The Truth About Professional Writing

The truth about professional writing - how to get paid to write

When fellow health professionals hear that I started my career as a journalist, they often say they'd like to start doing some paid writing work, and then ask me for advice on how to start.

Sadly, it’s becoming harder and harder to get paid to write these days, in this age of endless free content. That’s part of the reason why I went back to school in 2009 to become a registered dietitian—so that I wouldn’t have to be completely dependent on the ever-shrinking pool of full-time magazine jobs and woefully underpaid freelance gigs.

That said, people definitely still can and do break into the field of professional journalism, and it can be a nice side gig if you're continuing to work in the health and wellness field—just don't expect to quit your day job anytime soon. 

First, you'll have to do a bit of unpaid writing, to build credibility and “clips” that you can show when you eventually start pitching editors at outlets that pay.

Notice I said a bit of unpaid writing. Once you have a handful of clips from various unpaid sources, there's no need to do any more writing for free, ever. You might graduate to places that pay $20 or $30 per article—still nowhere near what you'd need to make a living, or even a decent supplemental income—but at that point at least you can call yourself a professional writer, and you can work your way up from there.  

Some people will argue that unpaid writing or "guest blogging" gives you valuable "exposure," and that it should therefore be treated as marketing because it translates into more sales for your business (whether you're in health & wellness or some other industry).

The reality is that writing for free provides a *very* low return on investment in most cases, unless at least tens of thousands of people read your article. That's because only a small percentage of your readers will click through to your website, and then an even smaller percentage of those folks will actually buy anything from you. On most small to medium-sized websites and blogs, only a few thousand or even a few hundred people will ever read what you wrote. 

So be selective about the outlets you'll write for without pay (making an exception for your own blog, of course), and don't do any more free writing than is necessary to build your portfolio. 

If you're a health and wellness professional looking to break into paid writing, and you don't have any clips other than your own blog or newsletter, here are a few reputable non-paying outlets where you can build clips:

Follow each outlet's submission guidelines—which usually entail sending several ideas for articles or a recurring blog—and follow up in a couple weeks if you haven't heard back. Never pitch the same ideas to more than one outlet at a time, but it's OK to move on if you haven't heard back from a given outlet within a week of sending a follow-up email. 

Then, when you have 3-5 of unpaid clips and are ready to pitch paid outlets, check out MediaBistro for some great tips on how to pitch. If you're serious about writing professionally, MediaBistro's AvantGuild membership is worth every penny. 

I also do consulting and coaching for people looking to write professionally, so if you want to walk through the process in more detail or develop some ideas and pitches to send out, please feel free to contact me to schedule a session! 

Health at Every Size for Health & Wellness Professionals

Image via peopleofsize.com

Many fellow health and wellness professionals write to me wanting to learn more about Health at Every Size® (HAES®) and non-diet approaches to wellness. 

If you're one of these folks, thank you! We need more healthcare providers like you who are willing to consider the strong evidence for non-weight-based models of health. 

Here is my "syllabus" for health professionals looking to learn more about the scientific evidence for HAES:

 

Required Reading 

  • Linda Bacon’s book Health at Every Size, which I recommend reading thoroughly. It provides answers to common questions about the relationship between weight and health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, etc., and it does a nice job of helping you handle any resistance that comes up when learning these ideas. 

  • Linda Bacon's resources for healthcare providers, which include many study citations that you can use to dig deeper into the literature. 

  • Body of Truth by Harriet Brown, a respected science journalist. The book systematically unpacks why myths about weight persist in society and healthcare, and what we can do to change that.  

 

Webinars and Online Trainings

  • ASDAH's HAES Webinars, a wonderful collection of free presentations by leaders in the field about basic HAES principles, using HAES approaches with various populations, and more.
  • The Be Nourished trainings for health professionals, including basic training on how to build HAES principles into your practice, and a certification program for those who are serious about becoming weight-neutral wellness professionals. 

  • Fiona Willer, RD's Health, Not Diets online training and workshops, which offer foundational education in HAES and the non-diet approach for dietitians.

  • The HAES Curriculum videos. This peer-reviewed curriculum was created as a joint venture by ASDAH, the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance, and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. It was designed for use in higher education, including (but not limited to) introductory and advanced health and nutrition courses and professional training programs. 
  • The Intuitive Eating Counselor certification, by the original intuitive eating pros, Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD. HAES principles are integrated throughout the program, and there are certification options for both health professionals and laypeople.

  • Marci Evans, RD's Online Training for Eating Disorder Dietitians, a HAES-informed approach to nutrition counseling for eating disorders. 

 

Conferences

There are always several sessions devoted to HAES and non-diet approaches at the major eating disorder conferences, including:

  • The Academy for Eating Disorders conference (ICED). This organization of medical and mental health professionals and researchers promotes evidence-based practice for the treatment of eating disorders, including a HAES approach. 

  • The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) conference. BEDA is a national organization focused on providing leadership, recognition, prevention, and treatment of binge eating disorder and associated weight stigma.

  • The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP) conference. IAEDP is a long-running organization devoted to education and high-level training standards for eating disorder treatment providers and allied helping professionals.

  • The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) conference. MEDA’s mission is to combat the continuing spread of eating disorders through educational awareness and early detection. MEDA serves as a support network and resource for clients, loved ones, clinicians, educators, and the general public.

  • The Renfrew Center Foundation conference. The Renfrew Center Foundation, founded in 1990, is dedicated to advancing the education, prevention, advocacy, research and treatment of eating disorders. To date, the Foundation has trained more than 35,000 professionals.

In addition, the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) holds a biannual conference devoted entirely to education about the principles of HAES, weight and size acceptance, and non-diet approaches. 

 

My Services

  • Food Psych, a free weekly podcast where I talk with leaders in the Health at Every Size and non-diet movements about how to make peace with food, achieve body positivity, and more. Launched in 2013, Food Psych is now the #1 Health at Every Size podcast on iTunes and one of the top 100 podcasts in the general Health category. 
  • Consulting and career coaching for fellow health and wellness professionals looking to make the transition to a HAES and non-diet approach.

  • My online intuitive eating course, an evidence-based program rooted in HAES and non-diet principles, where professionals and clients alike can work to improve their relationships with food and their bodies.

 

Other Resources

  • There are now many wonderful fellow podcasters working in the HAES and body-positive space; check out this list of recommendations from Made on a Generous Plan.
  • The Health at Every Size Facebook group, a great place to connect with leaders and health professionals in the HAES movement as well as many other individuals pursuing HAES.  

New Intuitive Eating Online Course

Intuitive Eating Online Course - How to Eat Normally - Emotional Eating Support

I'm so excited to share that I'm launching an intuitive eating course on May 25! I created it based on my experience helping hundreds of nutrition therapy clients and thousands of podcast listeners develop healthier relationships with food.

The course is called Intuitive Eating Fundamentals, and it teaches the same scientifically validated principles of intuitive eating and Health at Every Size that I use in my one-on-one nutrition counseling—all in a self-paced, 13-week online format that you can access from anywhere in the world!

The course teaches you how to give up dieting, recognize and honor your hunger and fullness, trust yourself with all foods (even the ones that seem "off-limits"), choose nourishing foods without willpower or restriction, and so much more!

Learn more and sign up right here! You can also check out a sneak peek of the course content in this quick video: