How to Start a Dietitian Private Practice: The Complete Guide for 1:1, Consulting, Freelancing and more! (+ Nutrition Business Ideas for Dietitians)

How to Start a Dietitian Private Practice
Written by Krista Kolodziejzyk, RD, MPH, MBA

Written by Krista Kolodziejzyk, RD, MPH, MBA

Reviewed by Olivia Farrow, RD, MHSc
Updated April 2024

In this blog article, we are going to break down a step-by-step business plan for how to start a dietitian private practice. Nowadays the term “private practice” does not only refer to seeing clients one-to-one, either in-person or virtually. In fact, many dietitians make money through a number of different avenues, including selling online courses and ebooks, working with brands, consulting, freelancing and much more! 

 

In this dietitian business plan blog post, we’ll be covering: 

  • Dietitian business ideas – what do you want to offer? 
  • Dietitian business names – what do you want to call your business?
  • Business structure – will you set up as a sole proprietorship vs. corporation vs. LLC? 
  • Liability insurance for dietitians – what coverage do you require?
  • Practice management software – which platform will you use?
  • Finances – how will you keep track of revenues and expenses?
  • Dietitian private practice forms – which forms do you require?



One of the things we’ve encountered through starting business and researching business, is: people love to talk about the ‘fun’ stuff when it comes to business – marketing, sales, etc. but nobody tells you how to actually set up a business from the ground up! 

 

Our goal for this blog post is to provide you with these step-by-step instructions for how to start a dietitian private practice. Plus, provide you with a number of nutrition business ideas that you can use to generate revenue in your business. 

 

If you want a deeper dive step-by-step framework, join the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership for a full Business Setup course. We provide you with detailed courses, templates and resources to market your business, sell your services, and more. Check out our full content library here

 

This information is applicable to most types of businesses. Regardless of whether you are creating a one-to-one online private practice, doing dietitian consulting work, selling online courses, etc., we’ve done our best to cover details relevant to all. 

Quick Links

Before You Setup Your Business…

Before we get into the business setup piece, there is some pre-work to be done in advance. Completing this pre-work will help to ensure you have a clear business vision before going through all the “setup” stages.

 

  • Within the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership, you get access to the Ultimate Nutrition Business Checklist, which gives you a step-by-step outline of everything that needs to be done; we link to videos for each step which walk you through how to complete each task. 
  • Define your niche and ideal client profile. Regardless of whether you are working with clients 1:1, or you want to start freelancing for brand clients, it’s helpful to have a sense of ‘who’ your ideal client is. 
  • Define your offer by outlining what you do and how you deliver it. 
  • Come up with preliminary pricing. 
  • Start to outline your brand, including your brand adjectives, fonts and colors

 

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.

Fear Around Doing it “Wrong”

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve started businesses in the past, I was always so nervous that I would “do something wrong” – whether it be from a legal perspective, a financial accounting perspective, or a dietetics perspective. 

 

Let me reassure you, that there is no one ‘right’ way to set up your business. Trust me, nobody does this part perfectly, because every single business is slightly different and has slightly different requirements and needs. 

 

For example, consider two scenarios, the first is two practitioners who decide to collaborate and establish a dietitian private practice in a physical location on Main Street of their town. The other is a solo practitioner setting up a virtual private practice. 

 

The needs and considerations with regard to setting up their businesses will significantly differ in the two scenarios. 

 

Firstly, the duo may opt for a partnership as their chosen business structure. Because they are setting up their office in a physical location, they will have distinct startup costs, like expenses related to rent, utilities, and essential fixtures like desks and chairs. They may also have unique insurance requirements, since they will have clients visiting them in-person. Ensuring protection in scenarios where, for instance, someone trips and sustains an injury while inside the office space. 

 

Conversely, the virtual practitioner may decide to set up their business as a sole proprietor. They don’t necessarily have the same startup cost requirements, but they do have to select an appropriate workspace within their home – one that guarantees a quiet environment free from distractions to maintain client confidentiality during video calls. Additionally, they will need to decide on a virtual client management system (like Practice Better EMR) and secure, reliable internet. 

Struggling with Mindset

If you find yourself struggling with mindset throughout this journey – things like imposter syndrome, lack of confidence, or perfectionism that is halting your progress, you’re not alone! These are very common challenges that come up when starting and growing a business.

