Diana Kelly Levey

How I Got Started As a Freelance Writer and Nutrition Expert

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February 3, 2020

This is a guest post from freelance nutrition writer, Amy Gorin.

Amy Gorin, MS, RD, is a nutrition expert in the New York City area. She is a media spokesperson, nutrition expert, freelance writer and recipe developer. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyGorin, Instagram @AmyDGorin and Pinterest.

1. How did you get started freelancing? Did you start out as a writer and editor first and then get your nutrition degree?

Oh gosh, you’re making me feel old! I wrote my first freelance article back in college, probably 2003. I started freelancing as a way to gain editorial experience—I was really fortunate in that one of the very first magazine articles I wrote was for one of the inaugural issues of Women’s Health! Then, when I was working as a full-time magazine editor, I used freelancing as a way to both keep my foot in the writing game and also to earn supplemental income. Later, after I became a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and started my own business, continuing with freelance writing—but more so than ever before!—was a natural transition.

2. Do you mind sharing some early rates you earned when starting out writing?  How does that compare to now?

Rates have really changed. For one of those early magazine articles I wrote, I was paid $2 a word for a department piece. The fee was a little higher because there was a rush turnaround on it. Nowadays, everything is a rush and rates are typically a lot less for web pieces! (To get the rate you deserve, steal these negotiation tactics.)

3. When did you first consider working for yourself full time as an option? Why? 

For about seven of my eight or so years as a magazine editor, I was going back to school at night to become an RDN. I suppose I was always thinking about working for myself as the end game, but I didn’t have a timeline. In fact, when I left my last full-time editor job—I had to leave because the remainder of my school was full time—I talked with my editor-in-chief about coming back to the publication after I was done with school. But when I was done, I had an itch to try my hand at working for myself and starting my own business. I figured I could always go and get a staff job if it didn’t work out. But I never looked back.

4. Did you have any reservations about doing this full time?

None at all! Except I will say that freelance writing is only part of what I do. For me, it’s essential to have a mix of work—not only so I have multiple revenue sources but also so that I get my hands in lots of different types of work. I call this my “pie,” which includes freelance writing, seeing nutrition clients, consulting brands, and more.

5. Did those change? Do you still have the same fears/apprehensions or have new ones cropped up?

The first week I was out on my own, I felt so lonely. Then I quickly realized that I know so many people who are on their own like me. So I created a virtual network of “coworkers”—and often meet up in person with these people in real life—and don’t feel lonely at all!

6. What did you wish you knew about freelancing/working from home/working for yourself before you did this full time?

Read your contracts in detail before you sign them! I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t fully digest those early contracts. Now, a good chunk of my time is spent reviewing contracts and negotiating their terms.

7. What is the most challenging part of freelancing full time and working for yourself?

I’d say it’s balancing the fun of the projects I’m working on with the necessity of the administrative side. There are so many admin tasks to complete when you run your own business, and I have to set aside time to do these tasks. (By the way, you can grow your business in just 15 minutes.)

8. What do you do to maintain a steady flow of paid freelance work?

I make a million calendar reminders! The minute I submit a story pitch or a business proposal, I put a reminder in my calendar to follow up in a few weeks. The minute I get a story assignment for an outlet, I add a calendar reminder to pitch additional story ideas. This way, there’s never a lag,

9. Is there anything else you think is the key to your success as a freelancer/small business owner? 

A big part of success in any business is networking, and being successful as a freelancer and a media dietitian is no different. If I can’t take on a client or a project, I refer out to someone in my network—and work comes back to me the same way. So I make sure to not only stay in touch with my colleagues but also to attend networking events and conferences.

I even now co-run a media training e-course for health professionals to help them navigate all things in the media expert world, from landing media interviews to understanding and negotiating those confusing contracts!”

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