5 Ways Diabetes Educators Can Boost Income

AADE superstars share their strategies for creating alternative revenue streams

Diabetes educators expand their income opportuntiesCall it moonlighting, a la Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in that '80's TV hit.

Or, in a more professionally focused vein, call it a way to build on your skills to enhance your income. 

A presentation at the 2016 American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) annual meeting focused on how certified diabetes educators (CDEs) could earn extra income. EndocrineWeb (EW) caught up with the two presenters, EW Advisory Board Member Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN, who has a private practice in New York, and Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE, owner and clinical director of Integrated Diabetes Services in Philadelphia, to hear more about their ideas. 

Both Weiner and Scheiner have found a way to build a high demand for their writing, speaking, advisory, and related media savvy skills. The two were eager to share ideas on how they got started with projects that can be done after work, in the early morning, or over the weekend to bolster income. 

“Our presentation aimed to provide practical suggestions any diabetes professional could employ,” said Ms. Weiner, the 2015 AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year. 

For an ambitious CDE, or any health professional (for that matter), there are five key services that Ms. Weiner and Mr. Scheiner, AADE's 2014 Diabetes Educator of the Year, to explore to attract more income:

1. Lend yourself out as a freelance writer. 

"There are so many more opportunities to write," says Mr. Scheiner, who authored Think Like a Pancreas A Practical Guide to Managing Diabetes with Insulin (2012), citing the explosion of online sites in addition to the more traditional opportunities, such as print magazines and newsletters. Another option is the American Diabetes Association (ADA) often seeks out professional writers. Many professional and disease specific organizations need informational articles for patients, as well as ''instruction manuals, product inserts, disease guides," he said. Also, pharmaceutical companies (or their public relations/marketing agencies) develop educational material for their new products and are always looking for experts to write for them. Consumer websites often need an expert in diabetes to blog, or even review content for medical accuracy.

“Be aware that most potential contractors will expect to see some writing samples [before they will agree to hire you]," said Mr. Sheiner. So if you don’t yet have a portfolio to offer, find opportunities to write so you can begin to create writing samples to showcase your style and skills.

“Dwell on your strengths,” suggested Ms. Weiner, “and write about what you know—from your practice—and what you know your patients often ask about.” Ms. Weiner saw an opportunity to suggest a question-and-answer column for a publication because the information was more accessible and relevant to readers than presenting the information in a traditional article format. 

What are you worth?

In terms of fees, payment levels are all over the board, depending on who is paying, your level/years of experience, how much your potential contractor needs you, and the nature of the service, according to Mr. Scheiner. "You can make anywhere from $.50 to $2 a word," Mr. Scheiner said, of article writing. However, some online publications have blogs that look to writer for free content, selling the value of giving you a byline.  Certainly, this is a great way to go if you are just starting out. "Always ask for something," he suggests, even if the fee offered is nominal. Getting started is the most important key because its easy to build your worth with experience.

2. Put your motivational skills to work as a speaker. 

“Speakers are sought out by pharmaceutical companies, corporations, associations and public relations agencies, among others,” Mr. Scheiner said. “First, think of a diabetes-related topic you are well-versed in—say obesity in people with T2D; then, do a bit of research to find a company that makes a diabetes drug with weight loss [side effects]. You can present [for them] to a health care provider audience, or prepare a presentation for your professional association to get yourself on the map.”  

Local schools, hospitals and associations might need speakers, too, for a health night, or health fair that focuses on individuals who (or at risk for) diabetes or pre-diabetes.

To find opportunities, ''talk to the local sales reps that might call on your office," he suggested. They can put you in touch with the right person, such as the head of the speaker's bureau of their pharmaceutical company.

What are you worth?

 "Starting out, ask for a minimum of $250 to create a presentation," Mr. Scheiner offered. Remember to factor in expenses, such as preparation to develop a powerpoint and travel time. Also, reimbursement for expenses (ie, parking, tolls, airfare, hotel) should be covered, and agreed from the outset.  For maximum effect, once you’ve given the presentation, you can find other forums to present again since the presentation exists, and you are ready to go. As you gain experience, and develop a reputation, you may be able to earn thousands for a single talk, according to Mr. Sheiner.

3. Develop an internet presence. 

If you're hosting a webinar, you don't need top-scale production skills, Ms. Weiner said. "I don't produce my own programs.” She hosts webinars for Diabetic Lifestyle. 

