My RD Journey

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


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Business Planning for 2018

The holidays are fast approaching and that means 2017 is coming to a close! I feel like this year flew by for me. This was my first year as a full-time business owner and I have loved every minute of it (even the stressful ones). Over the past few months, I found myself working IN my business versus ON it. I realized with overbooking myself, I was stunting my business growth. While the income was great, I was just going through the motions daily without creating anything new or challenging myself.

With that, I decided to start working on my business goals and strategy for 2018. I wanted to have a plan in place so I can start taking action steps for the many ideas that I have. Below are some of the questions I asked myself when thinking about my 2018 plan.

Questions to Ask Yourself
1. What is your ultimate vision for the end of 2018?
-Think of what you want your business to look like by Dec 2018. What does your day-to-day include? What is your schedule like? What types of clients are you seeing? This can help you to identify goals and action steps to take monthly and daily.

2. What are your large goals for the year?
-This could be launching a practice or starting a new program. Think about larger goals being more long-term (i.e. to accomplish in 6-8 months).

3. What are your smaller goals for this year?
-This could include working on marketing to local businesses or incorporating more social media posts. Think about smaller goals as being more short-term (i.e. weekly or monthly).

4. Why is all of this important?
-Think about the importance of each of your goals. This will help with driving your motivation and also developing a targeted strategy for building and marketing.

5. What pitfalls do you want to avoid?
-Think about the hangups you had this year in business. Did you tend to overbook yourself? Are you doing too much on your own? Are you lacking personal time? Are you saying yes too much? Be aware of the things you want to work on and build them into your goals and ultimately your schedule. Write out monthly reminders to yourself to help avoid these pitfalls throughout the year.

After I asked myself the questions above (doesn’t have to be in this order), I brainstormed all of the steps I needed to take for each of my ideas and goals. I actually did this over a few days while on the train and waiting for appointments. After I had a comprehensive list, I organized the steps into a logical order and began to map them out on my calendar as due dates.

I also planned out the dates I wanted to schedule clients and when I would be working ON my business. One of my main goals for this year is to not overbook myself and instead stick to the boundaries I set. Although this will include my having to say “no” sometimes, I know this will be really important for my business and my sanity!

I hope this post helps you to plan out a successful 2018! Happy holidays!

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Tips for Writing Your First Book

Welcome back to My RD Journey! For the past few months, I have been working on my first book! I had been thinking about writing a book for the past year now, but it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I actually thought I COULD do it. I was so full of self-doubt about my skills as a writer and my ideas as a Dietitian, that I was terrified to start compiling ideas for my book. I mean who am I to write a book?!

I purchased a few books (see below for my recommendations) and before I knew it, I was more than excited to write. I started testing my book ideas out with my clients and fellow Dietitians and I became more confident in my book ideas. After a while, I started to have this “itch” to write something tangible that people could use long-term. Is weird as this may sound, it was like I NEEDED to write and it truly became a passion of mine.

At this point, I finished a first full draft of my book and have it out to my beta readers for commenting. I must had re-read and edited 100 times before sending it to my first reader! Once I get the edited versions back, I will do another couple of revisions before the final editing process. I have decided to self-publish, so I have a bit more back-end work to do.

Anyways, for today’s post, I wanted to share with you some of the resources and tips that helped me in the beginning stages of writing my first book!

Create a Timeline 
One thing I did not do for this book, but plan to do for my future ones is to create a timeline for writing and editing. I started toying around with my book idea in May, but it wasn’t until almost July that I had content written down. In August, I started planning out when I would edit, send copies to my beta readers, re-edit, etc. Having a timeline pushed me to work harder and gave me a clear vision of my book’s path. I highly suggest getting together a timeline for your book now.

Practice Writing
If you don’t currently have a blog or social media page, get one! Start practicing your writing skills. The more you write, the more you learn about yourself, your style of writing, your method of writing, etc. Are you someone who likes the pen and paper? Would you rather type it out? Does writing at home distract you? Learning about yourself now, will help when you start writing a longer-form book.

Pull From Previous Content
If you have been blogging or writing articles for a while, pull from that content when creating a book. Think back to previous lessons and presentations. All of that material can become apart of your book. Use the great things you have already created as an outline for this book or future ones!

