Professional Development: Entrepreneurship During Economic Uncertainty
By Perry Nix, MS, RD, LD
Vol. 25 No. 6 P. 12
In today’s daunting financial climate, where almost everything costs more, many RDs are thinking outside the box to bring in additional income. Dietitians working in traditional settings often are paid salaries that aren’t keeping up with rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.
In 2022, inflation rates reached 9%, the highest since 1981.1 Experts project that overall food prices throughout 2023 will increase 6.5% from 2022, remaining well above historical averages.2 As of March 2023, the cost of goods and services, excluding food and energy, is up 5.6% over the previous year.3
Even so, annual salaries of dietitians remain underwhelming, according to some in the field, ranging between $56,202 and $80,633.4 The average annual salary for dietitians is around $67,000 compared with $84,670 for nurses.5 Self-employed dietitians have unlimited earning potential and can make multiple six figures annually.6
Inflation may be the catalyst that motivates more dietitians to seek greater opportunities that may give them the raise they’ve been waiting for and deserve. Today’s Dietitian speaks with four self-employed dietitians who discuss their businesses and strategies for success amid a tumultuous economy.
Laura Schoenfeld, MPH, RD, LD, founder of the Nutrition Business Accelerator and The Nourished CEO, helps dietitians start, grow, and scale profitable, passion-fueled businesses.
Schoenfeld started her business before completing her dietetics internship program, deciding she wanted more for her life and finances than what the typical dietitian salary offered. “The fact that I can earn in one hour what some dietitians earn in one week is proof to me that all the challenges I have faced in growing my business have been worth it.”
Schoenfeld suggests fully committing when starting a business. “The dietitians who will actually reach their full potential in their business are the ones who know there’s no ‘plan B.’” She recommends reading $100M Offers: How to Make Offers So Good People Feel Stupid Saying No by Alex Hormozi to learn how to create amazing offers that sell.
When asked about the financial benefits of being self-employed, Schoenfeld says, “The more we can detach our earnings from how much time we are working, the more financial abundance we will have access to.” Since recently becoming a mother, Schoenfeld is more focused on using her skills and knowledge to continue developing the most valuable program for her clients that requires minimal time on her part.
During the pandemic, Schoenfeld pivoted exclusively to business coaching and launched a group coaching program that has made more than $1 million since 2020. “I was able to do that because I eliminated almost all other offers from my business and focused exclusively on growing that one signature group coaching program.”
Despite the current economic turbulence, she continues to take an “all-in approach” and doesn’t let the world around her dictate her level of focus toward reaching her goals.
Private Practice RD
Meg Tancredi, MS, RD, is the owner of Whole Health with Meg, a virtual private practice grounded in science and empathy that helps individuals with newly diagnosed prediabetes or type 2 diabetes gain control over their health. Her services include one-on-one counseling sessions, a group coaching program, and an accountability membership.
When asked how the average pay scales for RDs impacted her decision to start a business, Tancredi says, “I decided to branch out on my own to have the ability to pave my own financial path while working with a niche I truly enjoy.” Tancredi appreciates the freedom to set her rates, adding, “A thriving business requires time, energy, and resources, so you must be comfortable identifying how valuable your time is and then determining rates appropriately.”
Tancredi advises dietitians wanting to start a business to stay the course. “Don’t give up if your initial efforts don’t prove fruitful, and instead value that time as feedback rather than failure. As nutrition professionals, we all need to give ourselves credit for even the smallest achievements because they will add up and lay the foundation for our ideal business.”
In addition, she recommends not tackling everything at once. Tancredi knows that developing client programs and determining marketing strategies can be overwhelming in the beginning. But “by aiming to take one step at a time and focusing on a specific task, you’re more likely to achieve results.”
When asked how starting a business inspired her to claim her power, she says, “Starting my business has definitely made me feel more confident and empowered to help others and be the best version of myself. Every day I feel more fulfilled because I have the ability to continue to learn and grow.”
Jessi Holden, MS, RDN, owner of The Kitchen Invitation, is a culinary dietitian who helps improve beginners’ cooking skills one recipe, class, and podcast at a time. She works at a local kitchen store, teaches cooking classes, and counsels clients one on one. Holden is a mom of two who values the flexibility entrepreneurship offers, saying, “It makes all the difference that I’m able to work around their schedules and do a lot of their care at home. I also enjoy the freedom to create and learn new things at my pace.”
