My RD Journey

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

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Private Practice Tip: Thinking of Your Big Picture

After my last two blog posts, I found myself thinking a lot about where I wanted my practice to be in the next few years. Although I am still working out the details, I finally have a clear picture of what I envision for PorrazzaNutrition. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone reading this, whether you have a private practice or not, to really brainstorm your ideal set-up. Do you want to niche down in a certain area of your field? Do you want this to be a full-time role or just something you will do on the side? Do you want to take insurance? Do you want to have a virtual component? Questions like these can help you to see the big picture and give you a sense of direction.

I hear so many dietitians say to me that they want to have their own practice, but most don’t have a clue as to what they want to do with it. While that may not be a bad thing, I realized, for myself, that having little sense of direction can be paralyzing. We often do nothing when faced with too much unknown. Having that big picture in mind will allow you to focus your efforts towards a path that will help you to reach your goal. I have been asking myself this question a lot –> “Are the things you are doing now, supporting your end goal?” If the answer is yes, I keep investing my time in that area. If the answer is no, I think to myself if this is something I need to stop doing or spending less time on.

Once you have an idea of what you want your practice to entail, think about your action steps. An idea or knowledge is great, but it is what you actually do that matters. Let’s say you want your practice to be able to accept insurance to drive more clientele while first starting out. Some of your action steps may be: 1. Gain an NPI, 2. Gain a Federal Tax ID Number , 3. Fill out a CAQH application, 4. Send in provider inquiries or initial applications for each insurance company, etc. Prioritize your goals! No matter how big your end result (goal) is, make it manageable and less intimidating by breaking it down into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.

This week, I also made a commitment to myself that I would not buy or read another business-related book until I took action. While these personal/business-development books are really awesome and provide a lot of great information, the information means nothing unless you actually use it. Instead of just taking notes and moving on to the next book, I create actionable steps for the knowledge I gain in any capacity to use either that day, or that week.

For all my readers out there (whether you are dietitians or not), I challenge you to think about your ‘big picture” or “end goal.” What does that really look like and how can you break it down into small and manageable steps? Leave a comment and let me know what YOUR journey looks like.

Check out my first week in Private Practice HERE or my last post about organization HERE



Private Practice Tips: Organization & Prioritizing

I was recently approached by a fellow Dietitian and friend of mine about how I stay organized and prioritize my time. The organizational side of it seemed like a no-brainer for me to comment on. I have always been “highly organized” (as some would say) since I carried my planner everywhere and when opened it was an array of colors, each meaning something different. Being in full-time private practice, I realized my method of keeping organized was still efficient, but, not as effective for managing my time properly and ultimately prioritizing things daily.

Now, I am definitely one for list making. I will go as far as adding “shower” or “eat”, which some find hilarious that I even need to put those things on a list. Making a daily list is a great idea; however, I find it best to break down my priorities for business and personal health. When I would just write down everything I needed to do on a list, I would often not accomplish what I wanted (no surprise there). I also found that important tasks were getting pushed to later in the week. The unrealistic expectation I put on myself was actually making me feel less productive (see more on this from Week 1 of my Private Practice).

Honestly, if you still like the pen and paper method, which I love, getting yourself a good planner is the first place to start. The planner I have now allows space for you to set monthly and weekly goals/tasks. I usually put a bunch of ideas and goals on there sporadically and then take the time daily to break down my weekly tasks into daily priorities. I usually set 3-5 daily priorities for myself (as related to my business) and this widely varies based on what clients/classes I have scheduled. I also set personal/health goals for the day, which are always a priority. These personal/health goals usually involve things like exercise* and meal prep. Since my planner has space for me to write out weekly tasks, my daily goal is to take 1-3 items from that master list that isn’t a priority for the day and get it done.

When thinking about prioritizing my daily tasks, I had to think to myself, “What am I doing out of habit?” Often, we do things without even realizing and they end up being a huge time sink. One thing I had to change when prioritizing, was checking my email every time my phone went off. I now limit this to about 3 times per day. Think to yourself what are you doing now that can be changed, eliminated, or simplified to allow more time for your priorities.

With making a priority list for the day, remember not to overbook yourself. If you are stretched to the max, the quality of your interactions can suffer. Also, don’t continue adding to your list if you find yourself with more time to spare. Use that time to do something else you enjoy (hang with a friend, go for a walk, play an instrument, etc). I often felt like if I was done everything by 3pm, I still needed to do more after that. I mean, don’t business owners work all hours of the day?! It was hard for me to get used to the idea that I didn’t need to put in 10-12 hour days anymore and if I did, it was for a particular reason and not my status quo.

