Wow, it is really hard to believe that it’s the 1-year anniversary of when I launched G&G Nutrition Co. What a year it has been! There have been highs and lows but I I have learned so much.
This sums up my journey so far to starting my nutrition private practice:
- November 2016- started doing some behind the scenes work to start my private practice, set up my LLC
- December 2016- submitted CAQH application to get credentialed with insurance, set up office share with massage therapist
- January 2017- officially launched private practice, got first contract corporate wellness job! Woo hoo!
- March 2017- got my first 1-1 counseling client!
- May 2017- put in notice at my full-time job
- June 2017- last day at full-time job, started working 2 part-time jobs + private practice
- June/July 2017- got credentialed with first insurance company
- July 2017- moved into my first private office
- October 2017- left one of my part-time jobs
Something that really helped me starting out was networking with other dietitians and hearing about their experiences starting a private practice. So I wanted to share my own!
(Also, if you haven’t seen it: lessons learned in my 6 months of starting a private practice and my page of private practice posts)
Start small and grow big
I stressed this in my 6 month recap but start out with as very little as possible and grow as you need to. Take advantage of free or low-cost tools in the beginning, even if they may not be what your dream is in the end. People ask me all the time what I think about taking out a business loan in the beginning and my advice is always NO, you really don’t need to do this. Just started out with what you need and acquire things as you go along.
A few things that I think are necessary ASAP: a website, a phone number, an email address, setting up your business entity (sole proprietor, LLC, etc.), getting liability insurance, a basic business card, a basic flyer advertising your services (if you are local) and some sort of office situation if you’re planning on seeing clients in person.
Some things that can wait until you need them:
- a professionally designed website- if you ever need it
- a logo- if you feel like you need one right away then I recommend Fiverr
- fancy printer-use a cheap one, bulk print handouts at staples or office max
- handouts- design/find these are you go- you DON’T need to create them all in the beginning
- your own office space- share with someone (like an RD, psychologist, PT, etc.) or use a virtual office space like Regus
Something that really helped me was working a part-time job when I really didn’t need it just to acquire some of the extras that I wanted but weren’t really necessary. When I got to the point where I needed a full-time office, I actually purposely kept working at a part-time job just to furnish the office and set up everything I wanted.
Know When it’s Time to Invest in Yourself and Your Business
If you were like me and basically started out with nothing, then you will be faced with the constant challenge of trying to decide when it’s OK to buy more things or upgrade some of your tools. My advice with this is to think of your time as money, and start purchasing products or services when it is costing you too much money (in time) to do things yourself.
These types of tools could be anything from an EMR, scheduling software, a phone service, a marketing company, or even a company to print letters. If the time spent doing little tasks keeps you away from seeing clients or getting contract jobs then it’s time to invest in something to help.
Finished is Better than Perfect
This is my new motto, for both 2018 and the rest of my life.
I was so worried about waiting to launch my private practice until everything was perfect- my website, my office situation, my handouts, etc. It’s almost laughable now because I’ve changed my website around on a weekly basis, I’m on my 3rd office and I deal with handouts as I go along.
Just do it, move forward and get things done as you go along!
Focus on getting from point A to Point B
Have you ever heard the advice “Imagine where you want to be in a year and plan from there”. This advice doesn’t get you very far, at least not in my opinion.
Instead, I would recommend focusing on the things that will get you from Point A to Point B, and plan in 90-day increments. Life and business changes so much that 90 days / 3 months is a much more realistic time frame. Focusing on moving your business forward is more motivating and can get you where you want to be faster!
My end dream is to have a successful virtual company with employees. My starting point- point A- was working a job that I hated, commuting 2 hours per day and having no mental energy to do anything. Focusing on my end dream got me nowhere pretty fast.
Instead, I focused on Point B, which was finding a way to leave my full-time job. This was my key to growth because I was happier, had more mental energy, had more free time and was able to focus on my business. My point A and point B (or should call them C, D, E? haha!) change every few months, and I adjust my goals, projects and efforts based off of what I’m trying to accomplish.
I definitely have end goals and a long-term plan, but I think focusing on short-term goals is more efficient and can move you along faster.
Evaluate your Return on Investment
And sometimes my investment is my time, because time is money.
This means that I take a close look at everything I’m doing and evaluate how much income is generated from doing it. I really try to spend 80% of my time doing things that bring in clients and income to my business.
For example, I used to spend a lot of time blogging, editing photos and dealing with social media. It made me feel validated every time I got a lot of blog comments or more social media followers. But I think in the past year, only 2 business opportunities have come from doing this.
On the other hand, any time I go do a talk somewhere, even if it’s free, I always pick up at least 1 new client. Sometimes more. Clients see me multiple times which is recurring income for my practice. So now I spend much more time doing speaking engagements than on social media because the return on investment is higher.
Decide ASAP if you’re going to take insurance
I really wished I had stayed on the ball with getting insurance set up at the beginning of my private practice. I submitted my CAQH application in December 2016 and did not start seeing insurance clients until July 2017. Some of the issues were beyond my control, but I could have sped up the process if I was a little more proactive about things.
