Since running a nutrition business full-time and getting loads of questions about it, I am sharing yearly updates and insights!
This summer marks two years since I quit my day job and dedicated my working time to my private practice. Prior to that I had been seeing a small caseload of folks on nights and weekends for a few years.
Last summer I wrote about what I learned in my first year of working for myself full-time. And now I’m sharing an inside peek into how things went in year two!
The most impactful variable in my second year as a full-time business owner was that it was entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The time between summer 2020 and summer 2021 was quite unique and I’m very grateful to have maintained a successful business throughout.
I hit a couple big milestones that I thought would happen one day but wasn’t really expecting them so soon. The truth is those milestones weren’t born out of chasing big business goals, but out of noticing needs and working to fill those gaps.
My mission with this business is to help folks feel confident about food and make peace with their bodies. Here are some milestones and lessons I learned during year two.
Committed to a Fully Virtual Practice
The COVID-19 pandemic threw so many outpatient healthcare providers into the world of full-time telehealth. Luckily, I had already been seeing many clients over telehealth so the switch wasn’t too difficult for me.
And even after COVID vaccination and loosening government mandates, I decided to stay fully virtual. There are several variables that impacted that choice and it ends up being a very accessible way for folks to receive nutrition care that works well for my business, too.
There are pros and cons to virtual counseling and I sure do miss the energy of being in the same room as my clients, but in reality being able to work together from the comfort and safety of our own homes is working well for both me and my clients. And, it makes me accessible to way more people!
Launched My First Online Course
People had been asking me about creating an online course for awhile. Unfortunately, there were no online courses about vegan nutrition taught by a HAES-aligned registered dietitian. Until I created one!
The Anti-Diet Vegan Nutrition Online Course was a massive labor of love and launched in January 2021. It covers need-to-know nutrition information for vegans as well as food and cooking tips, lifestyle strategies and loads of resources. It’s 20 modules long, totaling more than 6 hours of video, and is absolutely packed with what I wish every vegan knew about nutrition.
The course is evergreen, meaning it’s pre-recorded and is available for purchase at any time. It’s self-paced and while I did try to offer a small group coaching add-on to provide more support to those who wanted it, I wasn’t able to fill the group during the dates I planned to offer it.
I’ve had several RDs ask if it counts for continuing professional education units (which it doesn’t), so I might go through that application process in year three! RDs need this info just as much as vegan consumers.
Hired My First Employee Dietitian
My caseload filled up pretty quickly and I ended up starting a waitlist, which was a beast to manage and not really helping folks in the meantime. Once I launched my course, tt was nice to be able to point folks there for anti-diet vegan nutrition information, but that doesn’t replace one-on-one nutrition counseling.
So, I considered hiring another RD in order to help more people. I didn’t set out to be a group practice owner or a boss to others, but turns out there is high demand for anti-diet vegan nutrition counseling and eating disorder recovery support!
In order to help meet the demand, I hired a part-time registered dietitian who is vegan and has experience working with eating disorders. Jessica joined my practice in spring 2021 and has been rocking it as a virtual outpatient dietitian from her home base of San Diego!
We do regular supervision and she is steadily building her caseload. She is also writing posts for this blog!
Invested More Time and Money into Supervision and Coaching
In my opinion, the best use of resources in my business is on clinical supervision and business coaching! I’m lucky to participate in group, peer and individual supervision and belong to a few programs that offer webinars, workshops and business coaching calls and support.
I was hesitant to invest much money in this area early in my business because I was in a mental place of scarcity, but now that my business has found its footing, I am overjoyed to be able to dedicate at least a couple hours (sometimes way more!) each week to continuing education and growth.
Offered Professional Consultation and Mentoring for RDs
I get countless emails asking me for advice, insights and wisdom on becoming a vegan dietitian, running a private practice or switching from traditional employment to becoming a business owner. And, I also get questions from RDs about how to handle challenging cases with vegan clients.
I have poured so many hours and dollars into coaching, mentoring and supervision along my own journey (see above) and understand the value of having that guidance, input and support.
To help meet this additional demand from the professional world, I launched my one-on-one professional mentoring and case consultation offer. These virtual sessions are a joy and it’s really wonderful to be able to ask the questions and share the resources that help expedite folks toward their career goals and feel more confident in counseling vegan clients.
Updated My Website (Again)
Let’s be honest, if you run an online business, your website is an essential part of your marketing, brand and communication! In the past I DIY’d a lot of my website, and this past year I was really excited to be able to invest in more professional design.
It was a fun process and I even worked with a copywriter to help articulate what my business is about and what we do. Not only did I hire help for designing the sales page of my online course, but also my services and about pages, which are critical to my business, we also created a separate services page for professionals, and individual about pages for both me and my associate RD Jessica.
