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Pencil Points is the FREE monthly newsletter from The Accidental Medical Writer. Our goal is to continually provide valuable content to our friends and readers, and Pencil Points is one of the many resources we offer to help you become a successful freelance medical writer and grow your freelance medical writing business.

The Pencil Points Archive gives you access to all the back issues of Pencil Points. Please visit the archive often to re-read articles of interest and to catch up on issues you may have missed.

We hope you have many opportunities to benefit from our insights and experience, and that you will encourage your friends and colleagues to join our list so they can enjoy receiving Pencil Points every month, too.

Wishing you writing success,

Cyndy and Brian
The Accidental Medical Writer
  • What Did Your Mother Teach You? [Pencil Points #70]
  • What did your mother teach you? In this issue of Pencil Points we share some of the most valuable lessons we've learned as successful freelances. Wish you had a second chance to make a first impression? We explain why making a good last impression can also have lasting benefits. "Please" and "thank you" are common courtesies, and we tell you how you can be uniquely courteous to your clients and get powerful results. Letting go isn't easy for entrepreneurs, so we explain when and why you should NOT do certain things yourself. Live and learn! And for something completely different--you can learn to talk like TED.
  • Realities, a Rant, and a Marketing Hack [Pencil Points #69]
  • Realities, a rant, and a marketing hack. In this issue of Pencil Points you'll find all that and more! Did you know that 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first year? We help you face a few tough realities so you can avoid becoming a statistic. If content marketing is your thing, we introduce you to a terrific resource for writing better headlines. We also explain why being cheap can be way too expensive so you can charge what you're really worth, and we share a marketing hack that's so simple, even people who hate to market themselves can do it!
  • This Just In... [Pencil Points #68]
  • This just in! In this issue of Pencil Points we go undercover to bring you some of the top stories affecting freelances right this minute. Bad science is no excuse for bad reporting. We show you how to watch your language when it comes to helping people make informed health care decisions. There's even a sidebar about a fantastic resource to help you report health news right. Last month we encouraged you to get out of your comfort zone, but how far should you go? We answer that question this month. What makes good freelances turn to the Dark Side? Better yet, can they ever come back? Yes they can, and we tell you how to avoid having to start again from scratch.
  • Which Opposite Are You? [Pencil Points #67]
  • Which opposite are you? In this issue of Pencil Points we challenge you to decide which opposite you are so you can get where you want your freelance business to go. Do you market yourself for comfortable opportunities or push yourself outside of your comfort zone? Sure you work hard, but is your freelance business really moving backward instead of forward? You might be surprised! Is procrastination a friend or a foe? It all depends on how you do it, and whether you put off reading this issue. There's also a great resource to help you get a leg up on understanding a disease state or condition with which you are unfamiliar.
  • Enough is Enough [Pencil Points #66]
  • Enough is enough! In this issue of Pencil Points, having enough, getting enough, and doing enough is what it's all about. We tell you how to do enough to ensure your files are properly backed up against disaster while protecting sensitive client information. We help you get enough work with an opportunity that's set to explode. We draw the line on when enough is enough, and you should stop letting clients push you around. And we share a tip on a great resource you can turn to when using an old chart or graph without plotted values just isn't good enough. for your needs
  • Step It Up! [Pencil Points #65]
  • Step it up! This issue of Pencil Points is all about stepping up your freelance game. Who's Employee of the Month in your company? It better be you--but you better deserve the honor! Drama is great for late-night TV, but the best way to avoid needing to do damage control is to avoid doing damage in the first place. We show you how to keep your business reputation out of trouble. You've devoted your career to building your freelance business, but what's your exit plan? We give you a few ideas about how to end it all. And we introduce you to Gregg, who can really make you a better writer.
  • Cash, Trash, Stash, and Panache! [Pencil Points #64]
  • Cash, trash, stash, and panache! In this issue of Pencil Points we give you the benefit of our taking stock of our freelance businesses at the start of a new year. Four things came to mind. So we're going to explain why retainers are a love-or-hate thing with no middle ground (hint: it's all about the cash!). We peel apart layers of a stinky problem freelances face so you can come up smelling like a rose, and show you what to do once you've amassed a stash of social media outlets. Finally, for a bit of style we show you why rethinking is an intellectual resource.
