So you want to start a nutrition private practice? Before I give you the tricks that I have learned from my personal experiences, it is important to know that opening a private practice takes planning, risk taking, passion, and persistence. It is not something that will happen overnight, but it is one of the best decisions I ever made for my professional career! The amount of job satisfaction is hard to explain in words. It’s extremely rewarding when you build a relationship with clients who are able to completely change their lives for the better.
Before beginning the journey of creating your own practice, I highly recommend becoming a registered dietitian first. Basically, DO THE WORK. This is typically done through an ACEND-approved dietetics program that provides either a certification or a bachelor’s degree, followed by a year-long supervised internship. I will also note that master’s degrees will be required beginning in 2024. After the internship is complete and you pass the RD exam, you are certified to practice. Developing a private practice is a common goal for registered dietitians, so I wanted to share my personal journey and the steps I took to get where I am today.
My Personal Journey to Becoming a Private Practice Dietitian:
- 4 Year Bachelors Program at the University of Northern Colorado (B.S Dietetics)
- 2 Year Masters and Dietetic Internship Program at Illinois State University
- Registered Dietitian Exam
- Certified Diabetes Educator Exam with 2 Years of Experience Prior
- Check out requirements here: https://www.cbdce.org
- Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor Exam with Self Study and Supervised Practice and Application https://www.intuitiveeating.org
- Past President of the Northern Colorado Dietetics Association
- Current President Elect of the Alaska Dietetics Nutrition Association
- Full disclosure my first 2 years of private practice I worked 7 days a week putting in 12+ hour days for way too long. I experienced major burnout until I took setting work life balance boundaries seriously. I’m still in the process of improving my own health and stress management.
Registered Dietitian Employment Experience:
- Outpatient and Inpatient Practice
- Long-Term Care
- Diabetes Management
- Private Practice
- Meals on Wheels
- Government Senior Nutrition Program
- Various Contract Jobs
Now that I have successfully begun my own private practice, I want to share the details that go into starting a nutrition business. I have highlighted some important tasks that are crucial to think about when starting a private practice.
Where to start with creating a nutrition private practice:
Choose a Business Name and LLC
Creating a business name can be harder than it sounds- it should be creative and unique to your purpose, yet easy to pronounce and remember. The name should give an idea of your specific business, but it shouldn’t limit your business as it grows.
I chose the name RDRx Nutrition which stands for Registered Dietitian Prescribed. I provide individualized nutrition counseling. No fad diets or generic information. Each session is crafted to fit the individual’s needs and goals. I wanted future clients to know it would be a customized and prescribed experience by an expert in nutrition.
I chose an LLC. If you choose to do the same, you will also be able to obtain your EIN/Tax ID number, which is required for taxation purposes. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google “LLC vs. S corporation” or consult a lawyer.
This will be unique to your state. It’s usually very simple and a fee around $50-$150 that you can pay online. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
There are a variety of website builders out there such as Wix, Square Space, or Network Solutions. I personally use WordPress to build the website for RDRx Nutrition. It has great plug-ins geared toward boosting SEO and is user friendly. I recommend researching these sites to see what would work best for you. I have attached a link below that compares popular website creators.
If you are in your internship, start saving projects and education materials! These can come in handy later. Even better I’d suggest you get started on a website or social media platform to start building your audience. If you work in a setting that has nutrition handouts start to gather what you feel is most helpful and make it your own!
Check out this website where other dietitians sell their materials: https://rd2rd.com
Your brand is not just centered around a logo or your name. BE AUTHENTIC, don’t copy someone else. It can include business cards, social media graphics, photos, or colors and fonts that represent your personal style. The brand for your business should incorporate both your target audience and your personal style. Be authentic, I’ll say it again- it’s more important to make genuine connections with clients then impress everyone who visits your website.
My nutrition counseling approach is focused on intuitive eating which I am very upfront about with my social media posts and wording on my website. It’s important for potential clients to learn more about you to make sure you are a good fit for them. Believe it’s not fun when they are looking for a different approach.
