When I started my private practice, I developed my business plan based on what I thought potential clients wanted. I had several clients, but not anywhere near enough to quit my full-time job and make my private practice my sole source of income. I quickly realized that what my ideal private practice looked like wasn’t necessarily what was needed in my community, and in order to maintain a steady revenue stream I needed to diversify.
Developing multiple revenue streams won’t only enable dietitians to make private practice their full-time job but also make their jobs more enjoyable and interesting. Here are four ways to cultivate different revenue streams to support your private practice.
1. Offer packages and individual appointments. When I began my practice, I offered only packages of services geared toward whole families, and payment was out of pocket. I quickly realized that there was a group of people who didn’t want to commit to a whole package but were quite willing to schedule individual appointments. The advantage of selling packages of services is that these clients tend to be committed, and you can collect payment up front. However, if you offer individual appointments and services à la carte, clients can take advantage of your services at a lower price point, and you can increase your client base. And when you provide excellent service, they’re likely to become repeat customers.
On the other hand, if you offer only individual appointments, adding packages of services geared to a specific type of client can be a great way to grow your business. For example, you can offer a package of nutrition counseling appointments or a grocery store tour and a pantry makeover for clients with food allergies or sensitivities.
2. Accept insurance. Accepting health insurance is one of the best ways to quickly grow your private practice. As RDs, our ability to become credentialed with insurance companies sets us apart and gives us a huge advantage over health coaches, noncredentialed nutritionists, and others who may be offering nutrition counseling. While an insurance company may reimburse at a lower rate than your out-of-pocket rate, you can make this up by the volume of clients who come to see you. When you become credentialed with an insurance company, you’re listed on its website so members who are looking for a dietitian will be directed to you. Potential clients are much more likely to come see you if their insurance will at least partially cover the visit than if they have to pay out of pocket. (For information on how to become credentialed and contracted with private practice insurance companies, read “Guide to Insurance and Reimbursement” in the February 2017 issue of Today’s Dietitian.)
3. Engage in corporate wellness and speaking opportunities. There’s huge demand for a dietitian’s expertise in corporate wellness programs. Areas where dietitians can provide services include “lunch and learn” seminars, cooking demonstrations, individual counseling sessions in the workplace, and health fairs. Corporate wellness program administrators also can develop seminars and demos. In this case, all you’d need to do is present their material. You can work directly with corporations by contacting their wellness director, if they have one, or human resources department. And you can work with insurance brokers who can provide these services for their corporate clients. When you provide these services, you reach large groups of people who also can take advantage of your one-on-one services—so you can build your client base while also getting paid to offer programs.
4. Hire employees. As your private practice grows, hiring employees is one of the best ways to expand. It’s a big jump to go from being a solo practitioner to running a practice with multiple RDs, but the payoff is huge. When you’re in private practice, you earn money only when you see clients, which can leave very little time for marketing, developing programs, and other important tasks. When you have employees, you can devote more time to running and growing your business and greatly increase your potential income. Hiring dietitians who work with different types of clients can enable everyone to focus on what they do best while providing clients the best care. For example, in my practice, we have a dietitian who specializes in pediatrics, another in food sensitivities, and another in weight loss. Each one can see clients in line with their specialty, and we all benefit from learning from each other.
— Diana Sugiuchi, RDN, LDN, is the owner of Nourish Family Nutrition (www.nourishfamily.com), a practice of six RDs in Baltimore. She provides programs and resources for other dietitians in private practice, which are available at www.nourishfamily.com/onlinerdn.