  • Stop Kissing Frogs [Pencil Points #63]
  • Stop kissing frogs! In this issue of Pencil Points we offer an array of tips and tweaks you can make to your freelance business to ensure an outstanding year. We help you discern between good and bad freelance opportunities, introduce you to an expert in LinkedIn makeovers, expose a thief who's stealing your money right from under your nose, and present a simple strategy that can really amp up your marketing quotient.
  • Success if for Quitters [Pencil Points #62]
  • Success is for quitters! Don't believe it? Then check out this issue of Pencil Points. Sometimes, too much of a good thing is just too much, that's why it's a good thing freelances quit their jobs every day! We describe a low-cost strategy for driving potential clients to your website, and to go along with that budget-friendly marketing idea, we have a mighty marketing tool to recommend that will give your promotional effort real muscle. Finally, we share a new revenue stream you may never have considered, and you won't soon forget!
  • [Pencil Points #61] Time for Fun and Games!
  • Time for fun and games! In this issue of Pencil Points we show you how fun and games can mean serious business. We offer a fresh look at Monopoly that may have you laughing all the way to the bank. The price is right! Or, at least that's what we discovered when we presented an open session at the AMWA annual conference on What Should I Charge? Here we treat you to a few insights from that session. What's your line--technical writer or medical writer? Perhaps you're both. We have the surprising answer. And we shine the spotlight on a wonderful online community resource for researchers. Check it all out!
  • On the Cutting Edge and Crossing the Line [Pencil Points #60]
  • On the cutting edge and crossing the line! In this issue of Pencil Points we talk about how you can be on the cutting edge of the changing workforce without getting hurt. Does social media have you ready to tap out? We wrestle we a big question on everyone's mind--should clients be friends? We should you how do to expand your horizons and your bank account with a popular and unique writing opportunity you'll want to know all about. And we're excited to tell you about a fantastic, and fantastically funny, book compiled by a dear friend of ours that is a must-have for every freelance medical writer...and you know who you are!
  • Back-to-School Issue [Pencil Points #59]
  • Back to School Issue! In this issue of Pencil Points we show you the value of lifelong learning. We bring sexy back--the ever-sexy semicolon, that is. And we get back to basics with 2 classic resources every medical writer should know about. How do you charge for travel time when attending off-site meetings? We've got the formula for making sure you don't lose. And finally, we reveal 4 incredible business opportunities we found in just 1 Wall Street Journal article.
  • [Pencil Points #58] Reality is What You Make It!
  • Reality is what you make it! In this issue of Pencil Points we help you make your freelance reality the best it can be. We explain why plumbers make good role models for freelances, and that's no fairytale. We take inspiration from Pharrell Williams to show you what you can do to ensure your freelance business is making you happy. And we were so inspired by the social media guru we told you about last month, so now we introduce you to 4 more gurus who can help you take your social media presence from zero to Zen!
  • [Pencil Points #57] Picnics, Pools, and Profit!
  • Picnics, pools, and profit! In this issue of Pencil Points we dive into the deep end with some great ideas to make sure your freelance business is poised to profit. Hope may keep the rain away from your picnic, but it's not a marketing plan. We tell you why and show you how to do better. Pools, like freelancing, are great fun. But they can also be a liability. We show you what you can do to protect yourself from risk. Profit isn't always tangible, but we feel it slipping away every time we hear the G word. We expose it again for what it is, spooky and evil. We also have a great resource for you plus a money-saving discount code!
  • Perspire to Inspire [Pencil Points #56] May 2014
  • Perspire to inspire! in this issue of Pencil Points, we give you tips for managing out-of-pocket expenses so you can do better for your clients as well as yourself. Find out why we recommend vitamin C to give your marketing effort the extra boost of energy it needs! Need a different approach for getting new clients and new work? We reveal how some successful freelances make it look easy! Plus, we share some advice from a social media guru who's sure to inspire you.
