GAH, it’s here! The FIRST episode of my podcast!!
Learn more about what to expect from The Unconventional RD podcast and get to know me, your host, Erica Julson.
Episode 000 Show Notes
- Check out my FREE Facebook group – The Unconventional RD Community
- My 3 online courses – The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp
Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the following products. If you click my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
- Marie Forleo’s B-School
- My previous attempt at food blogging – ericajulson.com
- Google My Business
- Certified LEAP Therapist Training
- Functional Nutrition Library
- RD Entrepreneur Symposium (affiliate link)
- My income reports
- Functional Nutrition Answers Blog
Read the transcript:
Welcome to The Unconventional RD podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income streams. We’ll talk all things online business to help you start, grow and scale your own digital empire.
About this episode
Hey, hey! And welcome to the introductory episode of The Unconventional RD podcast. I’m your host, Erica Julson, and chances are many of you guys listening probably know me from the Facebook group that I run, The Unconventional RD community. If you’re not in there already, definitely search for it on Facebook and request to join.
It’s a place for dietitians and other wellness professionals to learn about passive and alternative income streams and discuss all things business. It’s mostly dietitians, but also some other wellness professionals and a lot of students as well. So don’t be shy. Definitely come check it out and join us there.
I’ve been running that group for almost three years now, and I can’t believe it, but it has over 7,000 members!
The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp Courses
Last year I actually expanded and created three online courses, which you can find at theunconventionalrd.com.
Those are designed to help dietitians start an online business, grow it, and automate it.
I help people learn how to get more blog traffic by implementing an SEO strategy (search engine optimization), which is basically how to create content that actually gets found on Google, so that when people search for something, you’re what pops up in the search results.
Then I teach people in the second course how to monetize their website once they have that traffic. We talk about six different ways to make money online.
And then in the third course, it’s all about automating through email marketing. How to grow your email list and automate your sales so you’re not stuck in the feast and famine mode of live launches at all times.
So that’s what I have set up at my website right now. Check those out if you’re interested.
What’s ahead for 2020
And basically now, in coming into 2020…. I have my products. I have my community. I’m ready to actually get serious and grow The Unconventional RD into a real brand.
I love it. It’s my favorite thing that I’ve done in my entire RD career.
So why am I holding back? I’m giving myself permission to lean into this and continue to grow what I have to offer for other RDs.
I’m expanding beyond my courses and beyond Facebook, into this podcast and into consistent blogging. I have so much to share.
I love to talk, so get ready for some fun little tangents, I’m sure, throughout these episodes. They’re gonna be long-form, maybe anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes.
And also look out for more consistent blog posts from me on The Unconventional RD blog. Blogging is absolutely my favorite form of content creation and communication. I could do it all day, every day. So I’m creating a content calendar and sticking to it.
But anyway, what is this show about?
What is this podcast about? Well, my goal here is to help dietitians break free from the traditional money-making models that we learned about in school.
You know, like traditional employment, where you get a job and you’re paid a salary…. or even private practice where you’re seeing clients 1:1 and trading your time for money. I want to move even beyond that.
So we’re not gonna be talking about anything nutrition-related here. We’re not even really going to be talking about traditional entrepreneur opportunities like private practice.
I really want to focus on creative ways to diversify your income streams and particularly on online business strategies and passive income.
I define passive income as anything that you’re doing that’s scaleable. So, not trading your time for money. We only have so many hours in the day, so you’re gonna naturally hit an income ceiling if all of your income streams are directly tied to your personal 1:1 time.
So instead, we’re gonna focus on scalable revenue streams, where you put in the same amount of effort and the amount of money that you can potentially get back for that effort is limitless.
Things like affiliate income, where you promote other people’s products and you earn a commission when people from your audience buy through your special link or with your special coupon code.
Ad revenue – If you really love content creation and you grow your audience to a large enough size, usually at least 25,000 sessions, which is like individual people coming to your website, per month, then you can start to put ads on your website through some of the higher end ad networks and make a decent amount of money from that. You get paid based on how many people see your ads and maybe a little bonus when people click on them.
There’s also sponsored content.
So again, as your audience grows, brands might become interested in you, and you can work with those brands and create content on your blog or your podcast or social media channels that features their products, and you can get paid for it.
There’s also digital goods, like creating and selling e-books.
You could create online courses to teach something to your audience.
Or maybe start a membership site where people pay you monthly or annually to get access to premium exclusive content that’s only available in your membership site.
So that’s kind of what I want to focus on with this podcast and inspire you guys to take action and create some of these income streams in your own business.
What to expect
It’s gonna be a mix of solo episodes and interviews. So sometimes I’ll just pop on and do a solo episode, like this one, where I’m talking about something.
But I’ll also be interviewing other dietitians who have built unconventional revenue streams, hear their stories and their insights and their tips, and also other experts who aren’t dietitians, in the online business space.
I think it’s important to get out of our bubbles at times and learn from other people in different niches or different areas of expertise.
