Alex Okell

How to start an online nutrition private practice: the ultimate guide (UK)

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Do you want to support people with their relationship with food and nutrition as a nutritionist, dietitian or health coach? Starting your own business and building a nutrition private practice might feel intimidating so we’ve broken it down in this ultimate guide.

>> Ready to start your own online nutrition business? Our in-depth course guides you step-by-step through the process.

What qualifications do I need to start a nutrition practice?

There are no necessary qualifications to call yourself a nutritionist, health coach or nutrition coach. But, it is your responsibility to be adequately trained to be able to support people with their health and nutrition.

At the end of the day, you’re working with people’s physical and mental wellbeing and ethically, you should be properly qualified. This may look like going to university and completing an undergraduate and/or master’s degree, or completing a course online or in person. Whichever route you take, it is important to ensure the qualification you are receiving is of a high-quality, as unbiased as possible and that you keep learning post-initial qualification. It is important to constantly grow and develop your skills as a nutrition professional.

To call yourself a Registered (Associate) Nutritionist, you must complete a BSc (Hons) degree or MSc degree that is recognised by the Association for Nutrition or submit a portfolio to demonstrate you have obtained knowledge and understanding of nutrition science at least BSc (Hons) level (1).

What about becoming a dietitian? The title “dietitian” is protected, which means you cannot call yourself a dietitian unless you hold an approved BSc (Hons) degree. Upon completion, you may register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and call yourself a dietitian whether you work privately or in the NHS for example (2).

What skills do I need to know to start a nutrition private practice?

Alongside the skills learned from your course or qualification, there are many skills that nutrition professionals need to develop to start their own private practice.

Many nutrition degrees and qualifications do not include the basics of business so investing in your learning in this area is often necessary. When starting a business the key skills to learn include marketing, sales, communication, finance management, customer service, problem-solving and networking.

When starting a business, the learning truly never ends!

What insurance do I need to start a private practice and see clients?

This is not legal advice.

The insurance required to see clients as a nutrition professional is dependent on your qualifications, your scope of practice and the type of work you are carrying out. As everyone will be different, I recommend speaking to insurance providers and explaining your situation to ensure you are adequately covered. I know, insurance can feel scary. But equipping yourself with the knowledge about different types of insurance and getting adequately insured can help you feel secure in your work.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

Anyone who works with individuals, groups or companies must have sufficient professional indemnity insurance (whether you are working in a paid or volunteer capacity). Professional indemnity insurance is to protect you and your business from the cost if you make a mistake that causes your client reputational or financial loss.

Public Liability Insurance

Those who undertake face-to-face activities either in your own venue or at the clients’ property require public liability insurance. Public liability insurance protects you in the event of a client having an accident and taking you to court.

Other types of insurance

There are many other types of insurance that can be beneficial. This includes income protection, medical malpractice and libel and slander insurance. Taking the time to evaluate your specific situation and choose insurance intentionally is key.

I recommend Hiscox* for Professional Indemnity insurance and Public Liability insurance from personal experience.

What software do I need in place?

You can start an online nutrition business with a small amount of software. But, generally, you require three types of software: website, practice management and marketing software.

Website software

Creating a website can help you market your services to potential clients and also increase a client’s trust in you. Of course, you don’t need a website to have a successful nutrition business. But, the majority of people will want to “Google you” to check that you are a legitimate nutrition professional.

Creating a website has never been easier with software like Squarespace* and Wix. These are website builders that require little technical know-how. You can, of course, create a website via WordPress, but this requires more tech skills. You could hire a website designer but this can cost thousands of pounds.

Erica Julson RD has a great free website tutorial* if you have the time to invest in creating a WordPress site from scratch.

Practice management software

Practice management software is basically your admin assistant and practice manager all in one. It is somewhere where clients can book appointments, pay for services, sign terms and conditions and more. You can also store notes including lab results – making it easier by having everything in one place. You don’t need practice management software but it does make everything a lot easier for you – you can let the software do the administrative work for you, as well as ensure all your customer’s data is safe and secure.

We recommend Practice Better* for practice management software because it is easy to use, includes telehealth video software (so you don’t need to use something like Zoom) and even food diaries.

Marketing software

Marketing software is not essential but there are some great options for marketing your services or products.

Email marketing is an excellent way to increase connections with clients. We recommend using MailerLite* because it is free until you reach 1000 subscribers, perfect if you’re just starting out.

