My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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Business Lessons Learned – Go With The Flow

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I thought about nixing this blog until next week; however, I was up early with my lovely feline friend (aka my cat) so I figured why not! If you have been reading my blogs lately, you will notice that this is the second blog in my “Monthly Recap” series. Back in April’s post, I set three goals for myself. I am super happy to say that I accomplished all three! These have been goals on my list for a while now; however, there is just something about having that accountability factor that pushes you to follow through. While it might seem weird to think I am being accountable to my viewers, it really helped me to focus towards having something positive to share for this post.

Lessons Learned
Be Accountable to Someone
I am always telling my clients to have someone to be accountable to (whether it is me or a spouse/friend). Again, in taking my own advice, I realized that having the accountability really helps to just give that extra push. I would challenge any business owner to identify their go-to person that they will check in with each month (or week). They can help you to review your goals, ideas, issues, etc.

Flow With Your Business
Your business will change every year or month even. Now, while this might not be a huge change, always be open to assessing and adapting with the needs of your clients. I have been changing some of my services and offerings to suit my client needs better. I now have a monthly fee for a coaching option between appointments. I use to think I would always just do the counseling and classes; however, now I want to have more time to myself so I am working towards more products versus services. My point here is not to pigeon-hole yourself into one way of thinking about your business. Always be open to opportunity and change for that matter.

Act First
One of my biggest downfalls is over planning and not acting. It took me so long to get an outline written for my book because I was worried about how I would sell it. Why does selling it matter if I don’t even have a product to sell?? I can often waste hours researching and planning to start something and then not even starting it because I am so wrapped up in the preparation. While I think planning is a great step, don’t get hung-up on it for an extended time. Yes, do some short research and then ACT.

Key Defining Moment
Health Fair Competition
This month, I attended a health fair for one of the companies I work with for weight management classes and also provide on and off-site counseling for. This company has a few dietitians they work with since they have a huge incentive program around wellness. At this recent health fair, about 7 different dietitians were there promoting their business and counseling services. Being the 5th dietitian in the row of tables, I was wondering to myself what sets me apart from them? We all do counseling and accept insurance, so what makes me special? One little edge I have to some is that I offer in-home counseling services and still come on-site for the company. Although, this really got me thinking about my brand and how I want to promote myself.

After the health fair, I had one client tell me that they specifically chose me out of the other dietitians because they were impressed with my professionalism, table set-up, and business cards. Now, I am not one to ever put down another dietitian and I thought some of the other tables looked awesome, so I simply thanked him and moved on in conversation. I was one of the only tables without a food sample (since I had planned a game instead), so I originally thought no one would be interested in what I had. Although I did have quite a few sign-ups for counseling and my newsletter, I still didn’t think I would be standing out as much from the other tables.

0524171435c-02For any health fair, I always bring my PorrazzaNutrition banner, handout holders, 1-2 handouts (tip sheets), info sheet about myself that I put in a plastic stand-up, 2-3 recipe cards, 1-3 coupons, newsletter sign-up + counseling interest list, business cards in my shopping cart holder, pens, and 1-2 visuals (I had an avocado this day + poster on salt). All in all I realized a few things, I always cater to different individuals with my variety of handouts/recipes, I have visuals to grab attention, I have an awesome business card holder that spurs conversation, I keep the table clean and tidy (especially since I didn’t have food to worry about), and I dress to impress. I set-up my table based on my experiences with previous health fairs and what looks visually appealing to me. I learned, in this moment, that comparing myself to others is so silly since we all target different clients and have our own ways of doing things. There may be many clients who preferred other tables based on their specific needs and what appealed to them. This situation was a huge moment for me because I made a commitment to always keep that professionalism and par level high, no matter where I am or who is watching, and to only compare myself to my past self.

Business Goal #1 – Revise and Upload 3 Meal Plans to my Website
I have been trying to brainstorm more products to add to my business and I realized that I have about 50 meal plans that I created for past clients. Why not update those to sell on my website?! So many clients ask me for meal plans and I usually don’t create them, but instead work with the client to brainstorm meal ideas. What I realized is what I want is not always what everyone else does, so why not just give them that? I will still have a personalized plan option and work with clients during their appointments; however, this can just be another passive income stream for me that still supports my clients’ (and potential clients’) current needs.

