When I first dove into the world of freelance writing, there was a huge learning curve. From figuring out where to find writing jobs, how to improve my writing skills, and how to pitch to companies. It can be quite overwhelming.
I took some time to reflect on what I’ve learned about the writing field over the last year. I hope that this helps other dietitians who are currently freelance writers or who are looking to explore writing more!
You don’t need to have a special degree, certificate, or training to be a writer. It’s true – most companies don’t require that you have a degree or certificate in communications or journalism to write for them. Instead, they look for experience in the subject matter and experience with writing overall. There have only been a handful of times when I’ve been asked to even submit a resume for a writing job. More often, I’m asked to submit samples of articles that I’ve written in the past. That’s why I always keep the Portfolio page on my website up-to-date.
Now, this isn’t to say that getting a degree, certificate, or going through a special training isn’t helpful in some circumstances. It really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you just want to freelance, an extra degree probably isn’t necessary. If you have a goal to become an editor for a magazine or something like that, then a degree or certificate might be helpful.
At the beginning of 2020, I had the thought in my mind that having some sort of certification would make me more competitive for writing jobs. I went through a couple of classes toward a Communications Certificate from the University of Minnesota…then COVID hit, and the rest of the classes were cancelled. That was sort of a blessing in disguise because I realized just getting more experience in communications would be better than spending hundreds of dollars on a couple of classes that were teaching me things that I already knew. Instead of trying to find more classes to take, I applied for a board position focused on communications with my state’s Academy affiliate (Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). The experience that I’ve gotten volunteering for MAND has been beyond helpful, hasn’t costed any extra money, and definitely gives me a one up with applying for writing gigs.
Reading and journaling are a couple of the best ways to enhance your writing skills. In 2020, I spent a lot more time reading and journaling than I did applying to writing jobs. These are hobbies that I love and I focused on them a lot this year to nurture my mental health and process everything that was happening in the world. I’ve realized that these are hobbies that are incredibly helpful for building writing skills, too! Reading books by a variety of authors exposes you to different writing styles. And journaling with a pen and paper influences creativity and really forces you to write using your own voice – both of these will really prove to be beneficial when you start typing and writing for others.
Not to mention: reading books and journaling takes your eyes off the screen and allows your brain to take a little break for a while. Breaks and rest are 100% necessary if you want to be a successful writer (well, breaks and rest are necessary if you want to be successful at anything! But you get the point).
Articles and blogs aren’t the only options for writing as a dietitian. Do you love writing and content creation, but articles and blogs aren’t calling your name? That’s okay! There are so many different opportunities for dietitians when it comes to writing. Thinking outside the box is key. I’ve had jobs writing social media captions for wellness companies, descriptions for health and wellness events, and copy for newsletters and websites. In addition to these, you can write descriptions and reviews for health and wellness products, e-books (or real books!) about a topic you’re passionate about, or you can become a resume writer/editor for aspiring dietitians. There’s so many possibilities, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not interested in writing articles or blog posts.
Going off of this, it’s important to mention that you don’t have to write about nutrition AT ALL if you don’t want to. Maybe there’s something else that you have experience with or that you’re passionate about – I’ve heard of dietitians writing articles on gardening, social justice/human rights issues, pets, parenting, and more.
Job postings aren’t the only way to find writing jobs – you can create them yourself! Sometimes companies don’t know that they need an expert health/nutrition writer until you sell yourself and let them know what you have to offer. The best way to create opportunities yourself is through networking. Connect with people on social media, explore local businesses, send an email to a food company you love letting them know how their company could benefit from a dietitian writer.
Other dietitian writers will be your greatest support system. I really can’t emphasize enough how helpful that the RDs Who Write Facebook Group has been as I’ve worked to grow my writing skills and business. This group is full of dietitians who have experience all across the spectrum when it comes to writing – some who have created a full time job out of it, and others who do it as a side hustle. The discussion group here is great for asking questions, sharing opportunities, and just connecting with other dietitians who are interested in writing.
I’m looking forward to learning lots more about writing in 2021! What would you add to this list?