More About Ana Reisdorf
Ana Reisdorf has 12 years of experience as a registered dietitian. She has a passion for creating incredible health and nutrition content. Her main focus is writing evidence-based, authority building content for nutrition and health brands.
Connect with Ana:
Episode 006 Show Notes
- Check out my FREE Facebook group – The Unconventional RD Community
- My 3 online courses – The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp
Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the following products. If you click my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
Links from this episode:
- Ana Reisdorf
- Freelance Writing for RDs: The Course
- Guide to Freelance Writing as an RDN
- RDs Who Write Facebook Group
- ProBlogger Job Board
- Google Drive
- Teachable (affiliate link)
- LearnDash (affiliate link)
- Thinkific (affiliate link)
Read the transcript:
Welcome to The Unconventional RD podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income streams. We'll talk all things online business to help you start, grow and scale your own digital empire.
Let's dive into the interview with Ana Reisdorf.
Erica: Welcome to The Unconventional RD Podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income streams. We'll talk all things online business to help you start, grow, and scale your own digital empire.
Have you ever seen articles by dietitians on popular websites and wondered how in the world did they get that gig? Have you thought about dabbling in freelance writing, but feel totally overwhelmed with where you should start? Well if so, then this is the episode for you.
We are chatting with Ana Reisdorf, a dietitian who quit her full time clinical position to become a writer and now earns six figures per year doing something she absolutely loves. Ana shares her journey into freelance writing, her top tips for breaking into this field, and pulls back the curtain on exactly what it looks like to write for others, how you get clients, how you get paid and what she would do differently if she had to start all over again. For real, this episode is so detailed and helpful. I know it's going to inspire any writers to be.
Alright, today we have Ana Reisdorf with us on the podcast and I am stoked about this interview because I think freelance writing is something that a lot of dietitians are interested in, but maybe feels a little intimidating or very foreign, so I'm excited to talk more with Ana and learn about how she got started and really excelled in this career area. Thanks for being here, Ana.
Ana: Thank you, Erica. It's awesome to be part of your new podcast. I've been waiting for it for a long time.
Erica: Yeah, me too, like two years, but I finally got my butt in gear. Thank you for being one of the first guests. I think people are going to find a lot of value in what we're talking about today.
Ana's Background in Dietetics
I think to start out, I just want to get some background on you and how you found yourself becoming a freelance writer. I guess my first question would be, did you always know you wanted to be a writer? If so, what led you to start initially in dietetics? How did that evolve over time?
Ana: Sure. When I graduated from high school, I actually wanted to be a therapist for awhile, so I have a degree in psychology from UCLA and then in the back of my mind, I always wanted to write a novel, I always pictured myself being a writer, but it seems like this weird dream, that was sort of vague and not really an actual career, and I didn't know how to really make it happen.
When I graduated from college, I flailed around for a little bit. I was a high-end bar mitzvah event planner in LA (which was a whole other thing) and then for about four years, I don't know what I was doing. I did all sorts of different things. I worked in research in this and that….
I started taking some writing classes like more creative writing, because I really thought I will write a novel, and then I started getting interested in nutrition and health, going to the gym and doing that kind of thing, and I felt like that was a good career for me to go into. I’ve always been interested in healthy eating as I went back to school to get my RD and I thought that I work in weight management. That was my passion.
I worked at Jenny Craig while I was in school. My first job out of school is in health education, helping people who had to do weight loss surgery, OPTIFAST, which is a liquid diet program if you're not familiar with that. That's really what I thought was going to be it. I remember saying, I would do this job for free my first two weeks at the job.
After about two or three years, reality set in on what that really meant and it was a combination of office politics, which were pretty awful and I feel like I really didn’t have the training to really deal with the underlying reasons why people were struggling with weight loss, their mental health and that kind of thing.
I just wasn't prepared for how much weight loss was mental, it's 95% mental. I felt like I couldn't. I wasn't really effective and I just got burnt out. I just thought, “Okay, I'll switch careers or switch jobs within the same company,” and I went into clinical job for a little while and that was just boring. That was tediously, awfully, unchallenging after about six months. I worked on a med-surg floor, where it was just nothing interesting ever showed up and it was just boring.
During that time I started flirting with blogging. That was the end of 2008-2009 when blogging started taking off. I started a blog and would kind of write and thought, “Maybe I could make this work,” but just never really did.
Then, in 2012, my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer and I was just up this weird impasse in my personal life, I didn't like my job. I felt it was just suffocating, this clinical job and there was nowhere to go. There is no career path, like it was that, that was it. Yeah, I could be the director of the food service, but after that you can't go anywhere else. There's nowhere to go. That felt suffocating to me.
I was in a bad relationship that I couldn’t get out of and I kept going back and forth from that. My mom wanted to get her cancer treatment results, so I just left, I took FMLA off my job, left for three months, went to Brazil, just did yoga on the beach, and just try to sort out my life because I couldn’t figure out what to do.
