At the age of 44 I transitioned from a vegetarian diet to a vegan one. Now 48, the majority of my professional work is focused on veganism – something I never intended, or expected, nearly four years ago.
When I went vegan it was all about the food. I wasn’t too handy around the kitchen so I wasn’t sure if this “phase” would last. I started following a few vegan nutrition sites, like TheVeganRD, and learned that eating vegan was not all that complicated: eat vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Okay, but what do I do with them? I started collecting vegan cookbooks and reading blogs – as well as following vegans on Facebook and Twitter – and suddenly I was feeling confident in the kitchen. I could prepare nutritious and delicious plant-based meals.
I started writing about this transformation – vegetarian to vegan, non-cook to recipe developer – on my blog. As I wrote about my hits and misses in the kitchen I continued to learn from other writers and bloggers. One blog I followed with regularity was Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw. One day Gena wrote about her visit to a farm sanctuary. For some reason, in that moment, I got it. I got that for me veganism could not longer be just about the food. It was bigger than me and it wasn’t just about what I ate. I was inspired to find an animal sanctuary near me and a quick Google search later I was on the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (WFAS) website clicking through images of rescued animals. Within an hour I became a monthly donor to support Clover, a rambunctious goat I met via video on the WFAS site. A few months later I met Clover in person when I visited the farm for the first time. I was forever changed and from that point my veganism was clear to me. It was about the animals.
During this time I found myself enjoying writing my blog – and for other online venues – immensely. More than I loved my “day job”, actually. I started going to all kinds of vegan events – social gatherings, activist meetings, conferences. I was really getting into the “vegan thing”. At a vegan blogging conference I finally met Ginny Messina, the author behind the aforementioned TheVeganRD website; a few months later she emailed me out of the blue to invite me to work with her on her next book, a book for vegan women. Of course I said yes!
It was then that I began to rethink what I was doing with my life. My professional life, that is. I was so incredibly passionate about veganism and knew that my “niche” was changing minds with food – and in the process educating them about animals. I decided it was time to come up with a plan that would position me to take a huge career leap of faith. I knew that I needed to learn more about what I loved; I needed to become student of my passions.
I began taking public culinary classes so that I could improve how I communicated home cooking techniques to the veg-curious. I took writing workshops to sharpen my skills. But I wanted more. I was out for a run one morning and listening to an Our Hen House podcast. Victoria Moran was the guest, talking about her latest book Main Street Vegan. Almost as an afterthought, as the interview was concluding, Victoria said something like, “Oh, wait! I wanted to tell you about the new Main Street Vegan Academy! I will be training vegan lifestyle coaches!” What?! I ran back to my house, went to her website, downloaded the application and the next day I heard from Victoria – I was admitted in her inaugural MSV Academy. This was it. This is what I was looking for.
I attended the weeklong, transformative training. I made life-long friends during those six days, including Victoria, and I found clarity. I found the way in which I could start doing what I loved for a living. I launched my own business that year and 18 months later I am now a published author
and am working on my second book. I offer private kitchen coaching, I teach classes, and I counsel clients one-on-one. I do cooking demonstrations at Veg Festivals and on local TV stations. I provide plant-based corporate consulting. I also volunteer for the local vegan and vegetarian Meetup and I serve on the board of directors of Our Hen House. I am living my vegan dream, personally and professionally.
I run into a lot of people who ask, “How can I become a ‘professional vegan’?” and my answer is always the same:
Volunteer. The best way to get involved with vegan and animal rights groups is to help others who are already doing the work. There are numerous non-profit organizations and community groups, from sanctuaries to street advocacy groups to TNR (trap, neuter, release) organizations to Meetups, all of which need people with a variety of skills. It helps you build skills and to network.
Become a student of your passion or hobbies. Do you love vegan baking? Take a public culinary class to deepen your knowledge. Do you want to write about animal rights? Enroll in a writing course or workshop to hone your craft. Want to help people go vegan? Consider becoming a vegan lifestyle coach or a nutrition counselor.
Take a leap of faith. Listen, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Keep your day job. But start offering what you know or what you want to do in the evening or on weekends. Build your professional portfolio slowly. One day you will find that you’re doing more around your vegan passion work and you just might be ready to make it your “day job”!
JL Fields, MS, VLCE, is a vegan cook, lifestyle coach and educator. She is co-author of Vegan for Her: The Woman’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet. She provides in-person vegan cooking services, lifestyle coaching and classes in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area as well as Skype and/or phone coaching throughout the U.S. and internationally. She provides career consulting to help others develop their coaching practices and is on the fitness faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, the Education Coordinator for Nourish Organic Juice and served as plant-based team leader for Attune Foods. You can find JL on her blog, JL goes Vegan and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.