What we cover:
More About Jen Hernandez
Jen is a registered dietitian, board-certified in renal nutrition. After years working in the traditional hospital, community, and outpatient dialysis settings, Jen was tired of working for others and ready to take on entrepreneurship!
She opened her virtual private practice in 2018 and went full-time at the start of 2020. Now she enjoys using her business fails to help other dietitians avoid mistakes that cost her hundreds of dollars and an unimaginable amount of time in learning how to be self-employed!
Connect with Jen
Episode Show Notes
- Check out my FREE Facebook group – The Unconventional RD Community
- SEO Made Simple Waitlist
- FREE Start a Website Tutorial
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Links from the episode
- Iowa State Distance Internship
- National Kidney Foundation
- Renal RD Facebook Group
- Beat the Algorithm Instagram Course (affiliate link)
- Practice Better EHR (affiliate link)
- RD2RD (affiliate link)
- ConvertKit (affiliate link)
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 stream. We’ll talk all things online business to help you start, grow, and scale your own digital empire.
What to expect from this episode
When you’re trying to start a business, there’s often a lot of pressure to go, go, go, hustle, hustle, hustle, and earn big bucks as fast as possible. With people touting stories of earning thousands of dollars 30 days after starting, or quitting their job in two months, it can sometimes make you question whether entrepreneurship is the right path for you, or even make you feel like you’re “failing” or doing something wrong if you’re not hitting those same milestones.
But in today’s episode, I’m chatting with dietitian Jen Hernandez about the “slow build” to entrepreneurship. Jen shares with us the story of how she gradually grew her side income streams over a year and a half before leaving her full time job. In this conversation, I really want to normalize the slower road to starting a business. While it may not be the flashier or sexier story, it’s a path that so many of us, including myself, have walked.
There is absolutely no shame in starting your business as a side gig while working another full or part-time job. In fact, I think it’s a fabulous option for many people. So let’s dive into Jen’s story so you can see firsthand how a fellow dietitian entrepreneur slowly and steadily built her own online business with a nice variety of income streams.
How Jen got into dietetics.
Erica: So Jen, I’m so excited to talk about this with you! Can you start by giving us a little more information about yourself, maybe like your background and how you got into dietetics?
Jen: Sure. So I started thinking about dietetics in my undergrad when I was jumping from major to major. And I think I switched majors like half a dozen times before. Right before deciding on nutrition, I was working as a physical therapy tech and we had somebody come in with a double knee replacement. And the physical therapist said like, well, if he had made changes to his lifestyle and his diet before this, he may have been able to avoid all of this entirely. And that really kind of got my wheel spinning about like the preventative side of things and how diet and nutrition can make such a big impact really early on, and really actually prevent a lot of things. So that is what first motivated me to go more into nutrition and dietetics.
And then from there, soon after I realized that, I left that job and I became an eating disorder tech and I worked as an ED tech in an incenter treatment facility in Tucson where I lived and I really just kind of became more interested in that side of things.
And it was such a really, really cool job. Actually like my job was to eat dinner with people who had eating disorders and to monitor them and provide some like low key support. I wasn’t a dietitian. I was a student, but I would be like charting basically and making notes about their progress and what they did.
So it was really, really fascinating. And it was just another kind of idea in the world of dietetics and nutrition. Once I graduated, I moved. So part of my personal background is my, well, he was my boyfriend at the time then became my fiance, but we were just dating at the time, but he was military.
So as soon as I graduated, I moved from Arizona to Texas, had to look for another job. I didn’t get into my first dietetic internship situation. So I worked at WIC. So that was another different realm of working in nutrition and really learning from the non RD side. But I worked with a dietitian, so kind of learning more from her perspective.
And about a year after that, I got accepted into Iowa State distance program, which was really great because I didn’t have to move anywhere. I could do it from El Paso where I was living at that time. And it really helped me. It really pushed me out to connect and network and I became really involved with the El Paso Dietetic Association at the time and that’s where I got introduced into even more opportunities.
And I had to, in that program, you have to connect with your own preceptors. You have to like market yourself. And so I really made a lot of connections there through the association and being on the board.
Like half of the board was dialysis dietitians and one of my friends on the board who was the president at the time had told me about a job opportunity. And at that point I was a pretty new dietitian. I was working in longterm care, a little bit of hospital PRN kind of stuff with just like side work. And she said, dialysis, there’s this job. I think you’d be really great at it.
And I was terrified, absolutely terrified about dialysis. For one, I would pass out at blood. So I’m like, could I be around people who are literally like, I’m watching their blood flow through a machine? Like I remember the first day I took a tour with her in the clinic. I was like, don’t pass out, don’t pass out, don’t pass out, because I was so nervous about that happening.
