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How to Start Your Nutritionist Business

Written by on March 23, 2017

The nutritionist business has had a great past few years.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nutritionist job opportunities are expected to have a 21% increase between 2012 and 2022.

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The global nutrition market is growing at a steady pace. In the last decade, the nutritional and supplements market worldwide have seen strong increases in sales.

In fact, according to estimates from the Nutrition Business Journal report, the nutrition and supplements market worldwide reached $96 billion in 2012. In 2013, it shot to $104 billion globally.

The nutrition market is expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6-7%. The CAGR is a measure of the constant rate of return for a specific time period.

Most of the nutrition market’s high CAGR will come from developing Asia-Pacific markets, where the US and UK markets are continuing on a steady growth rate.

The 6 Types of Nutritionists

Nutritionists come in a few different flavors, and they can have vastly different roles and responsibilities.

Clinical Nutritionists

Clinical nutritionists work with the elderly, children, or patients with more serious medical conditions.

They help to assess the dietary needs of these patients and often work with healthcare teams in clinics, hospital, nursing homes, etc.

Public Health Nutritionists

These nutritionists work with community organizations and other governmental agencies to help educate individuals and groups.

This education is normally done through counseling, in classes or workshops. They are generally geared towards low income groups or people with higher health risks.

Management nutritionists

These nutritionists are not directly involved with individuals. Instead, they take an overseer role by helping to plan meals and assess the dietary needs for schools, hospitals, nursing homes or prisons.

Consultant nutritionists

Today we’ll focus on consultant nutritionists, those who often work privately and are self-employed.

They provide nutritional information to their clients through face-to-face meetings, books, blogs, seminars or counseling.

Sports nutritionists

Sports nutritionists help active people who want to improve their health or simply maintain it.

They also help people to get to a higher level of physical activity. You can often find them in gyms, fitness centers, sports clinics or athletic clubs.

Animal nutritionists

Laslty, animal nutritionists work with bird and animals, helping to ensure they receive proper nutrition. This comes with making sure that the animals enjoy flavorful, economical and nutritional food on a regular basis.

They may also work with zoos, companies, veterinarians or directly with pet owners and farmers.

These are the 6 types of nutritionists

The nutritionist business is certainly a great place to start if you love eating healthy, living a healthy life and providing guidance to others.

If you’ve ever considered becoming a professional nutritionist, now is a great time to start. In this guide today, we’ll look at every aspect of the nutritionist business to help you create your own roadmap to starting your new business.

I. The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Nutritionist Business

Before we can really dive into what you’ll need in order to ensure your nutritionist business succeeds, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of the business.

The Advantages

There are many advantages to this industry

The advantages are probably well-known to you, and it’s important to hold onto them when times get rough.

You’ll have your freedom

As with any self-employed person, you’ll enjoy a lot of freedom. You’ll have the freedom to decide when you want to work, where, and with whom. You won’t have bosses to answer to and you can decide your life for yourself.

You’ll get to help people

One of the great joys of being a nutritionist is in getting the chance to actually help people–and see the results.

Whether the problem is with their health or weight, you can provide the necessary guidance. They’ll be able to improve their lives, all because of you, and that is amazingly rewarding.

You’ll have great income

Being a nutritionist means working directly with people who will want your guidance and are willing to pay for it. Many are willing to pay a lot, especially if you can deliver on your promises.

Nutritionists often charge from $50 – $80 per hour and can earn around $75,000 on average.

You’ll have lots of clients

This one comes with fortunate and unfortunate news. Fortunately, the economy is growing globally and households are getting more spending power.

Unfortunately, the obesity rate worldwide is also growing. What this means is that more people are having problems with their health and they will need experienced nutritionists to help them.

The Disadvantages

You should be aware of the disadvantages to this industry

While knowing the advantages is good, you should always be prepared for the disadvantages.

A lot of responsibility

While the freedom is a great thing to have, you’ll also have all the responsibility that normal workers do. This includes the marketing, the sales, networking, finding clients, taking care of finances, etc.

It can be a lot of responsibility very quickly and can cause a lot of stress.

