As part of our Meet The Freelancer series of blogs, we interview many freelance professionals from a range of industries.
This month we meet London based dietitian, author and publisher Chris Cheyette.
Chris qualified as a dietitian back in 2000 and in 2010 launched his own company, Chello Publishing. The company has since published a number of bestselling books and launched an app for managing diabetes and weight loss under the title Carbs & Cals.
Currently, Chris works part time for the NHS at a large London teaching hospital alongside running his business.
Chris’s interest in nutrition began in the 1990’s following a passion for cooking and trying new foods.
This came from early travel experiences, including visiting relatives in Israel.
Chris says: “I remember tasting a mango in Israel for the first time and being blown away! Initially I was interested in being a chef, but a teacher encouraged me to look at dietetics as a possible career option. This combined my love of food and science, which I had good grades in.
“I did some work shadowing a dietitian. This showed me the impact a dietitian can have in helping people with different medical conditions and how food can influence prevention, wellness and recovery from disease and injury.
“Looking back now I have a lot to thank that teacher for as the advice has shaped my life.”
For Chris, starting a business was never something he intentionally set out to do.
As a dietitian specialising in diabetes for the last 17 years, an important part of Chris’s job has been teaching people with type 1 diabetes how to count carbohydrates in different foods, so that they can calculate the right dose of insulin to take.
Teaching people this is what inspired the initial idea for his first book, of helping people with type 1 diabetes carb count on a day to day basis.
Chris says: “At that time there were no easily accessible visual resources to help people. This meant a lot of weighing food and maths, which many people found difficult.
“I’ve recently read ‘How to be here’ by Rob Bell. In the book he says you have to start with number 1. For me the number 1 was I wanted to create something to make it easier for my patients to understand how to count carbs. That led me on the journey to make the first book.
“Having that initial intention to help and create something to make people’s lives better was a great kick in the direction that led me to becoming an author.”
Once Chris had his idea, he used the help of a friend who was a photographer to set things in motion.
Together with his friend and now business partner, Yello Balolia, the pair took some sample images of different portions of food to use in Chris’s teaching. Patients loved the images which helped Chris to explain often difficult concepts.
Over the following 18 months Chris and Yello spent time researching, photographing, calculating and producing his first book.
Rather than leaving his work in the hands of an established publisher, Chris made the decision to self-publish.
Together with his business partner, Chris founded Chello Publishing Limited.
Explaining his decision, Chris says: “Self-publishing was becoming more popular and we decided that the book would be best left under our control rather than going to a publisher.
“My business partner did a lot of groundwork to research and set up the publishing company, including finding printers, storage and many other aspects that were required.”
As well as allowing him to establish his own brand, writing books has opened other doors for Chris.
Since becoming an author, Chris has been invited to do more talks and interviews and write articles for other organisations.
Chris says: “Whereas much of the work I did before was clinical work, I now spend more time writing and creating content.
“Running a business also involves some less attractive jobs like sending invoices and doing orders, but we have streamlined many processes and I always try to throw myself into tasks that I need to do to help support and grow the business.”
To increase awareness of Carbs & Cals, Chris has recently launched a YouTube channel for which he has been getting in front of the camera to present video content.
If you’re a healthcare professional thinking of writing your own book or journal, start by first establishing what the main goal of your writing is.
For Chris, that was to help people with diabetes lead a better life. Firstly, by making it easy to calculate carbohydrates in a meal and secondly by helping to inspire someone to lose weight or improve their blood glucose levels.
Another thing to consider is whether your idea is original and what you can add to the resources or research already available.
Chris says: “Look at what has already been written in the area you are interested in writing about.
“Consider your audience and how what you write will make a difference to them. Talk to them in a language they understand but don’t belittle them.
“Find a subject that grabs them and makes them want to know more. Find ways to inspire and educate, but not at the expense of presenting pseudoscience and unfulfilled claims that could cause harm.
“How can you stand out from the crowd? For example, there are thousands of recipe books but you may have an idea for a recipe book in more of a niche area that you can offer a different insight on.
“Use your healthcare professional credentials to give your idea scientific weight and talk to your colleagues and connections about whether they would recommend your book.
“Start with an idea and just get writing. If you overthink it and try to plan every step, you may never start writing.”
Try and ensure all the information you include is based on the latest scientific evidence and that data is referenced and quality checked, as Chris does with his work.
Lastly if you’re writing a book, think about what insurance you’ll need. As an author, you are responsible for what has been produced and the advice you offer. That’s why insurance policies like Professional Indemnity insurance can be essential for authors.
Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance is a type of business insurance that protects you if you make a mistake in the work you produce, or if you provide advice, that causes a financial loss to a third party.
It also covers legal costs and expenses in defending a claim as well as compensation paid to a third party for loss or damages.
Discussing the business challenges he has overcome so far, Chris says: “Over the years we have faced a number of logistical challenges. Everything from setting up a business to having to pack up books and post these out ourselves.
“We’ve had a number of issues with our app – the worst being a developer going into liquidation, meaning we lost tens of thousands of pounds.”
Following this, Chris had to quickly find another developer to work with.
While this was tough for the business and meant the deadline for the app launch had to be pushed back, it provided Chris with a chance to reassess the app features and gather additional feedback from customers and health care professionals.
Chris says: “It certainly has not been an easy ride but I have learnt a lot about myself and how I react to stressful situations along the way.
“Covid-19 has brought its own challenges and I’m sure will continue to do so for many months to come. We’re adapting to the market and the need for more online content for healthcare professionals, to continue to be able to carry on teaching remotely.”
As a business owner working with freelancers can be a great option. You can gain the expertise you need, when you need them, without having the responsibility of employees.
Chris says: “In general, we’ve found freelancers work great for our business and are particularly useful for project-based work.
“It can take time to find the right person and you need to be clear about the schedule of work and timelines. Our publishing work tends to have periods of more intense activity, which lends itself well to using freelancers.
“We find this is more cost-effective solution that directly hiring people. We have done that in the past and the overheads were very high and not a long-term cost effective or sustainable strategy for us.”
Explaining his short term and long term aims for the future, Chris says: “Currently we are working to get the new update for our app launched. We are also working to grow our YouTube channel and will have a new website later this year.
“In the longer term, my aim is to continue growing the business to help as many people as possible with diabetes management and also other areas such as renal disease, weight management and diabetes prevention.
“I’d like the business to be able to work with partners to grow our reach and also grow the app to be a market leader.”
You can find out more about Chris and his books at https://www.carbsandcals.com.
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