Ruthie: I am thrilled to introduce my next season 5 guest, Ana Reisdorf. She is a registered dietician, nutritionist, and freelance writer with 12 years of experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics. She’s the founder of a content agency made up entirely of registered dieticians called Reisdorf Writing Services. She also teaches other RDs how to become freelance writers. Thank you for joining me today, Ana.
What’s Something You Wish People Knew About You?
Ruthie: Before we get into the talk about your business, what would you say is one thing about you that most people don’t know, but that you wish they did?
Ana: One thing about me that I really like is that I’m an avid video game player. I carve out an hour a day for my games, before the kids go home and while dinner’s cooking. The current one that I am obsessed with is called They Are Billions. It’s a SimCity game where you prepare for a huge zombie horde to arrive. You build up your whole city, and then thousands of zombies come to attack it. That’s my self care for the day, that I think a lot of people don’t realize.
Ruthie: It’s funny that you bring up video games because my husband is a gamer, but I like to play VR games. A while ago, my husband was like, “Oh, the PS5 is coming out!” And I’m like, “Well, unless you plan on getting me a headset for it…” And he was like, “Why would I do that?” But I finally have games where I can take a controller and wave it around like a sword. I’ve been waiting for this my whole life! So I told him, “I’m not interested in that PS5, unless you get me a headset.”
Ana: That is pretty fun. We have a headset too.
Ruthie: It’s fantastic. That’s part of my self care. I actually exercise with VR exercise apps.
Ana: It’s really hard. You’re dripping sweat the whole time.
Ruthie: Yes, I am! But it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve already lost some weight and I didn’t even notice. I’m all about the FDA approving the first prescription video game for kids with ADHD. That’s out of the box thinking right there.
On the business side of things, what happens if the doctor prescribes it but you don’t have money for a game system? I think those will be questions that they have to answer in the future. I feel like the insurance companies are going to be like, “You want us to pay for what?”
How Did You Get Into Writing?
Ruthie: So please tell us how you got into writing. How did you start your business?
Ana: I always wanted to be a writer. I just thought that you had to write a novel or something to do it. In my early 20s, I thought, “Oh, I should be a writer!” But I didn’t really understand what that meant. So I got interested in things like fitness and health, flailed around for a little bit after college and did a bunch of different things.
Then, I decided to go back to school to be a dietician. I did that for 5-6 years, and I worked in pretty traditional RD jobs. I worked in the hospital, I taught at the university for a while, I would counsel people who were getting prepared for weight loss surgery, etc.
Burnt Out Professionally and Personally
And then in 2012, I was just burnt out. I was over it. I thought that working at the hospital was lame. There wasn’t anywhere to move up; you were either the director of the dietary department or an RD. There was like nowhere to go. I was just like, “I’m gonna do this forever? This sucks.” It’s very repetitive. To be honest, it’s boring working in the hospital.
At the time, I was going through a lot of personal stuff. I was in a bad relationship that I couldn’t get out of and my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. She was going to go to Brazil for her treatment, so I took an FMLA off my job and went to Brazil to care for her. I just left and went to Rio. I spent 3 months helping my mother, doing yoga on the beach, and trying to figure out my business.
Ruthie: I mean, I’m glad that you were able to be there for your mom, but yoga on the beach in Rio does sound nice. If you go through medical treatment somewhere, that sounds like a visually nice place. It’s relaxing.
Writing for Demand Media
Ana: While I was there, I was trying to explore this writing thing. I had met another dietician who told me that she was making money and traveling the world by writing for Demand Media [now called Leaf Group]. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked for them back in the day. They were a big content mill that was hiring healthcare professionals of various kinds to write for Livestrong. They would just crank out these really crappy articles!
Ruthie: I always wondered where Livestrong got their stuff from. I was always like, “I could’ve done this.”
Ana: They were 300-400 word articles, and they paid $30 per article. So I applied, I got accepted, and I was getting paid to write. I would sit there and crank out 10 articles a day. I eventually had to leave Brazil and go back to doing dietetics part-time, but I still kept building this writing thing.
Finding Clients on Upwork
Soon enough, ELance – now Upwork – came up and I got a few clients there. One of my first clients was Dr. Axe, when he first got started.
Ruthie: No way!
