So you want to write for major publications? I described how I got my start in my last article [How To Become A Health & Nutrition Freelance Writer], but today I’m sharing 7 practical tips that will help you get started today.
1. Build an online presence
If you want to write or be featured in the media, you need to have an online presence. There are no ‘ifs’, ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ about this point. This is the first thing I tell people when they ask me how I got my start. I began blogging and using social media.
If you don’t have any social media or a blog set-up, that is step #1. A blog is not 100% necessary, but it’s one of the best ways to establish your voice and brand. Social media is also a great way to start marketing yourself to the masses. Your social media will be a reflection of you, and it will help you find your unique voice.
2. Find your niche
Tip number one should help you with this, but it’s really important to find your niche before you start pitching publications. For instance, if you really love talking to parents, then pitching a publication that caters to millennials, like Shape, is probably not the right path for you.
I’ve always been interested in fitness and running, and I’ve been a vegetarian for 10+ years. That’s why my blog and freelance writing caters to plant-based athletes. Once you find your niche, you’ll be better able to come up with interesting ideas to pitch.
3. Talk to other people
I think networking is one of the most important things you can do, no matter the goal. I told you in my last post that I started writing for FitnessMagazine.com because a friend connected me with the editor. I’ve also been able to pitch a few other magazines because I met the editor somewhere.
‘Networking’ seems like such a dirty word, but it’s really about being friendly and having a genuine conversation with a new person. You don’t need to go up to a stranger and say, “I want to write. How can you help me?”
Instead, strike up a conversation with other Dietitians who have similar experiences. You may become friends and can then help each other out on projects. I refer to some of my fellow media Dietitians as my “coworkers” because we talk almost daily.
4. Practice your writing skills
This may seem like a no brainer, but in order to write, you have to write. I always say that my love of writing came from my love of reading. I’ve always been enamored with the way authors string words together in such an eloquent fashion.
I don’t imagine I’ll ever be that good, but I strive to learn from the books that I read and from everything I write. I think about grammar and spelling and pronouns and tense. The only way to get better at writing is to practice. If you don’t have a blog, then Stone Soup is a great place to start practicing. Or contact me if you would like to try your hand at a guest blog post!
5. Be okay with rejection
Maybe I should’ve put this as number 1 because rejection will happen more than acceptance, especially when you first start.
I pitched and pitched this one publication that I really wanted to write for. I finally got one pitch accepted, wrote the story and then the editor ripped it to shreds. I was upset and felt like a terrible writer. But instead of being negative, I thanked her for her feedback and made all of the corrections.
At the end, she thanked me for being so cooperative and working with her. Now I write for this publication on a weekly basis. The world of media and writing is one where people will openly tell you that they don’t like your ideas all the time. You need to have thick skin and be able to deal with that.
6. Put on your creative thinking hat
People often tell me that they don’t know how to set themselves apart as bloggers, and I also share that feeling at times. Sometimes I’ll be trying to pitch really creative idea and I end up with zero thoughts in my head. But creativity is all around us.
What’s the latest trend that your client mentioned to you? What’s the craziest food creation that you keep seeing pop up on Pinterest? Are there any new studies in the AND’s daily newsletter? Or maybe there’s a food day or month coming up, like the start of spring or Peanut Butter & Jelly Day (yes, this is a thing and it’s April 2nd). Use these unique opportunities as a way to be creative.
I love this!!
This was very helpful – thank you for sharing!
A few other questions that come to mind for those of us looking to get started in media:
– Can media writing as an RD be a part-time thing, or do you feel like you really need to focus on it FT to make it worth the effort?
– How do you find balance between spending time researching (like actually looking at research articles, etc.) vs. spending time writing?
– How can you come up with new article ideas? I feel like so much has already been done out there – if you think of a topic or question and google it, you’ll likely find something…even if it’s 3 or 5 years old. So how do you not feel like you recycle ideas over time?
– How do you decide whether an article/project is worth your time (e.g. considering the time it takes to research & write vs. what you’ll get paid for it)? I guess another way to word this is how do you decide what you are worth?
– Do you have any other resources for developing your writing skills–whether webinars, books, etc. that coached you to improve you writing skills? In the writing experiences I have had so far (for newsletters mostly), I have not received feedback from the editors so it’s hard to know how to improve.
I think you can definitely write part-time, and I even encourage it as you start out because the money isn’t great or consistent. Some articles definitely take a lot of time to research, but for those, you are generally getting paid more. For some articles, they are fun and don’t take very long to write. I come up with article ideas from food trends I see around me, from seasonal things (like holidays and food days) and from new research. Only you can decided what is worth your time. As you saw in the article, I did a ton of stuff for free just to get my name out there. I still do things to get my name out there. It’s a balance. And my best tip for practicing writing is to write more and to read. Editors don’t always give feedback, but you can generally tell if you’re hitting the nail on the head. Also, grammar doesn’t matter as much as being able to put a well composed article together. But if you’re really focused on grammar, you can take a free writing course on Coursera. If you have any more questions, feel free to email me!