How to Become a Private Practice Dietitian
When I first started preparing to go into private practice, I was desperate to learn how to become a private practice dietitian from others. Unfortunately, it felt like a lot of information was gatekept.
People kept talking about a sales funnel but never explaining what it actually was. Or they were talking about efficiency systems but never explaining how they were implemented. And understandably so, business coaching is a business and somethings experts like to hold close…
BUT as a soon-to-be graduating dietetic intern, I was broke and couldn’t fathom investing any more than I had already spent on my education and internship.
And as my internship graduation date started getting closer, I was desperate to get any taste of private practice I could. Whether it be setting up my electronic health record or developing marketing content, I was READY.
In case you’re anything like me, I wrote this blog post on how to become a private practice dietitian to help you start getting ahead of the game!
Get ready, because this is stuff I wish I knew when I was just starting…
Table of Contents
My Road to Private Practice
Before I dive into the what, why, and how of becoming a private practice dietitian, I thought I’d share a little bit of my journey.
First, I knew when I chose to join the profession that I wanted to be in private practice. That’s right, I went into freshman year with the goal of starting my own business… but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
Because I knew I wanted to be in private practice, I wanted to get as much experience in the field before becoming RD exam eligible.
To do this, I decided to become a dietetic technician registered (DTR), which requires a 2-year degree with an internship OR a 4 year dietetic degree. I chose to go the 2-year route so I could get my feet wet as fast as possible. Here’s a blog post I wrote on reflecting on the entire process to becoming a dietetic technician.
Once I became a DTR, I started building up my social media platform, food photography and filming skills, and I started interning with a local registered dietitian (unpaid of course) to get experience and start making money.
I ended up working for a few food brands as their social media manager, creating nutrition-related content and recipes for their social media as well as analyzing the nutrient content of recipes for a few brands.
As I grew my own social media, I started building connections with other dietitians. Some were already in private practice and others were soon to be in private practice. This was extremely helpful as I had a base of dietitians to pull from when building my internship.
Which speaking of which, I decided to go the distance internship route. This was so that I could tailor my internship to my interests – which was intuitive eating, gut health, eating disorders, and celiac.
Once I finished my internship, I took my exam 1 week later and then DOVE straight into private practice. I decided I was going to give it my all and see what happened in a year’s time. Spoiler-alert, it’s been going extremely well.
Regrets of my Journey to Being a Private Practice Dietitian
My biggest regret along my journey to becoming a dietitian in private practice was not starting sooner.
I was absolutely terrified of selling courses, group programs, or content before getting registered dietitian credential.
Given my experience and scope as a DTR, I realize I could of started sooner and I wish I had.
Registered Dietitian Private Practice Check-List
- File for and start an LLC
- Get Professional Liability Insurance
- Figure out Your Accounting
- Build a Website
- Figure out Your Desired Service Offers and Pricing
- Figure Out How You Will Operate
- Create Templates
- Decide on Marketing Strategies
- Join a Mastermind Group
- Continuing Education
The legalities of it All
I think one of the most daunting tasks of starting a nutrition private practice is figuring out the legalities of it all. Do you file as an S-Corp or an LLC? How do you file for an LLC? What do you name your LLC? What kind of insurance do you need? How will you manage your finances? It’s a lot to figure out and consider.
My biggest tip? Just get started. Start researching, watching videos, reading blogs, maybe even asking peers or mentors about their perspective and then, make a decision. DO NOT let this part hold you back. If you make any mistakes, they can be fixed in the future.
File for an LLC
The first step to starting a private practice is filing for and starting an LLC. Most states let you do this online. There are a lot of website that try to get you to pay them to file for you, but it’s honestly so easy to do yourself.
I googled “file an LLC in ohio online .gov” and was able to find the online portal to do it in my state.
I filed both an LLC (Tayler Silfverduk LLC) and a fictitious name (or a “doing business as” name of Celiac Dietitian). So both are recognized as my business in Ohio.
Another pro-tip for this is to not use your name for your LLC. This would help give you some anonymity if you unfortunately were to ever be sued (something I learned AFTER I filed – LEARN FROM ME my friends). Which leads me into the next important step of starting a private practice…
Get Professional Liability Insurance
Getting professional liability insurance for my nutrition private practice was something I found incredibly hard to do. Most insurances did not cover out of state coaching nor did it cover any marketing (so it wouldn’t cover my blog, social media posts etc.) – That’s right even the Academy recommended insurances leave you unprotected when it comes to marketing etc.
I went through MANY insurance companies until I found mine. My biggest tip is don’t just go with the first policy you find, make sure it covers everything you need it to cover. If you can get a representative on the phone to review the policy – do it! Be sure to ask them questions about what is covered!
Figure out Your Accounting
The next step to becoming a private practice dietitian is to start figuring out how you will track your business finances.
Some people set up separate business accounts and use excel sheets to track expenses…
Others (like myself) use Quick-books Self Employed because it syncs with Turbo-tax to make filing your taxes easy. What I also like about Quick-books is that you can email or take pictures of you receipts so it automatically tracks expenses. Here’s an affiliate link to sign up for them if you want to use them.
