My RD Journey

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


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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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A Day in the Life of a Private Practice RD

I have been getting asked a lot lately how I structure my day and what does a day looks like for me now that I am full-time. Pretty much no day is ever the same for me since I never know who is going to call for an appointment, what important email comes through, or what last minute change in my schedule needs to happen. I broke down my day into two options: seeing clients/having classes and a “work” day so you can see what it looks like to be me all day long 🙂

A Day With Appointments (My Wednesday)

6:45am – Get ready for the day, eat, make coffee, pack my bag, check emails
8:00am – Head over for a committee meeting that I am Vice-Chair for, send out committee emails
9:30am – Chat with a fellow entrepreneur post meeting
10:00am – Leave to head downtown for my cooking class
10:45am – 1:45pm – Prep, have class, clean-up, chat with staff in the building, etc
2:15pm – Home. Eat lunch, check emails, log class information/expenses.
2:30pm -4:00pm – Make any insurance-related calls before offices close. Call back voicemails (if any). Work on posts for FB & IG. Follow-up with clients for paperwork needed for appointments.
4:00pm – Gym
5:30pm – Make and eat dinner. Usually, I take this time to also clean the kitchen.
7:00pm – Follow-up on emails. Work on committee related minutes/events. Prep for the next day. Sometimes I will have a late-night appointment at 6pm. If so, I will bill and write the reports right after.
8:30pm – Continue working on business-related items (could be accounting, billing, lesson plans, blogs, handouts, etc) or watch Netflix or read a non-business book.
10:00pm – Bed

If there is one thing I have learned while being in private practice it is to not overbook yourself. Even the days where I don’t see clients I try not to overbook. Something always comes up to rock the boat! Going along with this, I have learning to go with the flow a lot more. Appointments change. Classes get rescheduled. Things in life just happen. If I get all stressed out and worked up about something, it just makes my day chaotic and negative. I take things as they happen and simply move on.

A Day Without Appointments (My Monday or Friday)

8:30am – Get ready for the day, make coffee, check emails, make pancakes (because why not), make my to-do list (prioritize)
9:30am – 1:30pm – Followed-up on calls. Booked a new class so I had to submit an invoice + signed contract. Write lessons for the new class. Follow-up on unpaid insurance claims. Follow-up on missing paperwork for upcoming appointments. Chat with another RD about insurance issues. Plan blog and social media posts. Brainstorm ideas for business. Input any paid claims into my accounting software. Usually Fridays I do laundry and vacuum in the midst of all of this.
1:30pm – 2:00pm – Make and eat lunch. Some days, this ends up just being a smoothie for convenience.
2:00pm – 5:30pm – Follow-up on more insurance-related issues. Chat with other RDs about insurance. Send appointment reminders to clients. Prep for appointments/classes for next week. Answer emails. Follow-up on patient calls. Schedule appointments as they come + send initial emails with paperwork. Mondays are my food shopping day normally so I also hit the food store mid-day too.
5:30pm – May go to the gym or if not eat dinner a bit earlier. Usually, prepping dinner involves emptying the dishwasher, putting dishes/groceries away, cleaning, etc, all while cooking.
7:00pm – Follow-up on emails. Work on committee related minutes/events. Prep for the next day.
8:30pm – Continue working on business-related items or watch Netflix or read a non-business book.
10:00pm – Bed

My days where I don’t see clients usually end up being the “busiest” since I push everything office-related off until then. Sometimes, checking my emails takes 2-minutes and other times I end up back and forth about something for 10-minutes. As I mentioned earlier, I never really know how a day is going to go. Some days, I get through everything I needed to and can relax by 3 or 4pm. Other days, I work until 7 or 8pm, eat a late dinner, and pretty much go to bed right after. There are some days that I need a mental break so I will go out for a mid-day walk or watch a show. Again, just going with the flow really helps my sanity and productivity.

If you are in private practice, what does your day look like? Anyone reading this surprised at what I do all day?


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Two-Month Private Practice Anniversary

Today official marks the two-month milestone of quitting my full-time job and jumping into a full-time private practice. If you have read my previous blogs, I recently wrote on finding out what success looked like for me and what direction I wanted to take my practice in. While I am still figuring out what my long-term goals are, I know that I am rushing for things to happen, which is not good. It mean it does make sense that I was getting ahead of myself since my practice became my sole income source. I was constantly trying to plan my next move, develop more ideas, create partnerships, and more! I was becoming overwhelmed and ultimately beginning to dislike the position I was in.

I thought back to my previous 3 years of just doing my practice on the side, without much real effort (minus the insurance provider part). During that time, I still gained clients and had opportunities arise. I realized I was stressing myself out over just 2-months of focusing all of my efforts on my business. I thought to myself that I really did a lot more than I was giving myself credit for. I did something scary and challenging by quitting my job in December. I reached out to potential partners and gain two solid ones on top of those I already was working with. I landed a contract for a 6-week class that turned into an additional 7-week class (since the participants were so happy with the program I did). I created and stuck to a more consistent blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram post schedule. I began networking with other Dietitians in my area. I took the chance to run for a position with the Philadelphia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. I became a blogger for Eat Right PA. The list goes on and on.