High competition

While the market for nutritionists is expanding, there are many new entrants who are willing to take pay cuts in order to get clients.

This is also because nutrition is in many ways unregulated, and uncertified nutritionists may not need any education certification.

Difficult beginning

While the nutrition business can be very lucrative, this usually comes later on in your career. For the first part, unfortunately, you’ll be spending most of your time not helping clients but finding clients.

And all of that will be on your dime, meaning you won’t make much money, but you’ll be spending it.

II. The Fundamentals of the Nutritionist Business

Let's look at the most fundamental parts of the nutritionist business

Now that you’ve got the advantages and disadvantages of the nutritionist business out of the way, you can get into the specifics of the business. By taking care of these foundational elements, you can set the stage for a successful nutritionist business.

1. Nutritionist Business Plan

Although it may not be the first step on most how-tos for starting a nutritionist business, you should start first of all with a well thought-out business plan.

Contrary to popular belief, business plans are not archaic. In fact, they are strategic documents that are not just useful for getting financial backing.

The primary function of a business plan is to help you figure out what your goals are and the means you’ll employ to reach those goals.

The business plan will come in especially handy when you bring more people on board. It will act as a reference and unifying guide to get everyone on the same page.

In order to create your business plan, you’ll need the following sections:

  • Executive Summary, which discusses the strengths of your business plan
  • Business Description, which will review the most important aspects of your business
  • Industry and Competition Overview, which will look at the trends, growth and competition in your industry
  • Service Description, which discusses how you will provide your services and the benefits of that service
  • Marketing Strategy, an important part that discusses how you’ll get your service in front of the right people
  • Financial Projections, the most popular part which forecasts the profitability and financial potential of your nutritionist business.

If it all seems very daunting, we understand. Creating business plans can cause a lot of people a lot of stress. For that reason, we’ve gone ahead and created an epic 8,000-word business plan guide that was created with small business owners in mind.

2. Setting your nutrition prices

Find out the most important things to consider when setting your nutritionist prices

Price may be one of the least-comfortable business aspects to discuss for nutritionists. This is mostly because it may seem as if there is some ulterior motives when it comes to charging anyone for your help.

However, that is not the case. Genuinely helping people and making a good income at the same time can both exist in the same person, and there is no reason not to get the price for your services.

Here we’ll look at the most important steps in determining your nutritionist prices.

Determine your costs

As with any real business, it is crucial that you determine your cost structure before you can even begin to think about your prices.

Essentially, this means you need to calculate your fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are costs that will happen regardless of how many clients you have. These include rent, insurance, utilities, marketing, web site hosting, employee salaries (non-hourly), and so on.

Variable costs will depend on your client. If you have no client, you have no variable costs, essentially. This includes employees on an hourly basis, any supplies or documentation related to the client, credit card fees, transportation, fuel, cell phone, etc.

You need to be meticulous in writing down these costs when setting your prices.

Determine your time cost

Here you need to figure out exactly how much time you are going to spend for your client, not just with him or her.

This includes:

  • face-to-face (live, Skype, telephone) time
  • research and protocol creation
  • email support
  • group management (such as on Facebook)

These services all take time. For example, you may only spend 60 minutes with your client face-to-face, but you may spend as much or more time researching and putting together a plan for them. You need to account for all of the time you spend on one client.

Determine your hourly rate

When you determine your rate, you need to decide how much you want to make per year. Then divide that by 52 (the number of weeks per year) and how many hours you’d like to work per week (in total, inclusive of everything in #2 above).

Now you’ll have your hourly rate.

For example, let’s say you want to make $80,000/year. That will come out to $1538/week (after dividing $80K/52 weeks). Now, when it comes to hours per week, you need to remember the client and non-client hours.

Let’s imagine you’ve determined that for every hour you meet your client, you need an additional hour of work. That means that if you want to work 40 hours per week, you can only have 20 hours of face-to-face time per week.

So while you would make about $40 per hour worked, you will actually be charging your client $80 per hour.

These are the best ways to set prices for your nutritionist business

Make sure your hourly rate covers your costs

Will $40 per hour worked cover your costs? If you’ve determined that your fixed and variable costs come to $20/hr, is $20/hr a good enough profit margin for you?