ID How to Capture Ideas 
I often get random ideas about books or content for the book I am writing while driving, showering, or sitting on the train. One of the biggest tips I have is to find a way to capture these ideas. I now carry around a small notebook to jot down thoughts. I have a notepad app on my phone that also voice records, and I keep a brainstorming document on my laptop. I never remember all of the fleeting ideas I have, so being prepared with ways to capture them has been super helpful.

Join Mastermind Groups

I am apart of a few different writing groups, one of which is within the AND. I love these groups for not only the tips, but also, motivation! Join online groups, email newsletters, or in-person meet-ups!

Get Over Your Fears
Your first book may not be your greatest book, and that is totally okay! Put your heart and soul into what you are doing and just know that the second time around, you will be even better. You will always have people who dislike your content, whether it be a book or blog. You will also always have your die-hard readers and followers. Focus on that positive energy! One thing I kept reminding myself in this process is that I know what I write will at least help one person (even if that one person is a family member).

Just Write 
For about 2 months, I was so concerned with learning the best way to write, the best way to market my book, and the best way to format my book, that I didn’t actually even write anything! I was psyching myself out of writing thinking about all the things I needed to do. I pushed that all aside and basically said to myself that I was worrying over a product that I didn’t even have yet! My final piece advice to aspiring writers out there is to just write. Get it all out on paper first and then worry about the rest.

Are you thinking about or currently writing a book? What have been your most helpful tips in the writing process? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Great Books That Relate to Writing/Creativity/Niche:
Make Your Idea Matter
Start Writing Your Book Today
Writing the Damn Book
The War of Art

Look out for my first book coming SEPTEMBER 2017! 


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Top 5 Tips for Building Partnerships

Over the past few weeks, I have been writing about my tips for gaining clients. One aspect that I did not mention was on building partnerships with other health/medical professionals (or any professional for that matter). I had touched on this in week 2 of my full-time practice; however, today, I wanted to go a bit more in-depth.

Tip #1 – Do Your Research
It is a good idea to do a little recon before you reach out to any medical office, gym, health center, etc. Spend 3-5 minutes browsing their website or Facebook page. Get to know their mission, clientele, offerings, etc. This initial research not only prepares you for the connection; however, it can weed out companies that do not align with what you are doing. Say you find a health center that pushes a lot of supplements and has a nutritionist that gives out meal plans. If you do partner with them, would you be fighting an uphill battle? Do you agree with the types of meal plans they are promoting? How about the supplements? There is no harm in checking out the company and making the first connection; however, just be mindful of whom you are aligning yourself and your business with.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when an individual (or company) reaches out to me to partner (or utilize my expertise) without doing any research on myself or my business. I have had companies misspell my name or think I work in a different field (i.e. clinical or food-service). With a quick Google search, you can find out a lot about my business. It is off-putting to me when someone says incorrect information about my practice that is clearly stated on my website. It makes me think they didn’t do their research and that this relationship is not truly a priority for them.

Tip #2 – Make a Meaningful Connection
Make your first impression with any potential partner a meaningful one. Now, this doesn’t mean swinging by the place of business with your business cards and just dropping them off. Send an initial email or call-in. Schedule a good time to come in to speak with the owner, office manager, or doctor. During this time, discuss what you offer and how that could benefit the facility. Be clear about your expectations and how referrals or services will be rendered. Bring your business cards, but also bring samples of your work (i.e. newsletters, handouts, flyers about services, etc). These could all be things that you leave at the facility, which could bring clients to you.

Tip #3 – Offer a Freebie
As I just mentioned, newsletters or flyers about your services could be great items to bring by an office or health center. Often, companies will want something else for free in turn for sending clients your way. Offer to do employee lunch-n-learns for nutrition or offer free seminars on Diabetes for the patients (in-office). With both of these situations you could be handing out business cards and touting your services. A sample conversation could be, “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me today to brainstorm how we could work together to help patients lead healthier lives. I appreciate your willingness to leave my cards at your main office desk. Another service that I could offer to you and your facility would be my lunch-n-learns (or seminars). This would increase not only patient knowledge of _____, but also, help to get the word out about nutrition counseling. This, in turn, could improve patient outcomes and save some time for you and your staff (as in less education in the room).”