"I will write the script and develop the slides," she stated. "I've worked for other companies where they work more on slide development. Diabetic Lifestyle will review the slides to make sure they look great and are sharp before we go live. Personally, I'm not tech-savvy, so I’m not interested in taking on the production.”

If you’ve developed a good topic, you should consider extending the message. A blog with a new perspective on a topic might generate so much interest that it could become a webinar, for instance. Or, attract attention for other topics.

While Ms. Weiner takes the low tech approach, Mr. Scheiner's company produces and sells webinars on topics ranging from Mastering Pump Therapy to Advanced Carb Counting.

What are you worth?

In Mr. Sheiner’s experience, webinars that are hosted by an association pay about half of what you might get for in-person speaking engagements.

4. Lend your opinion.             

Mr. Scheiner often gets called on by market research companies

who need feedback on new devices. Who better than a CDE to tell them how their own patients might react to or use a new device, or respond to a new program. Where as, Ms. Weiner sits on the editorial advisory board to EndocrineWeb and Diabetic Lifestyle, which has enhanced her visibility and attracted other opportunities.

Maybe you relish the opportunity to tell a device manufacturer, or a drug maker, or someone else in the diabetes industry how they can improve their product. Joining an advisory board may offer you a entry into getting paid for your opinion.

"Just about every company in the diabetes industry has an advisory board," said Mr. Scheiner. Research the market place to see what's out there and who might need a diabetes specialist. "Tell your local [pharmaceutical] rep you are interested in serving on an advisory board.” Advisory boards experience regular turnover. The meetings may require travel once or more annually for face to face exchange, or rely on feedback by email, or even Skype.

What are you worth?

Focus groups can be a few hours of onsite time, where as an online survey or phone interview can be 20 to 60 minutes of time during a lunch break.  Fees range from $25 for a 20 minute survey to a few hundred dollars to attend a focus group. It's possible to make $2,000 in honorarium a year from advisory board work.  However, watch out for non-compete clauses in these contracts, cautioned Mr. Scheiner.

5. Train the trainers.

Who needs training? Lots of people in the diabetes industry, according to Mr. Scheiner.  ''Every pharmaceutical company has to train their sales staff, and these companies need experts in the field to do that," he said. Since patients need one-on-one training, such as instruction in how to use an insulin pump, a CDE is needed to properly teach docs and their staff how to best instruct their patients, or the tips needed for reps when they make a sales call. By the way, pump trainings are paid for by the manufacturer.

What are you worth?

Expect $400 to $600 for several hours of work, according to Mr. Sheiner.

Moonlighting Tips & Caveats

“If you are an employee, touch base with your company to find out if there is a policy regarding outside work assignments,” Ms. Weiner cautioned. Your employer contract might have a clause that prohibits outside employment. Better to know that before you begin putting time in to a freelance project. Or, you may need to sign a waiver assuring your boss that you are doing this on your own time and that your moonlighting gig doesn't conflict with your day job.

"Talk to someone in HR," Mr. Scheiner recommended. "It's also not a bad idea to talk with your supervisor." You want to reassure your main paycheck provider that you're devoted while you are on the job, and that any outside work will not conflict with your ability to continue putting in a full effort while on the job.

You need to consider if the outside work may necessitate specific liability insurance to do supplemental work, according to Ms. Weiner.

“Once presented with a contract for outside work, it's important to actually read it,” said Ms. Weiner. Be sure the contract has specific requirements, expectations and deadlines , and includes payment for your time and reimbursable expenses.

If the contract is for writing projects, ask what is expected with regard to revisions. It is customary to do 1-2 edits or rewrites, after which you may ask for an additional fee if the specs change or the editor requests new information. Also, some companies may offer a “kill fee,” which is a small amount paid if the article isn’t used.  “And, an important point for diabetes educators, ask if you can retain educational reprint rights,” Ms. Weiner suggested. “That way, you can reprint and distribute your work to other clients, maybe even your fulltime employer.”

Once you are at the ''how much'' phase of the negotiations, Mr. Scheiner offers two final tips: Consider the overall payoff, but don't be shy about your worth. "Sometimes you will do things for a lot less money if it's good exposure,'' he said. “On the other hand, when you get to the money negotiations, it never hurts to ask for more then they initially offer. Then settle for an amount that feels right for the time you plan to commit."

September 12, 2016

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Patient Guide to Insulin: About Diabetes
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