During that time, I start communicating with another dietitian, who told me she was traveling the world and supporting herself with writing. I was like, “What?” I had been following her on her blog and we were exchanging emails, I was like, “How do I do that?”
She introduced me to this company, which at the time was called Demand Media, which was cranking out thousands of blog posts a day for Livestrong and The Nest. They pay $25 an article, but I started writing. I was like, “I'm a writer. Look at my name. It’s published places, I couldn't believe that. I would sit there and crank out eight articles a day, these short, 500-word articles, but I was writing. That was $200 that I can use to go out to dinner with my friends.
It was perfect. So the career path took me a lot of different ways and writing wasn't always my main focus, until my son was born (he's four now) and then I decided this is finally my chance to become a full-time writer. Over the last four years, since he's been born, I dropped everything else. I haven't worked in any other thing for two years, and I am a full time writer. It just builds slowly over time back from those $25 articles that I was happy to be writing.
Erica: I think that's such a real and inspiring story, seeing the transition and sharing the confusion and the lack of clarity at one point, because I feel like a lot of people are there right now. I've been there and I resonated a lot. I think there's a lot of parallels in your journey and my own journey in terms of, I always wanted to have an online business in some capacity, but when starting out, you're right, it's like, “How do I get there?” It's all so unclear, but I figured out over time.
Is Freelance Writing a Viable Career for Dietitians in 2020?
Erica: I guess with freelance writing, is this something that is really a viable career path for dietitians right now in 2020?
Ana: I think it's unlimited, I mean unlimited. I was just listening to something that will say there's 1.5 billion websites, seven blogs for every person in the world, they're not all nutrition, obviously, but the opportunity for RDs is unlimited.
Food companies, look at just the number of food products on the shelf. Every single one of those companies needs writers for various marketing pieces to help with the nutrition piece of their products. The dietary supplement companies, from Sprouts to Whole Foods, there's 46 million aisles of dietary supplements, all of those companies are desperate for RD writers. There is literally unlimited, I can't even keep up.
Erica: It's amazing. And you're right. Once you're in it, I feel like you see the opportunity everywhere, but then when you're maybe starting out, it feels so abstract, how do you even connect with these companies?
How to Get Started as a Freelance Writer
Erica: Where would you start as someone who is thinking about getting into freelance writing? What's like the first move someone should make?
Ana: The first move (I think) really is to have a couple of samples, because any company that you reach out to, anyone that’s going to have a job that you apply for is going to want to see that you can write.
When I started, it was really just my own little personal blog that I used as a sample. It wasn't anything crazy incredible, but there's a lot of different places where you can get samples, like you could reach out to a colleague and say, “Can I publish something on your blog?” I'm sure several colleagues have content needs that they're not able to meet and they could give you an article with it with your name on it.
Today's Dietitian has that RD lounge that you can publish as an RD on that website and that’s a published sample. You can go on Medium. Medium will even—if they like your article—curate it and put it in their feed or in their magic area, I don't know what it's really called.
Erica: Can you explain what Medium is, just for people who might not know?
Ana: Sure, it's just a website where anyone can publish an article, pretty much. They have some type of commission program, where if your article gets a certain number of views, you get a commission. I actually just got $1.17 from them, but you never know. Maybe your article will bow up and you'll make a whole $5 from it or something.
Anywhere that you can get a sample. You don't need 40, you need like two or three to get started and from there, you can start applying for jobs you see online, so that's the first place.
Erica: That's a great lesson in terms of not letting perceived obstacles hold you back. You don't even need your own website. There are places you can go on the internet to get published and then use that as your jumping off point, basically. I feel you.
People listening, if they listen to the first episode and heard my whole story, they know that for awhile I was also freelance writing for Healthline/Authority Nutrition, when they first made that transition, but yeah, I applied for that job and my only writing sample was my own blogs. I didn't get the position the first time, but they circled back around and got back in touch with me later that year and that worked out great for me for a really long time. It doesn't need to be anything really that crazy, I don't think.
The Importance of Patience and Persistence
Ana: Just to go off to what you just said, writing is a little bit of a long game. I can't even tell you how many jobs I've applied for and they've said, “No,” or, “We're going with this other person,” or whatever and then six months later, a year later, they come back and they’re like, “We want to work with you now,” or, “We have a bigger budget,” or, “Things are changed,” or, “We’re going in a different direction.” I think it's easy to get discouraged because we want to get the job right away, but it doesn't always work like that.
Erica: Yeah, it's like acting or real estate or something. As someone who pays a writer for my own content creation on my website, I feel like there's some aspect of like once you're in, people probably will start referring you. Some people (I think) would be a little hesitant to just hire someone randomly, so I think referrals can play a really big role to build up that reputation.
I've referred my writer to people all the time, because I know she does amazing work and then people trust that. I feel like that's very true with a lot of business. It's just always harder in the beginning when you're getting the momentum.