Tip #4 – Follow-up 
After your first connection, schedule a date to follow-up. You could discuss a date/time to follow-up at the end of your initial meeting. An example could be, “Thanks for taking the time to meet (or talk) with me. I can plan to follow-up in a week if that works well for you.” If a potential partner says they will follow-up with you after the meeting, I usually wait 1 to 2 weeks (max) before sending an email or making a call. Sometimes, people just get busy and forget. Other times, I had individuals who were not interested in my services and simply neglected to call and let me know. So, you take the responsibility to check-in and move forward with building a connection.

Tip #5 – Communicate Frequently 
One of the ultimate keys to building a lasting partnership is effective and frequent communication. This could be done in-person or via email or phone. Discuss how things are going. Are the referrals working? Has there been any feedback (positive or negative) about the services? Is the partnerships still worthwhile? What things need to change? When you have that open dialogue from both ends of the partnership, it sets a higher standard for both parties and shows the level of importance. I always think about how communication is essentially nurturing the relationship, whether it be personal or business-related. If you don’t communicate, you can’t address issues or celebrate successes that will ultimately improve the partnership.

What tips do you have for building lasting partnerships? Leave a comment and let me know!


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5 Tips for Gaining Clients in Private Practice (Part Two)

Welcome back to My RD Journey! If you read last week’s blog, you will already know that this is part-two of my tips for marketing yourself and gaining clients. (Click to read last week’s post). I hope part one gave you a few good tips to get started with marketing within your business. One thing is for sure, marketing yourself and your services is a constant. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that one ad will do the trick or one networking event will give you all the clients you need. For part two of my marketing tip series, I delve into more of my tips that revolve around the “constant marketing” idea. Enjoy!

#6 – Always Carry Business Cards
No matter where you go, always carry your business cards with you. I have handed out my card to clients on the train or even while waiting in line at the supermarket. You never know when an opportunity may arise for you to build a connection. I typically carry 5-6 cards in my wallet, so I always have some with me, and a small stack in my purse/work-bag.

#7 – Attend Networking Events
Make it a goal to attend some sort of networking event at least once per month. Join your local business associations or Chamber of Commerce to find events that would be worthwhile for you to attend. When going to networking events, be open-minded with everyone you speak with. Even if you think someone would not benefit from your services or even be interested, they may know someone who is. Also, don’t just push your card on someone within the first few minutes of meeting them. Get to know who they are, what they do in business, and even goals they may have. I will often ask fellow business owners how they got into their current role and if they see themselves growing or changing in the future. Don’t just talk to someone with the sole purpose of giving them a card and walking away. Make a more meaningful connection. Often times, I will wait until the end of the conversation to say, “I had a great conversation with you, would you like to swap cards so we can chat more in the future about ___?” Sometimes, I will even wait until the other person asks for my card, which almost always is the case. I also try to follow-up with a short email a day or two after the event.

#8 – Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New 
If you feel like you have been trying everything to get your name out there, you may have thought about paying for advertising. While my first paid advertisement was a total waste of money, I learned a lot about my business and future marketing campaigns. Before paying for advertisement, think about whether or not the ad will target your ideal client. My first ad was on a food placement at a diner. I don’t even read those things and for some reason I thought it was a good idea to try my first year in business. Needless to say, I didn’t get any clients after the ad ran for practically 4-months. Yet, I recently had the opportunity to run an ad in my local paper (FREE) and I gained 3 new clients the same day the paper went out. The second time around, my ad was much better and the paper actually reached clients in my area. Bottom line here is that just because something failed once, doesn’t mean you can’t try again. Be open to changing your strategy.

#9 – The Power of Word-of-Mouth 
I would say about 80% of my clients and 100% of my contracts have been from word-out-mouth marketing. It is oh so powerful! How people perceive their health and nutrition is often very personal (and emotional), so having a warm referral from a friend or family member will make it much more likely that they will use your services versus searching out another Dietitian (even if they are closer). I have spoken at conferences and had audience members refer businesses to me. I have done lunch-and-learns and had my facility contact recommend me to other partners for cooking classes. I have even had Dietitians recommend me to other RDs for help on starting a business. Do not assume that in order to get clients you need to pay for ads or marketing in some way.

