My RD Journey

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


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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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Tips for Setting Fees in Private Practice

After turning down an opportunity for a another set of contract classes that I had run in the past, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about how important knowing your worth is and how to set fees based on that. It is hard to put a price on the service provided as a Dietitian. I want to help people and almost feel guilty charging too much and losing a client; however, at the same time, I rely on my business for income now. I have changed my fees multiple times in the past few years, so today’s blog is going to guide you through my thought process and give you tips for setting your own fees (for individual sessions + classes).

Research Dietitians in Your Area
One of the first things I did when trying to figure out what to charge for counseling sessions was to see what other RDs were charging near me. A few did not list their fees on their website (I will talk about this in other blogs); however, the majority were in the $120-$175 range for an initial 1-hour consultation. I ended up going a bit lower since I had just started my practice and didn’t have a masters degree or specialty certification yet.

Factor in Expertise + Education
As I mentioned earlier, I low-balled my initial fees for counseling; however, after getting my masters and having my practice for a year or two, I bumped up my fees to match what others charged in my area. When setting your hourly rate or counseling fees, think about your education, experience, certifications, etc. Your knowledge and level of experience is adding to the value that the client receives in the session (or class).

Base off of Insurance Fee Schedules
If you are a provider for insurance companies, you will have a flat rate that they will reimburse you and that changes slightly from initial to follow-up visit for MNT. You can use the rate that insurance reimburses for self-paying clients or choose to make that a little bit lower since they are paying out-of-pocket. The fee schedule for insurances helped me to alter my pricing a bit.

Triple Your Hourly Employee Rate
Something else I thought about when setting fees for counseling was determining what I was paid hourly when I was an employee and multiplying that by 3. Three seems arbitrary; however, I thought that 1/3 goes to me, 1/3 to taxes, and 1/3 to time spent on prepping. This can just help to give you that baseline rate to build from.

Offer Packages + Add-ins
When I think about my initial counseling fee, I also factor in what other “service” I bring to the session. Will the session include bio-metrics? Will I calculate nutrient needs? Will this be an in-home visit or office-based visit? If your initial session is simpler, you can charge a bit lower for the hour and have add-ins that clients can choose from. Say they want menu planning help, that can be added for an extra $60 (or whatever you will charge). Maybe they want a nutrient analysis done for their current meal plan, that can be an extra $50 or so. I also find it helpful to offer packages to clients.

Note About Charging for Classes
The classes were the hardest for me to determine rates for; however, I found the formula below to help me:
Start with Base Rate – $100/hr (I base this off of my flat counseling rate)
+ Travel Expenses – $.50/mile
+ Parking Fees
+ Prep Time/Lesson Development – $40/hour
+ Cost for Supplies/Handouts

When I determine how I am charging for a class, I alter it on a case-to-case basis. My base rate my be lower or higher depending on if this is an ongoing class or a one-time seminar. If I am driving for more than 30-minutes, I may also add in a fee based on the time spent in my car. Parking may be free for some classes/areas; however, others tend to be $20 just for the hour, so this will change too. If I created lessons on this topic before, I may charge $30 or $40/hour for prep time. If this is a new topic or the client wants it to be more involved, then I may charge $50 or $60 for the hour of prep. Lastly, I factor in a few dollars based off of how many handouts I needed. If I am providing a cooking class, I estimate the amount of food needed and will have another fee added to the pricing.

There are so many ways that you can calculate fees for classes. I have often charged a flat rate (lower than $100) and then added in a cost per person ($20/head) with a minimum number required to run the class. Charging for classes will definitely vary per client/company. For some non-profits, I have accepted a lower rate for a one-time class in exchange for them distributing my business cards or keeping me on a list as a dietitian. It is ultimately up to you to decide what you feel the most comfortable charging.