Maybe I’ll bring on a lawyer to talk about the legal stuff about online business, or graphic designers, or social media managers, things like that. We can learn from those people and take their tidbits and their advice and apply them to our own individual businesses. So look for that type of content in this podcast.
They’re gonna be weekly episodes, for now. I’m aiming for 45 minutes to an hour each, and they’re designed to be educational, inspirational, and above all, actionable.
So this is not gonna be a fluff podcast. In my solo episodes, I will make sure I’m very detailed and specific about the advice I’m giving.
Have you ever read my income reports on my blog? If so, you know that I love to MENTION IT ALLLL.
(I don’t know if any of you guys are Real Housewives fans…. but you’ll get that reference.)
Um, but yeah, nothing’s off limits. I’m fully transparent. So get ready for all the details about online business and income streams and all that.
And then in my interviews, I’m really going to try to treat those interviews, as if I don’t know anything about the topic. I’m going to come at it with fully fresh eyes and ask questions so that even the most beginner person listening will understand what we’re talking about.
I’ll also get specific. I will ask very detailed questions like, “How did you do this? What tools did you use to do this? What mindset stuff did you overcome to get there?” that type of thing.
So it’s not just going to be like, “Tell me your story.” It’s gonna be actionable and hopefully very helpful and inspirational for you guys. My goal is to have you feel like you learned something genuinely helpful after each episode.
The Show Notes
If you want to read a transcript of an episode or if I mention a link to something and you want to go find that, I will have transcripts and show notes at theunconventionalrd.com.
If you just go to the podcast section, you can navigate to any episode that you are looking for, and right there you’ll be able to see the transcript of the episode and show notes.
They will include a summary of the main points we talked about and any links or coupon codes or whatever that we might have mentioned in the episode. That’s all going to be right there.
All right, so that is sort of the gist of what I’m hoping to accomplish with this podcast.
More About Erica
I don’t know about you, but I like to know the hosts of the podcasts that I listen to, so I thought I’d end this introductory episode with my backstory.
If you don’t care about this, then go ahead and move onto the next episode.
But I am going to dive a little bit more into who I am and my background, so you can be familiar with me and how I got here and what the heck I’m doing with this Unconventional RD brand.
So again, my name’s Erica. I am a registered dietitian. Currently live in Los Angeles, California, but originally from the Bay Area. Fremont.
My life before becoming an RD…
Yes, I’ve been in RD since 2014, which is kind of crazy to think about.
I’m actually a mini career-changer… I did not get my undergraduate degree in dietetics, and that was really my bad.
I probably would have, if I had thought about what I wanted to major in before I chose what college I was going to. But, I applied everywhere undeclared and didn’t even really look at what the major options were at any colleges. I was like, “Oh, they probably all have kind of the same stuff.”
So, I ended up going to UCLA, undeclared. As I was going through my first quarter there, thinking about what I wanted my major to be, only then did I realize they did not have a nutrition major. So, I had to pick something else.
Um my advisor was like, “Oh, the closest thing is probably physci,” like physiological science, but that just didn’t really do it for me. Didn’t sound that intriguing. So I ended up majoring in psychobiology.
Psychobiology is sort of a blend of psychology and biology and neuroscience.
More sciency than just psych, but more pulled back than neuroscience. Neuroscience is very much diving really deep into neuronal function and things like that. Psychobiology was a little more holistic, like what regions of the brain do XYZ things, epigenetics, and stuff like that.
I got heavily into functional neuroimaging at this time. I volunteered in some psychology labs where they did fMRI neuroimaging. And, um, we were investigating really cool things, like the effects of mindfulness meditation on your brain and your immune system.
So really, I was doing psychoneuroimmunology, if you’ve heard of that before. And I really enjoyed it.
I love teaching. I was like the kid in elementary school who would go to school and then come home and play school with my stuffed animals. I was the teacher. My mom even got me an overhead projector for Christmas one year from, like, the teacher supplies store. Yeah, it was that extreme.
So I feel like I’ve always loved education, and teaching is a common thread throughout my life. I think I was drawn to that part of academia.
I loved that it was very independent. You design your own research studies, teach your courses, and kind of do your own thing as long as you’re getting funding and getting published.
So I thought that I wanted to work in academia.
Moonlighting as a lab manager
While I was an undergrad at UCLA, one of the postdocs that I worked under had finished up his postdoc position and had been offered a faculty spot at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.
And he was like, “Hey, when you’re done with your undergrad, I’d love to have you come out to Pennsylvania and work as my lab manager if you’re interested.”
I thought at the time that I wanted to go into academia, and working as a lab manager is really great experience. It really helps you get into the programs that you’re interested in when you’re ready to apply.
So I was like, Okay, I’m gonna go do that. I’m gonna be a lab manager in Pennsylvania for two years and then apply to grad school. That was my grand plan.
