View all blogs

Freelancing: What I wish I knew before jumping in

Written by Samantha Gemmell | Monday, 17 October 2016


Nutritionist Samantha Gemmell shares her biggest lessons since striking out as a freelance health writer and nutritional consultant to help others interested in taking the leap to becoming their own boss.

Since graduating from Endeavour just over a year ago, I've gone out and experimented with the various opportunities out there in the field of nutrition. From running my own clinic and seeing clients to giving pet nutrition advice in my part-time job, I've given multiple things a go, with the hopes of finding one that fits me. And so far, the winner has been freelancing as a health writer and nutritional consultant.

Getting into freelancing was a bit of a fluke, but from the very beginning I have loved it, and apparently it loves me back. I’ve worked hard to build a thriving business from it, starting just eight months ago to the point where it is now almost a full time job.

So if you've always thought about freelancing as an option, here are some of the things I’ve learned that might help you before taking the leap yourself.

Figure out what you want to do

You can do almost anything in the health world as a freelancer these days, from social media management to writing, editing, food photography and even recipe creation. So you need to decide how you want to spend your work time.

For me, it's writing articles, e-books and e-courses, consulting with companies who want a qualified nutritionist, or creating recipes for my regular clients.

Figure out what lights you up from the inside - what feels more like play than actual work – and concentrate on that.

It is sometimes who you know

Don't underestimate the power of connections. By connecting with other people in the industry, you may just discover your next paying client.

Go to events where your 'people' gather – food events, industry nights, wellness festivals – and talk about what you love with people who are interested. Write about what you're doing on social media – I have a new client thanks to my constant babbling about #freelancelife on my timeline!

Get the word out there about what you do. No one is going to hire you if they don't know about you.

Jobs that pay little generally aren't worth the effort

You might be tempted to take on clients who are only willing to pay a couple of dollars for your work. As much as it might seem like a stepping stone, most clients who don't want to pay well are difficult, more likely to refuse payment, and can have ridiculous demands.

If they are genuinely a start-up with a limited budget, ask about other ways of compensation – can they promote your business, or offer you free products instead? It doesn't always have to be about money. The important thing is that they are willing to give in exchange for your expertise.

Your confidence is three quarters of the pitch

Charisma goes a long way in the freelancing industry. When you come across as confident in your skills to a client, they trust you more and are far more likely to hire you.

My best paying jobs have come through when I have been confident about my abilities, or at least able to fake it until I make it. When I pitch for something out of my league and let that come across in my writing, I don't hear back.

If you're feeling nervous, try asking a good friend about your skills, and use their words to convey confidence to a client.

You will want to build a portfolio

You can't just walk into a job interview with zero experience or knowledge – freelancing is no different. To begin with, you may want to do small volunteer works to build up your portfolio and prove your expertise.

This doesn't have to be a huge amount of free work. I started out with a couple of articles on Endeavour’s Wellspring blog, a couple of articles over at Natural Beauty Expert, and some articles written on behalf of non-profit organisation Feel Good Food Packs. This was more than enough to show my abilities to future clients.

Ask around – maybe a friend could use a hand setting up a Facebook page, or needs some gorgeous food photos taken for their site.

You may need to get online at 5am sometimes

This is my latest discovery – the joy of working with international clients includes sometimes having to get up at 4.45am so that you can discuss the job with them. This is an unfortunate part of being in the Southern Hemisphere, but it shows dedication to your work and encourages them to work with you long-term.

If this happens, I can strongly suggest you brew yourself a cup of cacao tea, and use the quiet hours of the morning to work!

Further education isn't optional

You don't just become a nutritionist or naturopath and stop there, especially if you want to freelance. Technology is ever evolving, the health industry is constantly fluctuating, and you need to flow with them both.

I have plans to complete my certificate 4 in fitness, a meditation teaching course, and a graduate certificate in communications, just in the next year. Those few courses will triple my ability to offer the services potential clients are looking for, which makes them a worthy investment.

So keep studying, whether it be another qualification or a short course – it's an investment in your future income.

Samantha Gemmell

Sam is a qualified Nutritionist (BHSc), health writer and mentor for prospective health writers. Her goal is to give practitioners a voice and presence in the online world, so they can make the world a healthier place. You can find her tips, tricks and thoughts over at 

Read more by Samantha Gemmell