[The Dietitian Project Podcast] Ep 004: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Your Nutrition Business

These are the show notes from The Dietitian Project Podcast Episode 004. Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcast or Spotify. In this episode, I walk you through the steps to take to start your nutrition or dietitian business.

[Introduction] Hey guys! Welcome to The Dietitian Project. A podcast, where I have real, gritty and honest conversations about the role of a dietitian and provide practical, empowering advice for finding your passion within the field, improving your job satisfaction and building financial freedom. 

I am your host, Krista Kolodziejzyk (or, the @rdentrepreneur on instagram). I come to the table with years of experience working in nutrition care and the food industry, most recently, I’ve taken the leap from my comfortable corporate job into pursuing entrepreneurship full-time as a freelance dietitian. 

With this podcast, I really want to explore some of the challenges that dietitians face - being undervalued, underpaid and underutilized, while also providing practical and tangible advice for building the life and career you absolutely love. So thanks for joining - I’m super excited to take you along on this journey with me. 

So I published a blog post last week that has gotten quite a bit of traction, titled 5 Steps to Starting your Nutrition or Dietitian Business. I wanted to write this post because 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! 

So because the blog post was so popular, I thought it would be great to do a podcast episode where I go a little bit further into detail and talk about some of the things to do when you start your business including some of the mistakes that I’ve made so that you can avoid making the same ones! 

I want to start off by saying that starting a business does not need to be complicated or challenging. It may seem overwhelming but it’s actually pretty straightforward as long as you are familiar with the steps that you need to take. And don’t forget, you will never do everything right the first time. Guaranteed, you will miss things but don’t sweat it because you will figure everything out eventually and you will learn as you go. 

Now, keep in mind guys, although I have started two separate businesses, by no means do I know everything. 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 :) 

My business journey:

  • My first official business was a product-based business called Bark & buckle - it’s still running, you can find it on instagram @barkandbuckle 

  • Non-dietetics related, i basically just decided that I wanted to try and start a business so I just went for it. I had nothing in place except for my physical product and an Etsy store. I think this works for this type of business because it helps you to get a product in front of people soon to see if they actually like it - you don’t want to waste time and money on something that might not work. 

  • This isn’t really how you can do it when you’re starting a business as a healthcare provider, you need to have the plans in place before you even start taking on clients. But having said that, you absolutely don’t need to have everything taken care of. As long as you have a structure (the essential things, like regulations and legalities that I’m going to tell you about today) then you can expand and adapt as time goes on. 

Map out what you want your future career and lifestyle to look like

Sometimes we assume we want to do something because that’s all we’ve been exposed to without really think about the alternate paths. Because you did a placement in a hospital you might just assume that that is the path you want to take. I want to challenge you to think critically about it and ask yourself a few things: what would you talk about in your spare time if you could? What perks your interest when it comes to the field? What kind of a life do you want to live (freedom to make your own schedule or structure of a 9-5)? That’s how you figure out what your passion is - asking yourself what you want because the sky is the limit. I repeat, the sky is the limit. 

If you’re pursuing a business, define your niche, what are you passionate about?

I am a firm believer that when you aren’t talking to somebody, you’re talking to nobody. You want to make sure that you are defining a niche for your business. This niche doesn't necessarily need to be related to a nutrition-related condition (like heart health, diabetes, allergies/intolerances, vegan eating, digestive health, etc.), but it can also be a target population whose needs you want to meet (ex. busy moms, female entrepreneurs, college kids who want to get jacked, etc.)   

How much money do you ideally need to make? 

- Is this a side hustle or a full income? 

- Calculate how much money you need to make per month to cover your basic finances, actually map it out on a google form or excel document 

- Overestimate everything, add in an extra few hundred for miscellaneous one-off expenses 

- Multiply by 1.3 to allow for buffer and there you have the amount that you want to try and make per month 

- You will not start out by making this much money, it will take you a while to reach it but do you have a plan in place for if you don’t? Do you have savings to fall back on, etc.

Download my FREE Monthly Revenue Tracker.

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. 

Figure out 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. The kind of thing that you probably will never need but you gotta have for those just in case scenarios. 

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! 

Figure out how you’re going to get paid 

Decide if you’re going to do direct billing for insurance or not, I am NOT an expert in this because I haven’t done a private practice where I actually take on clients, but after doing some research here are some of the pros and cons of these options: 

  • Pros: insurance companies have a larger membership base, broader accessibility to clients who may not be able to afford your services otherwise (this might/might not be important depending on who your target client is - do they have more of a limited income?), can expand your referalls from doctors, other healthcare providers, etc. 

  • Cons: time consuming, complex, at the liberty of the insurance company when it comes to when you actually get paid 

Sending invoices and getting paid 

  • I’ve used a few different softwares but I like quickbooks the best (it’s free!) 

  • Set up a separate bank account for your business, if you want more information about this then check out @megkwheeler on instagram, she helps you understand how to keep track of your finances in an easy way. I purchased one of her courses (it was only $100) and found it to be super helpful.  

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. 

In fact, my good friend Lexy, who actually runs her own digital marketing agency told me yesterday that she is “divorcing” wordpress for good and she is using a new program called show.it 

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. 

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. 

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, I have found lawyers online who sell templates specifically for that purpose so you should be able to find it on Google. They are more expensive but then you’re getting something tailored to your needs. 

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 preventi g you from achieving your goals. So be brave and get out there. 

Now, I also want to touch on a few SUPER important points that are absolutely crucial to this whole process: 

  • You are 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!

  • If you find yourself with decision paralysis - comparing two website platforms, etc. pick one and move on. You will figure out what works for you over time, don’t waste time mulling over something, the nost 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.

If you're looking for guidance to help you get your business off the ground, make sure to check out The Dietitian Project business mentorship services.

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