So, you are interested in optimizing your online nutrition practice. As a nutrition expert, you may also be an entrepreneur with a desire to start your own online practice. You may have felt the pressure to shift to an online nutrition practice because of the circumstances and the increasingly digital era we live in. You may want the flexibility of working in any setting, without a fixed working place.
Whatever your reason is, if you are reading this is because you have started (or are seriously thinking about starting) an online nutrition practice, you need all the information you can get to succeed.
It’s no surprise that virtual nutrition practices are on the rise, but sometimes it is surprising to see how many of them actually end up being successful. And yours can be, too.
So we’ve compiled all of our best resources that will help you optimize your online practice, including some step-by-step guides to make sure you don’t leave anything at chance.
- 1. Starting your online practice: dos and don'ts
- 2. Creating a client base (and retaining the ones you already have)
- 3. Setting up your personal brand
- 4. Being a marketing pro: how to make your virtual practice stand out
- 5. Your online nutrition practice’s best friend: a great nutrition software
1. Starting your online practice: dos and don'ts
Someone who says that starting a business is easy is someone who has never done it. Starting a business, and especially a health-related one, can be truly demanding. But, if you get organized and know exactly what steps to take, things become way easier.
To start a virtual practice, there are some services you need to set up:
1.1. Online bookings
One of the first things you need to set up for your virtual practice is an efficient way for clients to schedule appointments with you. It is essential to streamline the scheduling process and ensure that this is not a hassle for your clients.
To avoid the usual back and forth that happens with emails and messages, the best approach is definitely to share your calendar with clients, so they can see your openings and request their appointments within your availability. You have a few options here, like sharing your Google Calendar or creating a calendar page on your website and keeping it updated.
Some nutrition software, such as Nutrium, include appointment management systems that ensure your privacy and let your clients request appointments that are directly added to your calendar once you accept them. You can even request your payment in advance.
1.2. Video conference
So, you already have a way for people to schedule appointments with you - the next step should be to find a stable, secure platform to deliver them. There are several video conference platforms that you can choose from and that are well-known and reliable.
Some of the most commonly used ones are Zoom, Skype, and Meet by Google, all of which allow you to have good quality video calls, share documents and comments, share your screen, and more. You can try all of them and select the one that feels right for you and your clients.
Zoom also has a specific subscription for telehealth which is HIPPA compliant, check it here.
1.3. Follow-up after the appointment
When the appointment is finished, it's time to send the client the meal plan, additional recommendations, and any other relevant information appointment-related.
I'm sure e-mail is what comes to mind, even though there are currently platforms that allow professionals to deliver all these to their clients in a more secure way, such as the Nutrium app, where clients can easily log their food diary, water intake and exercise for you to follow.
1.4. Secure online payments
If you are delivering online appointments, you will definitely need a secure method for your clients to pay you. This method needs not only to be secure for you, but it should be somehow well-known, so your clients can trust it.
If you haven't used an online billing platform, here are a few:
Paypal - If you already have Paypal, you can easily use the feature send & request and generate an invoice to send to clients. Check here how to set it up.
Invoicely - This platform allows you to create automated invoices, accept credit cards and other forms of payment, and track all your expenses and transactions. It has a free subscription option, and prices are reasonably competitive.
Nutrium - With the Nutrium Payment System, nutrition professionals can now offer their clients a much easier, safe, and convenient way to pay for nutrition services by integrating with the Stripe - Payment Management Platform.
1.5. Announce your new services
When the biggest decisions have been made, and you are ready to start, it’s time to spread the word. There are several tools and tactics you can use - jump to our Marketing chapter below to get to know them!
Even after starting your virtual practice, there are some actions that you will have to do regularly, so you can keep your clients, deliver the best follow-up, and gain a great reputation for yourself and your virtual practice.
But not everything is about what you are doing right: sometimes, you need to be careful not to make some basic (but sometimes not that obvious) mistakes that can take a toll on your business. Defining boundaries between you and your clients, maintaining a professional behavior, and making sure you get all the relevant information from the client are some of the most important (and sometimes challenging) parts of delivering online appointments.
