What Tech Skills Does a Nurse Need to Become a Writer?
Many of you have joined the RN2writer family because you saw an ad I run on Facebook. That ad directs people to buy a little ebook I wrote to unveil the world of freelance writing to other nurses – because my mission is to help nurses “own” the healthcare communications space. But we need more nurse-writers to do that!
Not infrequently, a nurse will comment on those Facebook ads or message me with this question: “Can I get a printed copy of the book? I hate reading digital content.”
My answer doesn’t please them: No, I’m afraid you cannot get a printed copy of the book, because no such creature exists. The ebook in question is a slim, 70-page document that isn’t suited for binding. (Which is why it costs only $5.90.)
But beyond the physical limitations that preclude binding a brief document, there’s an underlying issue in that nurse’s question that I feel I need to address: If you hope to succeed as a freelance nurse-writer, you’d better get used to reading a LOT of digital content.
Look, the reality of my lifestyle is this: Every day, for hours at a time, I stare at a computer screen. Either I’m conducting research, or I’m typing a document – like this blog post. Virtually everything I do each day – from exchanging emails with clients to sending invoices – happens online. My “screen time” is through the roof.
If you can’t tolerate digital reading, then you may not be suited to life as a working writer. That’s just a harsh reality of this profession.
Thinking about this, I realized there are a lot of other digital skills a nurse needs to become a successful, working writer. As with other aspects of freelancing, you don’t need to be expert-level on much of this stuff, but you do need to possess a certain level of proficiency in using digital tools. Here’s my rundown of the technical skills you’ll need to become successful as a freelancer.
Word Processing Software
Clearly, this is number one. Although more and more clients request that I produce work inside their proprietary “content management system,” composing articles and other deliverables always begins with a Microsoft Word document for me.
When it comes to basic word processing, I suggest you should be reasonably proficient with:
- Google Docs
- Adobe Acrobat (basic functions only)
And when I say “reasonably proficient,” I mean you should be able to:
- Create a new document in Word
- Save a document to a cloud service, like Dropbox
- Create and save documents in Google Drive
- Turn on and use TrackChanges in Word
- Leave and respond to comments in the document
- Save as PDF
- Open a PDF
If, at a minimum, you can do those things, then you should be good to go. I do not know how to edit a PDF, myself, and have never been asked to do so by a client, so being proficient only with the most basic Adobe Acrobat functions is fine.
We are, of course, living in the audiovisual technology age right now, due to COVID. At a minimum, you need to have a webcam, microphone, speakers or headset for participating in videoconferences. (Using the components built into your computer is fine, if they perform adequately.) When it comes to the software, I recommend you should be able to:
- Join and host a Zoom meeting
- Join a Microsoft Teams meeting (and host one, if it’s your preferred platform)
- Adjust your basic video and audio settings in Zoom or Teams
- Understand how to mute and unmute yourself
- Be able to troubleshoot other participants’ tech woes when you’re the host
Email and Calendaring Technology
And speaking of videoconferences, you can’t make it the conferencing stage if nobody sends a calendar invite. You should be proficient in sending, receiving, accepting, declining, and modifying calendar invites from your preferred platform.
Calendaring usually is bundled with email, and you should expect to use email as a primary communication conduit with editors and clients. Whatever email client you use, become as expert with it as possible.
Become a Quick Study
There are many other types of technologies you may be asked to use or learn as a freelance writer. Platforms like Skyword and Contently have their own interfaces for creating client content, and some of my clients have used apps like Slack or Trello for project management and communication. You don’t need to be proficient in any of these out of the gate. If you can master the three things I’ve listed above, you should do fine.
That said, it pays to learn how to become a quick study when it comes to technology – because this landscape is evolving at light speed.
If I launched into a soliloquy about how technology has changed since I started freelancing, more than 20 years ago, you’d all picture me standing on my front porch, waving a cane and yelling at kids to get off my lawn. But it’s true the landscape has changed enormously.
I’m definitely NOT saying you need to rush out and try to become an expert in every imaginable work tool now available, from Asana to Zapier. That’s absurd. But do try to become proficient in the most common freelance tools so you can confidently serve clients.
And prepare to do a lot of digital reading. Don’t let that be a deal-breaker for you.