So I got there, and, um, to be quite honest, I was not ready for snow and cold weather like that. I think I went through a little bit of seasonal affective disorder. It was a little depressing to be in that weather and to be completely uprooted and separated from all my family and friends.
But it was a really good learning experience. I think, previously, I was under the impression like, “Oh, I can go anywhere, move anywhere, do whatever I want for my career. I’m totally open.”
And then once I actually did that and moved to a new location, I realized how awesome California is. I had taken it for granted completely, especially the weather and how much I really DID want to be around my family and friends.
So moving away helped me realize more of what I value in my life and in my lifestyle. So I had a little soul searching there.
I realized if I wanted to stay in academia, I was probably, realistically, going to have to move at least two more times, probably for grad school, and then again to get a faculty position somewhere. And I was really thinking hard about whether that was what I wanted out of my life and what I wanted to do.
So I totally did a 180. I had no logical reason to do this, but I was like, “You know what? I don’t want to do this anymore. I I want to do something else. I want to be more public facing.”
I love research, but it’s very behind the scenes and very slow-moving. Like, some of the work that I did in that lab didn’t get published until three years after I left.
So I was done with my master’s degree and a paper was still coming out with my name on it from that time period.
So that’s that can be how slow-moving it goes, especially with neuroimaging stuff, cause the interventions are usually, like, months long. And then there’s just a lot that goes on behind the scenes with processing all that data and analyzing it. It usually takes years to get a study done and published.
Back to school! Getting my masters in nutritional science.
So, I left academia. I went back to California and got my master’s degree in nutrition and did my internship through a coordinated program at Cal State LA.
And that’s sort of where, where life took me.
I became a dietitian during the summer of 2014 and then was like, Okay… Now what?
I actually hadn’t done a very good job of thinking about what I wanted to do with the degree before I got it.
It was very time consuming to be in the program and to be doing my internship as well, so I just sort of buried myself in the work and forgot to think about what I was doing or where I was trying to go.
In retrospect, thinking back, I think my classmates who started doing very well straight out of the gate are some of the people who just went for things when they were still students, you know?
Some of them started private practices just as “nutritionists”, since in California we don’t have licensure. Anyone can offer nutrition counseling.
So some of my peers did that while they were still in school. If I had wanted to start a private practice, that would have been logical.
I was blogging on the side…. I had a food blog that I had launched prior to going back to school for nutrition. I was doing that on the side. I really loved food and cooking and food science and stuff like that.
But I didn’t really know what to do with myself, to be quite honest, or where I fit in this career.
I thought about maybe starting a restaurant or something like that, but then I quickly realized I didn’t have any funding or assets to get funding… and going through all those food service management courses, I realized, Wow, this is a very intense career choice and the profit margins are so small. So I sort of dropped that idea.
Then I graduated and I was like, “Okay, now what???”
Brainstorming my options…
I felt like my options were to get a regular job in clinical… which I never, even from the very beginning of going back to get my degree and become an RD, I never really had the thought of being a clinical dietitian in my mind. That was never something I wanted to do or was interested in. Of course, I did it during my internship, but it wasn’t something I was passionate about.
So I decided I’m not gonna apply to those types of jobs because I just I’m not really interested. So instead, I just continued to do my side hustles. I had been doing some tutoring on the side as a grad student to help pay the bills. I picked up some other side gigs. I was assisting one of my former preceptors (getting paid hourly to help with that).
I was a sort of floating by…. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do.
So, I was like, well…. I guess I’m starting a business!
I had always had an entrepreneurial spirit, I would say. I think that was a big part of what drew me to academia. The independence and autonomy there.
I was also the kid who would have lemonade stands out my house. Um, I even had a polished rocks stand when I was, like in elementary school, where I painted rocks with nail polish and sold them off the side of the street.
Yeah. So, I just thought I’d figure it out.
So again, in my mind at the time, which is totally not accurate, I understand now, but at the time, I really thought my only options were to get a job or to start a private practice.
Yes, I was still blogging and in the back of my mind, thought maybe I could turn this into something, but I didn’t have any concrete examples of how to do that or mentors who were doing that, so that felt kind of like a pipe dream.
Launching my private practice
But it was still kind of lingering in the back of my mind. I was like, well, okay, I can dig into that a little more, but I need to make money right now… So as soon as I had passed the RD exam, I was like “Well, okay, I’m just gonna rent some office space and kind of figure it out.” So that’s what I did. I rented an office space in a wellness center here in West Los Angeles.
I think I was paying, like, $500 or $600 a month for the space. There were no windows. It was very small. I put a couple thousand dollars on the credit card for furniture to furnish this place.
I just picked a niche sort of randomly. Since my experience in research was investigating the effects of mindfulness meditation on the brain, I was like, Okay, well, maybe I’ll like to work in the mindful and intuitive eating realm.
So I dove into that. I read like, every single book on the topic. And, you know, I really find that work to be extremely important and valuable in the world. But it just didn’t click with me. It wasn’t right for me and my personality.