Ana: Right, some weird about momentum that just happens. I don't know where the magic is, but it's definitely happened to me.
How Much Money Can You Earn as a Freelance Writer?
Erica: How much money realistically could someone expect to make as a freelance writer?
Ana: I think unlimited. Now, there's only so many hours in a day and there's only so much writing that ones brain could really handle in a day, so you are somewhat limited by that.
I crossed six-figures last year. I do have a team of writers who work for me, so all of that income was not just mine. I did need the help of the team, because I would not have been able to complete all of that work on my own. My goal this year is $250,000 in sales.
Erica: That's freaking amazing.
Ana: I think it's definitely achievable.
Erica: I love that you realized, because I feel like this draws many parallels with any type of one-on-one client work or whatever, there is only so many hours of your own personal time. I love that you thought a little bit outside of the box to grow a team. Is it something where you're the head of the business? I'm just curious on how this works. Is it like, you draw the business in and then do you give your team members assignments and then a revenue share or something like that?
Ana: Yeah. I still do quite a bit of work and my goal in 2020 is to not do any more of the writing because I can't grow the business if trying to do the writing. I pay them a flat rate and it's based on what I'm making, the more my rates go up, the more their rates are going to go up and then I just assign them the articles and we just have a Trello board where we communicate and I tell them you know articles are available, grab them and it seems to work out pretty seamlessly.
Erica: I think if you ever expanded that and took more people on your team, it could be limitless, because I feel as someone who dabbled a little bit in this arena, that getting the clients is the hardest and scariest part. You can just pop in and be like, “Oh here are all these articles up for grabs,” and just write when writing is really what you love, that's great. It's great for you and for our community of dietitians.
Ana: Well, my end goal is to be the Upwork for RD’s. I want all the nutrition clients to come to me and I decide who gets the work.
Erica: That's amazing, so needed, so innovative. I love it. I'm excited.
Does Writing Require a Certification or Specific Experience/Expertise?
Erica: So just continuing along my general questions about freelance writing, do you think that any type of dietitian can become a freelance writer, even if they're brand new?
Do they need any certain type of experience you think that would help set them apart? Or what are your thoughts on that?
Ana: No, I think anyone could be a writer if you want to be a writer. Now, writing takes practice and some degree of skill, because it can be hard. You have to want to do it. I looked back at the articles that I wrote in the beginning and they were awful. I hope I'm better now. It takes practice over time and it takes a lot of time and dedication. And not everybody likes to write. It can be pretty boring sometimes. It just depends on what you like to do.
Erica: Yeah, so basically just along the lines of what you said earlier, where if this feels like something you're interested in, get a writing sample in some capacity and then start pitching yourself basically?
Erica: Do you think people look at your resume? Does that factor in at all or they're mostly looking for a writing sample?
Ana: I think that they really are looking at your writing sample and then at the end of the day, what the clients really want is somebody who is reliable. I can't stress that enough. I'll be honest with you. There's this client who I've been working with for probably nine months and they were not paying me very well. But I have been reliable, I have turned in every assignment on time, I have done everything they wanted, gone above and beyond.
There was one week where they threw 20 articles at me and I got that all done for them. I have really, really done what they needed and have been there for them to help their clients succeed at some marketing agency. They have a client who are there trying to help and at the end of the year, they doubled my rate.
Erica: That's amazing.
Ana: They have an editor who literally rips my stuff apart, so clearly, I'm not the best writer they've ever seen in their life, but I have the credentials and I always am reliable. That's really what they want at the end of the day. You can demonstrate that and you can do good work at the right pace and in a reliable manner. That's really what they want. Nobody's looking to hire the next Elizabeth Gilbert, they're just not.
Erica: Totally. Well, that makes me feel a lot better and hopefully it makes some listeners feel like it's a little more achievable.
How Can You Get Better at Writing?
Erica: If someone does like to write, but they're a little self conscious about their writing abilities, do you have any places or resources or strategies that you like to recommend fort just getting better at writing?
Ana: You just have to write. You just have to write every single day, ask for feedback. In my RDs Who Write Facebook group, I'm happy to read over people stuff to give them feedback on their writing. Ask a colleague to help you with your writing, read other articles written by RDs that you respect and that you think are good writing. The Healthline articles I think are pretty good examples. They have their own specific style, but they're pretty heavily edited and so they're reasonably written pieces.
Over time, it just starts to get better. You can always take a writing course at a junior college if you want, just a general English course to get your writing improved, but I don't know if any of that is really necessary.
Writing for Yourself vs for a Client
Erica: Is there some aspect of, if you're writing for someone else's platform, of matching their style and their voice? Maybe it's a little different than learning your own voice because you're not just writing for yourself, you're writing for a client?
Ana: Most of the big websites have content guidelines. They’ll walk you through how to write the articles, but some of them don't and they're fine with whatever you think. Your clients will usually tell you how to structure the article or your work together and you'll figure that out.