It didn’t luckily, but I really was intrigued in the complexity of the renal world. And I remember in undergrad learning about the renal diet, but I remember it being just like so many pieces to it. And honestly I took it as a personal challenge of like, if I can learn this, I can learn anything. Like the renal diet, in my opinion, totally biased, but in my opinion is one of the hardest diets to learn in the nutrition realm.
So I took that job and I started working as a dialysis dietitian. I worked in an in-center clinic, actually the largest one in the region. We had over a hundred chairs or in center hemodialysis. And then I also had about 90 peritoneal dialysis patients.
So I took care of all the PD people. And then I had a chunk of the incenter and I really just kind of grew from there. And it was a good thing for me to pick because my fiance at the time, I’m trying to keep track of the timeline. We were getting ready to move and he got accepted into San Diego State’s MBA program. So it was really great that I knew dialysis. There’s so many clinics. So it was something that I could really transfer and I wouldn’t have to be so scared about, like, with the military, every single time we move, figuring out a job situation.
I was like, well, at least dialysis is really good. Even going from company to company, I still know the fundamentals. So that’s what happened. We moved to San Diego and eventually a couple months into it, a position opened and I was able to transfer my job. And those companies are really great about supporting that once you prove yourself as a good employee, and I was only in El Paso dialysis for about six months before I had to leave.
So I worked hard and proved my worth. And when I said I was leaving, they’re like, what can we do for you? How can we keep you? So they put me on like basically a 90 day per diem kind of situation. So they kept me on the books, but I wasn’t working. And I found something and it opened up and I got a great job there in San Diego, still in dialysis.
So that’s what I did for a while and moved again to Hawaii, which is where I’m at now, and that’s been amazing. And I’ve worked with the National Kidney Foundation and I also worked with dialysis. So I’ve really kept in that realm, but it’s been really, really good for my career to be able to find that place of work that really fit my personal life and my personal situation.
It’s been really helpful. Hopefully I didn’t go too tangental with that.
Erica: That was great. I think that’s a really good example of how most people don’t start in their ultimate niche or career, you know? You have to try different things and you’ll eventually find your way.
How Jen became self-employed
Erica: So it sounds like you found your way with renal… and then now being self-employed…. how did that transition happen?
Jen: Well, in my experience with dialysis, after working there for a few years, I really knew a lot of the politics. Safe to say there’s a lot of politics and dialysis, there’s a lot of politics in any kind of job, really, but I knew the boundaries. I knew what was required as far as what the appropriate patient load was.
So I was working full time at the National Kidney Foundation when I first moved out here and then a dialysis position near my home opened up. So I applied there and it was a small clinic. When I asked them in the interview about the job situation, they told me that there was, I think at that time about 80-90 patients, which for a full time dialysis rotation, it’s about 125 patients. That’s the expected per month. That’s the expected workload. So I knew from my experience that they were going to tell me as a full-time job, I would be going to other clinics like one of the days out of the week to help in other places.
And I knew I was a good dietitian. I had a good background in renal with the dialysis centers I worked at. I had great referrals and the kidney foundation. So a lot of renal experience. I knew I kind of had the upper hand in this situation. And it’s one of those things, when we go in and interview, I always tell other dietitians this, like it’s a two way street here. You are interviewing them just like they’re interviewing you.
And so when I interviewed them, I was asking them, okay, so what kind of traveling am I expected to do here? What other roles do you anticipate me covering? Those kinds of questions that maybe not a new dietitian would know.
And I’ve seen this happen. And I did it when I first started, I took the job when I knew there’d be more traveling, but this time I was able to say, okay, I know that this is a four day a week position in this clinic. And I made it very clear like, I’m not traveling. I’m happy to support other dietitians in my company and be a part of that, but I’m going to take care of my clinic. I’m not going to ask for any coverage, I’m going to do all of my work, but I’m also not going to be traveling that fifth day of the week.
So right then and there, I set that boundary to make sure I was only working four days a week. And that’s what I really wanted because upon leaving the kidney foundation, that’s when I decided I wanted to start a private practice and working from home because I knew a move was going to be coming up at some point. So I set that boundary right from the beginning, right in the interview, clear as day, so that they understood where I was coming from.
That way, when I started, I knew that I could do two things. I could do my dialysis work and I could continue to work full time. And it was still full time, 32 hours a week, benefits and everything, but I had that day of the week that I could focus on my practice and starting to build that. And that was how I really worked in transitioning, from the beginning, to my virtual practice and to working from home and all of these other avenues that I have now.
Did Jen always know she wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Erica: Okay. So you had your one day, did you always think that you wanted to maybe become an entrepreneur? Or is this something that just brewed inside you over the years and then you were like, this is the time.
