Leaving your clinical job

Sarah Glinski, a Canadian registered dietitian, joins me on the podcast today.

Sarah left her clinical job in August 2022 and has been freelance writing ever since. 

Although the beginning of her journey was slow (Sarah says she didn’t have a lot of work in the first few months), she quickly got busy and has since been published in several major health outlets, including Forbes Health, Livestrong, and Well+Good. 

During our conversation you’ll learn: 

  • When it’s time to switch from a clinical job into something new (for her, it was freelancing.) 
  • How to establish a business mindset when you’re just starting out. 
  • How to get over perfectionism as a writer. 

Find Sarah online: 

Full Transcript

Julia: 0:00

Hey, and welcome to the freelance dietitian podcast. I’m your host, Julia. I used to be a clinical dietitian and now I’m a freelance dietitian. I do cooking demos and a couple other things in the entrepreneur space. Today I am bringing back guests onto the show. Please get ready to hear from Sarah Glinski a freelance writer from Canada.

Good morning, happy Tuesday to you. If you are listening to the day that this episode comes out. It’s been a minute since I brought guests back onto the show and I just felt like I was ready to do so.

I’m very excited to introduce you all to Sarah Glinski, I’ll read her bio now. Sarah is a registered dietitian and freelance writer based in British Columbia, Canada. She spent the first four and a half years of her dietitian career working in clinical roles, but left clinical work to pursue freelance writing and August, 2022. She has since written for outlets, such as Forbes Health, Well and good live strong Felix health nourish and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, a scifi fantasy book or crocheting, and the company for husband and two cats. Let’s bring her on the show.

Julia: 1:31

Welcome to the show, Sarah. It’s so great to have you here. Did you want to say hi to listeners?

Sarah: 1:36

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Hello, everyone. Um, I’m really excited to be here to talk with all of you.

Julia: 1:45

Before we dive into the interview questions, I thought it’d be nice to share some background about your career journey as a dietitian so far. Do you want to share that with listeners?

Sarah: 1:54

Sure. Yeah. So I actually didn’t start off doing nutrition. I did my first degree in cellular molecular biology, and then it wasn’t until the last year of my degree that I started to really get interested in nutrition. And I remember taking biochemistry and thinking it was just so cool to learn about how all the different nutrients affected the body.

So, I ended up actually leaving a master’s program in immunology to pursue nutrition instead. And so I completed my nutrition degree in 2018. And then between 2018 and 2022, I worked in a ton of different clinical areas doing like mat leave relief.

Uh, so I worked in bariatric surgery, kidney disease, gut health, cancer care, and most recently diabetes. But during that time, I definitely took every opportunity I could to write. Um, but I never had more than maybe two or three projects per year. So writing. It was like a side gig, but it never felt like a viable career option compared to the safety of my clinical job.

Julia: 3:05

Yeah, very well put. And I have to ask, like, did you have a favorite nutrient or vitamin when you were studying how nutrition would interact with it? That’s kind of a geeky question.

Sarah: 3:19

Vitamin D. I remember like when I was doing my master’s program, I was working in the field of multiple sclerosis and there’s so much research about vitamin D and MS.

So that was what really, I started to geek out over nutrition there, and unfortunately couldn’t tie it into my master’s project, and so I kind of felt like, well, I guess I’ll just go somewhere else.

Julia: 3:41

Yeah, cool. That is, vitamin D is incredible. I, I think that it’s one of those things that we all talk about all the time now, but when you really look into everything it touches in the body, it’s pretty amazing. Yeah. Agreed. Yeah. And, sorry, I’m just thinking if I had one more question I want to throw at you, I don’t think I do, so I’ll keep following my script here. And so, when did you know it was the right time to pivot from a clinical role to freelance writing?

Sarah: 4:08

So, this is one of the most vivid memories I have, and I just remember with absolute clarity the moment I knew I needed to switch from clinical to freelance writing.

I had just started a new job in diabetes and I was really struggling with a lot of anxiety related to my work. And it got to the point where I started having panic attacks at work, which was obviously not ideal for doing a good job with clients.

I took a vacation to go and visit my family in Northern Canada, and I remember sitting on their deck, looking out over the lake with my husband, and I just mentioned to him, I said, I really wish that I could write for a living. And then what he said next changed my life forever.