Childcare expenses are high, leading many parents like Holden to find more ways to work from home. When asked how having her own business benefits her financially, Holden says, “It saves us money in daycare expenses. It also saves wear and tear on my car and the cost of gas.” Holden recognizes the earning potential of her business, especially through passive income, and is on her way toward realizing those rewards while prioritizing family.
Holden encourages dietitians interested in pursuing a culinary specialty to “Connect with a local kitchenware store or see if your local library is interested in having cooking demos. Also, take cooking classes yourself to get a feel for what you like, don’t like, and how you might [present] them.” The key to leading cooking classes is having the ability to engage your audience while simultaneously chopping vegetables and monitoring burners. Holden encourages dietitians to learn how to apply motivational interviewing skills in a group setting to effectively communicate their nutrition expertise with confidence.
Holden uses her food blog strategically to provide quality content that attracts her target audience to her business. She recommends taking the SEO Made Simple course by Erica Julson. “This course was a game changer for blogging and website SEO optimization.”
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Plant Based with Amy and Master the Media, is a media dietitian who partners with food companies as a spokesperson, consultant, and recipe developer. Through her six-month Master the Media program that offers 65 CPEUs, Gorin trains other dietitians how to work with the media and monetize that media attention through brand partnerships, speaking engagements, book deals, and more.
Gorin encourages dietitians interested in self-employment to get started. “Honestly, the biggest hurdle that I see is analysis paralysis. You could spend years thinking about starting your own business, or you can just do it. It likely won’t look ideal at first, but you can nurture your business and turn it into what you want it to be.”
Gorin has six revenue streams including brand partnerships, online courses, freelance writing, speaking engagements, digital goods, and affiliate partnerships. “In my second year as a media dietitian, I earned $262,000, and that was just from a handful of those revenue streams. I am able to invest back into my business, and also set aside a substantial amount of money for retirement.”
When asked how the current cost-of-living crisis impacts her business decisions, Gorin says, “It only further empowered me to empower other dietitians to take control of their incomes. There are always going to be these amazing opportunities to get featured in the media and to work with brands in a very lucrative way.”
Gorin’s Facebook group, Media Mastery for Dietitians & Health Professionals, is a space where dietitians can collaborate, ask questions, and find opportunities to be quoted in the media. She also offers a free masterclass where she teaches other dietitians how to make multiple six figures, too.
Windows of Opportunity
In today’s economic climate, starting a business may be the solution dietitians seek to gain financial freedom, a flexible schedule, and the opportunity to offer valuable services on their own terms. From brand partnerships and food blogging to cooking classes, business mentoring, and group coaching programs, dietitians have access to numerous lucrative income streams. Harnessing these opportunities may not only offset the blow of the current cost-of-living crisis but also elevate the field of dietetics for current and future dietitians.
— Perry Nix, MS, RD, LD, owner of The Free RD, is a dietitian and freelance nutrition writer. Her passion is breaking down complex nutrition information into bite-sized pieces that are easy to digest and apply. With experience in corporate wellness, public health, and clinical dietetics, she has crafted engaging nutrition content for a variety of health-conscious audiences. Nix resides with her husband and two boys in Texas and enjoys hiking and traveling.
1. Consumer prices up 9.1 percent over the year ended June 2022, largest increase in 40 years. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/consumer-prices-up-9-1-percent-over-the-year-ended-june-2022-largest-increase-in-40-years.htm#:~:text=Over%20the%2012%20months%20ended,month%20period%20ending%20November%201981. Published July 18, 2022.
2. Food price outlook. U.S Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/. Updated March 24, 2023.
3. Consumer price index. U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics website. https://www.bls.gov/cpi/. Published April 12, 2023.
4. Dietitian salary in the United States. Salary.com website. https://www.salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/dietitian-salary. Updated March 28, 2023. Accessed April 17, 2023.
5. Registered nurse (RN) salary in the United States. Salary.com website. https://www.salary.com/research/salary/general/registered-nurse-rn-salary. Updated March 28, 2023. Accessed April 17, 2023.
6. How much do self-employed dietitian jobs pay per month. Zip Recruiter website. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Self-Employed-Dietitian-Salary-per-Month#:~:text=As%20of%20Feb%2017%2C%202023%2C%20the%20average%20monthly,in%20the%20United%20States%20is%20%246%2C822%20a%20month. Updated April 2023. Accessed May 4, 2023.