 

We provide practical strategies and support on how to navigate these challenges in our Mindset course in the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership

Step 1 - Come Up With Your Nutrition Business Idea

As mentioned above, a dietitian private practice might include more than just working with clients or patients 1:1. Some dietitians choose to opt out of 1:1 work, and work with clients in groups or offer digital products like online courses, ebooks, etc. Check out this blog post for 15 nutrition side hustles you can do to earn an extra $1000 per month.

 

Here is a list of nutrition business ideas you can use for inspiration. 

  • Work with clients 1:1 
  • Work with groups (ex. Corporate clients)
  • Create a digital product, like an ebook
  • Online webinars or masterclasses 
  • Create an online course 
  • Subscription (or membership) services 
  • Build your social media presence and work with brands 
  • Freelancing 
  • Recipe development 
  • Selling physical goods 
  • Blogging 
  • And so much more! 

Step 2 - Choose Your Dietitian Business Name

Check out this blog post on coming up with dietitian business name ideas. 

 

You have a couple of options when it comes to deciding on your dietitian business name

  1. You can operate in your own personal name, or 
  2. You can come up with a unique business name (like Dietitian Success Center)

 

How do we decide which direction to go?

  • Do you have an idea for a name? 
  • Do you want to be the brand? 
  • Is the name available? 
  • Does the name align with your future business vision? 

 

One thing to keep in mind is that there is a term called ‘doing business as’ or DBA, which describes when a person or business uses a name that is different from their legal name or official name (it’s sort of like having a nickname for your business). 

 

For example, your legal name could be Jane Smith, LLC, but your DBA might be something different – like Apple Nutrition. A DBA allows you to operate under a different name without changing your company’s legal name. This would allow you to have more flexibility in the future if you wanted to change your name, or perhaps if you wanted to have different brands associated with your business. 

 

Different states, provinces and territories have slightly different requirements for a DBA and how to register or set it up (and, they may even call it something different). This article provides a great synopsis as a starting point. 

 

The next thing to consider – is the name available? We provide you with a number of steps you can take to check whether a business name is available in the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership ($54/month)

Step 3 - Decide on Your Business Structure

Now that you’ve given some thought to your business name, it’s time to consider business structure. There’s a few options to choose from here. Please note: this is not legal advice, I’m simply outlining options that are available but if you want advice on the best option for you, consult with a small business lawyer. 

 

The most common options for business setup include: 

 

  • Sole proprietorship 
  • Corporation 
  • Partnership 
  • LLC (not available in Canada) 

 

Sole Proprietorship 

  • The business is entirely owned by one individual.
  • From a legal and tax perspective, the business and the owner are considered a single entity. 
  • This means that the income and expenses of the business are reported on the owner’s personal tax return. 
  • The owner has unlimited personal liability for the business’s debts and obligations. 
  • The sole proprietor has complete control over all business decisions.
  • Sole proprietorships are relatively easy to set up and maintain. (Note: when I set up a sole proprietorship for my first business, all I had to do was fill in a form on my provincial government website and pay an $80 fee.) 

Corporation 

  • A corporation is a legal business entity that is separate from its owners (called shareholders).
  • One of the primary advantages is that it offers limited liability protection to its shareholders. 
  • Corporations have the ability to raise capital by issuing shares of stock to investors (so think Dragons Den or Shark Tank). 
  • Corporations are subject to more extensive regulatory requirements and formalities compared to other business structures. So if you are forming a corporation, you will want to work with an accountant to do your taxes. 

Partnership  

  • When two or more individuals or entities join together to operate a business for profit. 
  • A partnership is owned and managed by the partners, who are the individuals or entities involved in the business. Partners share in the profits, losses, and responsibilities of the business based on the terms of the partnership agreement.
  • Partners in a partnership usually have a say in the management and decision-making of the business. The extent of each partner’s involvement and decision-making authority can vary and is often determined by the partnership agreement.

LLC, or Limited Liability Company  

  • An LLC is a popular choice for small to medium-sized businesses due to its benefits and simplicity. 
  • One of the primary advantages of an LLC is that it provides limited liability protection to its members, like the corporation.
  • Like corporations, an LLC is considered a separate legal entity from its members.
  • The specific rules and regulations governing LLCs can vary by jurisdiction, so you’ll need to consult your state’s requirements when forming and operating an LLC.

Step 4 - Determine if You Will Set Up An In-Person vs. Online Nutrition Business

This decision might be very clear depending on your business needs – so for example, if you are making food products, you will likely need to rent out a commercial kitchen. Or, maybe you’ve already decided that you’re going to rent out space in a cross-functional clinic. 