Business Goal #2 – Finish First Rough Draft of Book
This month, I worked on an outline for my book and I brainstormed chapter ideas. For next month, I want to put that all into a first draft. This book is the first to many ideas that I have, so I am excited to finally be in the writing process! I typically just write ideas down whenever they come and then dedicate a couple hours one-day per week (for now) to fleshing out those ideas and making them into chapters. I find for myself that I have a hard time writing at home and not getting distracted so I have been writing while between classes (since I take the train and am usually pretty early).

Business Goal #3 – Continue Building My Brand (Including Online Presence)
For this goal, I am going to continue with my blog, video, and social media schedules. I am also brainstorming what my “brand” will look like. I want to have everything integrated to match my passion and niche. I want to move away from 100% service and I feel that building more of an online presence is key to this.

What lessons have you learned this month? Did you have any defining moments or obstacles you overcame? Stay tuned for my upcoming blog’s on building YOUR brand!


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Top 10 Tips for a Successful Dietetic Intern

I am going to switch gears for a bit from my usual Dietitian-related tips to a focus on dietetic internships. I have been a preceptor for the last 2.5 years and it has been awesome. I would highly suggest any professional to take on an intern at some point in their career. It is such an eye-opening experience when you are teaching and basically helping to mold someone into their profession.

Over the last month, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me to be their preceptor for 2017-2018 dietetic internships. Only a small handful I ended up meeting with and agreeing to become their preceptor. In the process, I had a few asking what the qualities are of a “good” intern. While I hate using the word “good,” I do like thinking in terms of success. The top 10 list I complied below is a blend of tips from my own experience as being a preceptor plus what I observed during my internship (way back when).

Tip #1 – Show up on Time
This is an absolute must. There is nothing more off-putting than a late intern. Get up earlier and never assume traffic will be great (especially if you have a long drive). My practice is super busy and I am usually on a time crunch, especially if running a class that day, so tardiness just won’t cut it for me. If you do happen to be running late for some reason, always contact your preceptor. Let them know why you are running behind and your estimated time of arrival.

Tip #2 – Always Dress to Impress
I am sure you have heard this one a lot, but take it seriously. I have had interns show up for meetings with me in jeans (and not nice looking ones)! It is way better to be overdressed for a meeting. For your actual rotations, always contact your preceptor and find out the dress code. For my practice, there are days where we need to get dressy for classes or seeing clients. Other days, I am just working out of my home so there is no sense in getting all dolled up to just sit around and work.

Tip #3 – Come Prepared 
One of my biggest pet peeves is when an intern shows up with absolutely no work to do, no outlines or class assignments printed (or available on their computer), or nothing to do for downtime. Whether you are heading in for an initial interview with a potential preceptor or your first day on-site be PREPARED! Have an idea of what your rotation entails. What assignments do you need to accomplish? What tasks need to be done? Don’t assume your preceptor will have that information. Set aside time to speak with them to review everything. Also, make sure you have something to do when there is downtime. This could be reading journals, working on assignments, or studying for your RD exam. Again, this is a good time to ask your preceptor what the expectation is. Do they want you to be working on something for them? Do they want you to work on assignments? Lastly, don’t sit on your phone while you wait. Honestly, that makes me think you don’t take nutrition or the rotation seriously enough.

Tip #4 – Engage and Ask Questions
I always have interns tell me they don’t want to bother me with questions. I love questions and to me, this means you are excited and passionate about nutrition. One thing about questions is to time them correctly. If your preceptor is in the middle of a call or email, that might not be the best time to ask a question. Again, find out what they prefer for this too. I had preceptors who would tell me to interrupt them with anything. I had others that told me if they are busy to let them be. Asking questions about something is not a sign of weakness at all, instead it shows me that you are willing to learn, grow, and challenge yourself. If anyone ever gives you heat for asking questions, apologize maybe for your timing, but never, ever, apologize for your curiosity and desire to learn.

Tip #5 – Be Organized
For anyone that knows me personally, they know I am highly organized. My expectation for organizational skills is probably much higher than most professionals; however, it is for good reasons. My practice involves just me. I do all the scheduling, client-seeing, billing, follow-ups, emails, etc. I need to be organized to make sure everything gets done in a timely (and good quality) manner. While I don’t expect my interns to be like me, having some sense of organization will really suit you well.