He said, if you want to write, then write. And just never had it been so clearly laid out for me. And so I returned from vacation. I tried to get back into clinical work, but I just couldn’t do it. And I ended up taking a leave of absence. And so during that time, I took a bunch of courses. I started pitching potential clients. And at the end of the month long leave of absence, I made the decision to leave my clinical job.

And I realized What a privilege it was to be able to do that, because I only had a few freelance clients lined up, but my husband was super supportive and he actually took on overtime shifts at his job to make up for the loss of income from me leaving my clinical job.

But luckily I dove in headfirst and I did start earning money right away. It took me about eight months for me to consistently replace my clinical income with freelance income, which to me felt pretty good because I had expected it to take a lot longer than that.

And so that was really how I came to switch to freelance writing and I’m so glad I made the leap because even though I still struggle a lot with anxiety, it’s so rewarding to know that I’m creating content that gives people access to this evidence based information that they can use to become healthier.

Julia: 6:22

That is such a nice story with a very happy ending. Yes. And I love hearing also like the realities of quitting your role and what that how that affects family, right? Because I mean, not everybody has a partner and everyone’s circumstances are different, but it is like finances are a big part of the decision making process. And so I love that you shared that little, you know, personal tidbit about your husband taking on some extra hours to support you both so that you could pursue this

Sarah: 6:50

I was just I will be forever grateful to him because I was in such a bad place in my clinical work, and just him making that sacrifice so that I could do something that made me happy, I will never forget that.

Julia: 7:05

Yeah, that’s really sweet. That reminds me a lot about my own story too, so I can definitely resonate. That’s very nice. And just a couple quick questions that came into my brain because on the show, we do like to share knowledge as much as possible. So, so

for the nitty gritty, every listener always wants to know about pitching. And like you mentioned that you were, you started pitching people. Can you share a little insight into how you’re finding clients? Like, who would you even target?

Sarah: 7:33

Yeah, so I kind of, I feel like I found a cheat code when I first started pitching people. I literally just went on the Dietitians of Canada Find a Dietitian tool and found dietitians working in areas that I was interested in and pitched them by, by just using their email that I found on the list. And that was actually quite successful. Like some of the people who I pitched in that first month are still my clients. So it was a really effective way to find people.

Julia: 8:06

That’s really cool. And what service were you pitching? I think I should have clarified that at the start.

Sarah: 8:11

Yeah. So I was pitching SEO or search engine optimized blog writing. Um, I also do a little bit of website copywriting, but I kind of do that more for people who I’ve written a bunch of blogs for them and I’ve got a really good grasp of their brand. Um, so most of what I was pitching was blogs.

Julia: 8:31

Cool. And you also mentioned that, uh, you were surprised, like happily surprised by eight months you had basically matched your salary from your full time gig you had left and you said you thought it’d take a lot longer. Can you walk me through that process of maybe why you thought it would take longer? And I’d love to like hear how you were feeling when you finally replaced your income, like that must have been such an ecstatic moment.

Sarah: 8:57

Yeah, so I honestly just The first six months were quite slow and I didn’t really earn that much money. So I kind of thought, well, I guess it’s just going to take a few years for me to really build up my clientele and, and replace my income. But the first month that I replaced my income was actually a month where I took two weeks off to go to Costa Rica, which was incredible because I only worked for two weeks of that month. And that was the first month that I had replaced my clinical income. And. It was just really cool to see that I could kind of adjust my work life to accommodate my real life and take a trip to Costa Rica and still earn enough money to get by.

Julia: 9:45

Yeah, it sounds like your dream became reality in that month. It did, absolutely. That is so cool. And Sarah, do you have any tips to establish a business mindset when you’re just starting out?

Sarah: 9:58

Yeah, so I found the biggest thing was setting up routines and making sure that I started work at a consistent time every day.

That I took a proper lunch break and that I try really hard to not work outside of my office hours It also means keeping track of my finances and when invoices get paid because as any freelancer knows There are always going to be clients who don’t pay you on time. That’s just, it’s an unfortunate reality.

And so if you’re not tracking your invoices and when they get paid, you could potentially be losing money without knowing it. And then, I think one thing that is so overlooked, but it’s so important is celebrating your business successes. So even if it’s just landing one writing assignment or connecting with a potential client on LinkedIn, it’s important to celebrate those wins.

Julia: 10:55

I might be putting you a spot on a little bit here, but do you have a recent win that you just celebrated?

Sarah: 11:02Yeah, I actually had a client reach out to me on LinkedIn, and it was a client that I had wanted to work with for so long. And the fact that they reached out to me, I thought was so cool, because I never would have expected that.