Jen: I think it’s always been something that I’ve been interested in. I mean, even when I was a PT tech in undergrad, my thought was, I’m going to be a physical therapist. I’m going to have my own practice. Like it’s still something where I’m going to have my own business.
And my parents are amazing role models. My mom is an engineer and a sales woman and my dad’s an engineer. And from my mom, she really taught me like, you’ve got to push for what you want. She just has been such a strong role model for me in the female business world about like, don’t settle, everything’s negotiable, like just very, very positive.
And I’ve always thought like, I can do more. And every job I’ve gone into, I’ve always thought, how can I make this better? Like what can I improve on? And it’s always been in me to look at improving things and thinking, what can I do, imagining like no red tape. Cause sometimes people like my boss, my coworkers, would give me that free range and they’d be like, go for it and like do what you want to do and, and just let me have at it.
So it was a great thing for me to push and yeah, it’s always been in me to want to be my own boss and do things my own way.
What to NOT focus on when starting a business
Erica: So once you had that one day freed up, how did you know what to even do first?
Jen: Okay. So don’t hate me. Back then you could have just called on me and been like, okay, Jen, what are you doing, so we can tell everybody else what NOT to do!
Because I think everything that you talk about, and like the growth of your practice, I don’t know. I was just so passionate about wanting to get things started. You talk about, you know, focus on the things that can make you money, focus on the things that will bring you people, and I really did the opposite. Like I was spending money. But that was because I had my full time job and my husband has a job. So we’re like really financially secure.
So for me it was like, it wasn’t like a money’s no object thing, but it definitely wasn’t pinching pennies either. So when I had my first chunk of focus, I spent hours, hours on building a website. I mean, like looking at the colors and looking at the fonts. And I hired a photographer that I met when I worked at the kidney foundation to do some photography for me and then I had her take tons of stock photo pictures, because I was like, I don’t know where to get stock photos. So she took pictures of like lentils and beans and things on my counter. And it was just totally, totally backwards from if I was to do it over again.
But you know, at the end of it, it really still all helped me get to where I am now, and learning about my mistakes, and hopefully helping other dietitians realize like, please do not do that. Do not follow my footsteps. Like, listen, when I’m like throwing my arms up and saying stop right now, because it was just hundreds of dollars.
And I didn’t look up a lot of the guidance. Like I was in your Facebook group, I was asking some questions, but I was still like, I can do this this way. It was a mess. It was a mess.
Erica: I mean, I started the same way. I, straight out of the gate, was like, Oh, I’m renting an office! And I spent like, I don’t even remember, over a thousand dollars a month on this room that I never used. I didn’t even know who I was helping or like what I offered people, but I had an office! Like yeah, just all the wrong things. So, okay. You spent this time, you got your website set up, and then was there a moment when you were like, all right, here I am! And then like, no one came?
Jen: Yeah, I definitely had that mentality of like, Oh, my website’s live! And I put up an Instagram post. Like I did a little preview of like “good things coming” and then I said, Hey, I’m live and I’m taking clients. And then it was like, okay…. like literally the world doesn’t care. So that is another one of those things where it’s like, I did it wrong about not building my audience, not honing in on a niche, not doing the things that a lot of people know now.
But at that time I was kind of working a little bit on social media and trying to figure out how to reach people there, but it was still a very unclear message. I liked, from my ED tech days, I like the idea of HAES (health at every size) and intuitive eating. And I was still working in dialysis.
So sometimes I would talk about like kidney stuff and then there’d be days of just like random postings or like physical activity or something just totally random. So looking back, it’s not surprising. I got one person who was interested in kidney health. I got one person who was interested in like general weight loss. Those are the two first clients that I remember. And it was just, yeah.
So because I had extra time still, I still had that full day, it led to me tinkering more and just like, well, maybe I should go work on my website. Maybe I should go change this. And overall I was still kind of honing things, but it still was a little murky as far as like my outline and my day to day activities.
How niching down changed everything
Erica: And what was the turning point for you?
Jen: There was a point where I was, just because I was still so interested in dialysis and interested in kidneys and I was learning more there, and I’m in the Renal RD group, which is an awesome group for people interested in renal nutrition, I just really focused in more on that. And one of my personal goals at that time was to become board certified in renal nutrition.
So I already had the hours, like I had thousands of hours because of all my experience in dialysis, but it was like the studying and really looking into more of the renal side of things. And it just became like, it’s one of those things. Like the more you know, the more you don’t know. Especially when you niche, when you niche and you find something that you like, it’s like it opens up a door to like a whole new world of things. And you’re just like, Oh my gosh, how did I not know that this existed?
So once I really focused in on that, and I was like, this is for me, I started changing my messaging on Instagram and social media. I changed my messaging on my website. I really started saying like, this is who I take care of. This is who I help. And from that point, that is when it really started to work in my favor and I started to gain more clients and more followers on Instagram. And it really hit from there.
