Career Resources

Be Your Own Boss: Is Private Practice the Career Path for You?

Freedom, hard-work, and perseverance are a few of the characteristics that describe private practice. Not every personality or preference fits the private practice model. If you are contemplating a career in private practice, here are some important tips from the experts to help pave your way.

Recommended Personality Traits:

Being a risk taker, disciplined (for no employer is telling you what to do), confident, and having a business savvy sense are important traits, according to Faye Berger Mitchell, RD, LDN, a prominent nutritionist in the Washington DC/metro area and co-author of “Making Nutrition Your Business: Private Practice and Beyond.”

Enthusiasm, curiosity, openness to various nutrition areas, and ready to work long hours and weekends are recommended characteristics, per Maye Musk, MS, RD, CDN, a nutrition counselor, consultant, spokesperson, speaker, and fabulous owner of a private practice in New York City.

Assertiveness, outspoken, persistent, and an expert in your field are the top traits recommended by Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, ADA Spokesperson and founder of Eating Free, an online lifestyle program, and MV Nutrition, a successful private practice in San Francisco.

Positive aspects of private practice:

Being in control. All three experts agreed that being in control and being one’s own boss is the ultimate satisfaction. Control of one’s schedule, control of one’s work, control of one’s time and duties: control, control, control.

Income. Private paying clients improve income drastically when compared to reimbursement from insurance. Villacorta enjoys the income he has achieved after all his hard work. Success pays well.

Exciting and challenging new opportunities. Musk describes her established private practice leading her to new ventures in media, consulting, and speaking engagements. Villacorta also enjoys variety with his TV shows, media appearances, counseling, and “the many different flavors” he can taste due to his private practice.

Challenging aspects of private practice:

Sporadic income was the number one challenge agreed upon between all 3 experts. When one doesn’t work, no income comes in. Until one has an established reputation, another source of income is recommended. Also, make sure to have a financial cushion for those slower months because consistency with clients is not always a sure-win.

Isolation. Berger Mitchell explains that working alone doesn’t always allow for RD’s to bounce ideas off one another or to discuss challenging cases with colleagues. Therefore, joining both dietetic practice listserves and professional listserves can increase knowledge and have others provide input and guidance.

Staying on top of your game. Villacorta describes always being on-point since you are the boss and no one will tell you what to do. One has to stay motivated and that is where the hard-work and drive is necessary.

Steps to take to initiate a private practice:

Decide what area you’d like to counsel but do not limit yourself and keep your day job in the beginning, recommends Musk.

Decide the location to see patients, determine office policies and procedures, such as contracts and methods of payment, and set fees, informs Berger Mitchell.

Read books about private practice, join nutrition entrepreneurs and listserves, and network, network, network with other RD’s for coaching and mentoring, advises Villacorta.

Remember to follow your passion no matter what you do. “Some dietitians are born driven. I can see this characteristic in interns who do their elective with me,” expresses Musk. Others may not have the drive, and that is OK. But at the end of the day, if private practice is for you, “knowing that what you’re doing is not just benefiting you, but also your clients, results in a win-win situation. That keeps me motivated,” explains Villacorta.

Recommended reading materials:

  • Faye Berger Mitchell and Ann Silver. Making Nutrition Your Business: Private Practice and Beyond. 2011 (recommended from the ADA)
  • Marjorie Geiser. Just Jump: The No-Fear Business Start-up Guide for Health & Fitness Professionals. 2008
  • Mary Gross & Cathie Ostrowski. Getting Started in Private Practice: A Checklist to Your Entrepreneurial Path. 2008 (JADA)
  • Kathy King. The Entrepreneurial Nutritionist, 4th Edition. 2009
  • Nutrition Entrepreneurs. Nutrition Entrepreneur’s Tool Kit. 2010
  • Beverly Price. Private Practice: Getting that Jump Start, 5th Edition.

Recommended websites:

  • Nutrition Entrepreneurs Dietetic Practice Group: www.nedpg.orgBecome a member and join a listserve ranging from private practice to speaking to authors and more.
  • Your local Small Business Association: www.sba.gov

Sarah Koszyk is founder of Family. Food. Fiesta. A family-based wellness program and blog focusing on recipes, family health tips, and videos with kids cooking in the kitchen. She is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach specializing in sports nutrition and adult and pediatric weight management. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn.

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