You will need to carefully determine not just how much revenue you want, but as a business you need to figure out how much profit you want (because Profit = Revenue – Costs).

Vary prices according to service

Now that you have determined how much per hour worked would cover your costs and give you a respectable profit, you can vary it with different services.

As you are aware, nutritionists have different services that they provide for their clients. These can include:

  • initial assessment
  • weight management program
  • nutrition makeover
  • couples package
  • shopping tour, etc.

Each will require different amounts of time and energy. Beyond that, it is normal practice to provide a discount when clients order things in packages vs. just ordering a la carte.

For examples of actual nutritionist plans, you can visit Nutrition Authority’s service fees page or take a look at NutritionRX’s price list.

Of course, you will have to cater your prices to your location, experience, education, certification, skill level, quality of service and competition.

For a full list of pricing strategies you can use for your nutritionist business, check out 15 Pricing Strategies to Boost Your Small Business.

3. Apps and Software

Although it may not be immediately evident, nutritionists can get a lot of help in their work by using appropriate software and apps for all parts of their business. Let’s look at some of the most useful.


Epocrates is an important app for nutritionists

Epocrates is a point-of-care medical app that helps nutritionists in their work. It supports clinical decisions with current safety, diagnostic and treatment information and will help you save your time.


Use InvoiceBerry to make your invoices easier

InvoiceBerry can help nutritionists create and send out invoices quickly and effectively. It also includes recurring invoicing, expense tracking and report creation.

NutriCare Tools

NutriCare Tools is great for helping nutritionists do their jobs

This useful app provides the necessary research, evidence and knowledge that a nutritionist will need in client assessment and intervention.


Evernote is a useful note-taking app for any business

Evernote is a note-taking app that will be handy for any business, especially for nutritionists. It makes it extremely easy to take notes and do much more, and you can have your notes saved on all your devices.

III. Qualifications, Licenses and Insurance

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, we need to look at exactly what kind of qualifications, licenses and insurance your nutritionist business needs.

1. Qualifications and Certifications

These are the qualifications you'll need to start your business

In order to become a nutritionist, you will need to have formal education, optimally a Bachelor’s Degree in a health-related field.

This is particularly important due to the health nature of your industry. Many states across the US have different requirements and regulations when it comes to nutritionists, but all around the world a university in this field is crucial.

It is possible, however, to practice nutrition without first having a degree in a health-related field.

In the US, the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board sets the standards for nutritionists and gives training, certification, examination and other programs for the Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN).

To become a CCN, there are a few requirements, including passing a written CCN exam. There are also other certifications that nutritionists can get. For example, many commercial organizations, especially in the fitness and sports area, offer nutrition certification. However, these do not earn the nutritionist a CCN designation.

States in the US have their own specific licensing and certification requirements.

For example, in New York, in order to become a certified nutritionist, you must:

  • have received a Bachelor’s or higher degree in dietetics-nutrition or an Associate’s degree in dietetics-nutrition
  • have completed 800 hours work experience in dietetics-nutrition if you have a Bachelor’s degree
  • have completed ten full-time equivalent years if you have an Associate’s degree
  • obtain the endorsement of three acceptable dietitians-nutritionists if you have an Associate’s degree
  • get accredited with the Accredited Dietetics (for Bachelor’s) and Dietetic Technician (for Associate’s) Programs

2. Insurance

As with almost any business, you will probably need to get yourself insured. Let’s look at the two most important insurance types you’ll need.

General Liability Insurance

Because you are a healthcare professional with your own practice, you need to prepare yourself for the worst. There are certain risks that you are exposing yourself to when you work with patients each day.

Any accident that happens on your premises may end up with a liability lawsuit and you can find yourself having to pay. General Liability Insurance get financial coverage in the event of a lawsuit so that you won’t go bankrupt.

Malpractice Insurance

For any healthcare professional, it is important to protect yourself at complications that can arise. This includes unpredictable reactions or problems associated with your guidance for your clients.