And at that point, Instagram was my primary source of clients because I was reaching more people and they’d be like, oh my gosh, I love your content. How can we work together? And from there it was gold. It was awesome.
Erica: And did you take any courses or anything to help you learn Instagram?
Jen: Not initially, not initially. I really just kind of researched and I tracked with other people were doing, which is a great stepping stone, as far as just looking at what’s going on there. Look at what’s on your feed, look at what your niche is looking at. You know, the hashtag searching is so important. It’s so important. And I did end up taking Beat the Algorithm, so I think that’s a pretty good course too. Really, once you know some of the things, you can go in that course and you’ll start picking up more on what she talks about in there, like, Oh, okay, I know what she’s getting at here. So after you work a little bit in Instagram yourself, and that’s the way I kind of see a lot of courses is, you know?
Sometimes it’s going to take one right out the gate when you’re learning something brand new, but sometimes it’s good for you to get your feet wet. And that’s how I was even in school, like kind of reading ahead in the textbooks so that when I went into lecture, I was like automatically kind of picking things up, auditory wise, audio wise.
So I just really helps me connect the dots better. So yeah, eventually I took Beat the Algorithm to learn more about learning more about Instagram and then social media. And I don’t think I’ve taken any other social media courses at this point, but they’re on my radar because I know how supportive and helpful it is. Especially in a cash paying program or a practice like mine. It’s really, really important that you know how to directly reach your clients.
Erica: I like that you took it kind of like one thing at a time too. I try to reiterate that to people as well, because when you’re like, Oh, I need to do Instagram and I need to understand Pinterest and I need SEO, and it’s like all the things, but you cannot learn them all at the same time. You need to pick one first and then move on to the next one.
Jen: Yeah I mean, granted, I did still try. Like I put up random pins and like I had a blog going. But Oh my gosh, my URLs were like nightmares. And I don’t change them, for the SEO stuff and my understanding of wanting to make sure I keep that longevity, but when I share links to my blog now, I usually send it with like an apology of, I’m sorry this is so long. I’m sorry, there’s like a million numbers and like the date and everything. It’s totally embarrassing, but you know, that was something later on. I took your SEO course and I learned how to, moving forward, improve that.
And that’s something that I’m really passionate in, is taking courses on a pretty frequent basis. To be honest, like every month I’m taking a new course on something to continue to learn more of the business and technical sides. Sometimes there are some courses I take for the nutritional education components, but a lot of courses are really about the business and marketing, because we don’t really get a lot of education on that.
Erica: I mean, even five years ago, there weren’t as many online courses by dietitians for dietitians. It’s kind of expanded in recent years. So it’s like you have all these resources at your fingertips and it’s custom for you. And I really do think they can be helpful, but I like what you said as well. It’s not that you can’t try, like when you publish a blog post, even if you don’t really understand Pinterest, you can still post on Pinterest, but just there IS actually a strategy that eventually you want to learn in order to get the best bang for your buck. Just not going down too many rabbit holes at once, I think.
Transitioning from employment to entrepreneurship
Erica: So let’s go back to this timeline. So you had your one day a week and you’re working on growing your practice. Eventually, you start to figure out how to get some clients. Was there a moment when you started to feel like that, on top of your work, was too much?
Jen: It took a while because I was really, I think, patient with myself about acknowledging the boundaries that I had and working really hard to not let the two jobs bleed into each other. In that time, even in the one day a week I had, I was also kind of focusing on really…. before leaving dialysis (cause it’s kinda scary to leave, even though I had like a financially secure situation with my husband’s support, it’s still scary to give up that financial independence, even when you have a significant other that is there, it’s still scary and I think a lot of us type-A dietitians and women, we want to claim that) so before even really considering leaving, I was really focused on optimizing my workflow, my client onboarding, like that whole situation.
I did a lot of research, probably again, too much research, but I did a lot into the different EHRs and I’m pretty vocal on the different Facebook groups for dietitians, and when I chime in with my two cents, because I have gone through I feel like every single EHR and eventually I settled on a couple, like for a few months, and then a few months later I tried something else, and once I locked in on Practice Better, I was like, okay, this is golden. It’s got everything I need. It’s got the growth that I need when I envisioned my future of the practice. I don’t have to change anything. So at that point I started tweaking more about the customization there.
And again, it’s really optimizing. And that’s the point I started looking at more of the passive incomes. So that’s where I started looking into RD2RD. And I was thinking the months that I spent in all of this research for all of these things, and I was like, if I could help one dietitian save time, cause I’m just picturing myself in like another person’s situation, they’re going through the same thing. So that’s where I started getting the idea of, with Practice Better, you can share forms. And so I took all this time to create these good forms to create these processes and I started putting that out there on RD2RD.
