Setting up a private practice is hard work! There are so many options, it’s overwhelming. Without guidance, sorting through all the noise to find the information that actually applies to you is nearly impossible.
Not to worry!
In this post, we’ll outline the high-level steps you'll need to get started on the right path. In upcoming weeks, we’ll expand on some details, and lay out the next steps.
We’ve seen this process work well for many RDs. Though it may seem like a lot of work at first, remember that you’ll only need to complete the process once.
0. Don’t get bogged down by industry jargon!
Good grief, there is a lot of legalese in this post. We recommend keeping our nutrition billing jargon cheat-sheet handy as you go through this post if you need a refresher.
1. Figure out your brand (This is the fun step!)
Come up with some potential names for your practice. Your own name may be a good choice, as well as a phrase or something using wordplay.
Google your ideas! Your goal is to be easy to find when clients search for you. If you choose very common words or phrases, it'll be hard to stand out. On the other hand, choosing something obscure won’t help either. There’s a lot of advice online about naming, but here are some quick tips:
- Keep it simple – a strong name is easy to say and spell
- Make sure a domain name is available – even if your exact name is taken, see if you can find a short phrase which fits your theme
- Use only words and letters – avoid digits and symbols whenever possible, especially in your domain name
- Don’t rely on current trends– you want to be around long after the latest meme is forgotten and after SEO algorithms change. (SEO stands for search engine optimization. It's what tools like Google and Bing use to rank search results.)
Play around until you find a name that sticks, then double-check that it's available as a legal entity in your state by searching your state’s Secretary of State listing. Here's an example from NC.
2. Create a business plan (The 21st-century kind)
In our quickly-changing world, you’ll have to experiment to find the right way to attract and keep clients in your area. Remember, you don’t need a 45-page, densely-written stack of papers to have a legitimate business plan!
There are lots of tools to help streamline the process. Our favorite is Steve Blank's Lean Startup Method and business model canvas. These tools help you think through what you want to focus on and specialize in, for your practice.
Questions to think about:
- What makes you and your practice unique?
- Who are your ideal clients? Where can you find them?
- What partnerships do you need? A doctor's office? Employers? Wellseek.io?
A question we get asked often is how much to charge for services, and the answers vary widely. You can inquire about typical Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rates in your area and research popular insurance companies they use. A good place to start is with referring physicians with whom you’d like to work.
3. Deal with the legal stuff (It's not as bad as it sounds)
Sole-proprietorship? LLC? Which do you pick?
We recommend contacting an attorney who specializes in business formation in your area to make sure things are done right the first time. We found the peace of mind that came from hiring an attorney for our business was well-worth the initial fees.
You can absolutely use tools like Legal Zoom to get your practice set up, but you'll lose out on the legal experience of a good, local attorney. Remember, you only have to do this once!
Get an EIN.
If you have a lawyer set up your practice, ask that they get you an EIN. If you're going the DIY route, you can apply for your own electronically.
Once you have an EIN, fill out a W-9 form. It’ll come in handy when you start applying to become an insurance provider, and you’ll save yourself a headache later.
Note: though some RDs use their SSNs in place of EINs, we highly discourage you from that! An EIN adds a level of privacy between you and your business, and insurance companies will not communicate with you efficiently if you use your SSN directly.
Get liability insurance.
Apply for Professional Liability Insurance. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Membership offers discounted rates as part of your benefits and some states will require this as part of the licensing / certification process.
Get Licensed or Certified.
Consult your state’s Board of Dietetic Practice for specific information on applying for licensure and/or certification to work as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Look here to find your state's agency contact list.
You made it!
We know that was a dense post, but if you follow the steps, you’ll be well on your way to having your own private practice. We’re so excited to work with you as you start your journey!
When you're ready, here's part 2 of how to start a private practice.