How to Start a Dietitian Private Practice

How to Start a Dietitian Private Practice

Starting a dietitian private practice can feel confusing and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be!  

Everyone seems to be talking about how to market your services…but no one tells you how to actually get your business started! There is a lot of fear around doing it the wrong way, making a mistake, or forgetting something. I hope that after reading this blog article about how to start a dietitian private practice you will feel more confident getting your dietitian business off the ground. 

Keep in mind that there is no one ‘right’ way and you do not have to follow these steps exactly as outlined. I’ve developed this process based on what has been successful for my clients from my experience as a dietitian business coach. 

Do not substitute this advice for the advice of a lawyer, accountant or regulatory college.

 

Before You Set Up Your Business

Setting up your business is not necessarily the first step in starting a dietitian private practice. First, you’ll need to make sure your business idea actually makes sense for your ideal client target audience, and the population you want to serve.

There is some work to do up front:

  • Is there a need for your service? Do some market research to ensure you are setting up a business that is fulfilling a need in the market.
  • Define your target audience’s challenges and ensure that your service is helping to solve their problems.
  • Define your niche.
  • Define your mission.

Get started with a FREE Dietitian Business Planning Workbook for a step-by-step breakdown on how to create your dietitian business plan, steps for how to define your niche and pricing and marketing strategies, as well as goal-setting tips.

How to Start a Dietitian Private Practice

Now, let’s get into the steps for starting a dietitian private practice. After you complete these steps, you will have your dietitian business set up!

You do not need to complete these steps in order. 

DSC’s Business Setup course goes through all of these steps in detail to help you feel confident with how to start a dietitian private practice. As a DSC member, you’ll also get access to The Ultimate Nutrition Business Checklist to map out your business journey without forgetting any steps.

 

Step 1: Decide on a Dietitian Business Name

Check out this blog post for an overview on choosing a name for your business

 

Step 2: Define Your Business Structure

In this step you will decide how you want to set up your business. How you set up your business will vary based on where you live and the options available to you. You will likely explore the following business types:

  • Sole Proprietorship
    • This is a common business structure for dietitians just getting started (particularly in Canada). It is easy and inexpensive to set up. Typically, you just fill in a form on your government website and pay a small fee to get your business certificate. You’ll file taxes as part of your personal taxes (you and your business are the same). The major disadvantage of this type of business is that you have personal liability for your business. 
  • LLC
    • (Not available in Canada) Many dietitians in the US use this structure to start a business. It may be slightly more expensive and labor intensive than a sole proprietorship and you may need to consult a lawyer to set up an LLC (depending on your state). Your business becomes a separate entity from you. 
  • Partnership
    • A partnership is a business that is owned and operated by two or more people. All partners share the profits and liabilities.
  • Corporation
    • A corporation is often a second step for most dietitians after you have grown your business. I switched my business from a sole proprietorship to a corporation after about year 2. It can be more expensive and labor intensive and you may need to consult a lawyer. Your business becomes a separate entity and you can have shareholders. 

Check your government’s website, and consult with a lawyer and/or accountant for more information on choosing your business structure. 

 

Step 3: Decide Where You Will Operate

There are typically two types of location options you can choose – a  physical location or a virtual/online nutrition business. 

  • A physical location involves an office space in a medical office, professional office, gym, etc. For some dietitians, having a separate office can lead to more productivity and perhaps an enhanced client experience for some clientele. 
  • An online nutrition business offers the flexibility to work from home, co-working spaces, or anywhere! There are no commute or travel requirements and fewer overhead costs (ex. rent, utilities, etc.). This type of business may not work for your client demographic but is becoming a much more widely accepted business approach for dietitians. 

 

Step 4: Insuring Your Business

Liability insurance for dietitians is essential to protect yourself and your business. You may also want to look at additional insurance on top of your malpractice insurance for dietitians, including:

  • General commercial insurance if you have a physical office or physical products
  • Cyber insurance for virtual practice
  • Tenant insurance if you are renting an office space. 

The first step is to call your insurance company to check what your liability insurance for dietitians covers and what type of malpractice insurance for dietitians you might need for the work you are doing. 

 

Step 5: Finances

Knowing your numbers is essential when it comes to starting a dietitian private practice. This is one of the biggest reasons why businesses fail – entrepreneurs  don’t pay attention to their numbers and how much they are spending vs. bringing in. Having said that, in your first year of business, you may be spending more than you are bringing in (that is completely normal, so long as you are paying attention to your expenses and have a plan for profitability). 

Starting with a good financial management process is really important.

To get started, 

Check out this blog post on pricing for dietitian businesses.

 

Step 6: Decide which EMR platform to use (ex. Practice Better, Healthie, Jane.app, Nutrium, etc.) 

Check out this blog post for an overview of common EMR platforms

 

Step 7: Create Dietitian Private Practice Forms

You will need to get your dietitian private practice forms together before you start taking on clients. A customizable client intake template is provided in DSC’s Business Setup course as well as an example client agreement. Additional links are also provided where you can purchase these pieces if you don’t already have them and find more online examples. 

 

Key Takeaways

The key steps to starting your dietitian business include: completing an environmental scan, defining a niche, choosing a name, defining your business structure, deciding where you will operate, insuring yourself, getting your finances in order, choosing an EMR and gathering your dietitian private practice forms. 

 

The DSC business membership includes access to 40+ courses for dietitians including the Business Setup Course where you can put these steps into action and get support from the DSC community every step of the way! 

Dietitian Success Center is THE professional development resource for dietitians, dietetic students, and dietitian entrepreneurs. Our mission is to make it easier for dietitians and dietetic students to build expertise. We do this through evidence-based courses for dietitians, the community and ready-to-use client handouts. Plus – we give you the tools to start and grow your dietitian private practice!

 

References: 

1.“Sole Proprietorship Definition – Entrepreneur Small Business Encyclopedia.” n.d. Entrepreneur. Accessed January 5, 2021. https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/sole-proprietorship.

  1. “LLC Basics.” n.d. Entrepreneur. Accessed January 5, 2021. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/77966.
  2. “Corporation Definition – Entrepreneur Small Business Encyclopedia.” n.d. Entrepreneur. Accessed January 5, 2021. https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/corporation.
  3. “Partnerships: What You Should Know.” July 4 2020. Investopedia. Accessed January 5, 2021. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/partnership.asp.

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