I thought I would share a bit in this post about how I became a freelance nutrition writer and created the career of my dreams.
A Naive New RD
When I was a brand new dietitian all I wanted to do was counsel people. As a student, I got a job at Jenny Craig. I LOVED counseling my customers on weight loss and hot to follow the JC program. Once I became an RD, I landed my first job as a health educator. I loved it so much, I couldn’t believe someone was paying me to do that job! I would have gladly done it for free….but over the course of a career, things change.
The Burn Out
In 2011, I was burnt out. I had been an RD for almost 5 years at that time. I felt like every day was the same. The newness had worn off. Every day I was dragging myself to work and not feeling challenged or inspired at all. It was because there was something else nagging at the back of my head, I wanted to write.
At the time, other than starting a blog, I had NO IDEA how to become a writer. I couldn’t even grasp that I could possibly get paid for writing. Getting paid for writing was only for amazing writers like Elizabeth Gilbert. Who would pay me? A co-worker suggested that I should go part-time for a while and figure it out. Fear held me back because I was single at the time and was scared of not making ends meet.
The Brazil Era
At the end of 2011, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was planning on going to Brazil for her treatment and suggested I take some family medical leave to go with her for a few months. This would allow me to not only help her through her treatment but to figure out my career situation. I could also sort out some personal things I was going through at the time. Maybe I could find a new “direction” in life. So, I did. I took 3 months off from work for family medical leave.
Becoming a Nutrition Writer
Leaving one’s routine does change everything. It gave me more space and time to figure out what I really wanted. I knew it was writing, I just needed to figure out how to do it. I decided to write a book called “How to Actually Lower Your Cholesterol“. I self-published it, did everything for it myself. Although I never sold more than maybe 30 copies, I was proud I finished it. One day I will revamp it and maybe make some real money off of it. But, that was irrelevant, I was a writer! I also started blogging more about my experiences in Brazil.
At the same time, I somehow connected with a fellow RD, Aglaee Jacob. She was ahead of me a bit in the writing game and inspired me so much when she told me she was making her living off writing online. Per her recommendation, I started writing for a content mill called Demand Media. At the time, they provided articles for Livestrong, SF Gate, and the Nest. By working for them, I was able to get my articles published on several of these sites and I was finally getting PAID TO WRITE!
Writing Full Time
In the spring of 2012, I came back to the US. Due to some personal issues, I had quit my steady RD job and now found myself unemployed. I had $7000 from the sale of my car in my bank account, that was it. I needed to find work. So, I started to hustle. I found a website called Elance (now Upwork) that had job postings searching for writers. I remember when my first client responded to my email, Smarty Pants Vitamins. I was so excited! I wrote for them for a few years and slowly started building a portfolio between the Demand Media work and Elance.
Since then I have written for 100s of nutrition websites, vitamin companies, and other wellness practitioners. I was even published in Today’s Dietitian magazine and they sought ME out as a contributor!
Now it is 2017, although I haven’t been writing consistently this whole time, between teaching full time at a university for a while, doing long-term care consulting, getting married, being pregnant, etc, I have been able to keep my toe in the writing pool at least. Right now, I would consider myself a pretty successful freelance writer. I have made my dream come true.
There is still work to do, I would like to have a more consistent and predictable income from writing. I do still work as a long-term care consultant one day a week for the consistent income. I would like to be published in more print magazines. I would like to write another book (and maybe do more with the one I wrote). But, the point is I am doing it. I am making money from my writing.
Advice for Other Registered Dietitians
I think a lot of RDs are unsure how to break into freelance writing other than publishing their own blogs or offering to write for free. Although this is one way to do it, the RD credential actually allows you to start getting paid work from day 1. I am not saying you will be able to quit your day job but with a little hustle and determination maybe one day you will. I run a Facebook group called “RDs Who Write” where I try to help other RDs who also want to break into writing. I post jobs, resources, and whatever I find helpful on that page. Send over a request and I am glad to add you if you are an RD.
The point is, if you are an RD, the possibilities are endless. Don’t stay in a clinical job that makes you so bored you could tear your eyes out. Get out there, there are so many opportunities for RDs you just need to find them. I am happy to help any time, just reach out!
Hey, RD want more details on how to become a freelance nutrition writer? Check out my comprehensive guide to freelance writing for the RD.