And that was really helpful. For one, I love helping other dietitians to save them that time and money, because for a lot of EHRs and a lot of different things, it does cost a lot of money. And even if it’s not a direct cost, if you’re doing like a free trial or something, you’re still sacrificing hours of your time. And when you become more established, you can think back and be like, Oh my gosh, if my rate is a hundred dollars an hour and I spent five hours on that project, that’s $500 I just spent. So to me, it was really worth it to come up with something that they could just really plug and play into their system.
AndI think it’s really, really helpful. And with my forms, I also made sure that it’s not just the form that people get. It’s also like I have basically a tip sheet of like, this is what I do to help automate and optimize the client experience so that they can get a feel for what to set up in their own system and they can change it.
And that’s the great thing I love about sharing the forms and providing that support to other dietitians is like, it’s not a PDF of, this is what you should do. This is what you have to have. It’s, you plug it in and then if you feel like, Oh, I don’t want this question, Or I’m going to change the verbiage here, Or, you know, I’m more with HAES or something like that, I’m going to add a few of my own questions, at least a lot of the fundamentals are already there for you to save that time.
So in that one day that I had, that was another thing I was focusing on more, is really, how can I get more financial support, get the ball rolling, to prove to myself and to my husband of this is a real thing I have?
Like, this is something that I need to continue to work on, expanding on. So when I was at the point of having I think four or five clients a day on my Friday, I was like, I’m not taking on other people. And I’ve set a personal rule that I don’t do Saturdays. I’m Monday through Friday. And my husband appreciates that too, because I’m protective of our time and my own personal life.
So I told him, I am at capacity. This is going to be it if we continue to kind of straddle both of these sides. So we did some number crunching, looked at what we could really take care of, the things that he would be taking over as far as the finances, and just making sure that was all good to go. And in the beginning of January of this year, I put in my notice and I said I was done and it was wonderful. It was wonderful.
How long did it take for Jen to leave her job?
Erica: So overall, what was the timeline like from when you first had that Friday to when you put in your notice?
Jen: I want to say it was a year and a half.
Erica: And I love that! That’s realistic. You know what I mean? It’s not like, Oh, in 30 days I was making six figures.
Jen: If I kept both, then maybe I could be thinking that, but no, not even. And I’m a jump in the deep end with both feet kind of a person, but in this case, it was really being protective about these different aspects of my life. And I was really fortunate that I could, that I was a strong person to negotiate that in the beginning to say, these are my boundaries with dialysis.
And it gives me that opportunity to kind of work on things. We’re calling this “the slow build” and it is really that. And the turtle wins the race, I’m telling you. Like, that’s really what it comes down to you. And once get there, just know that the work you’re putting in it will pay off a hundred, a thousand percent, it’ll pay off.
Erica: I also feel like there’s multiple types of personalities when you’re starting a business. Some people, not me, they do well when the rug is pulled out from under them and they’re like, I quit my job and I’ve got to make it happen right now! That scenario works well for them.
And then there’s another type of person where that would totally freak them out and they’d go into like analysis paralysis and not know what to do. So for those people, they actually prefer a little bit of stable security somewhere else with a job or a part time job or something while they build their business so that it feels just a little more comfortable.
Jen: Yeah. I mean, it’s terrifying to think if you jump from just completely leaving a job and going into nothing. And I think that’s where like a lot of anxiety and stress can come from when we talk about entrepreneurship and building a practice or building a business, is that you’re just freaking out.
And I know you’ve talked about it in other podcasts that like, there can be this like sense of desperation that comes out. And I never had that. And from the beginning, you know, maybe a little bit more, but still it was like, take it or leave it. This is what I have. I have very limited space. Now it’s still like, if you want to work with me, that’s great. If not, you know, let me see if I can help you find somebody else or, you know, here’s some other ideas for resources from you, no skin off my back.
I want to help people who want me to help them and having that security with my job, it just made it that much easier really.
More about selling on RD2RD
Erica: And that’s so powerful. So I kind of want to go back to all the different income streams, just in case someone’s listening today and this is the first episode they’ve ever caught of this podcast. Can you just explain a little bit, like what is RD2RD and maybe even a little more about what Practice Better is, and the forms situation, so that people can understand in more detail exactly what you did and why it was successful?
Jen: Yeah. So RD2RD is a phenomenal website and I think every dietitian who knows about RD2RD would agree. It is something that Megan Boitano created, basically allowing dietitians to sell their content creation to other dietitians. And it’s really nice that it’s kind of protected in the dietitian world. You have your account that you create as a dietitian with her and you can buy, or sell if you prefer, like either way, you can be a part of that platform. And it really helps alleviate stress.