If there is a complication, you may end up being blamed. The Malpractice Insurance, also known as Errors & Omissions or Professional Liability coverage, will help you when a lawsuit is brought against you or your employees for causing a patient’s physical or financial problems.

IV. Getting Your Nutrition Clients

Use these proven strategies to get your first customers

Now that we’ve got the basics and the qualifications out of the way, let’s look at the next important part: getting your clients.

No matter how amazing your advice and guidance is, if you don’t have the right clients you are simply wasting your time.

That’s why you need to make sure you get your message to the right people who need it. In order to do that you’ll need to employ these three marketing methods.

1. Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing is still effective in the modern world. Let’s look at the most effective traditional marketing methods for your nutritionist business.


Because you are working with clients on such a sensitive topic as their health or weight, you will need to get into a good relationship before they can trust you.

One of the best ways is to find out where your potential clients gather. It’s important to remember that you need to consider their financial situation and potential health or weight problems.

You may find you have better luck with business people, or with stay-at-home moms, or something else completely. Find out the conferences and events those people are most likely to attend and go there.


One of the greatest, unbeatable traditional marketing methods is the use of referrals.

All you need is one of your clients or former clients to recommend you to his or her friends, family, associates or colleagues. By spreading the word to trusted people, you are likely to get one, two, or many new clients.

You can incentivize your current clients to give referrals by offering discounts or other rewards.

Customer Acquisition for New Small Businesses Customer acquisition is perhaps the most important and difficult parts of any business. Find out how to make sure you get customers for your new business. READ MORE

2. Inbound marketing

It is very important nowadays that you have an online presence. In this way, it is even better to have your own dedicated website, which will help cement your professional image.

With that, you can start working on inbound marketing—a newer form of marketing that emphasizes creating quality content that your ideal customer will be attracted to.

When they visit your site to read your article, listen to your podcast or watch your video, you can work on converting the visitor into a subscriber and then a buyer.

For example, nutrition is a hot topic nowadays and many people are still unsure of what to do and eat. You can also write about nutritious, healthy and easy-to-make recipes.

You can use your experience and knowledge to create quality content to help people find the right nutrition answer. And in return, you get a qualified lead that may turn into a buyer.

Inbound marketing can be a great benefit if done right. Read our full guide on how to master inbound marketing for small businesses.

The Essential Inbound Marketing Guide for Small Businesses Inbound marketing may still be unknown to many small businesses starting out. In this guide, we give a complete look at what it is and how you can use it. READ MORE

3. Social media marketing

Lastly, you should be working hard on promoting yourself on social media.

Many people when they are researching businesses or services online, will head towards Facebook to get information about you. They will be looking for pictures, discussions and other information.

Therefore it is important to create yourself a Facebook page that lists your business details. You may also upload your own photos, share your favorite (or your own) nutrition articles, and interact with your page followers.

This will help your potential clients become familiar with who you are as a person, so that they can trust you enough to use your services.

How to Boost Your SME & Freelance Social Media Presence Social media has now become not just another marketing avenue, but a marketing must. Find out how small businesses and freelancers can capitalize on it. READ MORE

V. To sum up…

The nutritionist business is experiencing an increase in business and the outlook is very optimistic. In order to begin, you first need to know the advantages, which include:

  • the freedom to work how you want
  • the ability to help lots of people
  • the possibility for great income
  • a potentially large number of clients

However, you should also be aware of the disadvantages:

  • you’ll have a lot of responsibility for your own business success
  • there’s lots of competition because nutrition is often unregulated
  • it can be very difficult in the beginning when you don’t have clients yet

In order to really get started, you need to take care of the foundational aspects of your  nutritionist business. These include:

  • a strategic nutrition business plan
  • well thought-out prices
  • necessary software and apps

Your qualifications and other documentation are also important, including:

  • your formal education and certification requirements, based on location
  • the insurance you’ll need for your nutritionist business

In order to get your nutritionist clients, you need to use:

  • traditional marketing such as networking and referrals
  • inbound marketing by providing information your potential customers want and need
  • social media marketing by creating your social profiles so users can find and interact with you

By following this guide, you’ll be on the road to success with starting your own nutrition business.

Good luck!

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