It’s a Friday afternoon, and I’m sitting in the airport on my way to visit a friend in Atlanta. I have an article due today that I haven’t had time to start until now. I really hustled this week to be able to take today off, but there’s always more work to be done. This is my life as a Media Dietitian. Its not as glamorous as social media would lead you believe. Don’t get me wrong, being able to travel or take days off whenever I want is pretty amazing, but there are also downsides. That’s why I decided to write a series of posts about becoming an entrepreneur in the media world, including how I got my start and my day-to-day life.
First, let me say that everyone’s journey is different. What has worked for me might not work for you. Also, I’m still new to this whole world. I’ve learned a ton and have had some successes in the past year, but I’m still learning and have also had some failures.
How did I get my start?
Perseverance, timing and a “yes” from one editor.
I think my writing career started in grad school, unbeknownst to me. I was always pretty terrible at tests, and I was thrilled when I stumbled upon a class that only required writing a paper. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really enjoyed writing. I didn’t mind spending hours sorting through research and trying to combine it all into one easy-to-read story.
I started my blog to share recipes but also write about interesting nutrition topics for the general public, like the health benefits of coffee and whether or not you need a protein shake. Through blogging, I realized that I love to write and that I am pretty good at it. That’s where the perseverance came in. I continued to blog for the fun of it, even when no one was reading.
Eventually, I wanted to expand my writing portfolio and I sought other outlets that would allow me to write for them, even if that meant writing for free. I became a Stone Soup blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. I also wrote for The Active Times and other Dietitians’ blogs. After I felt confident in my writing skills, I decided to pitch articles to magazines.
Luckily, I took a class called “Analysis of Current Literature” in grad school, where I learned how to pitch articles to the media. Using what I learned as a guide, I searched for editor’s contact info and eventually sent a few pitches. There were a lot of unanswered emails…like, a lot. But one pitch I sent was right on the money and perfect timing.
I proposed an article to Women’s Running about nutrition considerations when running in the heat, and they were already planning this topic for their August 2016 issue of the magazine. They asked if I would be willing to write for the magazine, rather than the website. I was so thrilled that my first pitch was accepted that I called my mom and told her the “big news”! I wrote the article, but I still had so many unanswered questions, such as:
Should I pitch them more articles?
How much should I be getting paid?
How do I break into other publications?
Honestly, I ended up learning most of what I know now through trial and error. But some of it also came from knowing the right people and networking. One of my good friends also wrote for FitnessMagazine.com, and she offered to connect me with the editor. Having one publication under my belt was great, but wouldn’t two be so nice? When she connected me, they said they would love to have me pitch them, and they started accepting my pitches right away. At the same time, I also began pitching Eating Well. I was thrilled when they actually answered my email. I pitched many ideas before one was finally accepted, and I started writing for their magazine.
This progression continued, and I started picking up more and more writing gigs and getting more publications under my belt. Some publications responded to a “cold pitch” (aka, I didn’t know the editor and just sent an idea), some I networked my way into and some I’m still trying to get a response. Right now, I write for Runner’s World, Shape, Fitness Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Women’s Running, Food Network Healthy Eats, Food & Nutrition Magazine and Greatist. While that sounds like an impressive list, I’m always trying to grow my media experience and take on more projects.
What do I do on a daily basis?
I’m always working towards a deadline, and I’m constantly pitching new ideas. That’s the thing about writing…once you finish an article, you need to think of another one. To be in the media means to be constantly present online. I’m on social media, blogging and writing for at least half of each day. It also means that I’ve been lucky enough to partner with some food brands that I love, like KIND, Dave’s Killer Bread, The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, Welch’s and POM. I’ve helped get them national media exposure, and sometimes I speak on their behalf or create sponsored blog posts.
I also ventured out on my own to use my expertise from my past life (working in advertising) to help Dietitians and food bloggers create, manage and understand email marketing campaigns. I’ve given webinars, and I’m talking about this topic at the online RD Symposium.
As you can probably see, everyday is different. Sometimes I’m struggling to get three things done at once and some days I’m pitching new ideas. Everyday is exciting, but not everyday is good. I think that’s one of the reasons I decided to write this post. I want others to know that not everything you see online is as sparkly and exciting as it looks.
What have I learned?
So so so much…I feel like I’ve gained a PhD in working for myself during the past 12 months. It wouldn’t do justice to talk about what I’ve learned in one paragraph. Instead, my next blog post will discuss my life lessons and provide tips for anyone hoping to forge their own path in the media world. Check back later in the week for the second installment.