So you’re interested in nutrition and/or fitness, but the idea of sitting in an office or confined to the walls of a hospital for 40 hours per week doesn’t rev your engine. I can relate.
When I pictured the notion of private practice during my undergraduate studies, this is what came to mind: a brick and mortar business, a huge investment/risk, and lots of overhead costs (think rent, insurance, advertising material, scheduling software, the works). The thought of “going out on my own” scared me, and I always thought I would feel much happier in a more regimented and secure job environment. Yet, within 2 years of working as a registered dietitian in a hospital setting, I felt stifled and uninspired. Sure, I enjoyed working with my patients and helping others, but the same day-to-day routine had me feeling stuck. There HAS to be something more, I would think to myself.
In the past five years, the demand for virtual healthcare (telehealth) has skyrocketed. But what exactly is telehealth? Telehealth is a relatively new phenomenon that is sweeping the healthcare industry as we know it. Telehealth is a method by which health care providers, such as dietitians and health coaches, communicate with patients without physically seeing them in the office. After learning more about telehealth, I began to notice other dietitians on social media catching onto this trend, and my interest was sparked. I began to wonder if I could make a business out of this.
“When I finally launched my telehealth business and blog, I felt a surge of excitement and hopefulness. I knew this is what I was meant to do. I could feel it.”
Telehealth benefits both parties in many ways. The startup costs for the provider, for example, are much lower. This allows dietitians to work remotely, set their own hours, and the opportunity to slowly grow an online business while still making money at their day job (i.e. less monetary risk). It also expands the reach of potential clients, as we are no longer limited to the geographical area. The benefit for the clients, is that appointments can be done from anywhere they have access to a phone and/or internet.
Technology has made the delivery of nutrition counseling and education more convenient and accessible for both the dietitian and the client. For months, I grappled with many of my own fears and insecurities about branching out into my own virtual nutrition business. I would worry, “what would people think?” or “what if I fail?”. When I finally launched my telehealth business and blog, I felt a surge of excitement and hopefulness. I knew this is what I was meant to do. I could feel it. It hasn’t been easy. The learning curve for online marketing, social media management, and website design was huge for me. But, I have learned a lot in just the short time that my business has been alive.
Here are three key recommendations when launching your own virtual or telehealth business:
1. Pick a niche.
As the saying goes, “a generalist knows less and less about more and more, until eventually he knows nothing about everything”. Narrowing into a specific nutrition niche will allow you to target your ideal customer even more. What are you passionate about? Do you love to cook and develop tasty recipes with a healthy twist? Maybe the healthy food blog avenue is your niche. Do you love counseling others about mindful eating, and having a healthy relationship with food? Perhaps an intuitive eating focus is the right avenue. I didn’t find my functional nutrition and gastrointestinal niche until 3 years into my career, and that’s OK too. To help find your niche, do some research. Listen to podcasts, search for blogs of various health professionals, or research articles on the topics that interest you.
2. Gain trust from your following.
Social media is 100 percent necessary to grow your online business. Start developing relationships with those that follow you. Engage with your followers by commenting on their posts and asking meaningful questions to build trust in your brand. Provide value to your followers by educating, inspiring, or entertaining. The engagement and trust value is much more important than the number of followers, so don’t be discouraged if your following is not huge when first starting out.
3. Show up every day.
Building an online business does not happen overnight. Many online entrepreneurs slowly grow their business for 2 to 5 years before having the freedom to make it their full-time job. What sets these people apart? They show up every day. Whether it is posting on social media, working on a blog post, or listening to an informative podcast on the drive to work, making time for your business is key to achieving success.
Creating an online nutrition business is not limited to registered dietitians, or college graduates. It is never too early to spread your knowledge. You may be asking: how do I get started? Once you have decided upon a niche (hint: it’s OK if you end up switching interests down the line, I did!), then a good next step is to start a blog. This is a great way to get your feet wet in the online health sphere. Most online nutrition entrepreneurs need a blog to keep interest and traffic going to their website. Pinterest is a great way to get ideas about setting up your blog, and structuring your blog posts in a manner that is interesting to your readers. Other helpful business resources include the Smart Passive Income Podcast by Pat Flynn, and the Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast by Amy Porterfield.
“It is important to realize that your opportunities as a health and/or nutrition major are widespread far beyond the walls of an office or hospital”
Ultimately, it is important to realize that your opportunities as a health and/or nutrition major are widespread and far beyond the walls of an office or hospital. Technology has opened many pathways for telehealth, blogging, and making money online for health entrepreneurs. A powerful mantra that I often refer to in my online business is this: “if it is both terrifying and amazing, then it’s a sign you should pursue it”. The sky is the limit.