What’s the number one thing dietitians get wrong when starting a nutrition private practice? I promise you are going to be surprised when I tell you. It’s NOT what you think.
Starting a nutrition private practice is messy. Complicated. Miraculous. Devastating. And quite often all at the same time.
The Good. The Bad. the Ugly.
Over the last ten years of running what I consider a highly profitable and successful nutrition private practice, the shit has certainly been sticky, stinky, and down-right nasty. However, there were certain things that made the challenges in my private practice a heck of a lot easier. Today I am going to be your sista’ from another mista’ and give you some straight advice. You may not like it. But I am the real deal and I want you to be as well.
Here it goes …
Don’t quit your day job. Period. End of story.
I am dead serious about this one. I can’t tell you how many times I have see dietitians quit their day job too quickly when starting a nutrition private practice.
Trust Me – I Get It
I totally get it! Starting a nutrition private practice is WICKED exciting! Plus, having a private practice generates killer income. However, it doesn’t make it any easier that every self-help book out there is telling you to, “Just do it! Fuck that shitty clinical job. You are better than that.”
But before you quit your day job you should have an established practice with consistent income which out generates the money you make in your day job. Think about that one. Let it really sink in. Girl you better be making some dough-ray-me before you ghost your cash cow.
Because achieving your dream of opening a thriving private practice is not going to be a lateral career move. It is going to be the best friggin’ decision of your life. But in order to make it a progressive move, you need to be patient. You need to be smart. And most important you need to be able to afford lunch and snacks. Snacks are really like super-duper important for us dietitians.
Let me explain why. Not about the snacks. We can talk about snacks later. But why I am telling you this in the first place.
In 2007, when I as starting my practice I was an intern (a.k.a. indentured servant) at the mighty Yale New Haven Hospital. I was chatting up my future career as a dietitian with everyone I met. More so because I was probably giddy from exhaustion but that is neither here nor there. But nonetheless I was generating the buzz in my circle (and outside) and people were reaching out for advice with their diets.
After all, everyone has an interest in nutrition and I learned early on in the game to capitalize the shit out of this.
So during my internship (yes – no credential, no title), I started seeing a handful of patients at places like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and in my patient’s homes. Then fortunately I was hired for a part-time benefited position on my graduation day.
However, as you all know clinical dietitians make peanuts – part-time dietitians even less. So, I took up some part-time work as an adjunct instructor at a local university teaching nutrition classes.
Well, one class turned into two classes and two classes into three. Before I knew I was offered a full-time teaching job with a full course load of classes (4 classes per semester), plus my part-time job at Yale – plus my private practice that was starting to pick up speed.
My Life was Super Glamorous
Most days I would get up around 4 am and head to the gym. On the three days I worked at Yale I would try to get to the hospital by 6:30 am to start my day. I would often finish up around 3:30. Then generally right after work I had a couple of my own private patients scheduled. At around 6:00 pm I was off to my third job teaching often until 9 pm. Most semesters I had over 100 students collectively in my classes so in addition to teaching I had to correct what seemed like an endless sea of assignments.
The weekends were no different. I always saw patients on Saturdays starting at 6:30 am and going until about 3:00 pm. Some weekends I also taught at the grad school’s accelerated nutrition program from 9-5 pm on Sundays as well. Most weeks I worked well over 70 hours per week!
And ask me how long I did this for? Ask me when I quit my day jobs? I worked like this just about a decade before I finally went full-time into private practice.
And you know what is Krazy with a capital K? It was not like I was not making a good income in my practice. My lowest gross income was in 2010 and I still made 50k. Which for my third job at the time was not too shabby!
Why Did It Take Me So Long?
So why did it take me so long to transition from working for someone else to working for myself? Truth be told – for the most part I really liked ALL jobs. There was nothing wrong with either one. In the clinic, I felt like I learned a lot and had a great experience. The main issue was I was overworked and SIGNIFICANTLY underpaid. In addition, as I became more and more experienced at my job, I knew like you, I was capable of more. A lot more.
Plus, I like really, really, really like nice things. I am not going to lie to you people. I like to live my life a certain way. I love to travel to far off and exotic places. I like pretty things. I can’t help it. Fun cars, cool trips, expensive bags I am that girl. Sorry not sorry. I wanted to be able to pay for all these things on my own. And I did.
But as you can see. It wasn’t like a just hung a shingle and said, “I am open for nutrition counseling” and snapped my fingers to a 6-figure practice. Not only did I hustle in my practice like a looter in a riot – I worked my ass off so I could build and establish solid relationships in my practice.
Don’t be Sad
So the long and the short of this is yes, there will come a time when you burn your bra and quit your day job. And I sincerely hope to be there to high-five you. But I would be lying if I said it would be sooner than later. Only you will know when you are financially, mentally, and emotionally ready. But please promise your leap is graceful but calculated as well.
So I told you I was feeling #truthbomb city today. Hopefully, that helps a teeny-weeny bit.
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