Entrepreneur: Melissa Rifkin

Biz: Melissa Rifkin Nutrition

Tilt: Registered dietitian and mom

Primary Channels: Website, Instagram (395K), newsletter

Other Channels: TikTok (3K)

Time to First Dollar: About two years

Rev Streams: Brand sponsorships, private clients

Our Favorite Actionable Advice:

  • Recognize your worth: Melissa Rifkin did brand deals in exchange for product for a couple of years before she realized her expertise deserved something more valuable than Splenda packets.
  • Don’t give up: Persistence is a requirement. “You actually have to say no to my face for me to stop following up with you,” she says.
  • See the possibilities: Some early-stage creators can be intimidated by more successful content entrepreneurs. Don’t be. “Find something that sets you apart from other people,” Melissa says. “It’s a big sea out there.”

The Story of Melissa Rifkin

When the pandemic started in 2020, Melissa Rifkin was eight months pregnant with her first child and working as a registered dietician in a busy New York City hospital. And when the first COVID patient came in, Melissa says, she left. Luckily, she already had a content side hustle.

For eight years, Melissa built her online presence inspired by a colleague who earned some free Splenda packets in exchange for social media posts. After launching her Instagram page in 2012, Melissa found her small apartment bursting with products.

“I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I have a master’s in nutrition. This is worth something,’” she remembers. Today, Melissa has built a lucrative business, sharing quick, easy, and nutritious recipes and other lifestyle content patterned after her life.

@MelissaRifkinRD traded content for products until she recognized her expertise was worth more. Now, she runs a lucrative #ContentBusiness. Click To Tweet

“It’s been incredible,” she says. “I’m so grateful to be on Instagram, to have a big following, to inspire people, to influence people in their choices for brands. And it’s been fun. I mean, the fact that I get to stay home with my kids, are you kidding me? That’s the biggest blessing ever.”

Always a hustler

Starting the content side gig in 2012 wasn’t out of character for Melissa. In addition to her full-time hospital job, she also worked with a nutrition coaching app and babysat. “I’ve always been a hustler,” she says.

Over eight years, she was “killing it” on Instagram, she says. Around 2016, she launched her website, which is home to her recipes, health tips, and offers a newsletter. Between 2018 and 2019, her Instagram page rapidly grew followers and connected her with new opportunities.

In recent years, chasing ever-changing algorithms has felt frustrating, Melissa admits. “It’s not as enjoyable as it used to be. With limited reach, it reduces your ability to interact with people, and that is what I love. I love people,” she says.

The key to her success has been her ability to pivot, especially getting comfortable making videos as Instagram launched Reels. She credits the owner of a media agency she works with for introducing her to Inshot, a video editing platform that makes it easier to create content for Reels and now TikTok.  

“Things have definitely changed, and I’ve been changing with it,” Melissa says. “I still love working for brands. And I actually really do like making videos.”

Finding new niches

As Melissa has shifted with the algorithms, her followers have shifted with her content. As she welcomed her first and second child, she posted more parenting content, turning off some of her audience.

“They would say it openly,” she says. “I lost the people who had infertility issues because I was sharing my journey. And I lost the people who were solely focused on weight loss because I shifted. I started to cover baby stuff and kids’ stuff.”

But, she says, she loves this new direction for her content. It’s brought her big sponsors like Beech-Nut, a maker of food for babies and kids. Recent posts include easy-to-make healthy meals, what she’s packing her kids for lunch, and sweet moments with her boys.

When @MelissaRifkinRD expanded her #ContentTilt from healthy eating to encompass her family life, she lost some audience members but gained brand sponsors like @BeechnutFoods. #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

“It encompasses my life, and I have another area that I can hit,” Melissa says. “Instagram is like a storybook. This is my life. My followers have been with me since I got engaged, married, had two kids. That’s me. Nothing stays the same.”

In addition to earning revenue from brand sponsorships, Melissa works as a dietician with private clients. She’s excited to see what’s next as she looks to expand into other areas of her profession.

Advice for content entrepreneurs

For creators working to build and grow their content business, Melissa shares a few tips:

Be persistent

Building a business takes patience. Don’t give up. “You actually have to say no to my face for me to stop following up with you,” she says.

Be authentic

Be as real and as relatable as possible. That’s the kind of content people connect with. “When I interact with people, you see the real me,” Melissa says. “I posted the other day that I saw influencers in Ibiza and Croatia. I’ve been there. I’ve had my hot moments, and I was in bed with a cold, and I was like, ‘This sucks. I’m watching you looking hot in Spain, and I’m in bed at 7:30 on a Saturday night.’” 

Don’t be intimidated

Early-stage creators may be intimidated by established, successful creators. Don’t be. “Find something that sets you apart from other people,” Melissa says. “It’s a big sea out there.” 

About the author

Sarah Lindenfeld Hall is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, and founding editor of two popular parenting websites in North Carolina. She frequently writes about parenting, aging, education, business management, and interesting people doing remarkable things.