If you think back to why you became an RD, most of us have a similar answer. We love food and love people. Somewhere along the way, we found the dietitian career as a way to put both of those things together to make a living.
Growing up, nutrition became a priority in our family after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. We completely changed our diet, and cut out sugar and processed foods. My interest in nutrition started young but it wasn’t until I was cheering for University of Florida that I realized nutrition was a field. The cheer team was sent to a RD after the coach found out about some of our disordered eating habits. I met with her and knew when I left the office that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
I spent the next 6 years going to school to obtain a degree to educate people on how to eat to live instead of live to eat. I learned all about metabolism and medical nutrition therapy. Throughout my under grad and grad school I volunteered at a private practice. Right after I graduated, I was hired and took over the private practice as the main RD. I had all the nutrition knowledge, so it should be really easy to start making a career as a private practice RD, right? Well, not exactly.
I struggled to build the business. I had a website and a location, but people weren’t running through the doors to see me.
The underlying issue was that I didn’t put out content. I didn’t have social media pages for the business and I wasn’t talking about all of our success stories. Although I had a degree on the wall, I didn’t present myself as the expert.
After a few months, I went back to bartending and working at a restaurant at night. I was working as an RD out of a pediatrician’s office in addition to the private practice. After about a year, I decided to leave the private practice and go to the corporate world. I ended up accepting a position as an RD at a community hospital. I was unpleasantly surprised to hear the starting salary was less than $50,000/year, but that was the going rate for an RD.
Over the next few years, I made as many connections as I could. The goal of having a private practice was still there but on the back burner. Finally, I opened up Healthy Steps Nutrition in 2012. I didn’t have a physical location when I started. I advertised on a directory site and would see about 2 clients a month at the beginning then it grew to 4 then 8 then 16.
After about a year, I went down to part time at the hospital to focus on the practice. I started renting space in a gym. The foundations of the business weren’t all there but organically, I was growing. It took the next few years to figure out how to make it a system and make well beyond the salaried position.
Like anything, it’s still being tweaked today. The program is and will always be focused on disease prevention, education and empowering clients to make health a way of life. The process has evolved and has show proven results. We developed resources for clients to ensure consistency, developed an app with automated content to make it easier to manage more clients. We started producing content – nutrition tips, videos, emails, newsletters. We built a following to work with clients around the world. We built a reputation to work with local businesses, doctors and sports teams.
As the nutrition business grew, fellow dietitians and gym owners wanted help doing the same thing. In 2015, we started mentoring gyms and dietitians to help them build profitable nutrition programs. I wrote a book last year, Nourish, sharing everything I learned and the system we designed over the past 6 years since launching HSN. Today, we work with hundreds of dietitians and gym owners to help them implement a turn-key nutrition program. Through HSN Mentoring, we provide the system, structure, content, access to the HSN app and ongoing support through mentoring so that you can save the countless hours it takes to create all of that and start making money right away.
Most nutrition programs are launched within 2 weeks of signing up for mentoring. Dietitians go from making an average of $28.33/hour (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) to charging $99+ per hour for nutrition services.
Starting a private practice is a big leap of faith and when I started, there was a lot of trial and error. Learn from my mistakes and you take the final product.
If you are an RD looking to grow your nutrition business, click here for a free webinar – 5 Steps to Action When Marketing A Nutrition Program.