In this article I talk about the 5 steps you need to take to actually start a nutrition business as a registered dietitian nutritionist. Whether you want to start a private practice, a blog, be an Instagram influencer or become a freelance dietitian, the information in this article will help you get started.
The concept of “starting a business” can be incredibly daunting if you’ve never done it before. It feels business-y and finance-y in a way that might leave you feeling completely out of your league. I also find that there are a ton of resources out there for what to do when you have a business, but nobody really talks about how to actually get there!
If you find yourself in that position and thinking the same thing, then this post is for you my friend. The fact of the matter is, starting a business does not need to be complicated or challenging. Anyone can do it… and by that I mean ANYONE.
Now, keep in mind guys, although I have started two separate businesses, I am by no means an expert. I’ve learned a ton from my own experience (which I will share with you here), but (I feel like I should probably say this) please don’t mistake the advice below for that of an accountant or lawyer :) Thanks pals.
So, here is goes - 5 steps for you to actually start a business:
1. Check what the government needs from you
Start by checking the website for your provincial/state government on starting a business. Literally Google “starting a business in [insert state or province]”. They will usually have a checklist of items that you need to consider including: what type of business you should set up depending on your needs, how to register a business name, applying for permits (if needed) and tax information.
For the most part, starting an online business is pretty simple. You often don’t need any special permits and if you aren’t hiring anyone then a lot of the paperwork will not apply to you.
2. Check what your college needs from you
If you’re a dietitian, check what information your college has on starting a business. Depending on your province, there may be requirements and restrictions on record keeping, how you can advertise your services or fees that you are allowed to charge.
Also, double check to see what your liability insurance covers. If you’re interested in writing, certain insurance companies do not cover that and you would need to add additional coverage on top of it. As a resident of Ontario, insurance provided through DC covers most services that are allowed by the College, but make sure to check and verify first!
3. Get a sweet website
Although you may be tempted to only have a social media account, I always recommend building a website too. Having a website helps to ensure that when people Google you (especially potential clients), they will find your professional site (and not just your Facebook account with pics of you partying in college :))
A website also gives you a place to demonstrate your credibility and subject matter expertise. You can use it to write blogs about topics that you are interested in or develop recipes for potential clients.
Building a website DOES NOT HAVE TO BE SCARY. Depending on where you are at with your business journey, you may have heard people recommending that you use Wordpress. As someone who has used Wordpress and many other website development platforms, Wordpress can be a little bit scary and overwhelming. Unless you are willing to invest the time into learning it, you may want to start with a program that is more manageable and user friendly.
Personally, I use Wix for my website. I find Wix super easy and fun to use and the best part is - I don’t feel anxious when I have to go in and update it!
Just because people tell you to, don’t feel like you HAVE to use Wordpress. My motto is - use whatever service provider helps you get your website up in front of your target audience the quickest AND allows you to update it whenever you want. Make sure your website represents your personal brand and helps you attract your target audience. For more information about branding and to download a FREE Branding Guide, click here.
Now of course, if you have the budget (which most people starting out wouldn’t), you can hire a website designer to build and manage your website for you. You can look on Upwork, Fiverr, or just Google “website designer” if you want to go that route. But again, a lot of easy website platforms (like Wix or Squarespace) have templates that are easy to customize and design so you may not need to go there.
4. Get a simple contract in place
Okay, even the word “contract” gives me cold sweats. Anything “legal” related makes me s.c.a.r.e.d. BUT they are important to have in place (mostly to make sure you actually get paid for being the nutrition boss that you are!) Depending on the type of work you are doing, you may have different contract needs.
I personally use LawDepot. For a yearly subscription of only $79-ish, you get access to contract templates for a number of different things - including being a consultant, confidentiality agreements, hiring an employee, etc. If you’re a dietitian in private practice, Libby Rothschild and Businessese have partnered to create templates specific to that space. You can find those here.
5. Get on social
Nowadays, this is a go-to business tool for many people. But, if you’re new to social media or have never considered it for business, this section is for you. Social media tools like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn are incredible mediums for promoting your business and helping your clients know, like and trust you.
A few important things to consider about social media:
Do your best to post every day (if not more). I know that sounds like a lot, but I have seen first-hand the effect of posting everyday versus only showing up when you feel like it. Schedule your posts in advance using a tool like Later, Hootsuite or Buffer so it doesn’t feel like it’s taking up a ton of your time.
You don’t have to be on every single platform. The most important thing is that you are showing up consistently. Also ask yourself - where is your ideal customer/client hanging out? If it’s Facebook, then that’s probably where you should focus your time and attention.
Be real and be yourself. Don’t try and fake it and for pete's sake - stop caring what other people think! Holding yourself back for fear of what others think is only preventing you from achieving your goals. So be brave and get out there.
There you have it - 5 simple steps for actually starting a business.
Now, I also want to touch on a few SUPER important points that are absolutely crucial to this whole process:
You are not going to do it perfectly and you will 1000% make mistakes - when I first started freelancing, I almost signed a contract that would allow someone to pay me $200 for creating 100 recipes (this is highway robbery by the way, don’t let someone talk you into doing that). Luckily I didn’t, but if I had, then I would have spent way too much time on something for pennies and had to chalk it up to a learning experience! Oh well!
The most important thing is that you just go for it - learning by doing is the only way to figure it out, so just go for it - and remember, I am always here for support if you need it!
Check perfectionism at the door - being a business owner is all about failing, making mistakes, laughing at yourself, feeling immense amounts of joy and fulfillment and eating raw cookie dough wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Anybody who looks like they are doing it perfectly is not doing it perfectly. Feel all the feels and roll with it because it’s going to be an incredible journey regardless.
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