How Dietitians Can Capitalize on Their Unique Expertise
Erica: Totally. This isn't something that I had put on my original brainstorm of things to talk about, but it just popped into my head when you were talking about how this is a great opportunity for dietitians because of their credentials. I haven’t mentioned this on the podcast yet, but I know you're in my SEO course and I've talked about this somewhat in my platforms.
The concept of EAT (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) is something that's been emerging in the SEO world. Google has been cracking down a little bit on what it perceives to be a lack of authority on health-related articles that are published on the internet.
EAT was coined by Google in one of their reviewer documents and basically the idea is, the more you can establish your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness as a writer, and who is creating the content on your website, hopefully, that's going to give you some boost in the eyes of Google and its rankings. How have you capitalized on that as a freelance writer?
Ana: Girl, this EAT thing is the best thing that ever happened to me in my whole life. You're right, Google wants articles written by people who are authorities. What happened is clients came out of the woodwork like crazy because a lot of their SEO rankings dropped when this happened in July, or August, or whenever it was over the summer. I probably had four reach back out who got off my radar and left, and came back and said, “Please let us add your name to these articles. Can you please be a fact checker for us? Can you please help us boost our EAT, boost our rankings back?” The request for bylined articles—byline is you put your name on it and you have your author bio on it—has skyrocketed. Since that happened, business has been just off the hook. It’s unlimited.
Erica: Yeah it's like a new thing that's happened in the last year or so, really less than a year. Yeah, I can see the potential. I feel like it gives us some, I don't know, sometimes people are like, “There are so many fake experts on the internet,” and they get all riled up about it, but this is actually an opportunity where your credential gives you an advantage because these websites are looking for people with degrees and experience in the field that they're writing about. Definitely use that to your advantage.
Ana: Just recently, I started working with a new vegan infant formula and I was able to get a great rate on that project because I had these experts behind me on my team. I have a maternal feeding expert. I have a vegan expert. I have a blah, blah, blah, and I said, “This team can create this expert content to boost your expertise on your website,” and they were like, “Please, let's work together. Here are 1000 articles for you to write.” It's been great.
Erica: That's awesome. I love hearing that because it's real, it's happening right now, so definitely jump on that. I feel like it's even an opportunity even if you don't necessarily want to go full on into writing. Even just fact checking and editing like you said.
I've been approached actually as well. I didn't take them up on the offer, but to be basically a fact checker for articles that were in the past written by people without a degree, they're going back, they're revamping the content, and they want to put someone's face and name on the article to make sure that this is accurate, helpful information and not misleading,
How to Land Freelance Writing Gigs
Erica: I guess. In terms of nitty-gritty, how does this all actually work? Where does someone go to become a freelance writer for a company or a brand? Are they just cold emailing people? Are they using some agency? Where should people go?
Ana: There's basically three places to find freelance writing jobs. One is you apply for job postings that you see online just like you would a regular job. There are a lot of different websites with job postings on there. Websites like ProBlogger, Indeed, even Craigslist has jobs for freelance writers. There's several of these types of websites. Upwork is (I think) the best place to start as a freelance writer. There's a lot of hate on Upwork, but I feel like it's an easy place to connect with clients and people who are looking for freelance writers.
If you don't know what Upwork is, it's basically a website, a marketplace for freelancers. Companies post jobs that they're looking for and hire freelancers through the platform. You do have to pay a fee to access Upwork. I've gotten a lot of great jobs on Upwork.
Erica: Is it like a monthly fee, annual fee, per project, how does that work?
Ana: They just recently changed it where you have to pay to apply for the jobs. I think because they're trying to reduce the number of people who just apply for everything and then the clients get overwhelmed. I think it’s $0.15 per connect in each job is like 2-6 connects.
Erica: That’s pretty reasonable.
Ana: Yeah. Then you pay a service fee once you get the job based on the percentage. It's a percentage, but it allows you to connect with people who you never would. One of my first clients was Dr. Axe when he was first getting started. I found him on Upwork when it was Elance, but that’s where he came from.
Erica: Yeah. I found my Healthline gig on Facebook. Just keep your eyes open. They're out there.
Ana: Right, they are out there. That's the first place, but I will say that a client who has a large budget isn't posting a job because they don't want to get inundated with 1000 unqualified people that they have to sort through. Any job that you see posted is going to be a lower paying writing job just for that reason.
Another way that you can go about getting writing jobs is to pitch to companies directly. Either companies, or magazines, or websites, a lot of them have a section of submission guidelines.
If you Google, like “Self magazine write for us”, usually that will come up with how to submit pitches, so you'll send a pitch, or if you want to look to connect with a company, you want to look for somebody in marketing and then find that person on LinkedIn and send them a letter or what we call a letter of introduction which basically says, “Hey, I'm an RD. I like to write. Do you have any content needs?”
This method is a volume game. You probably have to send out 100 to get one response because these people get cold pitched all the time. Just be aware that it's not going to be right away.
