Gretchen Lidicker is a writer, content creator, brand consultant, and expert in all things health and wellness.
Gretchen has both a degree in Biology from the Honors College of Charleston and a masters in physiology from Georgetown University.
Her writing focuses on topics like CBD, inflammation, herbs, hormone health, autoimmune disease, supplements, medical marijuana, and many other topics in health and wellness – both conventional and alternative.
How did you get into writing and content? What’s your origin story?
I got into writing and content creation completely by accident.
My background is in science and healthcare—I have an undergraduate degree in biology and a masters degree in physiology and biophysics. When I finished grad school I realized working in a hospital or clinic wasn’t for me so I started applying for all kinds of jobs (literally any job that sounded remotely interesting I would apply for).
I landed one as a health editor at mindbodygreen even though I hadn’t taken a writing class since freshman year of college. When they asked me about my professional writing experience in my first phone interview I remember saying “I have none. If you want someone with a strong writing background I’m not the right person for this job. But if you want someone who knows A LOT about health, I’m your person.”
Much to my surprise, they gave me the job and assigned a senior editor to teach me the ins and outs of journalism.
I think I was a naturally decent writer but I think it’s equally important to have a specialty and really know your beat.
Do you think it’s important that freelance writers pick a specific niche? If so, what are the main benefits of doing so?
YES. I’ll never pretend to be the best writer in the world—especially when it comes to copy editing! I’ve been able to become a professional writer because I know a lot about the topics I’m writing about and people trust me not to do the research, find the right experts, and never publish something that’s not legit.
What’s the most challenging aspect of writing research heavy content, like your books and many of your health-related articles?
Writing research-heavy content is my favorite, so I really have no complaints!
The most challenging part is evaluating the quality of research studies; unfortunately, not everything on PubMed is legit.
There’s also so much conflicting research out there it can be hard to form a conclusion, especially when it comes to supplements and nutrition research.
What are the biggest differences working in-house as an editor versus freelancing full-time?
As a freelancer, I get to decide which projects I take on and where and when I work. I love that.
Working as an in-house editor had perks too though!
For one, health insurance (which I now pay an absurd amount of money for out of my own pocket). It’s also nice to have other editors around to brainstorm ideas with.
What’s the most effective way(s) a freelance writer can build a portfolio of clients that they enjoy working with?
Be proactive and just reach out to them first.
I would say that 50% of my clients found me and I found the other half. I email them, message them on LinkedIn, meet them at events and just let them know I’m a freelancer and if they’re ever in need of content to let me know. Even if they don’t have work for you right then, you’ll be in their minds in the future.
What are some common mistakes freelancers make when building the “business” side of things (so operations, client acquisition, client management, etc. – all the non-writing stuff)?
Spending too much time on clients that aren’t ready to pull the trigger. Some people will gobble up hours of your time discussing content strategy and then never actually hire you to write anything.
I keep it to one or two 15-minute phone calls and then start charging a consulting fee for my time if it goes beyond that.
It’s tough to set those boundaries at first but you just have to.
What’s a strong skill or lesson you picked up in your formal education in science that you still use or apply today?
My background taught me to take every project one step at a time.
Science is very methodical and having that in my education really helped when I was writing my books because they were such big, long projects. Every day I got up and picked one small thing to get done instead of thinking about the big picture, which could be really scary and intimidating.
Is there an aspect of your personality or your background experience you attribute to your ability to write well and succeed as a writer?
I think scientists get straight to the point and that helps me avoid writer’s block.
It’s also my personality to cut through the BS and theatrics. Whenever I get lost or turned around I say to myself “Gretchen, stop. What is it that you really want to say?” and then I write that down and move on with my life.
Biggest pet peeve in content you see published online?
Fear mongering. I can’t stand it when people try to get clicks by using headlines that make people paranoid they’re doing something terribly wrong or that they might have some mysterious illness.
What would you do if you didn’t work in content/writing?
I’d like to be a psychologist that specializes in dating. I know that is weirdly specific but reading books about relationship psychology, attachment theory, the dating world is one of my low-key passions in life. I’m trying to get into writing more about those topics.
What inspires you? What kind of writing, media, personalities do you follow, and where do you get your ideas?
I probably shouldn’t admit this but I don’t follow very many health experts on social media. There are just so many opinions out there that I try to just focus on the facts and the research. Two people I really look up to are Aviva Romm and Michael Pollan—they’ve managed to live in a world of trends and fads and remain totally dedicated to what’s really going to help people.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing? Or rather, tips that anyone can use to become a better writer
- Read the book On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- Write about topics that you *actually* care about
- This one is kind of strange but I like to write the intros/conclusions to my articles on my phone when I’m on the bus or train or doing something else. They’re always the hardest part of a piece for me and something about not sitting down and staring at my computer helps me figure out what I want to say.