Like that’s one of the first places I go to when I’m looking for a resource and I’m like, Oh my gosh, I need a handout about, like high potassium foods or something like that, you go in there, you search, and it gives you just all of these different options from other credentialed providers that you can trust. And, you know, like they put the work in to have this handout, have this material and you can buy it. And then the vendor will set a price point for the content.
So you really have autonomy in what your store looks like and what you sell. And it’s really like a win, win, win, win, win, because you know, Megan’s part of that factor too. It’s the vendor, the buyer, and Megan. Everybody’s participating and everybody gets something out of it. And it is, it’s just amazing.
And I really, really give her a ton of credit for being so genius about coming up with this, that any dietitian, even if you’re not in your own business, if you’re working for a company and you’re like, our handouts are crap, and I’m so tired of this like Xerox’d a hundred times, black and white, disgusting looking thing, you can go to RD2RD and find a better handout. Or if you have to give a presentation at work about something, there’s presentations, there is so much available. And if you are making something and you know that other people would value it, even if you don’t know to be honest, you could still throw it out there and you can start testing the waters and you can put something out there for free, or you can put something out there for a low cost or whatever it is that you feel would be the value of that item.
But it’s a great way to support other dietitians because we, as the vendor, get a percentage of that profit. And then Megan, as the one who’s doing all the behind the scenes work for us, is getting a percentage of that profit as well. So it is a really great way, especially as you’re kind of starting your business and figuring things out, if you are wanting to make handouts from the ground up, from scratch, using like Canva or something, then you can do that and then just throw them out there and say, Hey, I made this if you’re interested.
And it’s another great way, you know, kind of thinking out loud here, that if you are interested in more passive incomes and you enjoy the creative aspect of things, go to RD2RD.com and do a search and be like, I wonder what’s out there for again, kidney stuff, high phosphorus foods, and you do a search for high phosphorus and you see if there’s a lot of content there or if there’s things missing. Just like keyword search, you know? If you find something that’s there or there’s like nothing there. And you think, you know what? This could be something that would be really helpful for dietitians, make something good quality, put it out there.
And Megan does a great job in marketing those things and she’ll see that. And you can even message her directly and be like, Hey, I saw you didn’t have any handouts for low purine foods. So I made something and I put it on your store, just so you know, that way, when people look this up, they’ll find it. So I think it’s another great way to really get a little bit of income in for yourself to figure out more about your niche. Figure out more about what you like, support other dietitians. Like there’s so many benefits to it. So that’s my like huge spiel for RD2RD.
Erica: Huge super fan as well. I talk about it a lot. And I think it’s just, like you said, a wonderful way, if you’re making something anyway, and it’s just sitting on your computer, you might as well monetize it and share it and help other people. That’s just a smart move.
And I think another benefit that some people get tripped up on, is they think, okay, (maybe they don’t know about RD2RD) and they’re like, Oh, I have these handouts or whatever, it’d be cool if l could sell them, but I don’t know how to set that up on my website, that sounds confusing.
So you don’t have to do any of that! You just like upload it and it’s already in the marketplace. You don’t have to worry about taking payment and all that. So it’s very convenient.
Jen: Yeah, it really is. So with my vendor store on RD2RD at this point, it’s really focused on the business side of things. I don’t do a lot of the renal handouts because I’m a part of this Renal RD community and I have a lot of access to a lot of great handouts. So I don’t really worry about reinventing the wheel in that sense, but in my slow build, I was just really learning how to get everything started from the ground up. And that’s when I spent so much time tinkering with different forms.
And when I landed on Practice Better, I really, really enjoyed the flow and the system and everything about it, the way it worked. So I started creating all my forms and I was like, thinking, Oh my gosh, this is taking so much time. And one of the things that you can do with Practice Better is share your forms from colleague to colleague.
So I decided that I would basically create like a PDF of the directions on how to embed each of my forms into Practice Better, which I like a lot better than the PDFs because, and people have asked me like, Oh, can you, can you have this as a PDF? So I can use this? And I’m like, well, I don’t think it’s going to be as much of a benefit. So I kind of am standing my ground on that, but I’m not going to do PDF forms because there’s a ton of other intake forms and PDF versions that you can download. And then you have like a PDF that’s, you know, that’s fine.
The benefit of mine is that once you download it, it’s automatically embedded into your Practice Better system, and you can completely customize it. You can drag and drop different questions. You can add things, take things out, like it’s still completely editable. And then when you want to print it, then you can print it. It’s basically white labeled. So you can print it with your name, your brand, your logo. You don’t have to worry about my stuff coming up, which is one of the things that, you know, a lot of the PDFs on RD2RD already will have that. They’re going to have, if it’s a PDF, it’s going to be branded by the person who made it, which is fine. But I like the white label situation and they don’t have to worry about a lot of that stuff.