Money spent on web copy and design is money well-spent, in my opinion! My website tips are to get super clear on your goals and vision up front and make sure to hire folks who are experienced (I hired people who are familiar with the anti-diet philosophy and have great examples of their work).
Upgraded My Workspace
Working at a desk full-time requires some serious effort in order not to feel hunched, tight, and achy at the end of the day. I was experiencing chronic neck and shoulder pain for a few months and decided it was time to get a better desk chair, as well as a monitor so that I wasn’t looking down at my laptop all day.
Office furniture and supplies can be pricey, but they are worth it! If your workspace is not ideal, consider what you can do to make it more ergonomic and supportive.
And remember, no amount of money spent on cushy chairs or tech-neck-relieving gadgets can replace frequent breaks, stretching and self-care.
Learned More About My Work Style and Preferences
Trying to find my ideal work schedule has been an ongoing pursuit. In the beginning, I was accepting clients all hours of day, whenever worked for them. Then I realized I needed to group sessions together. I’ve played around with how many sessions I book in a day, and how many days per week I schedule sessions.
I’ve been in a groove for a while that’s been working relatively well. There may be a random session outside of my preferred time or I might schedule more than I want in one day to accommodate a client’s schedule, but for the most part, I feel more in charge of my schedule than I ever have.
I think it’s normal in the beginning of business to be in a scarcity mindset and open up your schedule to clients. However, having boundaries is incredibly important not only for yourself but for your business as well. And it’s OK if you can’t accommodate every single client — you’re not supposed to! That’s why it’s important to have a solid referral list.
Outside of session time, I have to schedule in time to do care collaboration, blogging, social media, marketing, supervision with my RD, my own supervision, continuing ed, consulting work, admin work, finances and so much more. Some days I feel super productive and other days I don’t feel like I have energy to do anything outside of my counseling sessions. I try to be gentle with myself and set realistic expectations. And I always remind myself that I didn’t get into private practice to feel burnt out!
Learning how to pace myself
Speaking of feeling burnt out, I am working on slow and steady growth rather than nonstop “hustling.” The bottom line is I can only show up 100% for my clients and my employee when I am showing up 100% for myself. If I slack on my boundaries and self-care, that might leak into work. And I don’t want to feel resentful or uninspired in my business. So that requires me to be diligent about not working too much and not getting pulled into grind culture.
One strategy that has been really helpful that my mentor taught me is to have a “parking lot” document. I have a living document that I dump all of my grand ideas into, as well as my wishlist for things I want to change or add to my website. I have so many ideas and I know they don’t all need to happen now.
I know that the services and products I offer will be high-quality when they are well-planned and not rushed.
Pulled Back from Social Media
You might think that a successful online business owner needs to be on social media 24/7. This is a huge myth! While I have poured tons of time and energy into social media over the years, I don’t have the same energy for it now as I did before. I think that’s because my business used to feel like a hobby when I was still working my day job, but now my business is my full-time job. Time on my business social media accounts is work!
I do contribute some of my business success to the slow and steady growth of my online presence, especially Instagram, and I do get some clients that way, but I don’t want to run a business that is reliant on social media.
In order not to resent social media, I have committed to only posting when I feel like I have something important or impactful to share. I no longer pressure myself to post a certain number or frequency of posts and it’s been so liberating!
I do think it’s important to have a professional website, active blog, and growing email list. You “own” these things whereas you don’t own social media. If Instagram went down forever, how would you connect with your community? Make sure you’re spending energy on your actual business in addition to social media!
Thoughts Going Into Year Three
Work-life “balance” is something that is always in flux and very important to me. And I like to think that modeling boundaries and self-care is important for my clients to see, too!
I am being deliberate about creating coasting periods between growth periods and making sure that I am taking care of myself just as much as I am taking care of this business.
Right now I am in my first ever “coasting” period and it’s been interesting. There is that nagging feeling of guilt, like I “should” be working more hours or harder, but then I remember that while I am a business owner living in a capitalistic society, I don’t have to conform to capitalistic norms. Endless growth at all costs is not how I do business. And I am still doing plenty of work!
This business is a marathon, not a sprint. I know that I do my best work when I am not overscheduled or burnt out and I want to put high-quality energy into each and every client session and offering that I launch. The last thing I want to do is resent my work and show up depleted.
So, yes I have some ideas and plans for what’s next, but I’m not exactly sure when they will happen or what they’ll look like. I’ve scheduled myself a “CEO day” to work that out so that I can feel calm and confident diving into the next big thing!