#10 – Do Your Best Always
Tips #9 and #10 really go together in the marketing sense. Word-of-mouth marketing is so strong when you make a positive impact on someone. To put it simply, if you are good at what you do, your work/service sells itself. If your clients/partners see that you have a passion for nutrition and really go above and beyond for their needs, then they will have no trouble singing your praises. Take your role seriously in any opportunity you have, whether free or paid. Even if you feel like an event is not worth your while (once you have arrived), still strive to perform and show your best side. This includes the idea that you should not “burn your bridges” because I always find a previous connection resurfaces later in my business. I tell my interns and any new RDs I work with that, “You never know who is watching.” As I mentioned previously, I have had a lot of big contracts form after someone recommended me after hearing me speak. Again, the person who saw you may not be your ideal client; however, who they recommend you to just may be. Bottom line, do your best, even if you think no one is watching (or reading).

What marketing tip has helped you the most? Share with me how this post has helped you or share another tip you have for gaining clients!


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5 Tips for Gaining Clients in Private Practice (Part One)

Whether you are new to entrepreneurship or even seasoned, you may wonder to yourself, “How can I gain clients?”

As a Dietitian in private practice, I often struggled with the best way to grow my clientele since my undergrad and graduate courses had little to no focus on marketing. You can do a simple Google search and find millions of results for the topic of marketing; however, I wanted to give a “tried and true” perspective. This is a combination of what not only worked well for me, but also, other dietitians in similar positions. While I am by no means an expert, I know that someone out there might benefit from my information. This blog is going to be broken down into a two-part series, so look out for the second round of tips next week!

#1 – Have an Internet/Social Media Presence
People want to know a bit about you before committing to your services. Some of my clients found me from a Google search and others have been passive followers of my Facebook page and suddenly had a need for my services. You can really run the full gambit with an Internet presence. I currently have a website, 2 blogs, Instagram, two Facebook pages, and Twitter profile. I also created a FREE listing with “Google My Business,” which helps me to stand out a bit in search results. You don’t necessarily need to use every social media platform nor do you need to do everything at once. The key is finding which is the best for you (and your clients) now. This means identifying where your clients frequent the most. I started blogging back in my undergrad, then created a website, and then added my FB pages. Take it one step at a time and build as you see fit.

#2 – Look for the Secondary Benefit
I feel that my blogs add to my credibility and provide some extra tips/resources to my current clients. My Instagram shows clients how healthy food can look (and taste) good. There have been times where I am out somewhere and a fellow RD or even an entrepreneur in an unrelated business will say that they read my latest blog and it was really helpful. I have also had food companies reach out to partner with me after seeing pictures I posted or blogs I have written. So, while you may not see single clients reaching out to you for counseling services, down the line, a new business opportunity may arise due to them reading your blog and seeing your work. So, do keep it professional, credible, and useful to your audience.

#3 – Build an Easy-to-Access Website
Ultimately, your website is one of the first things I would get up and running, especially if you are in practice already. Clients want to learn about you, the services you offer, and how to contact you when they are ready. When you create your website (or have a designer do so), make sure it is easy to navigate. I have had a few clients say they chose my practice because my website gave them the information they needed quickly (i.e. contact info, services, about me). You can certainly hire someone to build a website for you; however, I did it myself and I like that I can just pop in to update things whenever I want. I also chose not to include a pop-up ad on my website landing page because I find it annoying when I am looking for information and all these boxes keep showing up to get me to subscribe via email. This was just a personal preference for me; however, I would challenge you to think from your client’s perspective when designing your website layout.

#4 – Be Consistent in Social Media Postings 
Whatever social media platform you use, try to be consistent in when/how you post. For my Facebook pages, I have a schedule of which days I post to which site (I have one for nutrition and one for RDs). I also typically post 3-4 times a month (Sundays) with my RD blog and 2 times per month (Thursdays) with my PorrazzaNutrition blog. I also have monthly themes (i.e. greens for March, holiday tips for Nov/Dec) and even daily themes (Motivation Monday), which can really help with content creation. When you recommend your blog or page to any client or fellow RD, you want to have content for them to see now and future content to keep them interested. Otherwise, why should they follow you if they won’t get anything out of it? I also limit the number of “selling myself” posts to 1-2 per month. People don’t want to follow you and hear a pitch every other day. Mix in your own work, general tips, blog/page shares, and your services to give a nice blend to your reader/audience.