2. Creating a client base (and retaining the ones you already have)
Because clients are the single most important thing in any business - no clients, no business after all - it is crucial that you as a professional understand how to get, retain and attract new clients.
2.1. Attract new clients
Attracting new clients is no easy task, especially when you are just starting out and you still don’t have loyal clients to talk you up and refer you to other potential clients. But everything has a solution, and there are some steps you can take to attract new clients:
- Figure out who exactly you want to attract;
- Learn your ideal client’s language;
- Put yourself out there;
- Be persistent.
Curious about how you can achieve each of these steps? Check out this great webinar by Emily Foster, RD, a Canadian and UK registered dietitian and experienced in delivering marketing services for nutrition professionals:
Once you have a nice group of loyal clients, it is time to work on making them happy, so they will stay loyal and refer you to others.
2.2. Create a client retention strategy
If you want to retain your clients, the best advice I can give you is to develop a plan for it. Sure, you are a great professional, and you give the best follow-up to your clients, but sometimes this is not enough.
Customization is key to client retention. Your clients should feel that they have a personalized treatment, that you take time to know about them, that the meal plan or nutritional intervention you create is 100% adapted to them, their needs, likes, and dislikes.
Innovation is also an important aspect of client retention. More and more, people are familiar with nutrition and health through commercials, social media, and influencers. Even though these are not technical and official sources, people start seeing how technology and innovation are advancing in the nutrition field, and they expect that in their appointments. Using a follow-up app with food diaries and water intake logs is a great way to show this.
Freebies can also be a good strategy. After all, who doesn’t like free stuff? You can create several plans for this, from giving the 11th appointment for free to offering appointment packages with a discount.
You can include other actions in your client retention strategy, and the most important part is for you to try different things and see what works best for you and your business.
2.3. Make sure you have a great relationship with your clients
People look for a nutrition professional for a million reasons, and some of them might make it more probable for your relationship to be difficult. When you limit someone’s diet, they may start to see you as the bad guy/gal. So, what can you do to stay on their good side?
Be a good listener - You must pay close attention to your client, especially in their first appointment. What’s their food history? How do they deal with success and failure? Are their expectations realistic? Being a good listener will help you bond with your clients and understand their needs, so you can create a strategy 100% personalized to them.
Use technology in your favor - Technology is around us every day and can be a great way to strengthen your relationship with your patients. A software can help you manage your schedule, make your appointments more efficient and keep in touch with your patients instantly, allowing you to keep track of their progress more often.
Be present, even between appointments - Small gestures, such as a text on their birthday, sending them recipes from time to time, asking how they are adapting to their meal plan or if they have made any behavioral changes are great ways to keep patients motivated and willing to talk to you about any doubts or questions.
Need some more tips? Get them in our article: how to improve your relationship with your patients.
3. Setting up your personal brand
People are exposed to various kinds of healthcare brands every day in TV commercials, magazine or website advertisements, food packages, or billboards. So, how do you get in front of them and stand out as a professional? The answer is: personal branding!
Personal branding is commercializing and monetizing your personality and career instead of an organization and its services. This may sound like it comes naturally, but in reality, it takes many calculated efforts. Here are a few steps that might be able to help you build your personal branding.
3.1. Find your niche
As nutrition experts building their personal brand, the first thing to do is deciding on the niche market. There are various kinds of dietitians and nutritionists, including clinical, industry, research, media, and community.
As a dietitian or nutritionist establishing your personal brand, you can discover your niche market by asking yourself the following questions:
What are the demographics that you are interested in working with? Are you an expert for a particular gender, age, business sector, physical abilities or disabilities, or dietary needs?
Or do you want counseling people with specific psychographics, values, and interests? For example, athletes, students, busy families working full time?
What is the location of your clients? Are you keeping it local or global?
3.2. Stay connected with other nutrition experts
A significant part of self-branding as a dietitian and nutritionist lies not in who you are but in whom you surround yourself with. This applies to your online presence as well as a local presence at a national or local level.