The easiest way for me to find clients and that has been really great is that they find me and that's through LinkedIn, through referrals, and through my website. If you can get to that point and this is where the momentum comes in and they're finding you and you're not even doing anything…
Erica: That's perfect.
Ana: That’s the magic.
Erica: When you say they find you on LinkedIn, do you think they're searching for freelance writer? How do you think they're finding you on LinkedIn?
Ana: I do. I think they're looking for RD writers, nutrition writers, and I have that on my title right under my name, and they find me that way.
Erica: It’s probably really optimal because LinkedIn is all about your career, your experience, so they search and they find you. They open your profile and then at this point, you have so much experience, and samples, and big names that you've worked with. That probably draws them in as well.
Who Sets the Rates?
Erica: I feel like since these are different strategies, there might be a different answer. Let's pretend you're pitching someone or someone emails you or messages you, what happens next?
Do the bigger companies have rates that are set usually, or are you the one proposing the rates, and what is the rate? Is it per article, per word, per month, how does that work?
Ana: It could be any of those. Most of the major websites in my experience like Healthline, whatever, do have set rates. There may or may not be some wiggle room within that, I don't know, but usually, their rates are pretty set because they work with a lot of writers. They want to just have the budget and that’s it.
For a company, I work with a lot of smaller supplement brands. I usually set the rates and I just ask for what I think is fair and what I want for the project. It’s a combination.
In general, I try to work on per project rates, not per word or per hour. Especially not per hour, because a 500-word article can sometimes take me four hours because I'm distracted, I'm looking at Facebook, and not paying attention, or I can crank it out in 30 minutes and that's not fair for the client to have to pay for my just general distractions.
Erica: Yeah, or the opposite for you not get compensated because you're so awesome.
Ana: Right. If I did it in 30 minutes because I've been locked on and I slept good, I should get paid the same regardless because I'm still doing the same work. I try to just do a flat rate based on a project. I like to just do it in 500-word increments because it helps me with my brain. I can calculate it easily, so 500 words is X amount, 1000 words is X amount, it’s double with the 500 word to begin with and it goes up from there. That seems to be just a pretty straightforward way of pricing it and it's worked for me thus far. I do have in my head a per word rate because I just like to know how much I'm making per word on average, but I never charge per word.
Erica: Yeah, it’s not something you share with the client, it's more internal.
What is a Ballpark Range of Freelance Writing Rates?
Erica: That makes sense. For people who have no clue, what is a ballpark range of what you would get per word or per article range of words.
Ana: I’d say writing rates really, really vary. When I started out, my rate was $0.10 a word, so that was $50 for a one page article. At that time, I felt like that was very, very fair. Now, my new rate is $200 for a one page article and there's clients that pay me $350 for a one page article. It's all over the place and I know RDs who are making $500-$800 for a one page article. I can't tell you.
Erica: That’s a great point, but I do think, thank you for sharing detailed and actual numbers, because I also feel like that’s one of the barriers for people getting started in a new avenue. They don’t have any benchmark for what's even realistic when they're trying to plan, whether this is something they want to get into. I think that's really helpful.
How to Edits and Payments Work?
Erica: Do you invoice them before you write the article, or upon delivery, or after all the edits are done? Are there even edits? How does it all work?
Ana: The client will say they want to work with me. I send them a quote and they agree or don't agree to the price, the scope and whatever it is, and then I usually start the writing.
If it’s a client who’s international and I just have no ability to go after them if they don't pay me, I usually will collect the money upfront just to be sure I get paid.
I always work with a contract to make sure that everything is outlined and very clear on when things will happen. I deliver the article whenever we had agreed upon for the article to be delivered and then they will usually pay me.
I try to get paid within five business days. I usually get paid through PayPal. Some bigger companies have their own pay schedules and so I work with that, it's just part of the process, but usually I do get paid upon delivery. I always include two edits in my contract.
Erica: Cool. Are you emailing them a Word doc? Do you use Google Drive? How does that all get coordinated?
Ana: I try to use Google Drive, because it's just easier than Word, but some of them are fine with Word, but most them are on Google Drive now. It's just easier.
Erica: I feel like this makes it seem less intimidating because it’s not some crazy fancy system that you have to learn. You're literally just writing in a Google Drive, you can do this.
Ana: Yeah, there's no magic programs or anything.
Who Comes Up with the Topics?
Erica: As a writer, how much of the planning process is on you? Or is this maybe based on what you're charging? Are you picking the topic, are you getting assigned a topic, and then you outline it or something?
And I think some people also wonder, “Do I have to format it? Do I have to make images?” they're probably imagining the end product of some blog posts and they're wondering, “What's my responsibility as the writer?”
Ana: Most of my clients give me the topics. Some of them are collaborative. I do offer a service where I will create a content plan based on SEO of your website, and what you want to write about, and that kind of thing. Most of the clients have their own plan already based on what they're doing and they have marketing people who are in charge of that. I'm really just the executor of the plan. I don't really format it in any specific way unless they ask. I don't provide images because I don't want to and they do all the formatting on to the website. I literally turn in a Google Drive document.