So in a lot of the templates I will have areas bolded or like brackets of [group name], or [practice name], so that it shows you exactly where you need to go through and you need to modify those things to make it your own. And I mean, even like the client practitioner form, going through that, thinking of like every single thing from my experiences from before, starting with clients thinking, I’ve got to make sure I outline this and this and this and this. And I use those things in my template and just put in like, you know, initial assessment, X dollars, X minutes, and the X number of followup sessions.
I listed some of the other benefits that I provide, but you can still go through and delete those. So it’s just a hundred percent customizable. And I’ve had a lot of great feedback from dietitians who have used my forms and they like that about it. They like that they can just put it in and then just plug in their own information. I mean, you know, control F bracket, group program, or control F bracket, group name, and you just go through and it finds all of it for you and you just replace it. Like the amount of time that you save is insurmountable.
Erica: Do you have like a bundle that you sell together? Or do you sell them individually?
Jen: I do both. So I have the individual forms, and some people do like to get one of those. I have a free one that is the discovery call template. So if you are taking applications for people to work with you, it’s basically the form that you can embed and require them to fill out prior to the call. So that one’s free. That way people get a feel for how it works and really what it looks like, and knowing that it’s not a PDF.
Erica: That’s such a good strategy!
Jen: Yes. So you’ve got to have something free. So that way, cause I know if I didn’t do that, if people bought it and they’re like, Oh, I didn’t realize it was like this. I didn’t know it was like this. I don’t get those refund requests because people know exactly what they’re getting.
So I have the free discovery call template that people can try just to kind of get an idea of how it fits into Practice Better. And then I have a bunch of different forms, individualized, or you can buy them for a discount in the bundle. And looking back on it, I probably should have charged more because of the amount of time that it saves, but I’m not going to go through and like, bump it up or anything. I’m just happy to help dietitian save hours of time. So I feel good with what it does and where it’s at.
And a lot of people, I think I don’t get to track the exact locations of what people purchase, but from what I think I can tell, based on the purchase trending, is that people will buy one of them and then say, Oh wow, this is pretty cool. And then they buy the bundle. So they’ll kind of test the waters a little bit more and see what it looks like and then realize, you know, how it looks and then they get this full comprehensive package. They get the client agreement form, they get the intake form, the followup forms, the smart goal form. I can’t even off the top of my head. I don’t even know. There’s a lot of them and it it’s really cool. It’s really great.
And from time to time, I think about, you know, if there’s another form I want to add to it, then I’ll go in and maybe I’ll update that or something at some point or do it as a separate, another separate type of bundle, but it’s been great. And I love getting people who email me or put a comment or rate it and they say how much time it saved them and how helpful it is.
And to me, that just is exciting. Knowing how much time I saved them.
How much money can you make selling on RD2RD?
Erica: That sounds like a great side income stream. Do you feel comfortable sharing roughly how much money it earns you per month?
Jen: Yeah, when it first started, when I first put it out there it was 2019 and I was projecting what would happen for 2020, I want to say like 50 bucks a month or so, which is pretty good. I mean, if you think about like, I did it one time and that’s it, I don’t have to do anything else.
Now it is trending about anywhere from $300 to $500 a month.
Erica: That’s amazing! That’s like thousands of dollars a year.
Jen: Yeah. Yeah. It’s great. And it’s just been so helpful to have that additional income. Because something else that I always think about when I’m creating something or when I’m putting something out there is I want to have an income source that basically nullifies that expense.
So if I’m going to be a Practice better affiliate, my goal for my Practice Better affiliate is to cover the cost of Practice Better. So, you know, I work on promoting Practice Better, but I only promote things that I’m like a hundred percent behind. Like again, I’ve used a dozen EHRs. I don’t have affiliate links for all of them because I don’t like them.
They’re not for me. So I have the affiliate link for Practice Better because that’s my jam. So I always look at, you know, how can I bring money in to cover the cost of parts of my business. And that really also kind of helps me take a breath and not be so stressed with the finances once I do see, okay, so this is covering this. This is covering this. I’m good to go.
What Jen’s week looks like while running a virtual private practice
Erica: So how many days a week now, do you see clients?
Jen: I see clients three to four days a week. So for me right now, Mondays are a no-client day. I like starting my week with just like admin stuff and really kind of getting a feel for my week.
And then I hit the ground running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays are full. I mean, even right now, I keep telling my husband I’m at capacity and then I take another client. I’m learning what capacity means for myself, but I really am quite full for clients. And I have a waitlist of like 50 people. So yeah, it’s been phenomenal growth.
It’s been really, really wonderful. And now I’m looking at more ways to help more people without that one to one time. So I have a course already. I’m looking at a second and third course, I’m looking at other ways to be able to help more people without requiring my time. And that’s another thing, looking into more of the passive income on the blog and SEO.
