The RD career path can be different for everyone. I shared my story of how I became a freelance writer in a previous post. I thought I would give the rest of the team of expert RD writers an opportunity to share their journey as well. Here is Lauren Panoff’s story about how she became a freelance nutrition writer. I’ve always loved writing, but if you had told me ten years ago that I would ultimately become a freelance nutrition writer, I would have laughed in disbelief that I could actually support myself doing that. My career as a registered dietitian (RD) has evolved more than I ever expected, especially in how I’ve chosen to use my credential to support my unique professional path.
My RD Career Path
I initially decided to become a dietitian as a result of my struggle with disordered eating throughout high school. I wanted to help other people going through this.
Upon completion of my dietetic internship, I stayed on staff at the teaching hospital as a clinical dietitian. Over the next two years I provided medical nutrition therapy to people with conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as well as post-operative patients and individuals in the intensive care unit. I learned a great deal about clinical nutrition, but most importantly learned that it wasn’t the right fit for me.
After leaving the hospital setting, I was convinced that I had found my dream job as an RD at an outpatient eating disorder counseling center. It was an awesome place, with a fantastic staff, and I had my own clients. I also quickly found myself wanting to be as far away from eating disorders as humanly possible, as it was something I had left far behind in my own past.
Once I felt like I had exhausted all traditional options, I looked into other possibilities for how to make money as a dietitian. I took a job at a public health company helping dietary supplement brands go through the process of getting their products independently tested for safety and purity. After a couple of years in this role, I made an internal move to work in public health standards development. Although the context of the position itself was not remotely nutrition-related, I found myself really enjoying the technical writing and editing aspect of the role. Still, I didn’t feel like I had found my calling yet and was no longer using my RD at all.
At the end of 2017, I listened to my gut and decided to leave my full-time corporate job in pursuit of self-employment. I didn’t have much of a plan and was 5 months pregnant with my second son. I started a blog and had been offering sporadic plant-based nutrition coaching on the side as a way to explore my interest in the area, but this proved to be unsustainable with the demands of being a mom. That’s when I started seriously considering writing as a possibility.
To start getting my name out there as a plant-based expert, I started pitching to write for free in exchange for original articles being published on large platforms in my niche. This eventually snowballed and I had my name on several established websites.
Finding Flexibility with Nutrition Writing
Writing was something I could do on my own time, with the hustle and bustle of having two small kids, and provided the flexibility I need. Putting in the unpaid time at first allowed me to figure out how to make money writing articles
Through social media, Upwork, and mutual friends, I connected with people who have since become regular clients. I now write on a variety of topics in addition to plant-based living, like parenting, menopause, environmental issues, supplements, chronic diseases, and cooking. Maintaining my RD gives me the credibility many brands are looking for to give their audiences trustworthy information.
Fast forward to today, and (after achieving my initial financial goal of making a single penny as a writer) I’ve replaced the equivalent of my monthly salary from my last corporate job. Now that I know it’s possible, and I’ve found my calling as a freelance nutrition writer, I have six figures on my mind.
By: Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD
Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She also enjoys writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental, and nutrition topics