Ana: I was one of his very first writers on ELance. And it just snowballed from there. It wasn’t until my son was born that I decided to pursue writing full-time.
Over the last 4 years, it’s become a 6-figure business for me. I have writers who work under me, and I teach other dieticians how to be writers. I did it a little bit at a time, going from $30 an article to $50 an article, to $100 an article. I’ve built a lot of relationships, and it’s been awesome!
Ruthie: We’re in some of the same groups, and I see that you comment a lot of the same things that I comment! Edge up! Don’t feel bad about what you’re charging now. And if you know that you want more, then just make a plan to get to more.
Who’s Your Ideal Client?
Ruthie: So who are your ideal clients?
Ana: Someone who understands what a registered dietician does and the value we provide. There’s so much health and nutrition content out there; some of it is fine and some of it is complete garbage. In my team, we really do the research. We know what we’re talking about. We also have the clinical experience to bring to the writing.
A lot of my clients are supplement companies who want to leverage our expertise into making more sales for their supplements. A lot of them are other registered dieticians who are focused on their private practices. So they don’t want to waste their time hiring a student or somebody who’s not trained to write an article. Otherwise, they’re just going to have to rewrite them and edit their own articles, and it’s not going to be correct.
So my ideal clients are other nutrition or health professionals who value what we can bring to the table and care about it being accurate.
Being The Expert Writer So Clients Don’t Have To Be
Ruthie: I think that when they’re looking for writers, a lot of clients underestimate that piece. You mentioned how people don’t want to heavily edit the content they get from the writer. I’m sure you’ve had some experience with this yourself. I definitely have.
Getting something that you then have to heavily edit, break apart and rearrange is awful. There have been times when I’ve gone in, I went through one paragraph and thought, “Nevermind, it’d be faster if I just wrote this myself…”
The Struggles of Content Editing for New Clients
Ana: There’s a client who wants me to do SEO revisions on articles that already exist, and sometimes I’m like, “I’m just going to rewrite the whole thing because none of it is accurate!”
Ruthie: And the client may say something like, “Oh, it’ll be so much work! We work out like a per-article rate.” But I can’t give you a per-article rate for the whole batch! A better alternative is doing it in batches of 5 or 10, because if they’ve had multiple contributors, the quality is going to be wildly different. So, they may not be very good writers.
Another possibility is that they’re brilliant people who aren’t native English speakers. Before I was a writer, I worked as a translator. I had a client with a contributor who was clearly an expert in what they did, but they were not a native English speaker.
There were certain patterns in their writing that indicated that, and it was true! The changes I had to make were a bit subtle, but also important. So there are different levels of effort in editing.
Ana: Some of them are just factually inaccurate
Ruthie: And that’s definitely a mistake that you can’t have!
How Has Quarantine Impacted You and Your Business?
Ruthie: Again, you have different arms of your business. I’m curious to know whether quarantine has impacted your business at all.
Ana: It didn’t impact my income, but it impacted my personal stress and ability to work. March, April, and even May were pretty normal income months. But when my kids came home on March 16th, I couldn’t work with them present. Maybe I could finish writing an email on my phone if I put them in front of Paw Patrol for 20 minutes. Even then, they try to wrestle or kill each other.
So I basically went from being able to work full-time to not being able to work at all. My husband works from home too, but he’s on calls all day. So it was just me and the kids. I would work from 5.00 to 7.00, and then I’d try to get 1 hour in at nap time. Even so, the older one doesn’t nap so he would consistently come in to discuss his concerns.
Ruthie: …or give you a hug, or tell you he loves you. Are they back in daycare now?
Ana: Yes. The second the governor was like, “We’re going to start thinking about opening the state of Tennessee.” I was calling the school and telling my kids that they were going. It’s been about a month and a half that they’ve been back to school.
Creating a Mini-Course Helped Generate Revenue
I have a course that teaches RDs how to be writers. I was trying to push it during quarantine because I wanted that passive income. But people kept telling me, “Your course is too expensive.”
So I decided to pull 3 modules out of the course, which dealt with where to find clients. I sold that as a mini-course for $97, and I made $2,800 for 20 minutes’ worth of work.
Ruthie: Oh my goodness! Well, we are talking courses in the next episode. I am super excited to hear about that because I need that in my life!
Ana: I shifted my business a little bit because I needed money. I just needed to make something and I didn’t have the time to do anything.