When creating content for social media, you probably will want to invest in Canva Pro*. Canva is a drag-and-drop graphic design software which is easy-to-use and can help you create a consistent aesthetic across your business. Canva Pro is a paid upgrade of Canva which offers so many great features including a resize feature, background remover and scheduling.

What terms and conditions do I need?

This is not legal advice.

It is your responsibility to be adequately protected legally. Generally, in regard to working one-to-one the key terms and conditions you require is a “Services T&Cs”. This document should outline the service you are providing, a disclaimer that you cannot “guarantee results”, details about your cancellation policy, details on your refund policy as well as explaining how their data has been used.

We recommend purchasing terms and conditions templates from a provider like Lucy Legal.

How do I decide who to work with?

When you first get started, you will probably work with a variety of different people of different demographics with a variety of concerns. This is a good way to get started so you can understand what sort of clients you enjoy working with, and which areas of nutrition science appeal to you.

I believe it is important to have a clear, defined idea of who you want to work with. This is because it makes it so much easier to be able to promote yourself if you are well-known in one area of nutrition. Also, you can focus on improving your skills and knowledge in this one area – rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades.

Do I need a supervisor or mentor?

If you are registered with an accredited body like the Association for Nutrition, British Dietetics Association or British Association For Nutrition And Lifestyle Medicine for example, you should check their stipulations for supervision or mentorship.

It is generally advised that you seek the support of a supervisor or mentor to also ensure you are acting ethically in line with the professional guidelines.

You may want to have a clinical supervisor to discuss your client cases with and a business mentor to help you expand your business know-how.

How should I price my services?

It can be challenging to know how to price yourself. Your services aren’t just the time spent with a client. It is the time spent marketing yourself and doing admin, the fees associated with your insurance and CPD, as well as your business expenses. You also don’t want to forget that you can’t see clients constantly all day every day. You need time to work on your business, as well as time away from work – working 1:1 can be tiring!

Take a look at what others around you are doing but don’t get stuck in comparison land. Objectively look at what others in your industry are doing and use those numbers to guide you, not define you.

The amount you charge depends on the experience you have, the service you are offering and the level of support alongside that, as well as so many other factors.

As a ballpark, one-off sessions with a Nutritionist, Dietitian or Nutrition Coach can vary from £20 – £500 per session.

How do I get paid?

Setting up a business bank account can help you separate business expenses from personal expenses. You can then use an accountancy software like Xero to make your bookkeeping and accounting easy. If you are requesting a bank transfer for your services, you must provide an invoice.

You can also be paid via your practice management or scheduling software which takes payment via Stripe (a payment portal) or PayPal. Many people prefer to pay this way as they are able to use their debit or credit card which gives them more protection if something goes wrong. You will have to pay a small fee for card payments via Stripe or PayPal (who automatically deduct it for you) but it is worth it for a more convenient way of paying for both you (you don’t have to chase payments as often) and your client.

Should I do one-off sessions or a package?

To put it simply, it is up to you! There are pros and cons to both options.

Of course, packages can be helpful because you can more easily predict the money coming into your business. Plus, if you know that your work won’t be as beneficial as a one-off and longer-term support makes more sense for your client to get the best experience, then packages may be more suitable.

One-off sessions work well for certain areas of nutrition and also allows your work to be more accessible.

How do I find my first client?

It can be helpful to gain experience by offering sessions for free or for a low rate to friends, family and your online community. This can be helpful to gain experience, boost your confidence and refine your client experience. Ensure you clearly state how many sessions each person can redeem for free or at a low price, and you may want to ask them for a testimonial or feedback in return for the free or low-cost session.

Should I give out free discovery calls?

Again, it is your choice as a business owner. Free discovery calls are a chance for clients to meet you, get to know you and your way of working and ask any questions they have about the service. It is also extremely beneficial for you as a nutrition professional to see if they are a good fit for working with you, or if it would be more suitable to refer them to someone else.

How do I market my services?

There are so many ways to build a visibility and marketing strategy, and with the help of the internet, a lot of options are free.

Social media is a great way to connect with people who would benefit from your support via Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. But, it is important to understand that if your account was disabled or banned, you would lose all your hard work.

That is why I recommend a diverse marketing strategy that includes long-form content in the form of YouTube videos, your own podcast or articles written on your blog, combined with social media, email marketing as well as collaborations, press and PR.

Combining an understanding of who you want to work with, your unique voice and your values can help you craft your messaging that you can channel into your marketing efforts.

>> Ready to start your own online nutrition business? Our in-depth course guides you step-by-step through the process.

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