[Show Notes] Podcast Episode 005: How to Start a Private Practice
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
In this episode of The Dietitian Project, I interview Maiya Ahluwalia, a new grad and Registered Dietitian, to talk about the steps involved in setting up your private practice. In this episode, Maiya will break the process down into manageable step-by-step instructions, outlining how to set up your business, processes to have in place for record keeping and charting and how to get clients.
https://www.instagram.com/maiyaahluwalia.rd/So today I am super excited to introduce our second EVER guest to The Dietitian Project podcast, Maiya Ahluwalia.
Maiya is a Registered Dietitian who graduated from her Masters in Applied Nutrition last year. Since graduating, she started working as a freelancer with Beautycounter, a company whose mission is to get safe products in the hands of everyone because current legislation is not protecting the long term safety of the general public. She also runs her own private practice in Mississauga, ON whose mission is to help you unlock your potential when it comes to food, answer your nutrition questions with evidence-based information, and show you that you can enjoy food while living your happiest healthiest life.
She has an anti-diet approach to her practice and solemnly promises to NEVER put you on a restricted diet or cleanse. Maiya also believes that it is important to address other health determinants such as stress, lifestyle, skincare products, and sleeping habits. Therefore, when working with her she evaluates all of these factors to help you improve your overall health.
So, as you guys know, one of my goals with this podcast is to empower dietitians with the skills and knowledge that they need to build a career of their dreams. Although we don’t speak exclusively about private practice, of course that is a common avenue that many dietitians choose to pursue within entrepreneurship. I also know that what with covid-19 happening, many people (including dietitians) are looking for opportunities to create an income or a side-hustle with the health industry not hiring, cutting hours, etc.
So, I thought it would be super fun to have a dietitian who is new to the profession and has decided to take on the world of private practice.
I just want to start off by saying that I really do applaud you for taking this route right off the bat. A lot of people (mistakingly) think that you NEED to work as a clinical dietitian before you can start your private practice and that just does not need to be true. It’s important to recognize the incredible value and experience you have purely by completing your education and practicum placements. So I appreciate the courage that it takes to do what you’ve done and I think that’s really awesome and hope that new dietitians listen to this are empowered by your story.
So as I mentioned, today Maiya and I are going to talk about how she started her private practice. One thing I want to mention before we get started guys is that Maiya and i are both located in Ontario, Canada, so the process that Maiya took might be slightly different depending on the country/province or state that you live in. So just make sure you’re keeping that in mind and checking in with your local requirements, but I promise you a lot of the principles will be consistent across the board!
So let’s get into it Maiya,
Why don’t you start off by telling us what motivated you to become a dietitian?
When I began the applied human nutrition program at the university of guelph, I actually had never heard of a dietitian before. I always had an interest in food and nutrition and so that’s why i went into the program, but at the time i wanted to be a dentist. When I was in first year I was surrounded by all these individuals who wanted to be a dietitian and when I learned that a dietitian gets to share nutrition information with others, I knew I had found my path.
What made you decide to pursue a private practice?
In my masters program I had the opportunity to complete 3 placements, one of which was with an in-store dietitian. I fell in love with this role and at the time considered it my dream job. Towards the end of my masters degree, I decided to not apply for jobs because I wanted to just study for the national dietetic exam the CDRE. But this opportunity got me thinking that during this time I could start a little practice on the side and see patients as needed basically.
I was always someone that felt like the limits were endless and never wanted to be capped in my income or role. So the more I got thinking, thought that i am going to do my own thing where the limit is endless and see where this takes me. I am so happy I made this decision because it has changed my life. I have learned so many new skills even outside of dietetics that I truly think I wouldn’t have learned elsewhere- some of which I will share today.
One thing that I think is really cool that I want to touch on before we get into some of the nitty gritty with starting your business is that you’ve coupled your passion for safe skin care with being a Registered Dietitian. I actually think there’s a ton of people out there who think that because they’re an RD, all they can talk about is food, which might not necessarily be true. Tell us about that and any plans/ideas you have for how to further marry the two ideas in the future?
So when i first started my practice I honestly never considered the personal health products my patients used- this wasn’t taught in dietetics. However, I started exploring and educating myself about toxic ingredients in personal health products and how they influence our health. When i looked into the research there is sound evidence that links commonly used ingredients to negative health consequences such as hormonal imbalances, cancer, allergies etc. all conditions that dietitians play a key role in. Therefore, now when i evaluated my patients sleep or physical activity, I also consider the personal health products my patients use. I have realized now more than ever how what we put on our body plays a big part to our health and my patients are very receptive to that.
Want to get into the nitty gritty of how you actually set up your business, can you speak to the steps that you took to actually set it up?
1. Business Name/Register your business
2. Get liability insurance & pay dues
Prolink through DC
Pay college dues
3. Pick your rates
I joined the consulting dietitians network on DC where they had suggestion of fees based on area
Look into taxes and that RD’s dont charge tax for certain services
4. Figure out where are you going to work
In a rented space
Within another clinic
>> For me I do a combination of online (where those are my personal patients) and then in a clinic where i have a split arrangement- explain how they approached me.
5. Pick a charting system & look into record keeping requirements
>>I use both, one for my personal practice and one at my clinic I find both user friendly and easy to navigate
6. Get online
Health profs - huge traffic generator for me
7. Create forms/plan: consent, assessment forms
Business plan-incase of incapacity or death
Collect resources for patients (few top ones you would commonly use)
8. Talk to an accountant/bookkeeper and set up income/expenses, or set up your own software:
9. Tools (optional):
Sunnybrook hospital handbook
Business cards - if wanted
I notice you use a program called Practice Better to schedule clients, what is the program and why do you use it?
Practice Better is a program that allows you to book patients, receive payment, and chart your patients all in one. Before I chose this system I asked other dietitians in FB groups which software they recommended. I chose practice better because they offered a free version if you had only a few patients- this was perfect for me when I started. As I grew my practice I upgraded my account, but there is no penalty if you want to ever downgrade which is great. I also use Jane at my clinic because this was the system that they were already using. It has also been great and the best part is that you can search other dietitians intake and charting templates and personalize them as you feel needed.
What was the process like to get your first client?
Word of mouth
People i know
How have you leveraged social media to help with your success?
I previously had an account for health and wellness that i started in 4th year university
Overtime i adapted it and just continued to post and share
I am still learning so much and trying to post as much as possible
I still definitely want to niche my social media more
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Not having stability
Having to figure it out for yourself
What’s something you’ve done that has made you successful as an entrepreneur?
Just started even though i had no idea what i was doing. Connecting with an online community through various private practice Facebook groups has been key too.
What advice do you have for new grads who might want to pursue a similar path?
Reach out to people you know who have done it to get advise/guidance
Believe in yourself, you can do anything you want
What’s one thing that you wished they would have taught in school which you have learned over time?
How to get your business started
Some practical tips in the real world
What are some things that you hope to see in the future of dietetics? (ex. More dietitians as entrepreneurs, dietitians getting involved in product development, etc.)
More private practice dietitians
I hope that dietitians acknowledge that there are so many options to our career and your income is not capped