Tip #6 – Give Good Quality Work
If your preceptor gives you an assignment or task to work on, take it seriously and take your time to produce good quality work. Don’t just slap something together to get it done. Do the research, invest the time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Tip #7 – Respond to Emails (Professionally)
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me as a preceptor in the last month, yet I only interviewed a few for my practice. A lot of this was due to that first impression I received via email. Frantic and desperate emails were red flags for me. I questioned if they prepared at all for the internship (i.e. finding preceptors). Again, are you taking this seriously? This makes me think about lack of organizational skills. Also, if students reached out for a clinical rotation with me or with incorrect information about my practice, another red flag went up. Obviously, you did not do your research very thoroughly, so this makes me think that attentiveness to detail is not a strong suit. I have also had potential interns reach out to me, interview with me, not get matched and never let me know (though they said they would). While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I spent the time setting up an interview with you, filling out paperwork and blocking your rotations in my calendar. At least have the decency to let me know if you will actually be coming. I had these same students reach back out again later when they did get an internship and needless to say, I was hesitant to work with them. While some of my perceptions could be totally off from the actual reality of the situation, that first impression is everything for me in choosing an intern that will work well in my practice. After all, this is my business and I rely on it for my income.

Tip #8 – Be Aware of Preceptor’s Time (Assignments)
Your preceptors are taking the time to work with you during your internship, so as much as you can make that process easier for them, the better. This means being on-top of your assignments and tasks, which goes along with being organized. Plan out when you will do your assignments and don’t wait until the last minute and then expect your preceptor to work it all out for you.

Tip #9 – Be Open to Learning
You might not love every rotation and you might already have an idea of which area of dietetics you want to go into. This doesn’t mean you should just do the bare minimum for your other rotations. Even if you know clinical is not for you, engage and ask questions. You never know when you might find a new passion or learning something exciting.

Tip #10 – Be Open to Feedback 
One of the most important pieces of any profession is getting and giving feedback. Feedback is crucial since it can help to shape you into a better professional. Always be open to getting feedback from your preceptor, even if it is negative. After such, do something about it! If your organization is slacking, how can you improve? Get used to giving feedback as well. Don’t just say everything is great when it isn’t. You can always attempt to improve a situation (or work environment) by giving constructive feedback. Are you frustrated with the lack of time your preceptor is giving you for questions? Are you not learning enough from them? See if you can compromise or come up with a solution that will work for the both of you. I always say that the worst that can happen is someone says, “no” but at least you know that you tried.

I hope this list helps any current or potential interns out there to enhance their experience in the dietetic internship. Good luck to everyone beginning their internships and leave a comment to let me know how yours is going!

For more tips on Preparing for Your Internship, check out the BLOG 

For more information on joining the AND Preceptor Database, click the LINK.


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5 Tips for Speaking at Conferences

Welcome back to “My RD Journey!” If you read my last blog post, you will already know that this post is all about my first time speaking at a large conference (The Inaugural Women in Business Conference hosted by the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce). I was able to lead an individual breakout session and also serve as a panelist for a discussion on balance. In the past, I have lead seminars, given talks to students, conducted cooking classes and more; however, this was the first conference I was apart of. Today’s post, I will recap for you my (awesome) experience, plus give you tips that I learned along the way.

Tip #1 – Keep it Simple & Organized
I decided that for my individual session, I would touch on general nutrition (building a healthy plate) needs and motivation. I find with my clients that a lot know what to do; however, putting it into action is the hardest part. I wasn’t totally sure of my audience beforehand, so I tried to keep it basic and relate-able. I, for one, hate dry presentations, so I mixed up some of the general education with a few myth-busters throughout. I did use a PowerPoint; however, I didn’t put a ton of words on the slides because I didn’t want the audience to just be reading versus listening. I am definitely one that will completely stray from my outline, which isn’t a bad thing, so I didn’t want the audience trying to find where I was on the slides. One key thing here is that while having a lot of information is great, remember to keep it organized. Don’t jump around too much since you might lose the interest of your group.

Tip #2 – Allow Time for Questions
You can decide whether or not to have participants ask questions throughout your presentation or just at the end. I usually say that they can ask questions throughout if they need clarification; however, I do ask them to otherwise wait until the end. I do this mainly because I had a few instances where people just constantly asked questions and I couldn’t get through all the material. Sometimes the questions were relevant to the topic and other times they were too specific for others in the class to benefit from them. I let the participants know I allotted time for questions at the end and I stuck to my timeline to keep to that.

