Are you a mom (or dad!) who spent big bucks and countless time earning a degree? Like so many of us, you may have worked in your desired industry for a few years, only to step back and raise your family.
Whether you worked in healthcare, education, business, or what have you, you can still use your experience to create a profitable empire from home, and I am so excited to have been able to chat with the incredible Cheryl Mussatto - a registered dietician and well-respected author - for tips on how to do so.
Cheryl is a registered dietician with a Master’s Degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is the founder of Eat Well to Be Well RD, a blog contributor for the highly regarded Dr. David Samadi, and also makes regular appearances on Dr. Samadi’s “World Health News” at am970 The Answer in New York City. As if this wasn’t impressive enough, Cheryl is an adjunct professor for two community colleges, a certified health and wellness coach, wife, mom to 4, and grandma.
Without further ado, here is Cheryl:
Cheryl, please tell us a little about your background. You have quite an impressive repertoire in both health and writing!
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a strong interest in health and medicine. I liked being healthy and feeling well. Originally, I thought I would go into nursing to be a RN but didn’t know if I could handle all the “blood and guts” part of the job! Around the age of 13, I developed a love of reading and learning from articles on health and nutrition found in my mom’s women’s magazines – Ladies Home Journal, McCalls, and Redbook. I still loved the health field but had no idea how to apply it to a career based in nutrition. Then came the summer before my senior year in high school; I was a 4-Her and was helping out the foods judge at the county fair. As she was judging the 4-H foods, someone asked her what she did for a living and she stated, “I’m a Registered Dietitian.” I had never heard of a registered dietitian before in my life. She went on to explain what that was and as I heard her describe her job, I knew exactly that’s what I wanted to be in life.
After high school graduation, I off went to Kansas State University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management and later on got my Masters of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas. I’ve been in this profession for more than 30 years – my jobs have included working as a WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Dietitian; as a Director of the Dietary Department for St. Mary’s Hospital in Emporia, Ks; as a clinical dietitian for the Emporia Medical Arts Center; and as a consulting dietitian for a nursing home. Currently, I have 3 jobs – I’m an adjunct professor at Allen Community College in Burlingame, Ks teaching Basic Nutrition; I’m a clinical dietitian at Cotton O’Neil Endocrinology Clinic in Topeka, Ks; and I’m a freelance health and nutrition writer for Dr. David Samadi, a urologist in NYC. I’m also a guest columnist for my local hometown newspaper – www.osagecountyonline.com
When did you decide to begin writing and how did you go about finding places that would publish your work?
Back when I was working with the WIC program at the Lyon County Health Department in Emporia, I approached the manager about starting up a monthly newsletter for our clients. It would have short articles on healthy eating including recipes, exercise, and general overall health for families. She loved the idea so “The WIC Express” was conceived! That was my first venture into writing for the public – keep in mind, this was WAAAAY before the internet!
Then in 2013, I began to notice that more and more dietitians were on the net writing articles for various outlets – magazines, newspapers, newsletters, food companies, etc. Since I enjoyed writing and felt there was a need for credible information on nutrition in my small area of the world, I approached the editor of my local online newspaper, www.osagecountyonline about being a guest columnist writing one or two articles on nutrition a month. He liked the idea immediately. Now, I am not paid for this “job” but it was mainly to get my name out there. And it worked! I had several high profile companies who commented on certain articles such the American Beverage Association , The American Magnesium Association and even my professional organization, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who featured a couple of my articles on their daily listserv.
Then finally, my big break came. In April of 2015, I got an email from Dr. David Samadi, a NYC urologist who at that time, had a weekly TV show on FoxNews called “Sunday Housecalls” and a weekly radio show on AM970 in NYC. He was reaching out to me to ask if I could be a guest on his radio show to discuss an article I had written on vitamin supplement which he found on osage county online! Just goes to show you never know who is reading your material. After the radio interview, he asked if I could start writing articles for him, mainly on men’s health and other health and nutrition articles. Since that fateful day in 2015, I am now his main writer, having written over 3,000 articles for him and am making a 5-digit salary with him.
For me as a registered dietitian, finding places to publish my work has been relatively easy. Local newspapers are a great place to start. Local newspapers like to bring on local people in their area. Depending on what your educational background is in and what topics you like to write about, you could approach the editor to pitch your idea. It will likely not be a paid job but at least it gets you exposure which can lead to paid jobs as it did for me. Here are other ideas:
Have a social media presence – I’m not an expert at this but you never know who is watching or following your sites. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, even Twitter, are all excellent ways to get your name and message out to the public
Sign up for HARO – Help A Reporter Out. Every day, three times a day, they send out emails listing requests from reporters for all kinds of publications needing expert advice from nutrition, health, finance, lifestyle, etc. This is how I have managed to get my name and quotes/comments in many various media outlets. Again, they don’t pay but its good exposure.