#5 – Become an Insurance Provider
While you certainly don’t need to be an insurance provider to have a private practice, I will say, it helps a lot with gaining clients. About 95% of my current clients use their insurance. It is a huge selling point for potential clients when I tell them I take insurance and the cost for them is little to nothing. When creating partnerships, a lot of the contacts (doctors, trainers, etc) I spoke with had verified that I accepted insurance before agreeing to send clients my way. I am also listed on each insurance companies’ website, so when a new client searches for a Dietitian in my zip code, I show up. Now, there may be a few RDs listed in my zip code; however, as I mentioned earlier, having a good website with information about myself, links to my blogs with tasty recipes, and tips for the client could lean them towards choosing me from the list. It does take time to go through the insurance process and depending on your business model, you may not even want to go this route. If you are undecided on whether you should take insurance, I would suggest looking at what other RDs in your area are doing. If they all accept insurance and you do not, it can be tough to compete (I am only speaking in regards to one-on-one counseling, not other services). Also, if insurance is good in your area and no other RDs accept it then that could set you apart. I have seen practices thrive with and without taking insurance, so do some research and decide what you think will work the best for you.

What marketing tip has helped you the most? Share how this blog has helped you or share another tip you have for marketing yourself and gaining clients!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog Part Two of Gaining Clients in Private Practice with 5 more tips!


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Private Practice Tools & Apps

When I first started PorrazzaNutrition, I did a lot via paper (i.e. my accounting, charting, etc) and I soon realized just how many files I was accumulating. Over the past couple of years, I have implemented a few systems/applications in my practice and I have complied a list of just some of them for you today. There are tons of competing products/services on the market; however, these were ones I have used personally and were satisfied with. This is not a sponsored post and I do not work for any of the companies featured below.

Organization
Trello– I have just started using this free app/site and it is awesome for individuals and teams! I love that you can create different boards (topics) and lists. I used for long-term lists and also for some of the committees I am on. I also use the boards as ideas for my blogs and then I list out talking points. It is great for me when I am not able to sit down and write on paper.
Google Drive- If you have not used GD, start now! You get a ton of free storage! I store informational sheets, blank assessment forms, and documents that I use most often on-the-go. It is way better than storing a ton of stuff on my laptop and then only being able to access if I am on it. I use GD a lot for committees I am on. It is easier to share a folder with the minutes than emailing documents back and forth every month.
Tools for Wisdom Planner– I am totally still a pen-and-paper planner person. I tried using an online calendar and hated it! I like crossing things out and being able to flip through the months with a paper planner. I am super picky about my planners and will spend hours trying to find a good one each year (haha). I currently use the Tools for Wisdom since I specifically wanted a planner with a month view plus the days in columns with an hour-by-hour format. The pages are thick enough that highlighters do not bleed through (I am a color coding queen). I might switch up again for next year since this does not include any 2018 months. I am totally open to suggestions here!

Accounting – Quickbooks
When I first began my practice, I didn’t have a ton of income/expenses so I just tracked using ledger sheets. After about 2 years, I started looking around and Quickbooks came up a lot. It is super simple to use and cheap (I pay $5.30/month). You can save different transactions for the future so they are automatically categorized as they come in. I use the app a lot on-the-go, especially since you can scan in receipts. I still use a separate accounting sheet to track unpaid classes or checks that have not been cashed yet. It definitely makes tax season a lot simpler since you can just import your information from Quickbooks without having to enter in everything manually.

Media
Dropbox– I have the Dropbox app on my phone and computers and it makes it really easy to upload files or pictures. I take a ton of photos and it syncs automatically with my computer where I can then move them to an external hard-drive or save to my photos.
-Canva– Awesome for designing posts for social media, blogs, etc. So many free images/templates.
Pixabay–  Royalty free pictures. I take a lot more of my own photos now; however, this was really helpful for me initially.
Snapseed– Free app for editing photos. One of the best I have used so far.
Tiny Scanner– Free app that functions as a portable scanner. Your scans can be saved as a PDF or an image. I have the free version and just delete the scans once they are uploaded to where they need to be. Really useful for scanning large documents especially if you are out or don’t have a scanner at home (mine is a bit temperamental).

Newsletters – MailChimp
I use MailChimp for my bi-monthly newsletters. I also embedded a sign-up form on my website (GoDaddy) that links to my account. I like being able to embed newsletters in emails and then track the statistics after each email blast. I use the free version for my practice and have not felt the need to upgrade further yet.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, this is not a complete list of every tool/app I use in practice; however, it does include my main ones. I will be posting another blog to include my counseling/billing resources too!

I am always open to suggestions for tools, so leave a comment and let me know what types of software or applications that you use that have made your business life that much more productive (or simpler).