How the Heck to Get Started with Your Nutrition Business
You want to start your own nutrition business. Starting a private practice is your dream. You know that much.
Maybe it’s a nutrition private practice. Maybe it’s an online nutrition business. Maybe it’s nutrition freelance writing.
Whatever it is, you just know you want to start your own business as a dietitian.
But then the details get a little fuzzy…
How do I actually get clients to book appointments?
How do I get people to buy my online course?
How do I fill a group program?
What forms do I need?
Do I need a business license?
Wait…who am I even helping? What should my focus area be? I don’t want to turn away clients, maybe I should just take anybody that wants to hire me. (Spoiler alert, no you shouldn’t.)
How do I set up my website? Do I even really need one?
I’ve heard I need an email list. Umm ok, how do I do that? What the heck do I even send people once they’re on my list? How does that even help me make money?
What do I really need for starting a private practice? What are all those abbreviations anyways… LLC, NPI, CAQH? Do I have to have an office? Oh gosh, how am I going to afford an office…
And now you’re thinking, “nevermind, this is too much, maybe I’ll just forget it…”
But you shouldn’t just forget it. If you have that inkling in the back of your head that starting a private practice is what you want as a dietitian (and human!) – to be in charge of your day, to be in the driver’s seat of your career as a registered dietitian, to be making your own schedule, paving your own way – then you can’t just forget it. You need to go for it.
But first, you have to start.
I could literally write 3,497 pages on how to start your private practice or other nutrition business as a RD but I’m guessing you didn’t sit down to read quite that much. So let’s not paralyze your scrolling thumb and start with the steps you really need to take to dive in and get started as a dietitian entrepreneur. (Psst you can also download a copy of my how to start a private practice checklist for RDs here.)
17 (!) Steps to Starting a Private Practice or Other Nutrition Business as a Registered Dietitian
Seriously. Why are you doing this? What’s your motivation? WRITE IT DOWN.
2. Start with identifying your niche + your ideal client. If this isn’t your first Google into starting a nutrition private practice I’m guessing you’ve heard this before. But it’s super uber important and will save you tons of time in terms of getting clients and marketing. You can read these 2 posts (and download a worksheet to get started) for more about why you want a niche as a dietitian entrepreneur + how to identify your ideal client for your nutrition business (and what the heck one even is). Don’t let this step paralyze you. You don’t need to carve it in concrete, but you do need to think really hard about it and put it in some kind of writing, even if you edit later. (Yes, editing is allowed!)
3. Ok now the cut + dry, check-them-off steps, starting with: Grab an EIN. This is essentially a social security number for your business. It’s free. You can apply for your EIN here.
4. Choose a business entity (sole proprietor, LLC, S-corp). This means you’ll have to choose a business name. Don’t stress over this!! The short version of my recommendation is to choose something that describes what you do or your name. Don’t worry about being super witty and creative – you can use that in a tagline. But do make sure someone else isn’t using it or something too similar. You’ll need to file the necessary paperwork for your state for an LLC or S-corp, or perhaps just a DBA if you choose sole proprietor. (Tip: most dietitians that are just getting started in private practice choose sole proprietor or LLC and put S-corp on the backburner until they’re generating more revenue due to tax advantages. To oversimplify it, a LLC will help protect your personal assets if something should ever go wrong in your business.) You’ll need that EIN for the LLC or corporation
5. Write a business plan. Full disclosure: I never really did this. But I think it’s worth spending some time thinking about. It doesn’t need to be MBA-formal but you should think out who you’re going to be helping (your target market), your marketing and sales strategy (how are people going to know to hire you), and breakdown your offers and/or services.
6. Grab some professional liability insurance. Don’t mess around with protecting yourself. Examples include HSPO, Mercer, Proliability. You can get a discount on some plans if you’re an AND member.
7. Get an NPI and CAQH. If you know 10000% you won’t take insurance you won’t need the CAQH but it’s simple so might as well while you’re in set-up mode. You can apply for a NPI (national provider identifier) here and a CAQH number here.
8. Open a separate bank account for your business. (At an absolute minimum, open a separate business PayPal account.) This will help you separate your business finances from your personal finances and make it easier easier to assess your revenue and expenses down the line. Do this EVEN IF you decide to act as a sole proprietor. I promise you’ll thank me later.
9. Set up a website or landing page. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it’s 2019 – have a website. (We’ll dive more into this later but the essentials: make it about who you’re helping, not about you. Make that customer relate to you. Have a clear call to action – what do you want them to do? Book a call? Give their email address? Schedule an appointment?) Include your contact information.
10. Consider if you’ll need counseling space or will operate virtually. What equipment do you need? (Hint: here’s a list of everything I use for my virtual nutrition business, including what I use to see virtual patients and the free client scheduling program I use.
11. If you’re going to be opening a traditional or virtual private practice (i.e. seeing clients) choose a HIPAA compliant record keeping system. Some popular systems include Practice Better, Healthie, and Kalix.
12. Consider how you’ll collect payment. Many systems have a payment processer built in, but if you choose not to use one, there are other options like PayPal, Square, Acuity, etc. I strongly suggest something that allows you to take credit cards.
13. Create a marketing plan. You should have addressed this is in your business plan as well, but just in case you’re a rebel and skip that step: how are you going to market your business? Think referrals, testimonials, ads, word of mouth, social media, sales funnels, HealthProfs. Be strategic about what you’re going to start with first, then what you’ll move onto as you progress. Don’t tackle it all at once.
14. Create a list of the forms and/or paperwork you’ll need. This will look different for a private practice vs other business, like online courses or freelance writing. Private practice forms might include: an initial assessment form, a follow up assessment form, a consent to release information, HIPAA consent,. Paperwork may include a welcome information packet or policies and procedures.
16. Set your rates. Charge what you’re worth and be confident in asking for it.
17. Build a team as necessary. You’re probably saying what I haven’t even started yet, why do I need a team. But this one of the things every experienced entrepreneur says they wished they did sooner. So consider it and build it into your plan. This could be an accountant, lawyer, bookkeeper, virtual assistant, other dietitians, admin assistant, mentor, coach, etc.
I’ll admit this list is long. But some of the steps take 30 seconds (and others take some deep thought.) There’s also a ton not included! But these are the essentials you need to get started – to get off on the right foot and get you to that making money part so much faster than if you twiddled your thumbs and wondered what came next. You too can be a kickbutt private practice dietitian (or tackle any other entreprenuerial nutrition business!) with losing your mind.
If this still feels overwhelming to you (it’s ok if it does!), download the getting started in private practice for dietitians checklist.