  • Pencil Points #55 April 2014 Win By Not Losing!
  • Win by not losing! In this issue of Pencil Points we reveal one of the biggest mistakes you could be making that brings your success to a screeching halt. Thanks to one of our readers, we expose a logistical problem that could be costing you a fortune in lost opportunities. In honor of opening day for major League Baseball, we show you how to make your next marketing effort a grand slam. And building on last month's On the radar resource, we introduce you to another great option for obtaining full-text publications.
  • Pencil Points #54 March 2014
  • Too busy to succeed? Believe it or not, some people really are! In this issue of Pencil Points, we help you take a step back to get the bigger perspective on what you're doing, and what you could be doing better. We offer tips to help you survive and flourish as a promotional writer, and reveal characteristics of the most profitable freelances. We give you the scoop on social-media trends you can add to your marketing toolkit, and a hot resource tip to solve the research-acquisition puzzle.
  • Pencil Points #53 February 2014
  • Blizzard or bonanza? It really is up to you to decide! In this issue of Pencil Points, we teach you how three little words clients love to say can be your invitation to endear yourself and learn something new. We expose the ugly truth that few know and even fewer discuss about why late-paying clients pay late. We also give you some excellent tips for safeguarding and building your personal brand online, and put an awesome book on your radar that makes even rock stars wish they were research scientists.
  • Pencil Points #52 January 2014
  • New year, new opportunities! In this issue of Pencil Points, we provide tips to help you write clearly and without jargon so your readers can get the message. We also offer a few pointers to help melt away your fear of giving presentations so you can shar4e what you know with confidence. We even reveal a type of writing with which you may not be familar and might take you out of your comfort zone, but that will make you a valuable member of your client's team.
  • Pencil Points #51 Make Changes, Make a Difference!
  • Make changes, make a difference! In this issue of Pencil Points we show you how a little tweak can go a long way toward improving your freelance business. Find out what lessons we learned when we rebuilt our website. Want to make a resolution worth celebrating? How about being more profitable! We've got some tips for you. We show you how to power-up your PowerPoint slides, too. There's even a tool to help you remember your passwords!
  • Pencil Points #50 Fifty is Nifty!
  • Fifty is nifty! In this, our fiftieth issue of Pencil Points, we celebrate by empowering you to trust your gut when bad opportunities come along, and share some social media marketing tips we've gleaned from the 2011 AMWA Salary Survey. We introduce you to some exciting new tools to help you increase your work efficiency, and give you a valuable update on a long-anticipated resource every medical writer should have.
  • Pencil Points #49 You're In Control!
  • You're in control! In this issue of Pencil Points we empower you to steer your freelance business wherever you want it to go, with confidence. We give you permission , and tips, to be selfish. We offer ideas for taking control of your online persona to make a better impact. We talk about the financial control only freelancing can free you to have. And we show you how you can save time typing and formatting so you can control more of your downtime.
  • Pencil Points #48 More! More! More!
  • More! More! More! We all want it, and in this issue of Pencil Points we give it to you! More, and more meaningful contacts when you attend networking events. More money by giving yourself a raise. Getting your home to do more for you at tax time. There are plenty more treats in this issue, so check it out!
  • Pencil Points #47 What Can You Learn From Hurricanes?
  • What can you learn from hurricanes? A lot, if you want to be a successful medical writer. In this issue of Pencil Points we blow you over with a frank discussion about project pricing, and give you tips for avoiding natural disasters when dealing with the younger--or older--generation. Before you plywood-up the windows and hunker down in the basement to avoid having to market yourself, we reveal our most effective marketing tool ever...and it has nothing to do with marketing!
  • [Pencil Points #46] Embrace Your Fears!
  • Embrace your fears! In this issue of Pencil Points we invite you to shake things up a bit, get out of your comfort zone--and grow! We offer tips on using Excel to create all-text documents, help you overcome the fear of exploring unfamiliar territory in medical communications, and battle plagiarism the way medical publishers--and now even some medical communications companies--are doing. Come on along! The scariest thing is not investing in your own professional development.