Aside from getting in touch with your batch mates on LinkedIn, one great way to link arms with like-minded nutrition professionals is to connect with your Professional Association at a national or local level.
3.3. Invest in continuing education in dietetics/nutrition
To be a real expert and further your personal branding in your field as a dietitian or nutritionist, you must be willing to learn and refine your skills – continuously. Here are some measures you can take:
Keep up-to-date with the latest research. Moreover, share it on your social media or on your blog to let people know that you do so;
Attend all the Nutrition and Dietetics conferences – perhaps hold one of your own;
Check the popular books and webinars from peers;
Gain new knowledge unrelated to your professions like communication, writing, and public speaking skills;
Join an organization or take a class at a local community college to refine the skills that you feel you want to acquire;
Subscribe to scientific journals, newsletters, and build relationships with famous researchers in your field.
4. Being a marketing pro: how to make your virtual practice stand out
The first goal for any online business: have a great online presence. You may even have the best service around, but what’s the point if no one knows about it?
One of the most important steps to succeed in your virtual practice is to market it the right way. Getting in front of the right people, getting them to know you, and establishing yourself as a trustworthy professional will definitely make a difference in your success.
4.1. Build a foundation with a website and blog
Let’s start with the basics: a website! Are you wondering how your nutrition website can grow your audience? Having a nutrition website for your nutrition practice will help you increase the number of potential clients you can reach, and it can have a significant impact on your business. Just as important, it also adds credibility to it.
There are some free tools such as Wix that you can use to create your website. If you are not prone to design, you may prefer already-made websites where you only have to add your info and your page will be posted in minutes, such as the one included in Nutrium, our nutrition software.
Inside your website, you can also choose to have a blog. This is a great way to show visitors that you are a nutrition expert, either generic topics or a niche, and catch their attention. In your blog, you can share articles, recipes, and even clients’ testimonials. There are some great platforms that you can use to create your blog, such as WordPress or Ghost.
Check our article 6 steps to starting your own nutrition blog to get started!
4.2. Google is king: appear on the top!
How many people open Google and search for what they need? I can’t give you an exact number, but I can assure you everybody does it! For this reason, it is extremely important that you curate your Google appearance and make sure you and your services are there.
Google My Business is a platform in which you can update the information that appears on Google regarding your nutrition practice, upload photos, share news, and check comments all in one place.
Thus, when a client searches for a nutrition professional in Google or Google Maps, they can easily find your private practice. You can get some more information on our article about Google My Business and other platforms that can help you stand out from the competition.
4.3. Get in the spotlight with social media
More and more businesses understand that having a strong social media presence is key to success - and the nutrition business is no exception. Having a business page in some key social media channels can help you attract new clients, share your news and distinguish yourself in a specific field.
Once you have created these pages, it is vital to keep posting new articles, information about your practice, nutrition tips, and other content that may appeal to your main audience. This way, you can build a good followers base and be found by more and more clients each day.
4.4. Gain recognition with social proof
We all like to visit professionals we are 100% sure we can trust, especially in the health sector. Once you have started your online practice and get some loyal clients, you can ask some of them for a good review.
Creating a referral system is one of the best ways to attract new patients, since you use something that you already have (satisfied clients) to get something you need (new clients). Although some referrals may be done organically, it usually helps if you give them a push and create a system.
There are many different options for referral systems, but the easiest one is to reward someone who talks you up. When it comes to nutrition practice, you could offer a free consultation, a discount on partner stores, or a gift item (could be as simple as a mug to something more luxurious such as a fitness-tracking watch, etc.).
Another thing you can do is use your patients' social network comments to your advantage. By interacting with your followers on social media, you can improve your relationship and make it more appealing for them to write you a good review.
You should always react to their comments, answer their questions and create conversational content, so you can get closer to your audience and your clients and show new ones how approachable you are.
4.5. Scale your online nutrition practice through brand partnerships
By now, you might have already gotten the idea that marketing your online practice is hard work. But, like all hard things, it usually pays off! Once you have established your online presence, you can go a step further and start working on brand partnerships.