I think part of it is that working with people 1:1 isn’t actually in alignment with me or my unique skill set. It actually gave me a lot of anxiety.
And I would wake up feeling very anxious in the middle of the night before I had any client appointments the next day,
It didn’t feel light and fun and helpful. It felt heavy and sort of anxiety provoking. I had a pit in my stomach instead of joy and excitement about the job I was doing.
So that wasn’t the best fit, but I stuck it out for a year. I had I signed a year long lease.
I’m just gonna talk about my career journey in years.
So from August 2014 to the end of 2014, I had that office space.
I was like, Okay, I’m just gonna try to figure this out. I had a handful of clients that I would see in person.
I barely broke, even like I was just earning enough money to pay the rent that I had committed to and I was really mostly making my money through all my other side gigs, like tutoring and assisting for that other RD.
And then in 2015 I was like, okay, well, I guess working 1:1 with people is not the thing.
Enrolling in B-School
So I enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School, which is an online business school, sort of. It’s designed to help people “Create a business and a life that they love.” (I think is her tagline).
It was a huge investment at the time. I think it was like $2,000-something dollars.
But I was like, okay, this is gonna help give me clarity on how I can create an online business that fits into the life that I want to build.
Rebranding my business
So at that time, I decided to rebrand my business.
I wish that I had known more about website stuff at the time, because I had had a food blog as a hobby since 2011. I had four years of content on that website.
Granted, it was sporadic. I wasn’t posting like weekly or anything like that… but four years of content is still a decent amount of content, and 2011 was actually pretty early in the food blog world.
So I had gotten some pretty good backlinks.
Backlinks are when other people link to your stuff from their website. And Google looks at that as an authority measure. So they’re like, Oh, the more links from really high ranking and reputable websites that you can get, the more reputable and authoritative it makes your own website look.
So I had links from, like, Huffington Post and stuff like that, because they had found my website and linked to my recipes in their content, and I totally took that for granted. I wish that I had understood the value of that at the time,
But again, I didn’t have a community to connect with of other bloggers. I didn’t know anyone else who was blogging or trying to blog. I just, I just didn’t know what I was doing. I was kind of winging it.
So, unfortunately I was like, “Oh, I want to rebrand my food blog.” I didn’t connect with the name of the blog that I had at the time.
I used to call it “Eat Healthy, Feel Good”, back in the day, which now, after learning about intuitive eating and Health at Every Size and all that stuff, I didn’t connect with the name anymore.
That wasn’t the message that I wanted to send. So, I rebranded and just made my website ericajulson.com and shut down the old blog.
And this is SO embarrassing to say…. I did not redirect any of my old links to my new website.
I just shut down the old website and started a new one. And that’s probably one of the biggest regrets that I have out of the last decade, honestly, because if I had just redirected (which is not hard to do), if I had just redirected all of that content to my new website, I wouldn’t be starting from scratch.
And I would have some domain authority, which, we’ll talk about what that means more throughout this podcast, but basically all those backlinks that you get give your domain authority and there’s sort of a score that a company called Moz will calculate for your website and by shutting down my old website and starting a new one, I was starting over with a domain authority of zero.
That was a big mistake. So don’t do that. If you ever want to start a new website, definitely work with a professional who can help you make sure that you don’t lose all of your domain authority when you start over.
It’s not that difficult to just basically forward all of your old traffic to your new website. You just have to set it up properly.
So anyway, I rebranded. I started a new website at ericajulson.com, and I figured I’ll just figure out my niche along the way as I go.
Attempting to build a food blog
I committed to blogging two times a week. I was posting recipes because I love cooking. That was part of the reason I went back to school to become an RD, because I just love food.
Then I was like, Okay, I have this food blog…. but the problem was, it wasn’t niched down. I wasn’t helping anyone. I was just posting what I was making for dinner, essentially, which was all over the place.
One week I would post a really easy, 20 minute vegetarian meal and then the next day I’d post like a five hour braised meat meal.
Who am I talking to? Who am I helping? Who am I connecting with? What was the point of all this?
I couldn’t tell you.
I was just sort of feeling it out, figuring myself out and my brand and who I wanted to be or be known as, by taking action.
So it was very all over the place.
And I didn’t know anything about search engine optimization. I sort of had a completely backward perception of how the Internet worked.
I thought that by creating the most obscure and creative recipes, that would be a way to get found on the Internet.
So my stuff was all over the place. I was creating, like braised radishes and Swiss chard or like, spinach and herb turkey meatloaf. Stuff that no one is going out of their way to search for on the Internet.
So because I was creating these really random, I mean they were delicious, but they were pretty random recipes, I wasn’t getting found.
Because to get found, you have to create content that people are actually looking for…. which was one of the biggest missing pieces, I think, in my understanding of online business.
So anyway, I was blogging two times per week on that new website, but not getting a lot of traffic from it because I didn’t understand how to create content strategically to get found.
My first foray into online products
So then I was like, okay, I want to try to create a couple products.