Taking insurance has been fantastic for getting my private practice off of the ground. If you’re intimidated by some of the negatives of insurance then I’d recommend networking with dietitians who have successful insurance-based practices.
This brings me to another point- I think you be successful doing pretty much anything as long as you do it the right way. So if you want to be successful at running and insurance-based practice then talk to someone who is already successfully doing it. If you want to run a successful cash-based business, or be successful at selling high-end packages, then reach out to people who are great in that area. You can learn so much from others if you just look in the right place.
Niche Down & Go Find Your Ideal Client
There’s a saying out there and I think it’s a great representation of private practice: if you’re speaking to everyone then you’re speaking to no one. Niching down is a great way to narrow down your focus and speak directly to your ideal client.
I’ve heard this before but I honestly didn’t really understand what it meant until recently. When I first started out, I would pretty much see anyone and didn’t like the idea of niching down. I felt like if I said I only saw certain people then I would alienate other potential clients and lose business.
I realized a few things over the past year. One is that I can’t know every single piece of medical nutrition therapy. It’s impossible to be an expert in everything. Just look at medicine and all of the different specialties out there! So if I’m taking in clients and I’m not an expert in their problems then really, I’m doing them a disservice because I’m not giving them the best care. And I’m doing myself a disservice because I’m not going to wow them.
Another thing I realized is that there are some areas of nutrition that I really just don’t enjoy. One is eating disorders and another is sports nutrition. Those two areas are just no my jam. So I decided not to take those types of clients and I happily refer them to other dietitians who will give them amazing advice.
Narrowing down my focus to prediabetes, diabetes and working women has been freeing for me. I’m passionate about those areas so it makes me happy thinking about helping people. Narrowing things down has also allowed me to start refining my messaging and know where I can find the clients who would be the best fit for me.
Another note about niching down- it’s OK to pick an area and decide later on that something else is a better fit for you. Don’t hold yourself back from moving forward just because you’re not sure which direction you want to do. Just follow whatever you’re passionate about and go from there. I’ve seen people switch niches all the time, and it will be OK- I promise. This is also a great reason why it may be better to go with a more broad business name, or using your own name. It would really suck if you named your practice “My Diabetes Nutrition” or something and then decided in a year that you didn’t want to practice diabetes anymore :)
Expect Slow Growth
I really wish someone had told me this in the beginning. Rome was not built in a day and neither was my private practice. I remember announcing my launch on my blog and to the community. Do you know what happened? Nothing I had really wanted to get enough clients to leave my full-time job, so when that didn’t happen right away I felt very discouraged.
I think it’s normal for growth to be slow and to expect that, both mentally and financially, when you’re first starting out. Working part-time or PRN somewhere is a great way to continue to build skills while also working on your business. But it’s SO important to make sure if you do this that your other job is something that enhances your skills and is not a mental drain or time suck. My PRN job at the hospital pays for all of my license / registration stuff, they do a monthly journal club for CEUs, I love working there and my schedule there is super flexible. All great for me as I’ve growing!
So my advice in a nutshell is to focus on growth. As long as each month is better than the last then you are doing something right. Focus on the clients you DO have and keep moving forward. It would be easy for me to look at where I am right now and feel disappointed that I’m not busier, but I actually feel very proud of myself when I remember where I was at this time last year.
I completed the Todd Herman program last summer (amazing! highly recommend), and one of his main points of success is to simply just stick with it.
Year #2- 2018
I’m excited for 2018. My business is established and I feel more confident in the direction I’m going. I’ve also given myself mental permission to let go of the idea that everything I’m doing now is set in stone. Knowing I can switch things up if something doesn’t work rather than stew over everything trying to make it perfect has made me so much more productive.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on a podcast- hopefully that works out for me!
I felt really intimidated about knowing nothing about business when I launched my private practice, so that was a lot of my focus over the past year. Honestly, I feel like an awesome business person and I think I grew my practice a lot in just 1 year because of it. So I’m proud of that… but I really want to get back to my roots and focus more on the nutrition side of things. My biggest regret of 2017 is that I didn’t spend enough time working on my counseling skills and studying nutrition. I guess when you finish school, you want to feel like you’ve learned it all. But nutrition is always changing!
As I go into 2018, I’m changing my focus to be less about business development and more about being the best dietitian I can be. If a training is not geared towards helping my ideal client then I’m not investing my time in it. I’m going to seek out new information instead of waiting for it to fall into my lap. I want all of my clients to feel so happy that they came to see me, and I want to be able to provide them with great resources and suggestions to help them see the results they desire.
Peace out, 2017! Looking forward to everything 2018 has to offer
This is very amazing , I am a registered dietitian and I just launched my own private practice too in Nigeria , November 2017. All you have said is true . Thank a lot
So great, Adeola! Thanks for reading!
Toni Langhans says
Very helpful and informative article! Thank you for taking the time to blog about something that can help out fellow RDs!