 

If you’re not sure yet, this can be the case if you’re a solo practitioner who is just getting started, you might still be in the decision phase. I want to provide some reasons why other DSC members have decided to do virtual online nutrition businesses vs. brick and mortar: 

 

Virtual/Online Nutrition Business: 

  • Inexpensive – fewer overhead costs 
  • Easier setup 
  • Flexibility to work from home (or anywhere) 
  • Ensure that it works for your client demographic (can they navigate the tech? Do you also offer personal training that needs to be done in-person?)

 

In the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership, we cover how to start an online nutrition business extensively 

 

Brick & Mortar Nutrition Business: 

  • Separate from personal space – might enhance productivity? 
  • Greater overhead costs (rent, utilities, etc.) 
  • Opportunity to build a greater presence/brand in the community 
  • Sidewalk marketing

Step 5 - Purchase Liability Insurance for Dietitians

Check out this blog post for more information on purchasing liability insurance for dietitians. 

 

Note: in the context of this blog post, insurance is referring to an insurance plan that you purchase to protect you and your business from liability (think, like car insurance, or renters insurance). We are not referring to “health insurance” (ie. insurance that a client or patient would have that would cover practitioner services like yours). These are two different things. 

Liability insurance can be a confusing topic, especially if you’re new to the profession or are starting a business.

 

What is Liability Insurance for Dietitians?

Check out this blog post for more information. Ultimately, liability insurance helps to protect you. Most regulatory bodies, regardless of where you practice, require practitioners like dietitians to carry professional liability insurance in order to practice. Mistakes can happen regardless of the area you are working in so it’s important to protect yourself from legal troubles.

Even practitioners working in unconventional settings outside of clinical practice such as blogging, meal plan creation, writing, cooking classes, etc. require liability insurance as it can help protect you in case someone were to make a legal claim about any harm caused by your work. 

 

Check Your Coverage Requirements

The coverage requirements for dietitian liability insurance will depend on whether your dietetic regulatory body or state licensing body requires a certain level of coverage. Check your regulatory body website for details.

 

Dietitian Liability Insurance Company Examples

This list is not exhaustive – check out this blog post on Liability Insruance for Dietitians for more information. Be sure to check with the individual insurance company to ensure it meets your needs. DSC is not affiliated with any of these companies.

Contact the insurance companies directly for details, pricing, and coverage information. 

In Canada

In the United States

Step 6 - Create a System for Organizing Your Finances

Knowing your numbers is essential when it comes to business. This is one of the biggest reasons why businesses fail is because they do not pay attention to their numbers – tending to overestimate revenues (money coming in), and underestimate expenses (money going out). 

 

Ultimately, we want our businesses to be profitable, meaning that there is more money coming in than there is going out. It may take time for your business to reach profitability since you are likely going to be incurring some startup costs before bringing in revenue. Startup costs can include things like paying for your business registration, your website domain name, website hosting, education and coaching, etc. 



In fact, the average time to profitability for a small business is 2-3 years. However, if you have low startup costs (which is the case for a lot of online nutrition businesses in particular, you can be profitable within the first year, or even a few months). 

 

Having a good financial management process helps for a number of reasons: 

 

  1. You’re able to assess where your business is financially (Are you profitable? How long until you anticipate you will be profitable? Are you undercharging? etc.) 
  2. You’re able to track changes over time (generally, we are aiming for our business to grow revenue-wise year over year). 
  3. You’re able to estimate money to set aside for taxes and sales tax (if applicable) (and ensure you have that amount in your bank account). 
  4. You’re able to plan for the future (What can you invest in your business?) 

 

It’s helpful to have a really simple money management process that you’re able to update at a regular frequency. Within the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership, we provide you with a copy of a basic money tracker for your business.

money management tracker DSC

If you prefer an automated system, you can set up a tool like Quickbooks or Wave app. You can sync these tools with your bank account, so your revenues and expenses are pulled directly into the tool. You can also run reports to see how much you’re spending in different categories, etc. 

 

Accepting Payments

 

You might be wondering, how exactly do I accept payments for my services or offers? There’s a number of different options here, and it depends on what you’re selling. Generally, when we are accepting payments for services nowadays, we typically don’t accept cash or cheques. Most people will want to pay via a credit card. In order to facilitate this, we have to use a payment processing platform. We cover various payment processors and how to use them with your website platform within the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership ($54/month). 

Step 7 - Choose a Dietitian Practice Management Software (ex. Practice Better, Healthie, Jane.app, Nutrium, etc.)

