Hey guys! As much requested, here is a post all about what I’ve learned in the first 6 months of starting my private practice!
It’s crazy to think I’ve had a dream of starting my business as a dietitian for years and now I’ve actually done it. I know. Part of me still doesn’t believe it. I’m the type of person that has a million ideas in life, but then I let myself get overwhelmed and don’t follow through with anything. I actually have clients and income as I write this, and I’m really proud of myself. Something that was life-changing for me was reading the book called 6 months to 6 figures, which I heard mentioned over and over in various business podcasts. The book really motivated me to take overwhelming tasks and tackle them one-by-one. I read that book in October 2016 and immediately starting chipping away at all of the things I needed to do to set up a business. I highly recommend it if you need a little push to get you started.
I’ve learned a lot since October. Here are the biggest pieces of advice that I have to share with you so far!
Start small, grow big
If there is ANY piece of advice I could give to dietitians out there, it would be to start out small and grow big. It’s easy to think with a new business that you need everything all at once- beautiful office, new computer, fancy copy/fax machine, professionally designed logo, branding, amazing website, etc. We all have a vision of where we want to ultimately end up. But my philosophy so far has been to start out with the bare minimum and upgrade things as I grow. Spoiler alert: this is not the fun way to do things. But I do think it’s the smartest way to figure out what is necessary without going into debt. I’ve tried to use as many free or low-cost resources as possible until I absolutely needed to spend money on something. Here are a few examples:
- Business phone number- I use google voice and it rings to my personal cell phone (free)
- Business cards- I purchased a stock design from Vistaprint and used a 40% off coupon ($30)
- Headshot- taken on my front porch by my boyfriend (free)
- Handouts- if I need something in bulk then I order them from online from Staples and pick them up ($20)
- Email list- I started out using MailChimp when I was just collecting emails (free)
- Website- I debated getting a website done professionally but after talking to a few designers, I realized it was going to be thousands of dollars. I could see myself going that route one day, but it wasn’t a cost I felt like was absolutely necessary upfront. So I did my website myself starting out. My website is a wordpress site that is self-hosted on siteground. They transferred over my old blog into my new site for free. I purchased a template online and paid the designer to install it on my site. I did all of this on black friday / cyber monday to get steep discounts. Everything in total cost <$200.
- Office space- I started out by sharing an office with a massage therapist for $200/month. The availability of the office was not ideal, so I’m currently using hourly office space through Regus ($15/hr).
Now that I am 6 months in and have more income coming in, I’ve been investing a little more as I go. For example, I just got some professional photos taken. I am also getting a logo designed (using Fiverr so it is still pretty inexpensive).
Network with people who are where you want to be
So, this is huge. I got nowhere pretty fast by telling my fellow inpatient clinical dietitians that I wanted to start my own private practice. Common responses to this were:
- “What about your benefits?”
- “I heard that you have to work twice as hard”
- “But you won’t get paid holidays off anymore”
- “I tried that once and I didn’t make any money”
- “I can’t believe you would give up this kind of job security”
If you want to run a successful private practice then network with someone who runs a successful private practice. They will be the ones who can offer first hand advice that can actually help move you forward. If you want to be great at marketing then get to know someone who is awesome at marketing. In the book 6 months to 6 figures, the author says that if he was given $1,000 that he would use that money taking more successful business people out to lunch to hear their stories and get advice.
Decide ASAP if you want to accept insurance
This is always a big decision for dietitians starting their own private practice. There are so many pros and cons to taking insurance, and you just have to do what works for you. I knew I wanted to take insurance, and my ONLY regret over the past 6 months is not making my insurance applications a priority. Just to give you an idea, I submitted my CAQH application on December 14, 2016 and finally got contracted with my first insurance company on June 15, 2017. Yep, 6 months. Hindsight being 20/20, I wish I had hired a company to complete all of my stuff for me back in the fall. It is costly (I looked into Healthy Bytes and I think it was $800 for 5 insurance companies?), but it would have been 100% worth it realizing how many hours I would have spent on the phone dealing with my applications.
Put Yourself Out There. Everywhere.
The easiest way to grow a business, even if you’re hoping for a mostly virtual practice, is to start out in your community. It’s a great way to get experience, hear what people are looking for and build your resume. Get your name out there, everywhere! It felt weird at first, but now I talk to everyone about my business. Whether I’m getting my hair done or going to a doctors appointment, I make sure to mention my services. I’ve even given a stack of cards to my Uber driver before!
Learn to Be a Business Person
I spent 8 years in school and do you know what I learned about business and marketing during that time? Absolutely nothing. So I’ve made it a priority to become a better business person. I listen to podcasts, read books, and spend the money investing in myself to be able to make smart business and financial decisions.
Here are my favorite business podcasts (completely free!):
- Blissful Bites with Nicole Culver
- Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller
- Entrepreneur on Fire with John Lee Dumas
- Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield
- The Smart Passive Income Online Business and Blogging Podcast with Pat Flynn
Something that is absolutely 100% worth spending money on is investing in yourself! I’ve done a few paid courses, and I’m currently a member of Nicole Culver’s business support group. Gaining new skills that can move your business forward is absolutely worth the added expense.
Just Do It.
Guys, Nike was right. Just. Do. It. I used to let so many small tasks hold me up in the past…. I think I spent 2 months trying to think of a name. Until one day I just told myself- JUST PICK SOMETHING. Just power through all of the little tasks and focus on the bigger picture. Figure out issues as you need to. Develop forms and resources as you go.
That’s all I’ve got for you so far. I’m planning on posting a yearly follow-up when the time comes! Hope you have a great day!