. If you’d asked me a year ago whether I’d ever do something like that, I’d have told you no. What did I know about running a business? What kind of business would I even start with my nursing degree? Who would even hire me? It sounded way too complicated and more involved than I was interested in handling – in other words, no thanks.
Fast forward to April 2016, and I knew things had to change. I’d started working for a local CRO in the pharmaceutical industry after leaving the OR in a local hospital. Initially, life in a cubicle was a breath of fresh air – no more codes, no more 12 hour shifts, no more plantar fasciitis! But I’d started to realize it wasn’t enough. I was only talking to one person at a time, over the phone, and I wanted to do something that would let me help more people.
I started researching other viable career options that would:
1) Let me break out of cubicle world
2) Not land me right back in the hospital
3) Still let me use my nursing knowledge to help people.
One day, while researching options, I stumbled across a post on an online nursing forum. The author wrote about being a nurse writer - I didn’t even know such a thing existed. It turned out that the author of the post also wrote a blog, and I must have read the entire thing in the space of two or three days.
It completely, totally sold me on the idea of becoming a nurse writer.
I’d always been writing, at least in some context. From journaling to writing papers for school, it was a constant in my life from a very early age…I’d even been told I was good at it. Who knew that, as a nurse, I could write and serve patients that way? I was really excited, and for the next month I poured over all kinds of blogs and web articles devoted to freelancing and how to combine writing with nursing to make it a viable career option.
After talking it over, at length, with my husband (who has been incredibly, unwaveringly supportive of me), I decided to go for it. Really, what was there to lose? I still had my 9-5, so anything extra I could make would be a bonus. If it turned into a full time writing career, well that would just be the icing on the cake.
But how to start? Remember, I never thought I’d be running my own business, much less a freelance one. I decided to see if I could find nurses who’d done it before me, so that I could learn from them. How was I supposed to find these nurses? I’d never known other nurses who’d been entrepreneurs. So. I did what anybody now-a-days would do.
I went on social media….Specifically I went on LinkedIn.
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I already had a profile, but it sure wasn’t geared toward any kind of writing career. I rewrote part of it to reflect my new freelancing goals and started searching for nurse writers. Hey, they were already doing what I wanted to be doing – I thought I could connect with them and learn more about how they’d gotten where they were. Over time, I started to make connections with all sorts of successful nurse entrepreneurs – I started with the nurses I’d already connected with, and looked at their own LinkedIn networks. Then, I reached out to whomever I thought might be interested in making contact with a wet-behind-the-ears nurse entrepreneur.
It turned out that a lot of other nurse entrepreneurs were willing and ready to connect with me. The nurses I’ve met online have been incredibly friendly and supportive – seriously, my own experience on LinkedIn has been so positive that I can’t recommend it highly enough. I also joined several writing groups on LinkedIn. My network started to grow, and I’m still expanding it today.
In the process of making these connections, I met Carol Bush, who runs The Social Nurse. She was one of the people I randomly reached out – we didn’t know each other at all. Connecting with her was a turning point in my fledgling business – she put me in touch with an editor at an oncology nursing publication, and I got one of my first gigs, an article that was just published this week. (Nurse Designed Software Innovations are Changing the Cancer Experience - Oncology Nursing News.)
Within the last month, I’ve also started developing a presence on Twitter. I’m still learning all the ins and outs of using this platform for networking and marketing, but I’ve already had a little success with it. In fact, I had an editor at another publication reach out to me on LinkedIn after finding me on Twitter, and there may be work coming in the future. Fingers crossed!
What I’ve learned in the two short months that I’ve been researching and then developing my business is this: a presence on social media is absolutely essential to success.
It’s a major way that we connect with people now. I can’t speak to other forms of finding business – cold calling, cold emailing, etc. – because I haven’t tried them yet. But I know that networking online has already landed me some gigs, with hopefully more coming in the future.
A word to the wise: you can’t just throw a social media profile together and hope the work comes to you. I’ve been consistently updating my profiles, finding new people who might be interested in talking to me, and posting relevant, interesting information for others to see. I’m also learning how to balance my social media presence with the rest of my life – I can’t be on Twitter constantly because I am still working in my office job, but I also need to make new connections and market myself effectively. It’s a balancing act, which I’m sure gets easier over time.
You never know who’s out there and willing to help you, who might be willing to give you a shot. If I hadn’t taken the chance and asked to make connections with complete strangers, I wouldn’t have been introduced to other nurse writers, and I wouldn’t already be getting paid for work. I’m still learning social media when it comes to promoting myself as a freelance nurse writer, but what I’ve already learned has already paid off. I know it’ll continue to do so.
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