Tip #3 – Have Evaluations
Getting feedback on your presentation is key! Sometimes, participants in my seminars don’t ask any questions and their facial expressions lead me to think they are bored out of their minds. After doing a lot of different presentations over the years, I found that a lot of people don’t want to ask questions for a few reasons. Some think their questions are “stupid” – I have never had a “stupid” serious question. Some would rather ask questions individually after the session. Some are just taking in all the information and don’t have questions just yet. There are so many reasons for lack of questions. With all that being said, the evaluations are a great way for you to get feedback (positive or negative) and work out the kinks for next time.

Tip #4 – Come Prepared
Being prepared is a huge part of your presentation success. Know what your talking about so you are not just reading from your notes. Have your business cards available so the participants can follow-up with you later (possibly become clients of yours). Make a simple handout and pass it out at the end so you don’t end up with distracted participants. Know what setting is available for your presentation too. Do you have the ability to run a PowerPoint and if so, do you bring the hook-ups and laptop? Will there be tables for the audience or just chairs (important if doing writing activities)? Get as much information as you can beforehand so you are ready to go the day of. Being prepared will help you to eliminate unnecessary stress and be able to deliver an effective presentation that will engage your audience.

Tip #5 – Have Fun & Just Be You
This conference was such an awesome experience for me. I am so passionate about what I do and teach that after a presentation, I usually feel energized and invigorated. With practicing a lot over the years in different settings, I am now really comfortable public speaking and answering on-the-spot questions. I typically get at least a few attendees come up to me after with positive comments; however, I was totally blown away by the positive response at this conference. I had so many women come up to me throughout the rest of the day to introduce me to their friends, comment on the information, and speak to my enthusiasm and positive energy for the topic. It really is a crazy feeling to have people tell you that you are an inspiration to them. As a dietitian, I try to help others find a passion for nutrition and healthy eating; however, some days are just really difficult inspiring change. To know that I inspired a group of women in just 45-minutes was just so awesome (for lack of a better word).

So, if you are presenting in any type of setting, just remember that your enthusiasm and your passion can inspire others to make a change. Put your own spin on things and just relate to your crowd in any way that you can. The more you can connect the better the experience is for everyone.


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April Recap – Lessons Learned

April has probably been my busiest month so far in full-time private practice. I had two conferences, both of which I was apart of the planning process, 3 speaking engagements, plus my normal business load (clients and classes). I definitely thought a lot about balance and what that means for myself and my future practice. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have been trying to change how I do business to allow for more free time.

So, this month (and those in the future), I want to share with you my “Lessons Learned,” “Key Defining Moments,” and “Business Goals.” I decided on these topics for a few reasons; one of which is that other RDs always ask me what I would have done differently (hence lessons learned) when starting my practice. I also always get asked how I keep myself motivated, which involves pivotal moments and setting goals for myself. My hope is that my monthly recap can help someone else in their practice or career in general.

Lessons Learned 
“Always assume there is something to learn.” “Don’t just show-up, but engage.” 
Sometimes when I think about going somewhere I question whether I will get anything out of it. I mean, after all, my time is critical for me to keep a hold on. I realized that you get what you put into ANY situation. If you want to learn, ask questions and be involved. Engage in conversations and do more than just show-up. If you approach situations with a mindset of knowing you will learn, you will.

“Take advice from the experts.” 
What is funny about this lesson is that I always tell people to see a Dietitian for nutrition help because they are the experts. Somewhere along the way I stopped applying this to my personal/business life. Instead of hiring an accountant for tax season, I figured I would do it myself. About 6 hours later, I filed my federal and state taxes, plus learned how to pay quarterly ones. I then realized I had two city taxes to file only days before the deadline. I tried doing the forms myself online and could not get the numbers to populate correctly. It basically kept saying I owed $0, which I knew was incorrect. After a brief panic attack, I realized that I had the business card of an accountant I knew from school AND I had just reconnected with him while on the train. Despite it being late notice, he helped me to figure out what I was doing wrong fairly quickly and all was well. What I learned from this was breaking down wasn’t going to solve a thing; taking action and figuring out a plan would. I also realized it would have been so much easier (and tax deductible) to have worked with him from the beginning instead of wasting all that time stressing and struggling through it on my own. While I am a huge proponent of learning for yourself, it is really important to know what your limits are.