Next, let’s talk about choosing an EMR , which stands for electronic medical record or practice management platform for dietitians. This is only going to be relevant for you if you are working with clients 1:1 or in groups and you are collecting personal health information. 

Practice management platforms (also called EMR, EHR or telehealth platforms) have been one of the BEST innovations in the private practice healthcare space. No longer do dietitians or nutritionists have to try and piece together different platforms to create efficient systems in their practice, now it’s all in one place! 

These digital platforms allow you to keep all of your client work in one place, like:

  • Onboarding your clients
  • Booking appointments
  • Collecting personal health information (like 24-hour recall data, client intake forms, etc.)
  • Signing forms and documents
  • Processing payments
  • Nutritional analysis of dietary information
  • Conducting virtual consults (and are useful even if you only want the option to run some of your sessions virtually, but others in-person) 

If you’re trying to decide which EMR to use, we’ve written this blog post that compares features, pros and cons of some of the most popular. 

DSC members can get 20% off their first 4 months of Practice Better EMR by using this link and the code DSC20 at checkout. Full disclaimer: this is an affiliate link, so we do get a commission if you purchase using this link.

Step 8 - Gather Dietitian Private Practice Forms

If you’re working with clients 1:1, then you’re going to want to have a number of forms in place:

  • Dietitian intake form (adult and/or pediatric) 
  • Initial Chart note 
  • Follow-up chart note 
  • 3-day food record/24-hour recall 

 

If you are using Practice Better for your EMR, we have partnered with them to provide you with a Free Client Forms Bundle

 

You’ll also want to have some legal forms in place, things like: 

  • Client Agreement – which includes informed consent, outline of your services, confidentiality, payment terms, refunds policy, etc. 
  • Website Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy – clear terms of use for your website, how you store, use and manage your users’ data, etc.

Step 9 - Marketing for Dietitians

Now, it’s time to hit the ground running and market your services! Marketing is an essential component to running a successful business. Generally, people don’t just magically find your business and agree to pay you for your services – you have to get out there and showcase what you have to offer. Marketing can be done in a number of ways. We cover marketing extensively in the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership

Marketing Strategies for Dietitians: 

  • Developing in-person referral networks 
  • Website 
  • Blogging 
  • Social media 
  • And so much more! 

Do You Need to Work With a Dietitian Business Coach?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you might be asking yourself whether you need to work with a dietitian business coach. Within the DSC Nutrition + Business Membership, we provide you with access to business feedback, coaching and information without the price tag of a high-ticket dietitian business coach. Plus, we offer a Q&A feature, where you can send a video or audio message to our team and myself or one of our team members will send you back a personalized video or audio message with feedback, advice and support that is unique to your business. We also have a supportive community of hundreds of fellow dietitian entrepreneurs who can provide you with advice based on experience! 


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. Shopify. What Is Doing Business As (DBA)? [Internet]. Jul. 27, 2022. Available from: https://www.shopify.com/ca/blog/what-is-doing-business-as-dba
  2. Stripe. How to check if a business name is taken: Where to look and why it matters. [Internet]. 2023 May. Available from: https://stripe.com/en-ca/resources/more/how-to-check-if-a-business-name-is-taken
  3. U.S. Small Business Administration. Choose a business Structure. [Internet]. 2023 May. Available from: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/launch-your-business/choose-business-structure
  4. Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Sole Proprietorship – Entrepreneur Toolkit [Internet]. Available from: “Sole Proprietorship Definition – Entrepreneur Small Business Encyclopedia.” n.d. Entrepreneur. Accessed January 5, 2021. https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/sole-proprietorship.
  5. “Corporation Definition – Entrepreneur Small Business Encyclopedia.” n.d. Entrepreneur. Available from: https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/corporation.
  6. Investopedia. Corporation. [Internet]. Dec 8, 2023. Available from: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corporation.asp.
  7. Kopp, CM. Partnership: Definition, How it Works, Taxation, and Types. [Internet] 2023 Oct. Available from: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/partnership.asp
  8. Investopedia. Corporation. [Internet]. 2023 Dec. Available from: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corporation.asp.
  9. Entrepreneur. What Is an LLC? Here’s How it Works [Internet]. 2023 June. Available from: https://www.entrepreneur.com/starting-a-business/what-is-an-llc-heres-how-it-works/452708

Disclaimer: The information provided in all video content is for educational purposes only and is in no way medical or professional advice. Dietitian Success Center Inc. is not responsible and cannot be held liable for any actions or inactions taken related to the information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to validate content with their country’s current standards for dietetic practice before implementing

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