Working with health and wellness brands can offer a variety of business opportunities - whether you are looking to diversify your revenue, earn credibility as a professional, or add value to your clients. These are usually very useful for both sides since the brands rely on you as an expert, and you can spread your message, get in front of new audiences, and associate yourself with established, well-known brands in your field.
Check our best tips to help you start working on brand partnerships.
5. Your online nutrition practice’s best friend: a great nutrition software
Technology is evolving more and more each day, making daily tasks easier than ever. In the nutrition field, this is also true. Nutrition software can improve nutrition professional’s work and make it more efficient and organized.
How, do you ask? Let’s do a breakdown of some of the most useful features of nutrition software (we’ll use Nutrium since it is the one we know the best and…. well… is our product).
5.1. Clients’ data management
All your clients’ data in one platform, ready to access at any time, anywhere. You can edit information with a click, get progression graphs from the data you add, switch from one client to the other in 1-second, with the peace of mind that everything is automatically saved and will stay safe. Moreover, you can import all your clients’ data to Nutrium at once!
You can also manage your entire calendar within Nutrium, and even integrate your Google Calendar knowing that all your info will synch automatically, to make sure you never forget an appointment or event! Furthermore, it is possible to create a scheduling link that you can share with your clients, and all appointments will be automatically saved in Nutrium!
5.2. Video conference tools
Whether you use Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet, Nutrium has your back. You can choose a platform right when you are scheduling an appointment, and the generated link will be sent to your client through Nutrium.
You can even use Zoom within the software, making it easier to use both Nutrium and Zoom at the same time, for maximum efficiency.
Yours and your clients' data is the most valuable information your whole business possesses. Thus you must make sure that it's kept safe. Working with a GDPR and HIPAA compliant platform, such as Nutrium, is the first step in setting up your business.
5.4. Online payments
Making sure online payments are safe is vital when you have an online nutrition practice. With Nutrium's payment system, you can generate a link so your client can pay for an appointment or service - an easier, more convenient, and safer payment method that works through a platform integrated into the software, Stripe.
5.5. Mobile app
This feature should be your secret weapon for standing out. With Nutrium, you can offer your clients a free mobile app where they can log their meal plan, water intake, and exercise. They can even create automatic shopping lists with all the ingredients and products on the meal plan you defined, to maximize compliance.
5.6. Website and blog
Remember when we talked about the importance of marketing your business? This is a big part of it! With the right nutrition software, you can create a website in only a few minutes, including a blog where you can share articles, recipes, and showcase your services. If you do it with Nutrium, you have a guaranteed appearance in Google’s top results!
5.7. Meal plans, recipes, and nutritional assessment
These are the basic features of nutrition software, but so, so important! That is why Nutrium has 16 different food databases, including USDA, and thousands of foods you can use in your meal plans. It also has dozens of meal templates that you can use or edit at your will. You can also create your own recipes and share them in your blog and add them to your clients’ meal plans.
Nutrium automatically does the nutritional and dietary assessment and includes DRV/RDA of macro and micronutrients for you to make sure if the meal plan is compliant with nutritional requirement.
Some people love nutrition software. Some look at it with some suspicion. In any case, why not try it? You can test Nutrium for free for 14 days, with no credit card required, and no commitment.
As you can see, creating an online nutrition practice is not an easy task, but it is definitely possible, and you might find yourself succeeding more than you could ever imagine! If you are serious about your practice, you might find yourself in need of some help or with too many questions in hand.
Since our goal in Nutrium is to help nutrition professionals worldwide succeed and deliver the best follow-up possible, we create meaningful content for them. We focus a lot on online nutrition practices, starting an online business, and succeeding as a freelancer. So, if you want more tips on building up or boosting your online nutrition practice, you can check Nutrium's blog and see if the answer you need is there!
If you are interested in trying our nutrition software, you can do it for free for 14 days! No credit card required, and no commitment whatsoever. Test it now and see everything Nutrium can do for you and your online nutrition practice!