Key Defining Moments 
PAND AME 
This year I was apart of the planning process for the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ Annual Meeting and Exhibition. To be honest, I had not gone in the past since I thought I wouldn’t get much out of it. It was such an awesome experience for me. Not only did I get to know some other great Dietitians, but I learned a ton! The best thing about it was that a few RDs came up to me saying they had read my RD Journey blog and had followed me to learn more about private practice. These were people I either never met before or those I knew from years ago but didn’t keep in touch. I also saw a few of my previous preceptors and one had said she still used materials I created for her programming. I was super proud of myself but also realized that I needed to continue on the path I was on to build my brand and products even further.

Running for the Train
Since I really hate driving downtown for my cooking classes, I have been taking the train instead. This means I walk about 1.2 miles to the train station lugging all of my stuff for class. I had a lot of materials for my class last week, so I had a backpack full of stuff plus a rolling suitcase. I had a difficult class attendee who was arguing with me about olive oil being bad for you since it is controlled by the MAFIA, yes the MAFIA. This attendee also said doctors have nutrition certs and you should trust them for diet advice. Needless to say, I was a bit flustered, which then led to me being a careless and cutting my thumb with a knife. Not sure anyone noticed; however, fast forward to me rushing to clean-up to catch the train on time. I ran 3 blocks with a huge backpack and a rolling suitcase all while holding a paper towel on my bleeding thumb since I couldn’t find band-aids. Two ladies also yelled to me, “Run! You will make it. We believe in you,” which just added to the level of crazy. I made it with 3 minutes to spare (only because the train schedule changed and I didn’t realize). So, I am standing there sweating with a bleeding thumb and said to myself, “Never again.” This day was a huge defining moment for me because not only was the afternoon stressful, but I was doing all of it to not even represent my own brand. I definitely had a lot to think about while walking the 1.2 miles home.

Business Goal #1 – Do more as PorrazzaNutrition and less as a contract worker to build someone else’s company.
I made the decision this month, to cut back on the number of cooking classes I do for contract work (see train story above). Not only was the pay not adding up in terms of the time spent, but I also realized these classes are just providing income in the short-term and not allowing me to grow as PorrazzaNutrition. I made a commitment to myself to really focus on doing things that will build my brand and provide income, even if it is in the long-term. This is a huge mental shift for me since I am walking away from quick income; however, long-term, I know this is the best route.

Business Goal #2 – Create and upload at least 3 YouTube videos in May. 
As some of you may know, my drive for video creation was halted when I was in a car accident about a year and a half ago. This is another piece of my business that will not only expand the individuals that I reach, but also, create passive income in the future.

Business Goal #3 – Create a solid outline for my first e-book.
I keep saying that I want to write an e-book and telling people my plan; however, all I have done is write down topics. So, my goal for this month is to actually get more of an outline together and brainstorm chapter specifics. I got so caught up in formatting and how to write the book that I lost sight of the fact that the content is the most important thing. Who cares about formatting and selling when you don’t have a product yet? Priorities!

What lessons have you learned this month? Did you have any defining moments or obstacles you overcame this month?

Stay tuned for next week’s post for my thoughts on my first conference speaking engagement!


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Balancing Work & Personal Life

Happy Saturday! This is going to be a bit shorter of a post since I have a ton of cooking to do for Easter tomorrow. I am making about 70% of the menu this year, which I am so happy about, since it was a slow process getting my whole family interested in healthier meals/sides.

The past few weeks, I have had a lot of time to reflect on how one-sided my life felt in terms of balance. I felt like I was always working and just squeezed in time for myself or my family. I still wasn’t working on the things that I had set goals for (like writing an e-book or creating Podcasts) and I really needed to make that change. I had a few family issues this week (all resolved) that made me appreciate the fact that I have a private practice and do have flexibility. I did realize that my time still needed to be adjusted for a more optimal day-to-day routine. So, with that being said, this post brings to you my top 3 tips/lessons for having a more balanced work and personal life.

1. Set (and Keep) Boundaries for Yourself
I am the worst at keeping my boundaries. I will say to myself that Tuesday I am not booking clients so I can work on x-y-z. Then, a client comes along needing an appointment and I say, “Hey, what’s an hour?” The reality is that the 1-hour appointment also includes travel time + prep + post work (billing, report writing, etc) and can really break the concentration I had going for the day. I now schedule in my calendar the days where I don’t see clients and I stick to it. Setting boundaries also means not checking emails or your phone constantly. I no longer answer emails after 8pm, unless it has been a late day for me. I always think to myself that, “It can wait, or they would call.” If not, I end up checking the email, spending the time to respond or react in some way and ultimately it feels like my work day is just dragging on and well into my personal time.

