Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sarah Waybright, RD of WhyFoodWorks, LLC
I didn’t know much about how to start (or market, or run or grow) a business when I launched WhyFoodWorks as an LLC back in the fall of 2012 – and there’s a lot left to learn. But I knew that traditional counseling wasn’t the route for me, and I thought that teaching people about nutrition in the kitchen instead of a clinic made sense. I wanted to show people what to eat, not just tell them.
Accountability and followthrough are two huge challenges for most dietitians doing counseling or coaching, but I am certain my clients are eating their fruits & veggies, portioning their whole grains and protein, and getting enough fiber because we’re making the food together. The business model is simple: nutrition education through dinner parties and cooking classes. Thanks to the wonders of technology today and some good advice, I incorporated (on LegalZoom.com), bought insurance, licensure, a ServSafe class, and a domain online and was open for business in only a few months. Now, I get to write, teach, create recipes, and coach from home, which allows me to take midday yoga classes, catch a “Daily Show” rerun, or even visit the pool.
Pretty glamorous, right? The lifestyle is definitely what I had hoped for, but it comes at a cost: constant vigilance. And unstable finances. I’m still far from considering myself a long-term sustainable business, but in the past two years, there are some tools I’ve incorporated that make continuation possible. I highly recommend these tips for anyone working for themselves:
1. Have anchors in your industry
I was lucky that Holly, an RD and friend, was establishing her own nutrition business around the same time I was. Even though she’s set up shop in Ohio (check her out!), we Skype 2 to 3 times a month to keep each other accountable to goals, share info about what’s new in the nutrition field, and offer ideas for marketing and content creation. Same with Anne – she’s been in the game longer, blogging and getting national sponsors for years, and is an amazing resource and inspiration who constantly networks and connects people. We meet up once a month for a walk or to explore a new part of D.C. and I always come away feeling better and full of new ideas after our talk. Find at least one person you can schedule frequent, regular time to bounce ideas off of and help keep you on target!
2. Clearly define what you will — and won’t — do for money
This was great advice that I’ve followed from the beginning. My lines are simple and clear: Accept work that offers an opportunity to teach nutrition concepts with an interactive food component. Period. If I had not stuck to this, I could be taking coaching clients over the phone, making prepared meals for people in Chevy Chase, and selling JuicePlus, Arbonne and detox plans on the side. Many people will ask you to do many things; if you say yes to everything your business will not be what it set out to be; even though it’s tempting to try to make money any way you can. One caveat: If an opportunity offers good PR and a clear, open platform to sell yourself, that may fall outside the box! Write down what your business model is — build it to draw people in, not to become what they wish it to be!
3. Create a timeline for outcomes. Then multiply everything by 3. Or 5.
I thought I would set up shop, get some PR and be off and rolling in six months, with clients constantly streaming in at a perfectly manageable rate. Well, maybe I knew it wouldn’t look that perfect, but I thought I could be sustainable and profitable that soon. Wrong! Marketing is a constant task, and while some parts of business today can move quickly, most progress almost always takes far longer than you’d expect. There is no end to competition, because everyone thinks they’re a nutrition expert, and a fast-fix sells better than one you have to be dedicated to long term. Prepare to dip into your savings account and think very carefully about the difference between luxury and necessary expenses. Realistic goals are goals that can adapt and accommodate longer-than-anticipated timeframes.
4. Take every opportunity to connect
Ensuring people will link to your website when you create content, tagging people in pictures at events, and offering a blurb and pictures with each media connection will help boost your search engine optimization and make you more findable. Say something tempting: “Take a peek inside my life on my Instagram account!” Or, target specific content by including a callout: “My culinary students did makeovers of fried chicken, cheese sticks, and nachos — the amazing recipes are on my Facebook page!” And “Follow my Pinterest page for dietitian-approved recipes I’ve flagged!” will help build your following. Make searching for you easy by using words you’d like to be associated with frequently, and offer live links to drive traffic.
About the author
Sarah Waybright, RD of WhyFoodWorks, LLC does healthy, interactive dinner parties — it’s like a cooking show in your kitchen, with your friends, and a nutrition expert you can ask anything! You can see what one looks like here, and find her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram to get food tips, recipes and pretty pics.