Private Practice Operations
The next step to becoming a private practice dietitian is figuring out how you want to operate. What services do you want to offer? How much money do you want to make? Do you want to accept insurance? How will you make money while waiting to accept insurance? How much will you charge for your services? Do you want to use an electronic health record?
Again, a lot of questions and things to explore. So let’s talk about setting up your private practice operations….
Picking a Niche for your Private Practice
Unpopular belief but a niche is not as important as everyone makes it out to be. Let me explain…
I see so many dietitians looking to go into private practice without a clear niche. Some have a few ideas, others have no clue what they want to focus on.
Here’s the thing, waiting and planning isn’t going to help you figure out where you want to niche down. Starting your business and working with clients will.
By just getting started and seeing which clients you enjoy and which you don’t can help you hone in on your messaging and your niche.
So my advice? If you don’t have a niche, don’t let that stop you. Start creating and selling an offer and see where you enjoy working. The good news is, this is YOUR business, so you can add and adjust offers as you see fit.
Figure out Service Offers
Another important step of starting a nutrition private practice is creating an offer. This means figuring out what services you want to offer and at what price.
I started out offering sessions as needed but became frustrated with the huge gaps in when a client would schedule. It was hard to help people make changes if I was only seeing them every 2 months.
So I decided to offer monthly packages. This requires clients to book with in 45 days of buying a package to make sure I have enough touch points with them to actually get them results.
From there I started offering group programs and support groups.
A key tip here is, start with 1 offer. Get a feel for marketing it, how you like it etc. and as you build it out, you can start adding offers as I did.
Do this slowly so you AND your clients aren’t overwhelmed by all the different offers you have. Additionally, it lets you get experience without overcommitting so you can really take your time and learn how to improve your overall practice – that way it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as you start to weave other offers into your marketing.
Decided on Prices
The next step is to decide if you want to accept insurance. It’s important to figure this out as soon as possible as typically the insurance credentialing process takes a while.
If you go the private-pay route (meaning clients pay with cash not insurance) then you need to figure out pricing.
My best advice for private-pay dietitians starting private practice who are trying to figure out what to offer and charge is to reverse engineer you goal.
- How much do you want to make a month?
- How many clients can/do you want to see a week?
- Then do some division to see what you should charge roughly a session.
For example say I want to me $5000/month and I want to see 10 clients a week. I first would multiple 10 clients by 4 weeks to get how many client sessions I’d hold a month. That gives me 40.
Now I’ll divide $5000 desired income by 40 client sessions a month and I get $125/session. If I’m seeing people twice a month as I require in my monthly packages, then I’d only need to get and maintain 20 clients.
I use this same activity when deciding what to charge for my other services.
Figure Out How You Will Operate Your Private Practice
Another vital part to becoming a private practice dietitian is figuring out how you will operate. Will you sign up for an electronic health record to safely store client sessions, scheduling, communications, etc? Will you try to do it all on your own with pdfs, zoom, etc?
Listen, I am the queen of getting a good deal. I am all about it. and I was so tempted when becoming a private practice dietitian to figure out how to avoid paying for an electronic health record… and I’m so glad I didn’t.
I interned with quite a few private practice dietitians and I have to say the ones who were the most organize and carefree, were the ones who had an electronic health record keeping track of everything.
If you want to accept insurance, I hear Simple Practice makes that incredibly easy.
Otherwise, get the best bang for your buck with practice better. I have nothing but great things to say about them!
AND you can use their service for free for up to 10 clients. Meaning, unlike the other EHRs, you can start preparing workflows, forms, templates, etc. in their system before accepting clients.
If you want to learn more and sign up for practice better, here’s my affiliate link. It gives me a bonus at no cost to you 🙂
Create Templates for Your Nutrition Private Practice
The next step, and one you can still prepare for before launching your private practice is create templates for client forms, welcome packets, welcome newsletter series, session note templates, etc. Here’s a list of the templates and copy I created:
- Welcome packet for clients (what to expect from our session, paperwork expectations, how to join the session, how to cancel a session, etc.)
- Client coaching agreement
- HIPPA agreement
- Client application (to make sure we are good fit before confirming bookings)
- Initial client paperwork
- Initial client session note template
- Follow-up client session note template
- Testimonial forms
- Check-in forms
- Welcome newsletter series for marketing
- Newsletter templates for marketing
- Caption templates for social marketing
- Blog post templates for SEO
- Handout templates
- Workbook templates
Marketing for Your Private Practice
Marketing for your private practice will be perhaps the most important thing you do to grow your business. It’s time consuming and pays off if you love what you do. Below I discuss some different avenues of marketing.
Build a Website for Your Private Practice
An incredibly important part of becoming a private practice dietitian is getting a website.
This is how people will find you via a google search, learn more about you and your services, and it is essential for business accounts on Google, Facebook, Instagram and other social outlets.
To learn more about setting your website up to be visible on google searches check out this free training.
Figure out what keywords would be good for your niche and business by setting up a google ad account (no need to use ads) and search for keywords in their keyword planner.