2. Schedule It
Going along with keeping boundaries, use your calendar to schedule when you are doing personal things. I planned out the days I would go to the gym and when I would be gardening. I also set days for office-work for my business and times when I would work on content creation. This could mean seeing clients on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays and also teaching classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It could mean Tuesdays are when I garden and spend time doing personal things. It could mean Fridays are office-work days where I follow-up on billing issues, work on social media, etc. At first I had the thought that my life was so planned it leaves no wiggle room; however, I discovered that by setting aside the time initially, I had more freedom and flexibility.

3. Don’t Overbook Yourself
When I first started my practice full-time, I just wanted to get as many clients scheduled as I possibly could. After realizing that I wasn’t spending time on furthering my practice, I began to cut back on my workload and space it out a bit more. If I overbook, I end up stressed out and really just not at my prime. Not overbooking yourself ties right into keeping the boundaries you set. If I lose a client because I can’t see them in 2 weeks, then so be it. It rarely has happened that someone doesn’t want to wait for an appointment; however, I know for my sanity and stress level that cramming in an appointment isn’t good for me. Usually, those cram-in appointments take the place of the time I wanted to go to the gym or time I wanted to create something. In the long-term, it isn’t worth it. In my last blog post, you can read all about how I have been striving to reform my practice to allow for more flexibility while maintaining income in the long-term.

In the end, the reason I am so busy is due to my own fault in over scheduling and plain overbooking myself. I no longer want to be so busy that I can’t enjoy the things I love like gardening or spending time with my family or cooking. So, my personal commitment is to streamline my business and tasks that go along with it to be able to have the optimal work-life balance for me.

Leave a comment and let me know what your tips/strategies are for keeping your work and personal life in balance.


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Setting Income Goals – Billable vs. Non-Billable Hours

Hey there! A few weeks ago, I posted about setting fees in your private practice. As a follow-up to that, I wanted to break down how I determined my monthly and yearly income/expense benchmarks. This is just my way of setting income goals and it is by no means perfect. I am not an accountant or even have a business background, just a dietitian running a private practice and learning things as I go! You don’t necessarily need to do every step listed in every order, again, I am just posting this as a guide for my fellow private practice RDs and RDs-to-be.

Step 1a: Figure Out Your Personal Expenses
I separated my expenses into business and personal, but since I am self-employed, both get factored in to my equation. I found it easiest to figure out what my expenses were per month and then times that by 12 to get the yearly expenses. Any expense that was paid yearly (car insurance, etc), I divided out to see what a monthly average cost would be. My estimated monthly personal expenses ended up totaling $1470, which brought my yearly personal expense total to $17,640.

Examples of personal expenses: food, living (rent, utilities), medical (bills and medications), car-related (gas, inspection, etc), gym membership, phone bill, etc. I also added in here an extra $100 for miscellaneous expenses (i.e. gifts, clothes, etc).

Step 1b: Figure Out Your Business Expenses
Many of you who have been following me the last year or so may know that I do primarily in-home counseling and some work-site counseling. I don’t have any overhead for office space rentals, etc. I just wanted to throw that out there since my monthly business expenses may seem a bit low. My estimated monthly business expenses ended up totaling $400 initially; however, I did have to add in health care costs since I pay for my own insurance now. That brought me up to about $700/month for business expenses.

Examples of business expenses: office supplies (ink, paper, etc), travel/parking for classes/counseling, cooking class materials, referral fees, memberships, business banking fees, health care, liability insurance, faxing services/machine, etc.