See if there are FB groups to join that specifically cater to writers. They often provide great advice.
I managed to get a contract with Calisto Media, which is associated with Rockridge Press, simply because of my FB page. So post daily (I only post M-F, once a day) and show you are the expert in your field.
What inspired you to start Eat Well to Be Well? Once you made the decision to launch it, what steps did you take to make it a reality?
The inspiration for Eat Well to Be Well was born at the time when I approached the editor of osage county online about writing a guest column. All guest columnists have some sort of “tag line” or “brand.” My philosophy was to educate the public on healthy eating in order to achieve good health. While there are debates whether food can be medicine, I firmly believe healthy food choices make a huge difference in one’s overall well-being.
The beginning of Eat Well to Be Well happened when I submitted my first column in June 2013. At that time I had no website or other social media platforms. I was a complete novice, happily writing away for the newspaper. It wasn’t until after Dr. Samadi approached me in 2015 to write for him also, that I got on social media. Dr. Samadi encouraged me to start up a website and to be on social media. My website began in 2015 along with my professional Facebook page, Eat Well to Be Well, Cheryl Mussatto, Registered Dietitian.
How do you market your business and services?
I’m the first to admit, I’m not a great marketer! The primary way I market it is through Facebook postings with links back to articles or recipes I have on my website blog. Other than that, I am not on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest – I’m so busy with my 3 jobs there is no time! Plus, I am not actively marketing my services as a freelance writer since I am kept very busy writing for Dr. Samadi.
If you visit my website, you’ll see I do keep a record of my media appearances, my two books I have written which are for sale on Amazon, and have contact information for anyone who wishes to speak with me.
What does a typical (if such a thing exists, ha!) work day look like for you?
Here’s how my typical week looks:
Each day begins at 4:45 – I work out for about 25-30 minutes, feed my 4 pygmy goats, eat breakfast, and email my daily articles for Dr. Samadi at approximately 5:30 am (he does not require me any set time to turn them as this is my choice).
Monday – I work at the endocrinology clinic all day; in the evening, I will do some writings of articles for Dr. Samadi
Tuesday – I teach at the community college in the morning and then, see any patients I may have at the medical clinic in Osage City. Will also work on writings for Dr. Samadi
Wednesday – Work at the endocrinology clinic all day again. Come home, do writings for Dr. Samadi
Thursday/Fridays– Days at home – BUT – will use these days to work hard on getting in several articles for Dr. Samadi
Saturday/Sunday – Believe it or not, I also work on articles for Dr. David Samadi on these days too!
So, basically, I work 7 days a week. Of course, there is downtime I get in for attending church on Sunday mornings, hair appointments, errands, the occasional pedicure, and fun stuff to do. Keep in mind, my 4 children are all adults and on their own so I have the luxury of not having lots of school events, etc. to attend. If any of my kids were still at home, I would not have taken the job with Dr. Samadi – too intense!
What do you recommend to other moms who want to tap into their background to create a business?
Since I have no business background, I would recommend for moms to speak with someone with this experience to help them learn the ropes. It wouldn’t hurt to take a basic business course such as at a community college to learn more about running a business. Also, many cities and even small towns have some sort of business skills person or group to help those just starting out.
You are one of the best moms I know, so I would love to hear what advice you have for other moms out there struggling to balance family and business.
Every mom is different; for me, I spent quite a few years being a full-time mom for my kids which I have never regretted. They were my main priority while they were growing up. Could I have done what I am currently doing with my work schedule while they were at home – no way! Try not to overextend yourself. Your family comes first. Always remember that opportunities can come your way when the kids are grown and gone like it did for me. Just keep your finger in a job so that in time, you can look at adding on more hours when the kids are older.
Is there a memory that sticks out in your mind as being a favorite?
My favorite memory is getting to finally meet Dr. Samadi in January of this year (2019)! We had never met in the 3 ½ years of writing for him – he lives in NYC and I live in Kansas. We had talked on the phone, texted, and emailed many times over those years but never in person. When it finally happened, it was quite surreal at first. But after a few minutes, everything was good and I found him very easy to talk to.