Erica: That's my experience, too. I've never had to do images. I did do some formatting but it was very easily laid out upfront and really basic, and just within the Google doc. I never really went into anyone's website or anything like that.
Ana: A few of them want references in a certain way, but it's really not a big deal.
Erica: Totally. Is there an average turnaround time for how long people give you to write the articles?
Ana: I can usually get most things done in about a week or two, but every client has a different need. There's one that will sign 15 articles at a time. That’s a month’s worth of work for that person. It just depends.
Do you get hired for one-off assignments or long term?
Erica: Is it your experience that maybe initially, you just get hired for a one-off project and then maybe that turns into an ongoing relationship or is it always pitched as an ongoing relationship?
Ana: I find that most of the time, people want to get their feet wet. They want to do a trial project first before signing on to 20 articles. I think that’s more comfortable for everybody. You don't want to get married after your first date.
Staying Organized as a Freelance Writer
Erica: This sounds like a lot to manage if you're working. Maybe not if you're just working with one company and that’s like a side thing, but if this becomes your full time thing, you got to keep track of deadlines, and contracts, and payments, do you recommend any system or software to keep track of everything?
Ana: I usually just use a Google calendar and then it's connected to Trello that I use to communicate with the team. I use my head which is starting to not work out very well for me anymore. In 2020, I'm switching over and to try to use Dubsado.
Erica: I'm looking into that too. Yeah, it's cool.
Ana: I've been slowly dipping my feet into that to see if it can give me an overall bigger picture of who's doing what and how we're managing everything's right now. I have multiple Trello boards and I don’t always keep them up-to-date. I feel like as the business grows, things are going to fall into the cracks.
Erica: Yeah, and for people who don't know what Dubsado is—I haven't actually used it in real life, but I've been playing around with it—it's more appropriate (I think for) someone who is offering some sort of service.
Basically, you can schedule stuff on it, you can have it automatically email out contracts that can get signed electronically, and then there's automatic dates and deadlines that you can attach to different types of things that happen. It's all there and you're not doing it manually.
I haven't announced this publicly, but I'm dabbling in the idea of doing some service-based stuff, so yeah, that’s what I've been looking around on it for.
If you're just selling online courses, or you're maybe running a private practice, there's other options out there, you probably don't need it, but for services especially, it's great.
Ana: Yeah. I think that once I get my mind around it, that that's going to really help me stay more organized.
What Ana Wishes She Knew When She was Just Starting Out
Erica: Cool. Before we wrap up, is there anything that you feel like you know now, now that you've been full-time doing this for the last four years or so? Is there anything that you wished you knew when you're starting out, what have really helped you?
Ana: I think what holds me back for a long time and it still holds me back to some extent, is really fear. Just fear of judgment, fear that somebody was going to write back and say, “This is the worst thing I've ever read.” I wanted to pitch to write for big magazines for a long time and I was too afraid to pitch anything because I thought that they would shun me if my pitch suck or something. That's the main thing that really hold me back.
I think just the fear of putting myself out there and still, when I increase my rate, I'm like, “Oh my God, everybody is going to fire me and they're never going to want to work with me again, they're going to say I’m crazy.” There's just so many fears and things that held me back. What am I afraid off? Why did I not do that sooner? When I really started to just stop caring so much about what these strangers thought, I start pitching, and then start doing it. Yeah, occasionally, you get a bad response or something, but 99% of the time, it's either nothing or positive, so why not?
Erica: I had some of that fear as well. I think starting out, I don't know about you, but I think it actually helped me in a sense to start as a freelancer, because there's a separation little bit, between you and what your putting out, it's like, “Oh it's for this brand.” It's not on your website, this doesn't really happen that often, but you could get some hate comments or something.
It helped me psychologically to start out, to get my feet wet, to be writing for someone else's business, where it's like, “No one is going to come, or probably, no one is going to come hunt you down and personally message as you as the writer on some random big site, you know what I mean?
I think that is a big issue for a lot of people, even when they've been doing it for a little bit. It's always scary to try new things. What’s your advice? Would it be to just do it? I mean, really feel the fear and work through it?
Ana: I think, you just got to do it. If you want to be a writer, you got to put yourself out there. No one is going to be like, “Here is a dollar of worth writing job.” That's not going to happen. You can't build the business unless you work on it every single day and show up every single day.
Erica: That's so true. I think your point that you mentioned earlier about, it's like a volume game in some respects. I definitely fell and have fallen into the trap in other projects that I've tried to do, where I send five emails reaching out to people, no one responds, and then I get all down about it, but it's like, “You only emailed five people.” You got to reach out a little more than that.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. That's going to make people feel a lot better about things that they've tried in the past, if it gives them some perspective like, “Oh, maybe I just need to keep going and reach out a little more than I have.”