I’m am no artist. I picked 3 colors and made sure to incorporate them throughout my website and social media platforms (Instagram and Pinterest are my priority). Also I have a format of post topics on my instagram for consistency and a template for all of my pinterest pins using Canva for designs and Later for scheduling posts.
Who do you want to help and why? Your ideal population, or target audience, is the specific group of people you want to help and make a positive impact on.
I didn’t take this one as seriously as I do now. I wanted to help everyone when I first started (which I still do). However, it’s crucial you are working with clients who are a good fit for you and you enjoy working with. For example, I don’t enjoy gastrointestinal disease management, so in this case I would refer to a Registered Dietitian who specializes in gut health.
This refers to how you run your day-to-day aspects of your practice. This has been most challenging for me. Setting boundaries and managing finances is not my favorite but it is very important.
A popular method dietitians utilize to conduct their counseling is through an electronic tool that has all the things you need including scheduling, patient paperwork, communication with patients, and payment methods. I have always used Practice better, which is a free tool that allows me to do all of the above. I talk a little bit more about it down below. I have also found it helpful to do a free 15 minute screening call with my patients.
I also manage my clients supplements through FullScript. I use Fullscript to dispense quality supplements and keep patients on track with their treatment plans. Unlike other retailers, Fullscript guarantees products are never past expiry, counterfeit, or stored incorrectly. See more on my blog about quality supplements.
I also use a paper planner along with my Practice Better online calendar because I am a psycho.Legalities
I use Proliability for professional liability insurance: https://www.proliability.com
Your social media platforms are a great (and free) way to start marketing. This allows a client to get to know you a little better and your approach to nutrition coaching. You can also reach a large population on social media.
If your goal is to help those in your local community, you could consider in-person marketing techniques such as flyers and/or business cards. You could also host lectures or presentations. I would recommend charging a fee and valuing your time.
Regardless of your marketing platform, it’s important to be consistent when promoting your business. I use an email list that clients or visitors can subscribe to that provides updates or other information.
Honestly, my clients have mainly come from word of mouth. Physician and gym owner referrals (who I built rapport with) have also been sources. Google search has been reported due to my lovely clients leaving reviews and sharing their experience. The wonderful people I have had the privilege to serve and work with have been very supportive and happy to leave testimonies which has been a big part of my success.
Canva is a free app that allows you to create tons of personalized designs to promote on social media- logos, instagram posts and story layouts, posters, business cards, or even food menus!
I have utilized several social media platforms including Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to promote my practice and share examples about my approach to nutrition counseling. Follow me and check them out!
Prices, Taking Insurance, NPI
I chose to do out of pocket for payment but provide clients with a Superbill for health insurance reimbursement (explain more).
ACEND has some great resources for basic payment practices that a dietitian can use. The website includes information on the first steps to becoming a provider, payment for nutrition services, coding and billing, and services and fee management.
Business Banking Account, Square
I use Square for all my transactions and to stay organized. It is also compatible with my PracticeBetter client platform for billing.
Top Resources for Nutrition Private Practice:
Practice Better (you can create a free account and start building client programs)
I do EVERYTHING on this platform. My billing, scheduling, automations, video chat, goal reminders, resources, etc. My clients have 24/7 access to food journaling and chat through the app that is customized to your practice. Highly recommended. Like essential.
I’m being fully transparent when saying these are my affiliate links and I would be super grateful if you chose to use them.
Mentoring and Coaching
Jennifer McGurk- Pursuing Private Practice:
I loved her business plan and how she has so many resources listed out. It was a great place for me to start to create my basic outline, learn some rules/regulations and narrow down my niche.
Erica Julson- Unconventional RD :
This source was awesome!! I have seriously upped my game with SEO, running the virtual side of my practice, and making affiliate income. Erica has so many tools to create outlines and to view progress for blogs/websites/social media. Very helpful!