Again, I was thinking backward.
I was thinking, if I create a product that people want, then that will build my business….
I should have been thinking, Who can I help? What content can I create to build my audience? And THEN create a product.
I thought I’ll make a product and that will bring my audience to me. But that’s not the case.
You need to help FIRST and understand your audience inside and out before you create the product.
So again, I made that mistake. I launched two different products to an audience of, like, no one because I didn’t have an audience.
My 1st product was actually with someone that I connected with in the B-School program.
She reached out to me and she was a pilates instructor. She wanted to make an online fitness program and wanted me to join her to create recipes and do some videos on mindset work and stuff like that.
So I spent, like, three months working my butt off, creating all these recipes and photographing them and filming videos of myself doing a little bit of mindset coaching, doing some handouts and worksheets.
I spent a lot of time on it. We built the whole thing before we sold it, which was another mistake.
If you ask me today, I always pre-sell anything I’m doing now.
I always validate my idea in the form of a pre-sale, where you say, “Hey, I’m thinking of creating this. If you’re interested, sign up here at a discounted rate.”
And then before you do the presale, you can say, OK, I’m going to go through with this if I reach XYZ amount of sales or amount of interest in the product.
Then if people don’t buy it, no harm, no foul. You just don’t make it.
If only like two people buy it, and the minimum number of people you wanted to buy was like 10 people, then again, you just email those people and you say, “Hey, thank you so much for your interest and your support. There was not enough interest at this time for me to move forward with making it.” And you just give them a refund and let them know if you’re gonna do it again.
I wish we had known about that and done that back in the day.
But no, we spent three months, like all summer basically, putting together this program and then we launched it with a bang. Like, to the point where she even came over to my apartment and we filmed videos. We took pictures with my DSLR fancy camera.
I mean, we thought we were doing everything that we were supposed to be doing, but missed the important part that you need to have an audience and a niche of people that you are actually helping before you can sell online successfully.
She didn’t have an audience. I didn’t have an audience. So we sold three. Yes, three, of this program. I think we were selling it for like, I don’t know, around $200 or $300 bucks.
So, I made like $200 or $300 total, for three months of work. And I think I only brought one person to the table who bought the program and it was literally my aunt.
So I hope that makes you guys feel better, because I know it’s really easy to look at someone and where they are now….
Just a reminder, this is my fifth year as a dietitian, but in year one, in year two, I was totally flopping left and right.
Like, here I am, making this program, thinking this is going to be THE thing. It’s gonna be my online business, and we sell three, total. And I only sell ONE, to my aunt. Like, yes, that happened.
And it was very disheartening and a little demoralizing, but I learned a lot. I learned through that mistake that I needed to pre-sell my next thing.
Online product attempt #2
Well, actually, I guess I didn’t quite learn that mistake yet, because I actually launched another thing after that that I didn’t pre-sell.
I launched a meal planning program.
I was like, okay, scratch that, I’m not doing any sort of fitness and nutrition programs. That’s not my thing. Me and that other fitness instructor went our own ways and just focused on our own brands after that.
So I was like, okay, I think I need to do something related to recipes, because that was the point of my blog and that was the audience that I was trying to build with my blog.
So people coming to a food blog…. Maybe they’d be interested in a meal planning type of thing.
But, did I ask my audience whether they wanted this? No, I did not. Another common, common mistake.
So as you can see, I’ve made pretty much every mistake in the book. Including not validating or building my audience first.
So anyway, I made this meal planning program. I spent maybe like one day a week on it.
I would actually reach out to food bloggers and say, “Hey, I’m trying to build this meal planning program and I want to feature your recipes.”
And it was based on a commission. If they gave me permission to use their recipes in my meal planning program, I would give them like 50 cents or something per recipe that I used in my meal plan, per subscriber.
So my thought was, that incentivizes the bloggers to share the meal planning program, because they get paid when their recipes are featured and they get paid more based on how many subscribers I have to the meal planning program.
I still think this could have worked if I had maybe planned it out a little bit more. Part of the problem was that I was charging way too much. I think I was charging like $19.99 a month or something for the service, but it really wasn’t that great.
I lacked the tech to make it what it needed to be. I was looking up five different recipes every week. It was like a dinner meal planning thing.
I was creating shopping lists and linking to the recipes and blah, blah, blah. I was trying to strategically put them together so that they used leftovers from the other recipes, etc. etc.
When you do something like this, you send out an email every week to the subscribers where they would get the meal plan and the shopping list.
But I can see whether people are clicking on the links or downloading the shopping list. And people just weren’t… so I think most of the people who had signed up for it were, again my friends and family, and they were trying to be kind and supportive of my entrepreneurial endeavors.
But were they actually using it and getting value out of it? No, they weren’t.
I think to make it more valuable, I needed to probably lower the price to be in line with other competitors in the space. More like 10 bucks a month would have been more realistic.