The Magic of Follow-Up
Ana: Then the follow up, that really changed my business. It's when I started aggressively following up. Today, I spent most of the day sending emails like, “Hey what's up?” emails to previous clients. That's what my whole week is going to consist off, because that's how I am going to fill up my schedule in January, I've never did that before.
Erica: I feel like there's so many parallels, my fiancé, he is in real estate, there's so many similarities here where, half of your business pretty much can be drummed up just by randomly reaching out to people you haven't talked to in six months.
Ana: That was something that was very uncomfortable for me, because I didn't want to bother people, but I realized, they're not just going to randomly email me.
Erica: Yeah and what's going to happen if it's not relevant? They're probably just not going to respond. They're not going to email you, being like, “Why did you reach out to me?” You know what I mean?
Ana: Usually they do not.
Common Mistakes New Freelancers Make
Erica: One last thing. Are there any common mistakes that you see new freelancer make that you'd recommend doing something differently or not doing?
Ana: I don't know if there's any, really. I think just not doing it. Like you said, sending five emails and being like, “Oh, nobody wants to work with me for writing,” or applying for one job and not getting it. Just not being aware that it really takes quite a bit of effort, to some extent you’re competing in this world of a gajillion people who want to work online as a writer, but you have the credentials, you have the ability, you know what you're talking about as an RD. I do think the opportunities are out there. You just have to go get them.
Erica: It's awesome.
Ana's Resources for Freelance Writers
Erica: I know you're being very modest because you have a lot of great resources for people and I want to make sure that we spend some time talking about them.
RDs Who Write Facebook Group
The first one, obviously, is your Facebook group that I think catapulted a lot of this stuff, it's called, RDs Who Write. It's a free, public group. They can apply to join on Facebook. I've been in it (I think) around since when it started and I love it. Can you tell us more like, what prompted you to start a Facebook group about writing? As a dietitian, what can people expect if they joined the group?
Ana: I started the group right at the beginning, when I went full time with writing. I was struggling, like the first month that I was a full-time writer, I made a $120. That was probably the same month that I started that group. When I saw these other RD’s like on Twitter, on Facebook, and I saw them having these big their writing jobs and I was like, “How can I connect with them?” because I don't want to just reach out to be like, “Hey, tell me everything you know.” And I thought I’ll start a Facebook group, I’ll invite them to my Facebook group and, then they'll help me be a writer. Through that process I became the expert in the Facebook group and I became the top writer in the Facebook group.
Erica: Right?? It's so cool. I think there's so much wisdom in that. I feel the same way. I started my group because I was trying to start an online business, not because I already had one. I was trying to find my way, too, and just trying to make a space to talk about it and support each other. I feel like for a lot of dietitians, there's opportunity for sure, in Facebook communities and other platforms… so just build a space.
You don't have to be the expert already. In fact, if you already are the expert, you probably waited too long to build that community, because people like to see the journey. I feel it's really relatable when you're starting out and you're not 10 miles ahead of people.
Ana: Right, I think I've tried. I feel like I accomplished this to be real about positives and negatives. I don't just share like, “I made $100,000 this year.” Go through my post in that group and you'll see, “I've got fired today from this job. Somebody told me they hate me.” I try to share it just as much as the ups and downs all the same.
Erica: I think that's one of the standouts about your group. I don't know if it's every Wednesday or something, like one day of the week, you go on and do a little live video in your car, and I feel like that super connects with people. Some of the comments that I always see coming up again and again in your group is like “Oh you're so real.” like, “Thank you.” You know what I mean?
Ana: It's been a great community for me and the relationships that I have, friendships that I have because of it has been amazing. I love helping the RD’s. It's not even for me to really benefit from so much financially, it's because I just want a community that I can share with.
Ana's E-Book for Freelance Writers
Erica: Totally. And then, from that, I know at some point, you came out with an ebook, and then later an online course to give even more guidance for dietitians who want to become freelance writers. Can we talk about that for just the last five minutes or so?
Erica: What prompted you to create the ebook? Why did you pick an ebook to start versus maybe something more in depth like a course?
Ana: I think the ebook seems easy. I think trying to sell something for hundreds of dollars seemed a little intimidating at first. The ebook, I actually wrote it in an afternoon. I just brain dumped my whole brain into it. It just seems like something that will be easier to sell, to see if anybody even wanted it to buy anything from me. I mean, I didn't know.
Erica: So, almost like a form of product validation?
Ana: Yeah. Cause I'd been there in the group doing, just hanging out for free, for so long. I had those fears, like what if somebody like reads this book and is like, “You're wrong with everything you think.” What if nobody buys it? But the first day, I sold a thousand dollars worth of a $27 ebook.
