Starting your own business might be a little intimidating at first, but with the right plan in place, it's very achievable. As a certified nutrition professional, you're already an ace at paying attention to the details of helping your clients reach their goals. Just take those skills and bring them over to your business launch and you will be opening shop in no time.
We crafted two posts for certified nutrition professionals for starting up and expanding your businesses to dive deeper into our tips and tools for building your business. In this post, we will cover the basics, from selecting a name through getting a bank account, and making a website. If you have the foundational pieces in place and you are ready to expand, head on over to our post on how to grow your existing online nutrition business.
Start with you and what you do
Determine your point of view and your point of difference. What is your approach to working as a certified nutrition professional? Share your perspective on the industry and the job. Think of what influenced your decision to start this career or expand your offerings. Write down your ideas and include both what you have in common with the industry and what sets you apart from other nutrition professionals.
Determine your ideal client
What is your niche? Narrowing your target market and identifying your ideal client will help you make other decisions, like naming your business and selecting fonts and colors. Think of how you can impact people’s lives and who you would like to work with. Perhaps you want to work with soon-to-be moms, athletes, people diagnosed with diabetes, people who want to break specific habits (smoking, sugar consumption), or maybe you love working with retirees.
Whoever your ideal client is, think about this decision personally and professionally; maybe you really want to work with retired people in their 60’s and 70’s, but as a parent, you have greater immediate networking opportunities to work with parents in their 30’s and 40’s. That does not mean you do not market to retirees, but that you’ll want to be aware that it might take a little more effort and time to attract those ideal clients.
Add your ideal client information to your ideas about your point of view and your point of difference, and continue onwards in your business-making journey.
Name your business
Successfully naming your business might be the most difficult step in this process, but you need to have your name before you can move forward with steps like opening a business banking account, getting credit cards, and branding. Give it some thought, share your ideas with friends and family members, and think about how your name will influence other areas of your business.
Start by brainstorming some different options. Try orienting your name around what you already know: your point of view, your point of difference, and your ideal client. Or, perhaps you have a particular totem or symbol you want to incorporate into your branding that will help inspire a name.
As you are deciding your name, skip ahead and think a little bit about marketing and other businesses to ensure you are able to use the name. You’ll want to be able to use your name in a web address, for social media accounts, and you will have to file it with your secretary of state office.
To check for digital availability, visit the social media platforms you want to use and search for usernames. Similarly, type the web address you’d like to use into a search engine and see what pops up. You can also go to a domain purchaser, like Google Domains, and search all possible domain endings, like .com, .co, .health, .coach, etc. The days of limited domain endings are far gone! Do not worry if your favorite .com is not available; try an alternate ending instead, it will not set you back.
You will also have to check with your local state secretary’s office to see if your state permits businesses to have the same name, and then check their database of registered businesses to see if your name is available.
Once you have a few top contenders that you know are available, share them with other people. Ask your friends and family what they think of and how they feel about each name. Having that fresh perspective can help you select a winning name that will last.
Now that you have a name, you know what you do, and who you want to do it for, bring it altogether.
Craft your brand
Your brand is your commitment to your clients. It expresses who you are, what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for. The practice of crafting a brand statement is crucial to doing business. It can help you make business decisions, orient your work, and serve as the foundation for marketing and branding. Write down the answers to these questions in one or two sentences, and you’ll have your brand statement:
- What is your business name?
- What are 2-3 words that describe your work--either how you do it or what sets you apart
- Who do you work for? Be as specific as possible.
- What’s the benefit of working with you? What is it that you help others do?
Once you have your brand established, use it to determine your branding or style. Branding communicates your brand to the world, from the font you use on your website to the colors you put on your business cards and even your email signature.
Style your brand: create branding
Branding is often best left to the pros, so this is one area where you might want to enlist some help. You also have to decide what you want; at a minimum, you’ll want a logo, but you can also use your logo in business cards, on your website, on social media, letterhead, envelopes, and more. While it is exciting to see your business on these items, work within your budget and within your business needs.
If you decide to hire someone to do your branding, take your time vetting a professional designer, look at his or her previous work, and find the right fit for you and your business.
Whether you hire a professional or design your own logo, you can always edit your branding as your business grows. In fact, aim to reconnect with your brand and possibly rebrand every 3-5 years.
Create a website
With your brand and branding in place, create your digital home. As an online nutrition professional, your website is extra important. It’s like your digital waiting room. What kind of space do you want to create for your ideal clients?
