Most people heading into a career as a vet think about working in a practice, where they will spend their days seeing animals and their owners. However, there are so many other things you can do with a degree in veterinary medicine! One of those is becoming a veterinary writer.
When I first ventured into veterinary writing, it followed some career coaching that I had been doing. I had reached a point where I was struggling to know what to do professionally and wasn’t sure I wanted to continue with clinical work, especially with a young family at home. During the coaching process, we took a deep look at the things that really ‘make me tick’ and what stood out was client communication, writing and social media.
With this in mind, I started exploring what non-clinical roles might be out there. I joined social media groups aimed at veterinary writing and attended a virtual congress about career diversification, to explore the wide array of alternative jobs that vets can do.
I started responding to adverts that were looking for online content writers via Facebook. They were looking for writers to produce articles and blogs aimed at pet owners which ticked all the boxes highlighted by my career coaching. I provided examples of my work, sticking to any stipulated word counts and deadlines, and crossed my fingers. While I had written posts for our practice’s social media page and drafted client newsletters/information leaflets in the past, this was my first experience applying for jobs that would pay specifically for my writing services.
I soon found that I was writing regularly and continue to do so. The money I earn from veterinary writing has risen over time, such that content writing now makes a valuable contribution to our household earnings. I work freelance, meaning I can choose how much work I do each week, keeping things flexible which is important when fitting it into family life. I’ve already written about my day in “a day in the life of a veterinary content writer”, if you’re interested.
Writing content for owner-facing websites has been great fun. The topics vary widely, you never know what sort of project you might be involved in next! I’ve written everything from serious subjects like euthanasia and tick-borne diseases to more light-hearted pieces like the top 10 facts about ginger cats! While I focus mainly on blogs and articles for pet owners, some of my writing is aimed at other vets, which adds even more variety to my workload. As well as writing original pieces, I have also branched out into editing, and reviewing other people’s work.
Having confidence in your abilities is key. It’s important not to take any criticism too much to heart when you start, but instead, use the feedback to develop. To begin with, you will question your work and re-read pieces repeatedly. However, the more you write, the more you will find your natural style and flow.
As well as the written work itself, a huge part of the job involves being organised. Sticking to deadlines and researching subjects thoroughly is very important if you want to be a credible writer. I have also found that being flexible helps too. If can squeeze in an extra piece for someone, then I will! While I prefer writing to my strengths, I don’t shy away from subjects slightly outside of my comfort zone, not least because I learn something during the research process which counts towards my Continued Professional Development (CPD).
This is the way that I became a veterinary writer, but other vets may have a different experience. Some will go into medical writing or editing, which involves more scientific pieces aimed at fellow professionals. Some vets write regularly for printed press, such as pet owner magazines or local newsletters. There are also opportunities out there to help with things like app development and editing the content of computer-based training programmes. Using a professional networking site like LinkedIn is another good way of keeping an eye out for opportunities as well as giving yourself an online presence.
Now that I’ve found an outlet for my creative side, I actually enjoy my clinical day job more. So, I have continued to work part-time in practice, finding that the two roles complement each other perfectly. My main piece of advice would be to give it a go – it’s always worth applying as you never know where things could lead!