Erica: That’s freaking amazing. I feel like that's just a testament again of building that relationship with your people. Like, I bought it when it came out. I don't really need it, because I wasn’t planning on becoming like a super crazy freelance writer. I already had my one gig and that was fine, but I wanted to support you because I was thankful for all the tips and information that you have shared. I thought if I could get one helpful tip out of this, it's definitely worth the $27. I think at the time, you were also sharing as a bonus, I think that there was a contract template, or pitch template, or something like that? That was super helpful. So, congratulations on that.
Ana: Thank you. I think a lot of people felt the same way. I had been there for so long and they just wanted to support me. That was a good way to get my feet wet.
Erica: Today, is that still something that you make sales on, or do you have an email sequence or anything setup, or how do people find out that you have an ebook?
Ana: It's pinned to the top of the group, then when you sign up for the email list, and you come into the group, you get an email that says “Here some resources.” I really don't push it that much. I probably make $100 or $150 off of it every month.
Erica: That's great.
Ana: For doing nothing.
Erica: Yeah. Exactly, that's around what my nutrition blog just brings in random Amazon affiliate income every month. You're right, it’s like you did the work once and now just sitting there, bringing you extra money and it's great. It’s really low pressure.
Ana's Course for Dietitians Who Want to Freelance Write
And then, what made you then transition to wanting to create a course?
Ana: I think I just needed something more and people wanted more guidance, too, just a little bit more hand-holding, a little bit more indepth, maybe the guide wasn’t quite enough. So I launched the course last August or September and I’ve run it, it starts again tomorrow, so that will be the second time I’m running it, and it went really well. I was in shock, like one girl was able to quit her full-time job, because of a resource I shared in the group. Another one has so many writing jobs now and everybody who came, showed up and actually went through the modules, got writing work.
Erica: Totally. There’s just different learning styles and not everyone will open an ebook. Maybe they don’t like to learn through reading. Maybe they get distracted and they’re like, “Oh yeah, the ebook I never opened.” But when there’s a video, or something, or someone guiding them through, they're like, “Do this.” Some people learn better that way. And same with individual coaching. I like the idea that there’s different tiers, maybe different price points, and different styles that people can consume your content, so there’s always something right for the individual.
Ana: Right. It’s been great. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about it and I think that it’s a great way to get started as a writer.
Erica: Going back, would you start with ebook still or would you just go into a course?
Ana: No, I think I needed the ebook. I think it was an easy thing for me to do. I had just moved across the country, I have a little baby, I just needed something to put out there, like the course was overwhelming to put together.
Erica: Now, do you feel now that it’s done, it’s a little easier, if you’re running it for the second or the third time?
Ana: Oh, definitely. I mean, I don’t have to put the content together now, because it’s there, I plan on just actually putting it into a sales funnel, and just selling it that way from now on this year.
Erica: Cool. Do you use Teachable, or Thinkific, or something? What platform do you use?
Ana: I use Teachable.
Erica: For people listening, that is an online course platform. I talked about it actually in the second episode of this podcast. For people listening, if you want to go back where we talk about ways to make money online as a dietitian, it's a part two episode. Teachable is basically a platform where you can pay a monthly fee or maybe also a percentage of your sales, depending on which level you’re on, and they handle everything for you. You just make the content, plug it in, they’ll do the payments, and manage everything for you, all the hosting and everything.
Ana: It's pretty easy.
Erica: It does make it significantly easier. I self host my courses using a plug in called LearnDash and I have used Teachable as well, actually Teachable and Thinkific in the past. If you don’t like tech, those are probably the way to go at least to get started, because it is a lot more challenging to set it up on your own website, but you save money in the long run, so it depends on how much…. Like, is this something that you want to be your whole business? Or just a side stream of income? That might impact people's decision as well.
How to Connect with Ana
Erica: If people want to continue to connect with you and learn from you, or maybe check out your ebook or course, where should they go?
Ana: I think the best place is my Facebook group, RDs Who Write, it's free and open to anyone. You can also follow me on Instagram, I have a goal for Instagram this year, so I'll be posting more, and that's under @nutrition_writers is my business Instagram. You can always connect with me on my website, that's where the ebook lives, you can purchase it there and that's anareisdorf.com. I'm pretty available, happy to answer questions, happy to talk to people, those are the main places.
Erica: Awesome. I will add links to all of those in the show notes so you can check it out and thank you for being here. Honestly, this was super informative. Thank you for giving us the behind the scenes look, a realistic look of what this career choice is like, and helping people feel like it is something that's in reach for them.
Ana: It is. You're welcome. I'm happy to share. It's really been the best thing that had happened to me.
Erica: Amazing. I hope that you get a lot of new people, checking out your group and hopefully signing up for your course. As I said, I have bought in her ebook, I’m not in course, but you do amazing work and I would highly recommend it. I don't have any doubts about recommending it to everyone listening.
Ana: Thank you Erica.
Erica: Yeah. Thanks again for being here. It was great talking.
Ana: All right, no problem. Bye-bye.
Erica: Seriously, how great was that interview? I bet you guys learned so much. I know, I did.
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