  • [Pencil Points #45] What Will You Learn Today?
  • What will you learn today? Feeling fashionable? In this issue of Pencil Points we help you get on the cutting edge of style--writing style that is. Feeling famished? We help you find out where you are in the pharma food chain. Feeling cornered? We tell you how to expand your abilities and your opportunities in the bold world beyond print. Feeling frustrated? Old guidelines can do that to you. But we have a link to the latest--and perhaps most long-awaited and controversial--diagnostic guidelines to come out in a long time.
  • [Pencil Points #44] Opportunity Rocks!
  • Opportunity rocks! In this issue of Pencil Points we give you attitude--the kind of positive thinking that's helped make us successful freelances. Check out our tips for getting more from the next meeting you attend than a rubber chicken. We help you identify potential conflicts of interest that aren't really conflicts, but your perception of them might be holding you back. And we provide pointers on how to handle rejection. All that plus a link for free and easy photo editing!
  • Pencil Points #43 No Victims, Only Volunteers!
  • No victims, only volunteers! In this issue of Pencil Points we help you take control of challenging situations and stop volunteering to be a victim. We offer tips to help you keep from becoming the poster child for entrepreneurial ADD, show you how to fight back against content mills and come out a winner, and provide insight into how you can position your unique strengths and plant your flag atop one of medical writing's many financially rewarding but ever-evolving market segments.
  • Pencil Points #42 Mad About March!
  • Mad about March! In this issue of Pencil Points we give a nod to the March madness of college basketball with a little madness of our own. The trend in CME is really ticking us off, and we've uncovered an unexpected conundrum when it comes to making copies of references to submit for medical-legal review. But wait, there's more--how about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on pharmaceutical marketing? We tackle some tough issues here to get you thinking, and motivated to take your own stand.
  • [Pencil Points #41] Put Your Heart Into It!
  • Put your heart into it! In this s issue of Pencil Points we go all-in with tips to help bring out your passion for excellence. Did you know there are free online tutorials to make you an expert in Endnote? Check out our idea to make a statement and a difference when you thank your clients for their business. And tune into the business lessons we've gleaned from a popular TV show. Is chocolate a guilty pleasure of yours? We've got good news about that as well!
  • [Pencil Points #40] Who Doesn't Love a Clean Slate?
  • Who doesn't love a clean slate? In this issue of Pencil Points we kick the new year off with a nod to the Babylonians and Romans, then tell you how to stop being pushed around by PDFs, and how to make social media a bigger part of your marketing plan. Guess what? Something we've been telling you for years really works, and now we have the proof! If that doesn't get your blood pumping, this online fitness program we discovered surely will.
  • [Pencil Points #39] Adversity is the Mother of Invention!
  • Adversity is the mother of invention! Don't believe it? Then check out this issue of Pencil Points where we tackle the chaos, volatility, and uncertainty that comes with having a freelance business. When one door closes, we tell you how to get ready to open the next door of opportunity. We learned something recently about 1099s that surprised us, and we think it will surprise you, too. We also challenge your thinking about how people learn.
  • [Pencil Points #38] Are You Willing To Risk It?
  • Are you willing to risk it? In this issue of Pencil Points we show you how to live life a little closer to the edge without falling off! Find out how to help your business weather the storm--literally, and how NOT to sell your soul by marketing yourself to bad clients. Learn what you can do to minimize the human and financial risks of poor health outcomes, and reduce the risk of getting lost in all the details of big, complex documents.
  • [Pencil Points #37] Are You Wasting Your Time?
  • Are you wasting your time? With a nod to the Pareto Principle, this issue of Pencil Points focuses on ways to help you work smarter, not harder. We save you from having to wade through the social media noise to find what you're looking for, and provide tips to help make you a social media marketing mavin! Learn how spending too much time in front of your computer could be hazardous to your health, and check out an online learning platform where you can take free medical school classes!
The Accidental Medical Writer
PO Box 9133
Trenton, New Jersey 08650