And I needed to add more capabilities to it. So that people could check the recipes that they wanted and it would auto-generate a shopping list. Or people could say, I already have this ingredient, this ingredient, this ingredient and then it would alter the shopping list for them.
But I didn’t have the technological prowess to be able to offer that for people. So again, after like five months or so doing this, I just shut the whole thing down.
So how was my 2015?
I made about $12,000, total, that year from nutrition-related endeavors.
For the 1st 6 months of that year, I was still seeing clients in my office 1:1. I was doing some side gigs like assisting another RD, some freelance recipe development that I landed through my blog, sporadic public speaking or corporate wellness things where people reached out to me just by finding me through my website or my Google My Business listing or HealthProfs.
But it was really sporadic and all over the place. This was definitely a year of trying things and falling flat on my face, but learning a lot.
In 2015, I honestly felt a little like a failure. I felt like I really put myself out there and invested a lot of money and a lot of time in my business and I really was earnestly trying my best, but it just wasn’t there yet.
Looking back, if I had been working with a mentor or coach it could have saved me from at least half of that heartache. But I didn’t. I was just kind of going it alone and not really getting much out of what I was trying.
So, in 2016, I took some time to soul search.
I took, like, six months off from seeing clients and I didn’t renew my office lease.
I just stopped advertising my 1:1 services and tried to think, okay, how can I do something that capitalizes a little more on my unique strengths?
I think one of my strengths is that I love food and cooking. And I’m also very sciencey and technical. So I like to talk about the nerdy, nitty-gritty biology and biochemistry stuff, and I wasn’t getting that in the niche that I had selected previously.
So I actually became a Certified LEAP therapist in 2016 and started leaning into that niche. And I did like it a lot better.
I started seeing clients virtually through my website two days per week. I started offering packages instead of one-off sessions.
I think I was charging maybe $1,200 for a two-month package with me and that was going very well. But I still didn’t feel 100% in alignment. I still had that anxiety. The trouble separating myself from my client sessions, having that pit in my stomach the day before.
I couldn’t do it for more than two days a week without it really having a detrimental effect on my mental health and well being.
I was still blogging two times a week posting those recipes, even though it wasn’t really going anywhere. And that year, in 2016, from the combination of my blog and some random side work and my nutrition counseling, I made about $25,000 from nutrition-related endeavors.
Changing things up in 2017
In 2017, I was still seeing clients virtually as a Certified LEAP Therapist.
I was still blogging, but I got a really, really exciting opportunity.
I saw a job posting in early 2017 for freelance writing positions with a website called Authority Nutrition.
And they were paying $1,000 a post! Yes, they were very in-depth, like 1000 to 2000 word articles with dozens, if not over 100 references per post.
But I was like, oh, my gosh, I would so much rather get paid $1000 to write an article and sit and dig into the research in my pajamas at home than I would to work with someone weekly or biweekly for two months. So that was a no brainer for me.
I was really excited about the opportunity. I probably applied in, like, January of 2017. It was a really in-depth application process. There were three rounds, had to submit multiple writing samples.
The final writing sample was basically writing a portion of an article. They would give you a topic and you’d have to write an outline and then flesh out part of it so they could see your writing style.
And it took a lot of time and I put so much effort into it. And I found out on my 30th birthday, when I woke up that morning, I had an email in my inbox that I did not get the position.
And I was honestly, kind of like crushed. I was already daydreaming about how that would change my life and I really wanted it and I didn’t get it.
So again, another lesson about perseverance here.
I was like, okay, I didn’t get that position. I’m gonna have to think outside the box here and come up with some other unconventional income streams.
I think maybe looking back, it was a blessing that I didn’t get it, because I don’t know if I ever would have created the membership site that I ended up creating if I had gotten that freelance writing position right when I applied. I probably would have felt comfortable and a little cushy if I had that job.
My first experience with affiliate marketing
So I did not get that position in February… but around that same time, I think like a month or two later, I was offered up an opportunity to speak at the very first RD Entrepreneur Symposium (affiliate link), which is put on by Heather Neal.
I don’t know if you guys have heard about that, but I will link to her website in the show notes.
It’s a really, really awesome virtual symposium where she gets maybe, like 10 to 15 dietitians to speak on entrepreneurial related topics. 30 to 45 minutes, maybe an hour, where they’re really diving into something actionable for her audience. And then she sells this symposium for a couple hundred dollars.
She sells it to her audience and then each speaker has the opportunity to promote the symposium as well and earn a commission on those sales.
I spoke about taking action to find your niche. Since that was kind of what was top of mind for me at the time.
I realized, OK, I’m going to be speaking to this audience…. Where am I sending people afterwards?
I didn’t have a place to send people to talk about entrepreneurial related stuff. So I actually created an entire website, theunconventionalrd.com and The Unconventional RD Facebook community because of that talk.
I created those two resources because I wanted to have someplace to send people at the end of my symposium talk. So that’s how it all started.
The Origin of The Unconventional RD
I think this was like maybe March or April 2017. That was the very first Unconventional RD related stuff.