Julia: 11:19

congratulations! Thank you. Uh, one thing that I like to ask a lot of the dietitian guests is managing perfectionism because unfortunately it is, I don’t have evidence to prove this, it’s anecdotal of course, but it is a very common trait throughout the profession, um, and I’m wondering how you move past perfectionism as a writer.

Sarah: 11:43

Yeah, so this is something I’m still very much working on. I have done so much therapy about this, but. I know I’m a perfectionist at heart, and I do really struggle with the desire to hand in a perfect draft. But the longer I work, the more I realize there is no such thing as a perfect draft. Every editor is going to want slightly different things, and even though it’s my job to provide clean copy, it’s not my job to get it perfect on the first try. And so I really try to see my editors as collaborators on a project, so they’re not there to tell me I did a bad job, they’re there to give me input and help me become a better writer, and so I think if you can reframe the editing process as a chance to grow and improve as a writer, it feels a lot less threatening.

Julia: 12:39

Yeah, that’s very well said. I think… I think also, um, it’s always a little daunting when you see someone in your article making changes and it’s hard not to take it personally, but it is a good attitude to have and just be very objective and say, okay, but what I tell myself is kind of similar. I’m like, look at all these great big brains and we’re all trying to contribute the best to create the best possible content possible. That was a lot of words, but yeah, um, but it’s scary. Even I get butterflies. It’s a, it’s part of the job though, right?

Sarah: 13:10

Yeah, I had to turn off notifications on my Google Docs because every time I got a notification that someone was in my article editing, it would just bring up so many feelings. Yeah,

Julia: 13:22

that’s interesting. Do you have other tips that you’re willing to share about how you manage it day to day? Or you don’t have to if you don’t feel comfortable.

Sarah: 13:29

Yeah, no, I think the self talk is so important. And so, kind of combating that negative self talk as it pops up. So I know I have this internal dialogue where it’s just like, oh, you’re so stupid. Why did you make that mistake? How could you have missed that? And then really coming in with a lot of self compassion and saying, you know what, everyone makes mistakes and that doesn’t mean you’re a bad human or a bad writer. It just means that you aren’t perfect and that’s okay because you’re not supposed to be perfect. Yeah,

Julia: 14:04

yeah. Self compassion is so essential. I think, um, like, out of, I’m curious to hear your answer, maybe as a freelancer, like, what do you think would be top three qualities? Of someone as a freelance writer, because for me, self compassion, I think is actually quite high on the list. Yeah, just because you are exposing yourself a lot, but I’m curious if you have any ideas.

Sarah: 14:28

Yeah, I would say self compassion would be number one, because it is a job where you’re getting critiqued a lot of the time. And if you don’t have that self compassion. I think it can be really challenging to receive those critiques with grace and an open mind. Um, other two top qualities of a freelance writer, I think good communication skills are key. Um, you are having to communicate with your clients all day, every day. And so making sure that you communicate with them in a way that is respectful, but also down to earth, I think is really important. And then organization. When you’re running your own business, it’s on you to make sure things get done and so having systems in place to really ensure that you stay on track and hand in your work on time, I think is so important.

Julia: 15:21

Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I would agree. I, yeah, I agree. Definitely. I think, um, time management also sneaks in, but maybe that can even be lumped into the organization part. Yeah, 100%

Sarah: 15:35


Julia: 15:38

So getting to know your story, it sounds like you’ve accomplished so much, which is so exciting. What are you most proud of in your freelance career so far?

Sarah: 15:47

So there’s two things that I’m really, really proud of.

Um, one of them is becoming a regular writer for Forbes Health this year. Uh, never in a million years did I think I would be writing for such a well known outlet so soon after beginning my freelance writing career.

And it’s something I’m so proud of because I really value the work that they do and I get to work with some really amazing people. And I’ve actually met clients through people who have been sources for my articles have become my clients and I just think it’s so cool how that works.

And then the other thing I’m really proud of is how much I’ve learned to take care of my mental health in the past year. I think I’ve created a life where I have work life balance that allows me to take time off when I need a break and engage in self care activities that improve my mental health.

And I think that’s so important because I, when I was in my clinical job, I ignored my mental health for so long just in the name of pushing through and getting the job done. And it’s nice to know that I now have the freedom to create my own version of success and mental wellness.