Final Tips
Setting fees for individual clients and group sessions is often difficult. One of the key things I have learned is really knowing your worth and not being afraid to walk away from something. I have had companies/organizations try and take advantage of my services. I even had one goes as far as guilt tripping me into thinking I was a monster for trying to charge even 1/3 of what I normally do. I am all about giving back to my community and providing free programs/seminars. What I need to be careful of is keeping the balance between free and paid work. I often think about if doing something will open doors for me or create opportunity. If the answer is yes, I will provide a free service (i.e. lunch n’ learn for a company I may partner with, teaching in a school for the day, etc). If the answer is absolutely no (or slim), I rethink my decision. After all, one of the reasons I went into private practice, which I am sure may be the reason for many, is having the ability to choose your own destination.

Leave a comment and let me know if this blog was helpful to you in determining how you will set fees for your practice. Was there something else you thought about that I didn’t mention?

Stay tuned for my next blog that will break down billable hours + setting income goals.


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Tips for Running Nutrition Programs

Over the past few years, I have been creating and running nutrition programs. I have done multiple seminars for adults and classes for children. It is often intimidating to stand up in front of everyone and give that expert knowledge of yours. For those of you who run nutrition programs, or are looking to, here are some of the tips I have.

Tip #1: Prepare
This tip is very generally. It means to not only prepare your material ahead of time (definitely don’t wing it), but to also mentally prepare yourself. If you have your content created, reviewed, and ready for presentation, you will be a lot calmer than if you rushed through it last minute and haven’t looked it over.

Tip #2: Dress professionally
First impressions are very important! Your participants will be judging you before you even begin to speak. You want to look the part. I also found that with being younger, people often discredit what I say or don’t take me seriously. Dressing professionally has helped me to be seen as more of an authority figure.

Tip #3: Arrive early
If you have a lot of equipment, I suggest arriving at least 30 minutes before start time. I found it useful to set up all my handouts, extra pens, business cards, etc on a table off to the side of the front of the room. This was a lot better than fumbling around if someone needed another pen or extra paper. Having materials set out makes the class run smoothly. Also, some participants arrive early. This gives you time to chat with them and make them and yourself a bit more comfortable.

Tip #4: Prepare for set-backs
This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip #3. Besides setting up your room and materials, you want to be early in case of problems that arise. Let’s face it, as much as we prepare, something can always go wrong last minute. I recently began working with a projector, which was complicated to find, let alone set-up. I was in one room with all my materials set-up, half the projector, tables and chairs. I had to move all of my materials, tables, and chairs, to another room to use a different computer system. Since I arrived early, and with the help of some awesome employees, I was able to get set-up and start pretty much on time. Preparing for set-backs means you also have to go with the flow when problems arise. Instead of focusing on “why me,” focus on “what can I do to fix this.”

Tip #5: Have confidence in yourself
Believe in yourself and what you are doing! Stand talk, speak clearly, and speak loudly (not yelling though). Think positively about your program or presentation. Trust your knowledge and your abilities.  Greet your participants as they walk in, and if you can, shake their hands. This gesture helps to break that awkward barrier before you start.

Tip #6: It’s okay to not know an answer
One of the things I was worried about most was that I would get hard questions, not know the answers, and I would lose all of my credibility. When you run a nutrition class, yes you will get questions; however, if you know what you are teaching you will be fine. You know more than you think you do. Also, you don’t have to know everything. If you don’t know the answer to a question, give your best response and be honest about not knowing. I have had a lot of questions on new products or studies, some of which I have never heard of. Sometimes, with my science background, I am able to give an educated response. Other times, I have to say “I haven’t read much on the topic of _____, that will be something I will look into more.” If you are seeing the same class again, you could also tell your participant that you could research it and get back to them.

Tip #6: Enjoy what you are presenting
If you teach nutrition, more than likely you are in the field because it is a passion of yours. Bring that passion to your class. If you are excited and passionate about what you are teaching, it will show. This will also help to motivate the people in your class to be more excited about it too.

****These tips can also relate to speeches/presentations in class.