Starting a private practice is no easy task, but it can certainly be done! The graduate program I enrolled in was “Entrepreneurial” based, meaning I wrote a business plan and was required to take finance classes. The program I graduated from was awesome, and I learned how to be an effective, evidence-based Registered Dietitian… but I was not prepared for how much learning I had YET to do and learn as a business owner! I knew I wanted to start my own private practice before I even started grad school, so I started to learn from my family, friends, the Small Business Association, YouTube, social media, and other RDs. Let me tell you, I was not ready to start my private practice, and I did not feel 100% ready to go. I had picked a date to start, and as that date got closer I got nervous but I started anyway! You may not feel ready or fully confident, but you have to go for it! There are so many moving parts to starting a business, and there is no perfect way to do it. However, there are a TON of resources out there to set you in the right direction!
If you want to have a private practice as an RD, you really do just have to start! I suggest you utilize SCORE through the Small business association (SBA) in your area. SCORE gives you free business mentoring that will help you set up a business plan, develop a marketing plan, offers webinars and classes, and in-person business development. You can connect with the SBA and SCORE before you take the exam if you like. Once you pass the RD exam, check out what licensing you need in your state and town. You will need an NPI number. If you are a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there is group insurance through Mercer/Proliability that has a discounted rate for first year RDs. Once you have your licenses, NPI and insurance, you will want to do the following:
- Setting up an LLC is super easy online, you can probably find the link on your local SBA website.
- Find a lawyer that specializes in small business specifically for our field who can help you set up everything the right way the first time.
- Find a bookkeeper or at least invest in a program like Quickbooks to track your expenses and purchases – keep your business and personal accounts separate
- Find a space to rent that is private (many times other professionals have space they are renting out, like massage therapists, chiropractors, doctors)
- Learn how to build business credit (check out CreditSuite on Youtube) without using your personal credit information – do this if you think you will EVER need a business loan/line of credit
- Choose a domain name and create a website… or have a professional build one for you (that is what I did because I am NOT tech or web savvy!)
- Get an email from your domain name through G-suite and get a BAA because you need HIPPA compliance for email
- Set up a Google My Business page. I watch a million YouTube videos on how to build a business, how to optimize my business Google account, SEO, blogging, you name it, it’s out there.
- Join LinkedIn, create your page and connect with others. LinkedIn is for business professionals, so create meaningful content to share (not the place to market your business, just share and engage with other business owners!)
- According to my SCORE mentors, there’s “riches in the niches” If a specific part of being an RD interests you, learn as much as you can about that part of our job, get certifications and additional credentials if applicable, and market yourself as an expert in that niche/specific RD field
- Create social media business accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
- Create meaningful content to share to these accounts – show you are the expert
- Follow the social media accounts of RDs who inspire you
- Join Facebook groups for RDs and search those FB for specific topics you want to know and post a question if you can’t find the answer. (always search first!)
- Answer the question: who is your ideal client? Get specific.
- Find ways to market to your demographic and ideal client
- Create your 30-60 second Commercial or Elevator pitch: who you are, what you do, how you help your clients, who your ideal client is
- Network, network, network! Consider joining the Chamber of Commerce in the town your business is registered, as well as surrounding areas. Many times the Chambers have free or low cost networking events that you can try out and meet people before joining or even without ever joining. BNI groups are also always looking for guests to visit. There are probably many local networking groups that are free to join as well, search Facebook and Google to learn the groups in your target market
- Understand you are learning, a work in progress and you are not going to know everything.Do not give up, every single thing is a learning experience!
- Keep learning, keep focused, be a BOSS!
- Have FAITH in yourself!
Every day I learn something new. Every day I work on at least one thing to make my business bigger, better and stronger. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but doing these things will help you move forward to owning the practice you deserve!