Julia: 17:06

I, I have a kind of a side question for you. Mm hmm. Um, how does it feel, do you ever feel anxious when you achieve your dreams?

Sarah: 17:17

Yes, because I worry that it was a fluke. And that I really just didn’t know what I was doing, it just happened by accident, and that everything’s going to fall out from underneath me at any time, something I deal with every day, my therapist helps me through it, but my goodness, it’s It can be challenging.

Julia: 17:37

Yeah, I ask that because I definitely am in that camp, and it feels so backwards, and it’s very frustrating. Mm hmm. So yeah, that’s again where that self compassion comes in, and I’ve also started therapy because I don’t know. I just. I assumed like looking at other successful entrepreneurs that as their business grows like they just are also able to continue to self manage because nobody talks about it. Um, at least none of the entrepreneurs I follow. Uh, so that really surprised me. Uh, and this past summer like I had to start going to therapy because I just realized like I was achieving a lot, which was great. And it’s very, it’s a very happy moment, but it’s also equally terrifying and really anxiety provoking. Um,

Sarah: 18:22

Yeah, I agree. And I think honestly, I think every entrepreneur could benefit from therapy because you are wearing so many different hats. It’s overwhelming when it’s basically a one person show and you’re responsible for everything.

Julia: 18:37

Yes, a hundred percent. I agree. It’s so different from the nine to five role. Um, that’s good. It’s great to hear that from you. I feel a little bit less alone because you do feel like you said you’re, you’re a solopreneur. So it’s like, is this normal? Yes,

Sarah: 18:51


Julia: 18:53

Um, I have another question for you, which is. Do you have a dream client that you’d like to write for?

Sarah: 19:01

Yeah, so I actually have just started writing for a few new outlets who were on my dream client list, which was really cool. But one outlet I would still love to write for is Eating Well. Um, I love that they have science backed articles and the fact that they focus on moderation and balance as opposed to rules and dieting and all that yucky stuff.

Julia: 19:24

Yes. Um, okay, so this may be related to that question, or maybe not, but what’s next for you? What do you have in store?

Sarah: 19:34

That’s a really good question. Um, this year honestly brought so much more success than I was expecting, and I really feel like I’m going to end 2023 on a high note.

So I guess my goals for the future would be just continuing to build relationships with the editors and clients I worked with in 2023. And hopefully becoming a regular contributor to some of these newer outlets that I’ve started writing for. Um, I think it would be so cool to be a regular writer for some of these well known outlets because they put out so much good information. It would be really cool to be a part of that. Yes, absolutely.

Julia: 20:12

And, and sorry, just, uh, just for clarification. So for a regular writer, do you mean just like consistently every month you’re allocated assignments or do you mean like you actually get hired on?

Sarah: 20:23

Yeah, no, just consistently every month writing articles. Um, I, at the moment I don’t have any desire to be like a full time employee of anyone. I love being freelance. Um, so being a regular writer for me would be getting a certain number of assignments every month.

Julia: 20:41

Yes. Thank you for clarifying that. Because sometimes listeners who are newer to the show, like, don’t know all the, like, the language of, like, what’s the difference. Um, so I appreciate you clarifying that. So that brings us to the end of our episode. It’s been great getting to know you and getting to hear your story. Did you want to share any closing thoughts with listeners?

Sarah: 21:00

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. This has been fun.

if I could share anything, I think the main thing is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. So like I said, for the first six months of my freelance career, I pitched and pitched and pitched and you know what, I got a lot of no’s and a lot of crickets, but I also got some yeses and some repeat clients.

And so I think it’s important to understand that hearing no is completely normal when you’re cold pitching, and it doesn’t mean you should give up, but it’s also not the only way. And so when you’re just starting out, I think cold pitching is kind of the way you get clients.

But as you move forward in your freelance journey, I’m, I’m a really big believer in building your personal brand. So that your clients can find you, and so don’t be afraid to start posting on LinkedIn, interacting with people, because you never know who you might meet.

Um, I’ve connected with people who have then become editors who have then hired me on to write. So even if someone is not currently in a position to hire you, you never know where they might end up and whether they might want to work with you.

Julia: 22:17

Yeah, those are really great practical tips. Thank you so much. You’re welcome. That is the end of the episode. I will link Sarah’s, um, like website and social media links in the show notes so people can find you. Is it okay if listeners reach out to you with freelance questions?

Sarah: 22:34

Absolutely. I would love to answer any questions that you have.

Julia: 22:37

Thank you so much.

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