Hi! It has been over a year since I’ve blogged, but I’m back today to share a bit about how I became a freelance nutrition writer as a dietitian. As the dietetics profession grows, there is more and more of a desire for “unconventional” RD roles and work-from-home options. Freelance writing is the perfect way to get your name out there, make some extra money, and in some instances it can be a full-time gig!
How I Got Started with Writing
I know not everyone can relate, but I have always loved writing. Even when I was a kid, I found joy in writing stories and journaling. Fast forward to college and my nerdy self secretly loved writing papers and any other assignment that involved writing and research. I got my first writing job while I was in college for a pet supply/supplement company, where I wrote descriptions for all of the different items that they sold on their website (random, but it gave me great experience!).
When I was in grad school, I took classes that were focused on professional writing. This is what really pushed me to figure out how I could focus more on writing in my career.
Becoming a Freelance Nutrition Writer
Back in 2016, a couple years after I first became an RD, was when I first started blogging on my own and really looking for nutrition writing jobs. That was when I discovered Authority Nutrition (now Healthline: Authority Nutrition). They were looking for a new writer at this time and I went for it & applied. I had to submit a sample article and unfortunately, I didn’t get the job on the first try. However, with some persistent following up and keeping in touch with the website owner and editors, I ended up being offered the position a few months later.
I wrote for Authority Nutrition for about 2 years, before their company was purchased by Healthline. During that time, I wrote about 30 articles for the website.
When I was done writing for Authority Nutrition, I started looking into resources and other websites/publications that hire RDs as writers. I believe Today’s Dietitian was the next paid writing gig that I got. I went to their annual conference in 2017 and introduced myself directly to their editor. She ended up contacting me about a week later, and I started by writing for free for their RD Lounge blog. After writing a few of those articles, I worked my way into writing for their magazine. I’ve written 4 articles for their magazine, as well as a couple of book reviews. Most of the topics were assigned by the editor, but a couple of them had to be pitched.
In 2018, I discovered Ana Residorf and her RDs Who Write Facebook Group, and well as the Unconventional RDs Facebook Group. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful that having these as resources has been. Ana has several resources available on her website, including a Guide to Freelance Writing and a course that walk through all the steps required to become a freelance writer. Using her resources helped me immensely!
I want to mention that in most instances, you need to write some articles for free before finding paid writing jobs. When applying to writing jobs, most of them will ask you to submit sample articles. The samples I had when first starting off were articles I had written on my own blogs, as well as examples of handouts and other communications I had created through my full-time jobs.
Where to Find Writing Jobs
There are a couple of different ways that I have found writing jobs over the years:
Job Postings: I have found lots of writing jobs through exploring job boards. ProBlogger is a good one, but I’ve also found them through Indeed and my Academy affiliate’s jobline. I’ve also found several that have been posted by Ana and others in the RDs who Write Group, LinkedIn, and MediaVine.
Academy DPGs: If you’re a member of the Academy, you may be able to write articles for newsletters and other publications that these groups put out. I’ve gotten paid and unpaid writing jobs from DPGs – writing for these is also a great way to get your name out there in the dietetics field.
Upwork: Upwork is a platform that connects businesses to freelancers and independent contractors. There are many freelance writing opportunities posted on this site. It’s an easy, safe way to freelance because you can share files, track project progress, and complete payment directly through the site. The only downside is that Upwork takes a percentage of the money you make, but you can still find several well-paid opportunities through them.
Pitching: Pitching and reaching out directly to companies is another way to find writing gigs. To me, it’s the most challenging because it takes a lot of time and creativity to come up with pitch ideas and find companies to write for. You also have to send out A LOT of pitches before getting a bite. It’s worth it, though! I really only started getting into pitching within the last several months. Once again, Ana’s resources have given me the knowledge and confidence I needed to start sending pitches to companies.
Tips for RDs
Here are a few of my best tips for RDs to get started with freelance writing:
*JUST START. You do not need to be perfect at writing or even have a writing background to get started. If you need samples, write your own blog posts, post an article on LinkedIn, or ask your workplace if you can write something for their website or start a newsletter for your clients or co-workers.
*Think outside the box – you don’t need to write complicated articles to be a freelance writer. I’ve been hired to write email newsletters, social media captions, event descriptions, website copy, and more. If writing scientific articles isn’t your thing, keep in mind all of the other ways you can share your expertise through writing. The possibilities really are endless.
*Make connections. Network, network, network. If you’re turned down for a job, keep in touch with the editor or hiring manager. Chances are, it just wasn’t the right time to hire you for a job, but they may have opportunities for you in the future. If you network with companies and individuals, there’s a good chance you will be at the front of their mind when/if they have a writing opportunity that pops up.
I know this is a question that many RDs have. Is freelance writing profitable? Is it possible to make a full-time or even part-time income off of it? My answer to this is YES! There are many RDs out there who are doing freelance writing full-time. It does take a lot of hard work and time to get there, but it’s possible.
The keys to making a decent amount of money from writing are to 1) Create long-lasting relationships with clients and 2) Find clients who will pay more for your expertise. Of course, there are always going to be people and companies out there who could care less who is writing for them and thus, don’t pay very well. However, the ones that want credibility within their company will pay more for a dietitian’s expertise.
When it comes to how much companies pay freelance writers – this varies widely. You’ll find jobs that pay anywhere from $.01 to $1 a word. I don’t recommend accepting the ones that pay pennies, but sometimes those are necessary to start getting writing experience.
I hope this gave you some insight to how to become a freelance writer as an RD! I’ll be writing more blog posts in the future to dive deeper into some of the topics that I touched on here. Is there something that you really want to learn more about when it comes to writing? Leave a comment or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be sure to address it in a future article or social media post!