So I started sharing income reports on the blog and fostering discussion about online business and entrepreneurship in the Facebook group.
And that was my first foray, also, into affiliate marketing, where I promoted something to my audience and earned a commission on the sales. That was really exciting and fun.
It wasn’t really a business at this point. It was just a hobby. But I felt good about it.
I enjoyed the space that I had created and that blog and sharing my income reports.
My first SUCCESSFUL passive income product!
Then in the summer of 2017, again, I still did not have this freelance writing job and my side gigs were sort of winding down, and I was like, okay, I’m gonna try again and create another passive income product, but I need to do it right this time. So I was racking my brain like, what could I create that will be valuable for people that I would enjoy at the same time.
I ended up coming up with the idea of creating a membership site that housed, basically, all of the notes that I had collected for myself as a private practice dietitian about nutrition for various health conditions, supplements, testing stuff, like how to interpret labs.
As a private practice dietitian I had created hundreds of these little cheat sheat/note things for myself and sporadically, if people asked questions in a Facebook group and I already had notes on it, I would send them to people. Like, hey, I already looked into this and made a whole bunch of notes… Here you go if you wanna check it out. And people would be like, “Oh, my gosh, these are amazing. I would pay for these.”
After a couple of times of people saying that…. I was like … Am I sitting on a business idea right now? And I don’t even know it?
I feel like those are the business ideas that work. That’s how they come about. They’re very organic.
So I finally was like, Well, maybe this is a business idea.
I had learned my lesson. Finally, instead of creating the business and then selling it, I pre-sold it this time.
So I sent out an email, posted in my Facebook group. It was like, Hey, I have this idea. I’m going to call it the Functional Nutrition Library. It’s gonna have all of my notes and I will add to it every single week and continue to grow it. If you’re interested in having access to this, you can sign up.
I think I offered a really low discounted rate, maybe $95 for one year of access, as my pre-sale offer. And I think I sold around 20. So I made, like, $2000 in my very first pre-sale. I had never made $2000 in one day or one week, or however long the pre-sale period was.
I was like Oh my gosh, it’s working! Like, finallyyyyy, you know?
Three years after starting this journey, I finally had my first successful pre-sale and product launch.
So, I created that membership site. The $2000 presale was enough to validate and then every single week I would go in and update the content and send people emails about what was new.
I opened up an option to sign up with a monthly payment. $11.99 a month, you could pay to access the content and then that just started growing month after month.
I think at the end of that first year of running it, I think I had made about $12,000 or $15,000.
Like $1000 a month-ish, which was huge for me at the time.
I felt really great about that. And I only spent maybe a day or two a week working on the content and adding to it. And I was still seeing clients as well and blogging.
Getting into freelance writing
Then, after the success of that membership site launched, I want to say around October or November of 2017, I wake up one morning and there’s an email sitting in my inbox from Healthline/Authority Nutrition. (Authority Nutrition nutrition had gotten acquired by Healthline during that six months or so period since I had applied to work for them) and they were like, hey, we’re expanding our team. Would you be interested in writing for us?
I literally screamed when I read the email in the bathroom and ran into the bedroom and woke up my boyfriend like, oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it!!! That I could be a writer.
So, yes, I accepted that opportunity. I started freelance writing for Healthline/Authority Nutrition at the end of the year, and I think total in 2017. Through my nutrition-related endeavors, I actually felt like an entrepreneur for the first time.
I had made about $50,000 that year from just nutrition-related stuff, and I felt really comfortable and confident that I could continue to grow it.
Scaling things back
Then, in 2018, I realized I was doing too much. I was blogging. I was freelance writing. I was running a membership site. I was running The Unconventional RD community (and seeing clients 1:1).
That was way, way too much. And out of all of those things, the food blog was the one that wasn’t really a business. It was just a hobby.
Honestly, I was trying to make it a business, but at that point, I still didn’t understand how really to do that.
So I was spending a lot of time on it and not really getting anything in return. So I made the tough decision to stop blogging.
Around the end of 2017 I also made the decision that I was going to stop seeing clients 1:1.
I was basically being compensated the same amount for writing articles as I was working with clients, and I enjoyed writing articles more…. So I shut down my private practice and I went all-in on freelance writing and the membership site that I had created, The Functional Nutrition Library.
I was also still running The Unconventional RD Community Facebook group and spending a lot of time there. But it wasn’t a business or anything at that point. Just a hobby and a place to connect with people.
I think I was making a little bit of money in affiliate income just recommending, like the RD Entrepreneur Symposium or tech-related tools to people.
And when people clicked on my links and bought, I would earn a commission, but it was maybe, like $12,000 a year total, in affiliate commission.
Starting to delegate
In 2018 I hired an assistant, or I actually an assistant writer. Her name is Amy Richter. She’s amazing. And she was helping me become faster at writing articles.
Once I had the topic, she would help me create an outline and dig up research for me.