You may be reading this thinking to yourself that it may be great I am doing all of these things; however, why should you care. Well, if you are in private practice or are thinking about it you may probably get to the stage that I am in where you wonder if you should be doing more. You may wonder why (constantly) you chose to do something that is scary and unknown most of the time. I challenge you to take a few moments and write out all of the positive things you have done in the last month or even week. Doing so can help you to put in perspective just how much effort you have put into your business. The reason why I do this despite all of the doubts I have is that it is so rewarding to have success in something that you worked so hard for on your own (i.e. without a large company supporting you along the way, especially financially).

While the first two months have been flying by I know that I am doing all the right things and I need to not worry so much about forcing new ideas or opportunities. I know that if I keep doing what I am doing on a daily basis (at the level of quality I am), these opportunities will come, just as they have in the past. Getting overwhelmed is stressful and to be blunt, useless. It paralyzes you and can inhibit your creativity and drive. If I start to get overwhelmed, I journal (which really helps me to see what I have accomplished already), I go for a walk, I make a list, I go to the gym, etc. Taking that time to clear my head gets me back in the game, gets me motivated, and helps me to weed through clutter to make real progress.

So, what are your stressing over that is useless and inhibiting your creativity and drive for success?

Check out my last blog post on “Tackling Your Business Fears”Tackling Business Fears


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Tackling Business Fears

How many of you reading this are putting something off out of fear? Fear is something that can be overwhelming and paralyzing. Fear of contacting a new partnership company. Fear of making the first step to starting your own business. Fear of driving. Fear of the dark. Fear of a new relationship. Fear of leaving the comfortable for the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of change.

Recently, I have let my own fears drive my emotions and ultimately my private practice. Two months after leaving my full-time job, I started to panic. What if I don’t make enough money to survive? What if I don’t get any more clients? I began to feel unsure of my next step and had a dip in my motivation. After reading multiple business books and filling my social media with positive business owners, I realized that everyone has similar fears to mine; however, the key to overcoming them was doing something about it. I could sit and worry all day long and that wouldn’t solve anything. In fact, that would probably contribute to the possibility of my worst fears happening since I was ultimately neglecting my business.

Through working with my own fears, I have laid out 3 steps that I believe could be beneficial in many situations. These steps are a combination of thoughts from books, articles, my own experiences, and friends and family members. I hope these steps will help you as much as they have been helping me!

Step 1 – Write out the worst case scenario

What could happen if your fears came true? One of my fears is not getting enough clients to sustain my business. This is what my worst case scenario looked like: Loss of clients (or lack of gaining new clients) –> Loss of income –> Drain or use my savings –> Lean on my boyfriend (since we live together) –> Close my business –> Feeling like I failed and disappointed those who believed in me –> Be forced to find an actually 9-5 job, which I wasn’t thrilled about. One thing I did when I wrote out the worst case scenario was think about a rebuttal. Loss of clients, maybe I would find better ones? Use my savings, isn’t this what I have been saving for anyways? Lean on my boyfriend, didn’t we talk about this being a possibility and work it out financially? Feeling like I failed, well don’t they know how hard I tried? Finding a 9-5, maybe it is something I will love? I feeling like having the little rebuttal almost helps you to emotionally prepare for what could happen and it makes it easier to settle those fears for the time being. When thinking about your worst case scenario, I would think about ways you could fix things along the way too. You don’t want to have a small loss of income and immediately think you need to forgo the business and find a job. Think about steps you could take if just one of those fears start to develop and how you could rebound from it.

Step 2 – Write out the best case scenario

Let’s say you want to take a risk and that fear is stopping you. Once you have your fears broken down, think about what is the best thing that could happen. Take my client example from earlier: Influx of clients –> Boost in income –> Ability to grow my business –> Hire assistant or an additional dietitian –> Allows me to do more creating behind the scenes –> More products developed –> More opportunities with new clients –> Working less to allow time for a family –> Feeling really awesome! The possibilities seem endless in this scenario. When you take a risk in your business or personal life, you have the opportunity to grow, make connections, and succeed.

Step 3 – Start your day with one thing that you fear

I was reading the “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss and I came across a section that said something like, “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do,” which i believe was an excerpt from a previous work of his. That quote resonated with me so much since I was in a place of worry and fear of my business direction. I decided then that I would start every day with something that I feared or something that I needed to do, but didn’t really want to. Doing this made me feel charged, accomplished, and more confident afterwards. Instead of letting that fear continue to paralyze you, nip it in the butt first thing in the morning. It doesn’t have to be a huge jump every morning, but instead, can be a small step in overcoming your fears.

Fear is definitely hard to overcome, especially in business. It takes courage and strength to push through the uncomfortable and grow. I would highly suggest finding someone close to you who could give you the honest truth about your fears. Are they even rational? Do you need a good shake? This person will need to be able to give you honest feedback in that they can’t just agree with everything you say. Find someone who will challenge you and push you.

I hope reading this blog helped you to either take the first steps in identifying your fears or take actions to overcome them. Leave me a comment to let me know what you are working on!