Want to become a freelance writer for major publications? An RD who writes for top tier magazines shares tips for breaking into the media & writing world.
As a Registered Dietitian, I’ve written articles for more than 10 major magazines and news outlets, yet I have no formal journalism training. I’m often asked how I got my start in the writing world and the answer is a ton of hard work and perseverance and a little bit of luck.
Since I’m asked by many other RDs who want to follow a similar path, I decided to share my story. Hopefully this helps you see what the path to freelance writer is really like.
How did I get my start in freelance writing?
First, let me say that everyone’s journey is different. What has worked for me might not work for you.
That said, my journey into freelance writing started with some persistence, timing and a “yes” from one editor.
But let me back up a minute. My writing career started when I was in grad school. I was always pretty terrible at tests, but I loved classes that only required paper writing.
That was my first inkling that 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 writing for the public when I began this blog. I didn’t have a goal in mind for the blog other than wanting to share recipes with friends and try to share some of my nutrition knowledge with the public.
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 Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Dietary Practice Groups newsletters and other Dietitians’ blogs.
How to start pitching articles
Once 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.
For those who don’t know how to pitch, I highly recommend turning to Dr. Google to get some pointers. Honestly, I used Google a lot in the beginning to read about pitching freelance articles. Quite simply, a pitch should include:
- a unique story idea
- why that idea is relevant to that publication
- what you’ll include in the story
- why you’re qualified to write it
A pitch should only contain 3-5 sentences, so don’t go overboard!
When I first started pitching, 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.
After a few years in the freelance writing industry, I’m lucky to say that I almost always get a response from editors and I sometimes even get assignments without having to pitch. But it’s important to know that it’s a constant grind and that pitching process never stops.
I’ve written for many publications, like Runner’s World, SHAPE, Prevention, NBC News, Men’s Health, 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 Quorn, Built With Chocolate Milk, Life Extension and more.
I’ve learned so much in the past few years, and I hope to continue to grow and evolve as a writer and Dietitian. If you’re reading this and have questions, feel free to reach out or find me on IG: nutritionalanat.