And then all I had to do was write the article and read the research, so that was very helpful.
I gave her a portion of what I made for that service. I think I gave her, like, 25% of what I was earning.
Upgrading my membership site
Then I decided, okay, The Functional Nutrition Library is still going well and growing month after month… It’s time to move it to its own website.
I had initially launched it just on the same URL as my food blog because I didn’t want to put money into creating a website for something I wasn’t sure was going to take off.
I also started to teach myself about search engine optimization, because I was like, okay, I want to create content to go with The Functional Nutrition Library.
Like, once I moved it to its own site, I had a website that was basically 100% behind a paywall. People came to the website and it’s an offer to join this membership site, but that’s it. Just like one page. And why would they trust me? Like, why would they want to sign up?
Why? Why would they want to buy from me? It needed to have some free, public-facing content to attract people and to grow the brand.
The launch of my new blog, Functional Nutrition Answers
So I was like, okay, I know how to blog. I’m going to start a blog on the side of this library to attract people to the website to join the membership site.
And I was like, I’m not gonna waste my time on this version of the blog. I need to get serious.
I had been hearing about this thing called search engine optimization in other blogger groups. People were saying that that was the number one thing that they wish they had understood when they started and the number one thing that helped them grow.
So I dove in and I spent about six months teaching myself SEO stuff and I launched that nutrition-related blog, called Functional Nutrition Answers, in September 2018, implementing SEO to the nines from the start.
And it worked. I’ll talk about this throughout the podcast, but in 10 months, I was able to grow the blog to over 20,000 sessions a month with just 10 blog posts, posting only once a month.
So that was an incredible success.
The creation of my 1st Unconventional RD product
I then was ready to start teaching some of this stuff to my peers, because it felt so important and impactful that I wanted to make sure that we all knew about this stuff, and we could all implement these strategies on our websites, and as a profession, as the people who are very highly educated in nutrition, we would be able to be found on the Internet.
So I wanted to make sure we were all blogging and creating content strategically, in a way that brings the audience to us, so that we can become more visible and elevate ourselves as individuals and individual businesses and as a profession as a whole.
In 2018, I thought I was going to create a membership site where I did mini-trainings for people throughout the year.
So that’s how I pitched it when I originally came up with the idea. I made about $5000 in my first pre-sale, and then I did another Black Friday deal in November of 2018 I made another $7000 in pre sales.
So these are people who are paying me just for the idea. Like, it hasn’t even launched yet.
I said, this is going to start in 2019, and I made $12,000 in people signing up, just out of trust with me, because I had been running the Facebook community, at that point, for almost two years.
And people were excited to learn from me in a more structured, paid format.
So altogether in 2018, I made about $70,000 that year in nutrition-related income.
2019 was a year of online course creation
Then in 2019, basically all of my time went into creating The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp courses.
I created those three courses. I made $70,000 total in 2019 from just those courses.
So the equivalent of my entire income from 2018 was generated through just these online courses. They allowed me to retire from freelance writing and just focus on my own businesses.
And then I still have that membership site that I started with. It didn’t really grow in 2019 because I wasn’t really putting my attention there.
I did zero advertising. It didn’t shrink or anything. It still makes about $30,000 a year, but it’s just sort of there on the side.
I’m still running it, but it just sort of stayed the same, I would say, in 2019.
So together with that, those two income streams, plus my affiliate income, I made about $115,000 in 2019. All from passive income – not trading my time for money.
All of my income right now is 100% passive through my membership site, my courses, and affiliate income.
What’s ahead in 2020
I’m very, very excited to continue to grow that in 2020, to delegate, to systematize, to become more visible, to offer more free content, and to start building a legit brand around The Unconventional RD.
I have to make some tough decisions about what I want to do with my other membership site…. I don’t think it’s feasible for me to run two businesses as a solopreneur in the way that I was trying to do in 2019.
So, I haven’t 100% decided or committed with what’s gonna happen with that yet. But stay tuned.
I’ll definitely keep you guys all up to date, but I’m probably going to outsource a lot of that and maybe change my offerings related to that.
Um, but I do love to have that membership site and blog in particular as a place to experiment with SEO stuff and to see what’s working.
It gives me really incredible data on what’s going on in the world of SEO right now.
If you listened to that whole thing and my whole back story, thank you.
Thank you for tuning in and sticking with me to the end. If you’d like to connect with me further, definitely check out The Unconventional RD Community on Facebook. That’s like the number one place to connect. I’m in there every single day.
Also check out the blog at theunconventionalrd.com. That’s where you can find my courses. And in 2020 I am committed to publishing content on the blog on a regular basis.
So look for really helpful stuff related to online business, search engine optimization, blog monetization, and email marketing on the blog.
So thanks, guys. I look forward to connecting with you again in the next episode where we’ll go over three different ways to make money blogging, and then in the episode after that, three more ways to make money blogging.
So I’m super excited and thanks again for being here with me today.
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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.