Step 2: Figure Out Yearly Income 
Right off the bat, I know that I need to make at least $26,040 to cover my personal and business expenses (monthly expenses x 12). I also wanted to be able to save some of my income and not just live paycheck to paycheck. When I first figured out my desired income, I settled on $40,000 for the year. This level of income would cover my expenses + estimated taxes. For estimated taxes, I averaged about 15.3% being paid towards federal (SS + Medicare) and about 4% for PA tax. I rounded this up to about 25% just to cover myself. With taking out about $10,000/year for taxes and $26,040 for expenses, that left me with about $3,960. This number could vary in real life since I overestimated for expenses and taxes. Also, when doing taxes for the year (or quarterly), you do get some tax breaks for being a business owner and a lot of my expenses were write-offs. Regardless, I still wanted to have a rough estimate to figure out my income goals. If you wanted to have $40,000 be what you would see after taxes, just do the following -> ($40,000 x 25%) + $40,000 = $50,000. You could also think to yourself that you just want to make ends meet. In that case, you could do the following -> (Yearly expenses x 25%) + Yearly expenses = Desired yearly income.

Step 3: Figure Out Monthly Income Goals
One easy way to figure out monthly income goals would be just to divide out your desired yearly income by 12. Still using the $40,000, that would be $3,333/month. With $50,000/year that would be about $4,167/month. From this point, there are a lot of ways you can figure out client goals; however, below I list just two of them. Before I get into that, I just want to point out that you will need to think about what is considered billable versus non-billable hours. You may work a 40-hour week and end up only being able to bill for 20 hours of that. Billable time is what you are getting paid for (i.e. counseling appointment time, class time, etc). Any office work, emails sent, time prepping for an appointment, etc may not be time that you can necessarily bill for. So, when thinking about client goals just know that this is the billable time or amount of time in which you receive payment for services.

Step 4: Figure Out Client Goals (Option 1)
Let’s say you have an income goal of $3,333 per month, this breaks down into a weekly goal of about $833. If you only have 8 hours available for billable hours (i.e. 8 hours to see clients) then this means you will need to charge at least $104 per client and see at least 8/week ($32/month) to be able to reach your desired income goal. If you don’t take insurance and you already know that you charge $120/hour, this cuts the number of clients you see per month to 28 versus 32. You can think about what your time is worth and determine a rate for counseling or general services that is even higher and ends up cutting down on how many hours you need to spend doing things that count as “billable.” If you accept insurance, you are bound to the fee schedule that they set for you. So, if you get reimbursed $120/hour for initial appointments and $108 for follow-up appointments, you may need 10 initials and 20 follow-ups to hit your monthly goal.

Step 5: Figure Out Client Goals (Option 2)
If you do more than just provide counseling services, you can use this option to determine client goals. Working with the $3,333 as a monthly income goal, let’s say you run cooking classes or a nutrition class every month. Let’s say you make $800 per month to run this class 3 times. This leaves you with $2,533 ($3,333 – $800 class) to still make for the month. This could mean about 24 follow-up appointments at an average of $108/hour or it could mean 5 initial appointments at $120/hour and 18 follow-ups at $108/hour. Although this seems like a lot of numbers and scenarios, it helped me to figure out how many clients I wanted to be able to see per month. Once I figured out a client goal number, I worked on a marketing plan. I mentioned in my last blog post that I wanted to work on more programs and content versus services. I love what I do as a dietitian; however, I find myself working a lot and only being able to bill (I accept insurance) for a portion of that time. I want to free-up my time and still hit my income goals, which would mean decreasing the “service” portion and increasing the “product/program” portion.

Step 6: Overview 
In summary –> Desired Yearly Income (Factoring in Business + Personal Expenses + 25% for Taxes) divided by 12 months = Monthly Income Goal. Another option = Desired Yearly Income divided by 52 weeks (or 50 if you take out a week for vacation and another week for sick/personal time*) = Weekly Income Goal. From your monthly income goal, you can determine how many billable hours (and ultimately clients or classes) you will need to reach this. It really helps knowing your hourly rate.
*Normally, with being employed, you may get paid for personal, vacation and sick days. If you are self-employed and offer a service, if you don’t provide the service you don’t get paid.

As a way to check my progress monthly, I created two sort of “snapshot” documents for my finances. The first is the yearly look at my total income, total expenses, and net profit. I made this so I can see where my peak months are for income. The second document I created was for my monthly overview. I tracked the number of appointments (scheduled, cancelled, re-scheduled), classes ran, business and personal expenses, and total income received from both classes and counseling. I also include how many miles I drove that month for business. I was using apps to track my expenses/income before; however, I really like having the paper copy to just have it all laid out in front of me. I just recently got Quickbooks and I really love it, but again just like having my own sheet that makes sense to me.