Last point I have for you with organization and prioritizing is to be okay with having to re-prioritize your list. I woke up one morning and realized that my WordPress “about me” section was from 4-years ago. Turns out that when I updated my “about me” I only did it for the one page and not the other…oops. That instantly became my priority for the day. I ended up spending about 2 hours redoing my WordPress layout. The next day, I ended up spending 3 hours updating my “services” page on my website. This replaced the time I was going to spend following up with potential partnerships. Was it a good choice? Definitely. A lot of businesses will go directly to my website to find out what I do, especially if I just reached out to them for a potential partnership proposal, so having a well polished website is crucial.

I hope this helps you to organize your business (or daily habits) to be more effective and efficient. Leave a comment about how this has helped you or let me know you tips for staying organized!

**Just a side note here. As a Dietitian, I talk about exercise with my clients for the various health benefits; however, I make it a priority for my daily business life because I find that it helps me to recharge, clear my mind, and just feel better overall. I usually aim for a short, 15-minute, workout daily and a 45-minute workout 4 times per week. I also try and get up every hour from my computer to walk around my apartment. Your workout schedule can be quite different from this and my routine is not an indicator of any “gold standard” approach. 


Second Week in Private Practice – 3 Partnership Tips

This week definitely felt more comfortable for me being in private practice. It started to feel like my career and less like I was on a vacation from the full-time job I left! I focused a lot on building partnerships and reaching out to different facilities to find out if they had a dietitian they referred to already. Two major things I learned were that I should have looked back at the business plan I made in grad school for my practice and that I should have thought more about who/what I wanted to target before spending time researching every facility in my area (thank goodness for my intern). This week, my plan is to develop a more clear marketing and outreach strategy so my efforts are more targeted.

Although it was close to the holidays, I wanted to make some connections now in order to prepare for January when more people want to lose weight and eat better. I reached out to about 30 different facilities this week; however, I only spoke with about 5 that could have been potential partnerships. Three places let me know they already had a Dietitian and the rest didn’t get back to me. My plan is to reach out to those companies next week. Below are the things I learned this week while trying to build partnerships:

1. You can’t expect to partner with everyone. 

As I just mentioned, I started by gathering a list of practically every gym, doctor’s office, community center, you name it, in my area. After a few calls and emails, I realized that this was a terrible strategy. I needed to narrow down my focus first and I began to think about the facilities that I would want to partner with. Fitness centers and community centers were ones that I felt would make great connections and they also may be a little easier to speak to if they were individually owned versus with a large corporation. I also realized that you don’t need 30 partnerships to be successful. I already had 5 good ones from the last year or so and that drove a nice amount of clientele to me. I don’t want to spread myself too thin and not provide a quality interaction or service to those I do end up partnering with.

2. Think about the method you are using for outreach.

When I first thought about reaching out to companies/doctors’ offices, my plan was to just call around to everyone on the list I had developed. I planned a short blurb of what to say when I called. I realized that it was hard to just cold call without knowing who to speak with and when you would get off of hold. I decided to send an email first with a short description about myself and reason for contact. I linked my website and contact information and stated I would follow-up in person. This initial email helped me weed out those who already had Dietitians and also narrow down the correct contact person. I have heard from other Dietitians that they prefer to just show up in the office and try to speak to someone. Depending on how you present yourself, either way could work just fine. One thing to remember here is that in any initial contact (whether it is email, phone, or in-person) be sure to state how the partnership can benefit them.

3. Prep before your meeting with potential partners. 

Before I went in for a meeting with any potential partner, I did a more involved investigation on their company. Who are they? What do they promote? Do they have a well-developed website (could help to market having a Dietitian)? I did a little bit of research before my initial contact to be sure they would be a company I wanted to align with. I always came to a meeting prepared with my business cards, short flyer about myself and my services, and list of questions. I also brought my resume with me as a back up. I get comments from people on how young I look, and I had a few people act condescending because of that. If anyone questions my experience for being so young, I pull out my resume and show them the organizations I am a part of, my education, and past working experiences. Usually, that does the trick 🙂 Dressing very professional (blazer and all) and being clear and concise in how I spoke also helped a lot.

