Why would you want to start an online nutrition business if you have a job that you love? If the pandemic taught us anything, it is the importance of not putting all of your eggs in one basket.
An online nutrition business can be a profitable side hustle or full career for any dietitian looking for ways to make an impact that are flexible and location independent. Plus: with passive income, you can literally be making money while you sleep!
In this article, you’ll learn the fundamentals of starting an online nutrition business so that you can make a greater impact and have more financial freedom to boot.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. As an affiliate, RD2RD earns a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you.
Define Your Niche and Services
The first step to starting an online nutrition business is to decide who exactly you will be serving in your business. Many people join the nutrition field because they are helpers, and that instinct can shoot yourself in the foot if you try to help everyone with your nutrition business.
A thoughtful business is very specific about who they help and how. It is just as important to have marketing messages that exclude those readers who are not your ideal customers as it is to connect with those people who are your perfect client.
This applies to nutrition counseling in private practice, but really to any online nutrition businesses including bloggers and course creators. Think about it: if you were newly diagnosed with gestational diabetes, would you rather work with a practitioner who only saw clients with gestational diabetes or someone who also worked with patients with cancer, thyroid issues, and autoimmune conditions?
Chances are, if you have a specific condition, you’re going to be most comfortable working with an expert in that precise field. Your ideal clients are no different. So while it can feel like excluding customers or not helping everyone, the opposite is true: getting a specific niche draws your perfect customer directly to you.
A few examples of niches for private practice dietitians are:
- Sports nutrition – The Best Sports Nutrition Certifications (And a Few to Skip)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – The IBD Nutrition Starter Kit for RDNs
- Corporate Nutrition – check out our Workplace Wellness Challenge guide
- Intuitive Eating – What Does an Intuitive Eating Dietitian Actually Do? (and Is It Right for You?)
- Disordered Eating – Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a CEDRD
The other benefit of a clearly defined niche is that you’re not going to be spread thin by trying to stay on top of the research for different areas of nutrition. There are only ever twenty-four hours in a day: the more time you need to spend researching the latest treatment protocols, the less time you have in your calendar for paying client appointments.
The next benefit of a clearly defined niche is that you will have clear and effective messaging on your website and social media channels. You’ll be able to lean into their pain points and solve their problems with the services that you offer much more easily than if you were trying to connect with several different groups of people.
What kind of business would you like to start? There are so many options!
Examples of online services RDs can offer
The sky’s the limit with what you can do to help people and provide value in an online space…all while having a successful online business. Here are just a few ideas of where you might want to start.
1:1 nutrition coaching
Working with clients individually or in groups is a great way to get started with your online nutrition business. Consider local licensure laws as you define where you take clients from: in your own state vs. across the country.
And…in what niche?
While this article is specific to online nutrition businesses, if 1:1 nutrition counseling is your dream business, be sure to check out our comprehensive post 10 Essentials for Starting Your Booming Nutrition Private Practice for even more tips and tools to have a successful nutrition practice that you love.
Blogging is a wonderful way to provide value to your ideal clients as well as to boost your web traffic if you are able to apply SEO basics to your strategy. It isn’t as hard or as mysterious as you’d guess. And besides, you’ve already conquered the Krebs cycle: you can learn SEO, too.
The RD2RD 30 Day SEO Challenge e-Book is a user-friendly way to begin learning SEO basics. When you’re ready to fully dive in, The Unconventional RD’s SEO Made Simple Course is comprehensive and incredibly user-friendly.
Selling meal plans
Some clients truly appreciate the structure and guidance that a meal plan provides. But as the nutrition professional responsible for their creating, you know that they can take hours and hours to make…unless you’re using a software program to save you time.
If this opportunity gets you excited, be sure to check out our post Choosing a Meal Planning Tool for Your Private Practice so that you can choose the best tool for your soon-to-be booming online nutrition business.
Psst: you can also use a meal plan as a freebie to grow your email list. Be sure to keep reading to learn about opt-ins!
Health and wellness brands are looking for nutrition experts to partner with: having a Registered Dietitian promote and educate about their product boosts their credibility! You can earn revenue by posting about their product on your own website and social media channels or by writing guest posts for the brand to share on theirs. Either way, you’re spreading valuable, evidence-based information.
One common question is about pricing. And while pricing is very personal, you don’t want to sell yourself short: you’re a nutrition expert, even if you’re a brand new dietitian. Our free guide – What to Charge Brands for Blogs and Social Media Posts – will help you to feel confident in your pricing.
You may also be interested in our online webinar How RDs Can Master Social Media & Writing to Grow Their Business (1 CEU, Video). It is available on-demand and is also worth one hour of continuing education.
Tip: if you’re not told that you’re too expensive at least half of the time, you’re probably undercharging.
These are just a few examples of online roles for an online dietitian to consider. Check out our post The Best Unconventional Jobs for Dietitians: Think Outside the Clinical Box! for even more ideas to try.
Next step: get legal! Form your online nutrition business.
Form Your Online Nutrition Business
Now that you know your business name and who you help, it is time to get legal. There are different business structures to consider, including an S-corp, LLC, and a sole proprietorship.
The different structures can offer protection to your personal assets in the case of legal action against your business as well as a different identification number, used to set up your business banking account and while filing taxes. A quick overview of the different structures is available HERE from the Small Business Administration, usually abbreviated the SBA.