Just like branding, web development and design are tasks you might want to leave to the pros. Costs can quickly add up though. Consider creating your own simple, functional website. Try using a user-friendly website builder, like Wix or Squarespace. If you aren’t sure what to include, pretend you are your ideal client and search for a health coach or nutritionist. Note what other sites have and what information you were looking for that you could not find. Use this research to help build your site.
In addition to getting you a website quickly at a lower cost (though a higher price tag in terms of your time), building your own website will also teach you a thing or two about what that process is like and what makes your site functional. This little bit of knowledge can help you select a web developer if you decide you need one, and it will help you know what you really want (and don’t want) on your website.
Some other website-related items you want to consider as an online holistic health coach are things like:
- Online video conferencing. Try a variety of platforms and see which ones will work best for you, like Zoom, Skype, Google/G-Suite, or FaceTime.
- Scheduling. Do you want to integrate a scheduling app into your website? Or maybe use a contact form? Or both?
- Sharing information. Will you use an online file-sharing platform? Email files back and forth? Stay organized with cloud-based options like G-Suite by Google, Dropbox, or Microsoft 365.
- Online contracts. Great for terms of payment and services with your clients, online platforms like Concord or Agiloft, make writing and signing contracts easy and stress-free.
Make it official
Now that you have a name, your brand, and your branding, it’s time to make your business legal. Register your business name with the secretary of state office in your state. Also check with your local jurisdiction; some cities and counties require you to register and pay a small fee to do business. If you are working as a sole proprietor, this is all you have to do; you can use your personal bank account to handle your finances.
Get your money matters in order
To keep track of business expenses, send invoices, and collect payments, you can opt for an online accounting software like Quickbooks Self Employed, Xero, or FreshBooks. These programs not only take the guesswork out of tracking expenses and provide an easy way to store your receipts and stay organized, they also make filing taxes a lot easier to do.
As your business grows, you might want to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and talk to an accountant and a lawyer about your different tax filing options. For now, provided that you are not hiring any employees, you can work as a sole proprietor and use your social security number to file taxes and identify your business.
Regardless of your bank accounts, if you want to accept payment via credit card, you have many options, but all of them will charge you a processing fee. You might be tempted to pass this fee along to your clients or charging them a hire rate for using credit cards, but check your local laws first. In some jurisdictions, this fee structure is illegal, and absorbing those credit card fees is simply the cost of doing business.
Many free personal payment transfer services, like Venmo, Paypal, and Cash, have separate agreements for businesses too. Although you can use your same bank account as a sole proprietor, using their personal accounts as a business is a big no-no. If you get caught, there will be repercussions. Keep it legal, and consider these fees when setting your rates.
Set your rates and services
With your business created, it’s time to get some business generated. First, determine your offerings and your rates. What will you charge clients and what will you give them? Some professionals offer rates based on hours of work or meetings or weeks of time working. How you offer and price your services will be influenced by your market and your niche. Do a little research. Pretend you are your ideal client again, and go looking for an online nutrition professional to get a sampling of how other coaches organize their services and what they charge. Once you have your rates established, start developing business.
Go to market
If you do not have a network to tap into, start making one. Consider joining your local chamber of commerce or attend local wellness events for some real-life local networking. Set up business accounts on social media and start producing content that explains who you are and what you do. Visit local gyms, introduce yourself, and develop partnerships. Keep sharing your news about being open for business with those around you and keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to have an audience. Explain the benefits of hiring a nutrition professional, explain your point of view and points of difference, and don’t be afraid or hesitate to be direct. Say you are currently taking clients and provide people a way to get in touch with you. You can also ask for their information and follow up with them.
Get feedback and continued support
From the very beginning, start documenting your process and gathering feedback. Keep track of positive feedback and ask clients to use their words as testimonials on your website and in your advertising. Also be sure to ask them how you can improve your services. You can also automate many business processes and use apps and software to help streamline your work so you can scale your client base, help more people, and earn more income.
If at any point you get overwhelmed or your aren’t sure what to do, remember that you might be new, but you aren’t alone. In addition to online resources like the AFPA blog, take a look at the marketing, business, finance, and law schools in your area. Many schools offer free consultations or have classes that require students to work with local businesses. You can learn a lot, meet other professionals, and get assistance with growing your business. Also consider joining groups like Freelancers Union, which is free to join, has local chapters, and will speak directly to you about getting started, maintaining, and growing your own business.