As a certified nutrition professional, you positively impact people’s lives in many ways. Working as a sole proprietor means doing all the jobs: accounting, marketing, advertising, customer service, and delivering the services. With so much work to do, growing and expanding can prove to be a challenge. Don’t lose sight of your passion and why you became certified. Once you have the basics of starting your business covered, read on for how to grow your online nutrition business.
Make a plan
A business plan is a living document, which means you need to actively engage with it and adapt it as your business grows. So, even if you already wrote a business plan when you were starting your business, take it out and tweak it. If you haven’t written one yet, now is as good a time as any to get started. Even as a sole proprietor, having a business plan in place has many benefits.
More than only a brand statement, a thorough business plan also includes some market research and business goals. Properly researched and written, it will help you establish your purpose, focus your goals, and define your competition in addition to your ideal clients.
A typical business plan includes a brand statement, a description of the business, a description of you as the sole proprietor, including your training, education and credentials, personas of your ideal clients, a description of your competition, a menu of services with rates, your projected expenses and profits and other financial details, and your overall business outlook. Try this template from the American Nutrition Association as a starting point for crafting and updating your business plan.
Set SMART goals
Specific: the details matter; make sure your goals are narrowly defined and specific enough that you know exactly what you’re after and you’ll know exactly when you’ve achieved them.
Instead of saying, “I will increase my client base,” or “I will earn more money,” set goals that describe exactly how many clients you will have or how much money you will earn: I will take on six new clients per quarter for my full service package or I will earn $10,000 a month in profits by second quarter.
Measurable: how will you know when you’ve reached your goal? You want to be able to measure your progress. In the specific goal examples above, you will know you’ve met your goal when you have six clients per quarter or are earning $10,000 per month in profits.
That does not mean you cannot have qualitative goals, like wanting happier clients. It does mean that you’ll need some way to measure that happiness. Perhaps you’ll implement pre and post surveys for your clients and set a goal of a percentage of your clients finishing their work with you feeling a certain level of happiness, or increasing their happiness by a certain amount. For example, you could ask your clients to rate their happiness from 1-10 at the start of their work with you and then at the end of their work with you, and aim for an increase of 2-3 points.
Attainable: be realistic in setting your goals, or else you might set yourself up for disappointment. While there is nothing wrong with thinking big—in fact, do think big!—break those giant sized goals down into smarter goals and you will chip away at that big goal more effectively.
Also be realistic about what you are capable of achieving with the resources you have. Understand that some goals you set might mean working more hours or hiring out some of the work so that you can reach those goals and expand your business without losing your personal life.
Relevant: this is your business, so make sure the goals are important to you. Do you really want your business to be a certain size or help a certain population? If so, great! But if you don’t want to be Instagram famous with your business or write a book or have a blog, you can be successful without those goals. Be successful on your terms, and make sure your business goals are relevant to you and where you want to take your business.
Time-limited: set realistic timeframes and deadlines for achieving your goals. If you don’t, you risk not having anything else to hold you accountable. Don’t be too stringent, but do set some deadlines to keep you motivated to achieve.
Automate your workflows
When you first start out as a sole proprietor, your fears are in not getting enough clients. As your client base grows, you fear not having enough time to send invoices and increase your cash flow. This problem is a great one to have! It’s also an indication that it might be time to automate some processes. Try finding the jobs you can give to software programs and apps, and pay for them. Investing in these automations can help you spend more time with your clients.
Consider your process, and if you don’t have a streamlined process, get one! From first touch, that very first moment a client is introduced to you or your brand, through completion of their program with you, what is your process of engaging with them? Consider investing in programs that track marketing leads, automate email marketing flows, track your expenses, automatically schedule different types of meetings or calls, and automate client experience emails, like follow ups, feedback, and progress charts. Create as many templates as you can, while still preserving moments for personalization and connection in your client communications.
Also consider your personal life. Automating workflows in your personal life can help you carve out more time for work and more time for play when work time ends. Maybe you want to hire cleaning services, invest in meal preparation services, hire landscapers, or automate some of your personal accounting. With so many duties and responsibilities as a sole proprietor, your work can easily creep into your personal life, especially as you grow and work increases.
Build your online presence
Make your online content work for you, not make more work for you. Take an inventory of what lines of communication you have and include your website and all social media accounts and any professional networking profiles. Look at each line’s activity and determine which channels are your top performers. Also consider which platforms are easiest for you to work on. For example, perhaps you love taking photos and videos, and so it’s no coincidence that your Instagram account brings you the most engagement. Or, maybe you are a great writer and great at making quick videos, and your blog and youtube channel drive most of your engagements.
Create your content ecosystem by making other channels flow into your top performing channel; direct your traffic to where people are most likely to engage and purchase your services. Continue to invest in that top performing channel. Try signing up for free webinars and learning how to maximize your effort from that channel. Also reuse content; make your content for your top performing channel, and lightly adapt it or auto post it to other channels using a third party app.
Plan and schedule your content to automate as much as possible, but do not forget that social media performs best for you when you keep it social. Make sure you take the time to sincerely engage with your followers.
Try making videos. It might be uncomfortable to see yourself on video at first, but video is proving to be the top performing content. The good news is that your video does not have to be super edited or top quality; informal daily videos showing what you do are incredibly valuable to potential clients and supporters. Take a video, show it to your closest friends, as for tips and pointers, and reshoot it. Eventually, you’ll get better and get your clip on the first take. If you really don’t like watching yourself, skip the viewing, go straight to feedback from others, and reshoot until they say it’s good to post.
Hire out real humans
Automated flows are fantastic and can be a tremendous help to streamlining your work process, but sometimes, you really need a human for the job. From help with marketing research to rebranding, writing content, accounting, and social media management, there are times when the best option is to hire someone else to do the job for you.
Working for yourself is wonderful, but it does not mean you have to like all aspects of the job or be good at all of them. Perhaps you dread certain tasks, do not know enough about others, aren’t very good at them, or you need to hire a certified professional, such as an accountant or lawyer. As you grow, understand that you do not have to do all the work yourself, and that hiring someone else to do the work means just that—you are growing!
Collaborate and build partnerships
Perhaps you’re ready to add another revenue stream, like a product, but do not want to go it alone. Or maybe you want to have help developing business. One step down from hiring someone is to form a collaboration or partnership. Look for professionals whose businesses complement your own and strike up a relationship with them.
As an online nutrition professional, look to build relationships with gyms, fitness centers, doctors and other business owners whose clientele compliments yours. Propose referral relationships and help each other garner business. You can co-write online content, advertise together, and send clients to each other. Explore what your options are and come prepared to talk business deals. You might be surprised by how willing other business owners are to help you grow.
It might be time to invest in some advertising and boost your publicity. Consider purchasing advertising in local print media and online media. Research how to create your own social media ads or hire a professional to manage these accounts. Write press releases that you can immediately publish to your website and social media and pitch to local news media.
If you aren’t sure what to include in a press release, don’t forget to celebrate the small things. Open for one year? Achieve a goal? Have a story to share about your business? Make yourself a part of your community by telling people your story and showing them about your business. Don’t think you are too small to be newsworthy.
Starting your business might have been exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Taking that leap into working for yourself, even if only part time, was a big accomplishment. Recognize that you are a successful business owner and continue growing and expanding your business strategically and on your terms.