You can find the local chapter of your SBA for advice and mentoring to start and grow your small business – it’s free!
As you’re ready for more individualized advice, we recommend consulting a local attorney. If the cost of legal expertise is a factor, look for flat fee pricing. There are even attorneys (like this one used by RD2RD) that cater to entrepreneurs and creators.
Next step? Your website!
Create and Optimize Your Website
Next step in creating our online nutrition business? Now it is time to build a website. Your website needs to be a safe and secure online space that clearly communicates who you are and who you help with the services your business offers.
These days it is easier than ever to make your own website. Really! Erica Julson of The Unconventional RD has created a free course that walks you through the process, step by step. Click here to access her Free How to Start A Website Tutorial.
The tutorial above walks you through some of the website essentials, including obtaining your unique domain name – the address for your website – as well as the hosting service.
You’ll also want to ensure your website has a few key security features, including:
- TLS/SSL Certificate – is a form of technology that encrypts sensitive information that may be sent or received on your website
- Cookie consent – this is required to be approved by users on your website prior to you collecting personal information as they browse
You’re not alone if you’re wondering where to even start with these important features. The Legal Love Templates get you started with templates that you can personalize for your business, without the expense of hiring a lawyer.
Next: Optimization. This refers to making your website work hard to connect you with your ideal customers. The Unconventional RD’s SEO Made Simple Course walks you through the strategies to connect with your ideal clients, even if you work online!
Start Your Email List
You may be wondering if an email list is only for big online nutrition businesses, but the truth is, every business benefits from having a list. And we all start somewhere: small!
Most potential customers need a few interactions with you to build trust. They want to know – for sure– that you can help them to solve their problems. An email list is your opportunity to provide valuable information, stay at the top of their mind, and nudge them to book when they’re ready.
The most common way to start building your list is to offer a freebie on your website. What resource would be of value to your audience? This might be a meal plan, a checklist or even a mini-course as a teaser before you offer your paid course.
You want this transaction to be seamless and automatic! To accomplish this, you can use an email service provider, such as Mailchimp (that’s what we at RD2RD use), to automatically provide that tool or resource to your readers as they opt-in on your website.
If email marketing tools and technology are overwhelming, let Chimp Essentials simplify things. The concepts in this course were KEY to growing the RD2RD email list from a few hundred to thousands. More importantly, learning email marketing basics has resulted in a huge return on investment – making money from automated campaigns.
For more information read our post: 3 Steps To Get Started with Mailchimp
Selling digital products
While it is certainly possible to sell digital products through your own website, RD2RD makes it seamless for you. No other plug-ins or considerations before selling and managing your online market. As you create your own digital goods, including patient handouts, presentations, and treatment protocols, gain extra revenue for your hard work by listing them here!
Think about the unique expertise and experience that you offer: how can you help to make your client’s lives easier? What questions do you get, again and again, from your audience? Design a course that helps to solve their problems.
Freelance writing is a flexible, engaging, and challenging way to connect with other small businesses. From ghostwriting for other nutrition professionals to guest posting for healthy food and supplement brands, the opportunities are endless!
Your Guide to Freelance Writing as an RDN is a great resource for getting started writing and land that first client!
Working with brands
There are more ways to work with brands and build your revenue than just with writing. If the idea of being interviewed on TV, radio stations, and podcasts gets you excited, you’ll want to check out the Master The Media Course for your comprehensive guide to conquer this area of online business.
Oftentimes course creators and makers of other products will have an affiliate program. If you become an affiliate, you can provide your unique link and get a portion of the sale. There is no extra cost to the customer and then both you and the course creator benefit: more revenue for each of you!
If you have a course that you’ve taken and loved, look to see if they have an affiliate program. Share information about the course – this would make a good blog post – and share it with your audiences. Don’t forget to email your list about the new post.
While anyone and their mother can create a website and sell products and services, Registered Dietitians are bound to our professional code of ethics.
In our self-study resource, which is eligible for 1.5 hours of CEUs, you’ll learn how the RD’s Code of Ethics applies to online business and marketing. You’ll also learn how to be more inclusive with the contents of your website as well as the accessibility features that you add.
Click here for this comprehensive CPE activity (and yes: it does count for the RD’s Ethics requirement!)
Reflect, review and revise
We learn as we go. As you take steps to start and grow your online nutrition business, be sure to pause, reflect and see how things are going. Are you meeting your revenue goals? Are you working the number of hours that you’d like to? What parts of your business are bringing you the most joy and satisfaction?
No one has it all figured out from the get-go. And having the unrealistic expectation that you will only sets you up for failure, because we all make mistakes, learn and adjust. Commit to trying new things and seeing what works best for you. Delegate what you can, as soon as you can, and continue to grow and scale.
Key Takeaways: Starting an Online Nutrition Business
Starting an online nutrition business can be exciting…and a bit overwhelming. But if you depend on your supportive dietitian community and take consistent action, you’ll be sure to grow and succeed in no time at all! So many problems and issues that you’ll come across have been figured out by entrepreneurs before you: lean on the expertise of your community so that you can reach your revenue goals more quickly.
And as you gain confidence and expertise in your online nutrition business, be sure to pay it forward to the next generation of entrepreneurs.