I went for the “celiac dietitian”, “celiac nutrition coach”, “celiac nutritionist”, “celiac dietitian in columbus” keywords.
Because my blog is a part of my diversified income streams and because I want my business to rank well on google, I opted for a WordPress site.
I designed it using a plugin called Elementor which lets you drag and drop blocks to make a beautiful website.
A word of advice here – do not let designing your website delay your business launch. Throughout this whole process you want to go by the mantra “done is better than perfect” because trust me, you will have the rest of your career to perfect your assets.
Decide on Marketing Strategies for Your Business
A huge step in starting a nutrition private practice is figuring out your marketing plan. If you don’t market, then you won’t have a client base grow a business with.
First and foremost, your website is a huge marketing tool. It helps you be searchable on google. Since we already dove into setting up your website, let’s talk other marketing materials and strategies:
- Set up a Google My Business listing to start ranking at the top of local google searches. Here’s a guide on how to claim your free Business Listing here.
- Start a Linkedin Page for your business and update your Linkedin profile to show you work there. This is especially helpful if you ever want to partner with brands, but also good for finding clients.
- Draft a newsletter welcome series – Like mentioned above in the template creation section, setting up a
newsletter welcome email series is important if you plan on marketing via newsletters. I used this guide to set up my welcome newsletter series.
- Pick a newsletter service – this will be how you communicate with potential customers. I use Flodesk for my
newsletter because the cost is the same no matter how big your list grows, it’s easy to set up newsletter campaigns and it’s just overall a better experience then Mailchimp. Click here for 50% of Flodesk (this is an affiliate link).
- Pick your social media outlets – contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be on all of the social media outlets. I recommend deciding what age group you want to work with and then using which social media channels they are on.
- Create a social media marketing plan for those channels. I personally use Instagram and post a lot of infographics I make on Canva to it.
- I also am on the HARO listerv, and respond to reporter inquiries related to my niche to build authority and credibility in my niche.
- Build out your sales funnel – the graphic below helps guide you through it.
Join a Mastermind Group
Perhaps the most helpful and life-saving thing I’ve done for my private practice is join mastermind groups with other private practice dietitians.
One of them is a local group that meets monthly to talk about tough patients and business hurdles.
The other one I found when someone in the Dietitians in Private Practice Group and The Unconventional RD group asked if anyone else wanted to start a free mastermind group. We meet weekly for accountability, support, and brainstorming. It’s incredible.
I also signed up for a free business mentor that I meet with as needed on all things business. It’s a service run by SCORE and it’s invaluable. My mentor has been an incredible resource on connecting me with trainings, experts, and local resources.
Private Practice Dietitian Continuing Education & Resources
Last but not least, something I did to prepare for being a private practice dietitian was my own extracurricular learning. Both to help me build a stronger business and to build my nutrition coaching skills.
Books I Read (these are affiliate links):
- Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – A book on stress management techniques. It’s great resource for helping clients who are prone to food anxiety not take their worry into every meal.
- The Intuitive Eating Workbook – I work through this book with many of my clients, and incorporate the cost of this book or other books into my pricing.
- The Body Image Workbook – another book I work through with clients and incorporate the cost into service pricing.
- Unapologetic Eating: Make Peace with Food and Transform Your Life – a book to build on intuitive eating skills and understanding.
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – A book to help build an understanding and sensitivity to trauma-informed care.
- Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia – a book to help build my own knowledge on the racist origins of the profession and how I can do better.
- Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen – I’ll be honest, the book felt like one big advertisement but it was helpful in developing messaging around my business.
- Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight – more HAES/intuitive eating learning.
- Integrative Health: A Holistic Approach for Health Professionals – I have a certificate in complementary care and use this book to reference some gentle health approaches.
Free training videos I watched:
- Free trainings videos on ED and DE for those interested in eating disorders, disordered eating, or weight neutral care.
- When Your Client Says, “But I Need to Lose Weight!” – Training by ASDAH
- How Healthism Overshadows Healing – Training by ASDAH
- Sharing the HAES® Message – Training by ASDAH
- Onboarding Strategies to Create an Amazing Client and Practitioner Experience – Practice Better training specific to using Practice Better but is inspiring on how to set up on boarding in general, for a good client experience.
- Elevate Your Practice with Programs & Courses – Practice Better training specific to using Practice Better but is inspiring on how to to incorporate programs and courses into your practice for better outcomes and a better client experience.
- Using an Evergreen Program as a Resource Library – How having a resource library and can be helpful for clients. Again a Practice Better training specific to using Practice Better but is you could do something similar with a google drive folder etc. to improve client experiences.
Where to sign up for free continuing education?
- Gaia Herbs – Sign up as a professional with them and get free continuing education webinar invites straight to your inbox.
- Dr.Schär Institute – watch webinar recordings on gut health for continuing education as well as get notification in your inbox for upcoming live sessions.
- Siggi’s Sessions – gut health and probiotic continuing education.
I also signed up for google alerts on topics related to my niche so I always stay up to date and can create relevant content.