With any type of new partnership, I always found that it was best to be honest about all of my concerns up front. I didn’t want to spend my time building a relationship without fleshing out all of the details that could later harm the business. When I met with different people, I also thought about any red flags during the conversation and how this may impact a business relationship later on. I like to tour any facility before making a commitment and thinking/asking about if the clientele are really interested in nutritional services.

There is a lot to think about with building partnerships; however, the more prepared you can be before the initial meeting the better. Also, don’t commit to anything at the first meeting. Gather notes and review at home (or in your office) all the pros and cons to the partnership. Often in meetings something sounds like a great opportunity (and some people can be quite pushy about it); however, putting it on paper later can show you that it won’t be as beneficial for you! Lastly, be okay with the fact that sometimes you just need to walk away.


Why I Made the Jump to Private Practice

It has been an exciting few weeks for me since I decided to make the jump into full-time private practice! In 3-weeks, I will be leaving the comfort of my full-time job and jumping head first into my ultimate long-term goal of being my own boss. This decision has been years in the making; however, some new work moments really got me thinking into what I REALLY want. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my full-time job; however, I was starting to feel stagnant. I am definitely one to constantly be challenging myself and trying to move upwards. Unfortunately, there was no good opportunity for me to do so anymore.

About 2 years ago I started PorrazzaNutrition; however, I didn’t “officially” start until I began accepting insurance last year. I felt like that was when I really started to get some more clientele. I hit sort of a wrench in the road with being in a car accident, so I didn’t go out and advertise or facilitate partnerships until a few months ago. I slowly started building up a client basis after my medical issues were out of the way (and I finished grad school) and landing some long-term contract work. Funny though, because once I finished school in August I thought I would have all of this time to read and relax. Instead, I just filled that time with more contract work and clients. Ten to 12 hour days, minimal time to do much for myself, and feeling overwhelmed majority of the time, sounds about right. I started to reach a point mentally and physically where I just couldn’t continue to do both jobs and with some work issues going on, I realized that what I really wanted was to work for myself. I couldn’t wait for the days where I could return phone calls that day instead of 2 days out. Or NOT writing things on my to-do list 4x since I just couldn’t get to it! Thinking about going full-time private practice and actually doing it were two totally different ball games though. Sure I had clients, billed insurance, tracked expenses, etc, etc, etc; however, I didn’t actually know how it felt to be on my own with no one saying what I needed to do. I only had myself to blame if I failed. Cue the panic! All I kept thinking to myself,  “What are you doing?! Are you sure you should do this?!” My answer, “YES.”

To make the transition easier, I thought I would go for a part-time job to have a steady source of income. I ended up getting offered a position that said they would be flexible with my schedule. So, sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, in reality I would be adding on about an hour of travel each day. Twenty-four hours a week just became 30 hours a week. So, I am leaving a full-time job for 10-hours extra to work on my business and grow? The more I thought about it, the more I said, “Just DO IT. JUMP.” Okay, I’ll be honest, I took a lot of input from my boyfriend and dad (and reading from other RDs. In the end, I decided that I can slowly rip off the bandaid and do what seems comfortable by getting a part-time gig OR I could just rip that bad boy off and jump in with no life jacket. Good thing I know how to swim. HAHA. I am all about cheesy jokes and analogies today 🙂

The reality is, I have been planning for this moment. I have saved practically everything I made to be able to have a cushion to rely on if I flounder for a bit before getting my footing once I am on my own. I also made a plan of attack for the things I want to accomplish once I actually have some more time. I followed up with contacts of mine who I am working with already to let them know I will have more availability. The awesome part about that is I actually had a new opportunity arise from one of my contacts because I was able to do more things! I knew I was at the point where I was ready to continue to grow my business and I couldn’t do so working a full-time job. It feels especially weird for me since a lot of my friends are trying to find full-time jobs for a steady income and benefits and here I am leaving that  willingly.

Anyways, while I am sitting here working on my list of things to do for tomorrow, I thought to myself that I need to write this blog because maybe there is another dietitian out there thinking about jumping in to private practice and needs the extra push. While some people may not understand my position or goals, that doesn’t matter to me. What I know is that this is exactly what I want. It is going to be hard and stressful; however, so was billing insurance companies for the first time and guess what, now I can bill in less than 2 minutes without having to hire someone to do it for me. With anything, there is always going to be a learning curve, stress, moments where you want to give up, and times where you think you made the wrong choice. I feel like the key to my success in any “failure” or time of of thinking “What did I get myself into” is to just pick myself up, LEARN, continue to grow, and remember WHY I chose to do this.