I hope this blog helped you at least a bit in figuring out your own income/expense goals. As someone who doesn’t have a background in finance/accounting, I wanted to just be able to share my process for setting income/client goals. Leave a comment and let me know what other resources have helped you with figuring out finances. I hope to post my snapshot documents on my website; however, if you wanted a copy to get you started, shoot me an email 🙂


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4-Month Practice Recap – Self-Employed Vs. Employee

This blog post was originally going to be all about setting income goals and figuring out billable hours; however, as I approach my 4-month self-employed, private practice milestone, I had something different I wanted to share first. This revolves around mainly how I left a “9-5” employee job for a 9-7 if not 8-7 self-employed private practice. Was it worth it? Of course and I would do it again; however, I did come to realize a few things this past month that are going to redefine how I do business in the future.

When I first thought about private practice, I didn’t think it would end up being something full-time. Sure, I would have absolutely loved to just be doing my practice; however, I just didn’t see that as being realistic. I was certain I needed the traditional path of jobs to be successful. After a few years, I began to see that full-time private practice was definitely realistic and coming faster than I had imagined. Now, let’s flash-forward to when I was deciding to leave my full-time employee job. I debated with myself A LOT in the months leading up to my quitting. Would I make enough money? Would I actually like what I was doing? Would I get overwhelmed? I was someone who was ingrained with the idea of making money and saving for a future. Not that this was at all a bad thing, but I was fearful that I wouldn’t be saving and would instead drain the savings I had been building for years.

With those thoughts in the back of my mind, I still quit my job and was quite successful being a private practice business owner. My income surpassed what I was making being an employee, I was flexible enough to be able to spend time with my family whenever needed, and I loved being able to choose what I was doing. So, this doesn’t seem so bad at all, right? To be honest, my success was largely due to stretching myself beyond capacity, taking paying gigs whenever possible (even if they were at lower rates than I wanted) and seeing clients even on the days when I wanted to just focus on office work. I wasn’t spending time on creating products for my lesson plan store. I wasn’t spending time on making YouTube videos. I wasn’t spending time on writing a book. I was just working to make money (and of course because I truly like what I do). It was at this point that I realized that I couldn’t add more to my schedule because the time just simply wasn’t there. I also wasn’t adding in the pieces of my business that would be a source of passive income, thus lightening up my day-to-day workload. I was still bound to certain time constraints for classes or counseling for income and low and behold, that cut my flexibility in half.

After a long chat with my beyond supportive boyfriend, I set goals for myself to cut the fat out of my business. My time was more valuable than what I was being paid for some classes and that needed to change. I also needed to actually set and stick to a schedule where I would only see clients and have classes on certain days. I stopped trying to join various committees and groups to network or invest my time in (for free). I stuck with the organizations I was already in and set boundaries for myself as to how involved I would be. I needed to block off time for content/product/program creation. I refused to be a slave to my own business anymore.

So, why I am I sharing all this with you? Well, for me, the easier route in private practice was to just go out and make that quick money. It was the instant gratification and certainly short-term. What was harder was investing (or starting to invest) my time into what would turn into a long-term income source. This long-term income source would free up more of my time so I could actually enjoy being self-employed. I could get back to more of my hobbies without feeling guilty that I wasn’t working on the business. I could spend more time with my family without bringing work along. I could invest more time in personal development and enhancing my skills as a Dietitian. The positive side of this was simply endless.

If you ever get to this point in your practice, think to yourself what you truly want in being self-employed. Do you want to work like crazy for the goal of not having a boss or company telling you what to do or do you want to have more flexibility in what you do on the day-to-day, while still making money through passive income sources? Once you think about what your long-term goal is, break it down to determine short-term goals and plan your schedule around that. It is so easy to get sucked into the work and make money thought process; however, this process can be simplified, streamlined, and more so minimized to create more time for yourself. In the end, isn’t that what we all want…more time?

To sum up this lengthy blog post, I want to say that when I think about my future, I want that future to include more time for myself, my family, and eventually my kids (I don’t have any now). I don’t want to be forced into 8 or 10 hour workdays to make enough money, even if it is on my own terms. This post is by no means me saying that if you want the traditional private practice that it is in some way less ideal or wrong for you. The beautiful thing about private practice is that YOU can create the type of business structure that will suite YOUR needs above anybody else.

So, leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts on this topic. What does your ideal private practice look like? What does your ideal workweek entail?

Stay tuned next week where I will be sharing my thoughts on how to set income goals and defining billable hours!