And that’s something that for awhile, I was kind of a little more heavily involved in, cause I didn’t have so many clients and now I have more clients and, and I think it kind of lost me for a little bit, but now I’m like, Oh no, no, no. I got to get back on that. And I’ve got to track that again, and I’ve got to be working more on my blog.
And I mean, all this stuff that I doing to show up for my audience, to show up for my clients and my niche, I need to figure out how to really reign that in to be the most lucrative and supportive tools for myself, not something that’s just like, I’ve got to go online or I’ve got to go do this. It’s how is it working for me? Because it’s working for my clients. It’s working for my audience. They’re telling me that, but how is it working for me? Right?
Erica: Exactly. I just started a coaching program and I’m not at that step yet. Right now I’m redoing my sales page, finally, it’s already looking so much better, and then building a better webinar. But then the back end of that is like, okay, once you have your funnel pieces in place, just like you said, it’s like, how do you get people into the funnel? And making sure that the audience generating things that you’re doing are intentionally leading back to paid offerings and things like that, or some form of monetization, otherwise you can just be like spinning your wheels.
Unless all you’re going for is ad revenue, and then it’s like, obviously you want to focus on churning out as much content as you can. I just get so excited because there’s so many ways that you could start an online business or be an entrepreneur and they’re all valid.
Okay, so just wrapping my head around this. So you have your RD2RD store, you have your private practice. Do you have any other income streams? Oh, your course! Maybe we can talk about your course?
How Jen launched her renal nutrition online course
Jen: Yeah. So I run a course for kidney nutrition. It’s basic, covers like a lot of the macro things when it comes to renal nutrition, and I’ve done that three times. I launched it first in 2019 and then I did it 2020, and then again, 2020, I’m actually in it right now. I’m doing our cooking demo for week five today. So that’s a whole nother thing, is the live component there, but that’s been huge and it started off again, just like everything else. It started off really, really slow and I had like three people sign up for that.
And it was an entirely live program. It was a very different model than what I have now, but I had good engagement there, great feedback. And then the next time I launched it, it was like semi-live and I was recording things as it was kind of coming out, and I had seven people enroll.
And then this last time, I, one of the benefits for the courses is that I tell people that they get the lifetime enrollment, similar to your courses, because it’s a great benefit. And it’s like, if you have the capacity to just like bring them on, then that’s just good for them. So with those people, all kind of rolled into the new one, I had 20 people jump into this.
And that was a mistake on my part, looking back on it. I closed the enrollment and I should’ve just left it open until the actual cart close, but I got scared and I was like, nope, it’s full, it’s full. I don’t want any more people. Totally a big mistake on my part, but that’s a good lesson learned. And it makes me excited for the next time I launch it to think how big it’s going to grow there, because it’s just getting so much better.
And a lot of it’s recorded and on-demand content, which is really helpful because for international clients or not clients international participants, you know, I have people tuning in for the live stuff and it’s like 10 o’clock their time or 3:00 AM their time. Like the live component just doesn’t make sense.
Erica: That’s a really good point.
Jen: Yeah. And I also like having a lot of the content done and just, if people ask questions, I refer them back to the content and it’s like, you know, I don’t think you watched this video enough. So go back and watch that.
And it’s a really great resource to have, and then to multipurpose some of that content for my private clients. And then I can pull some of those clips of those videos and share that with them in a different structure in Practice Better as a protocol, I’ll take some of that content and share that with them.
So it’s all about like really utilizing what you’ve already done and recycling it. I mean, you do that for some of your SEO content I noticed. And you pull that for your podcast. And it’s smart and it’s resourceful and it’s beneficial. You can give a message out a hundred times and it’s still won’t be enough for some people.
So really taking advantage of that is, is great. So, so yeah, with my course, that’s been really a great projection for me, as far as where my business is going and how I can help more people without requiring dozens of hours of my time and helping people that I couldn’t otherwise help. I’m not taking a private client from Malaysia, but if they want to do my program and learn some of the basics, then that’s great. And that’s still a million times more helpful than if they went to Dr. Google.
Erica: And it’s probably a lower price point, so for people who really couldn’t afford long-term work with you one on one, at least you have that for them. That’s great.
And I think there’s a common thread here. Just going back from how your private practice slowly grew, and then your selling on RD2RD was a slow build, and then here with your course, I think it’s following the same trajectory. But that’s where the magic is. Like the worst thing you could do is launch it once and be like, ah, three people, this sucks, I guess I’m a failure, and like, never do it again.
Jen: I definitely had that moment, but I had support and I had a business coach at the time and she was like, she was like, no, this is a win. This is a success, like roll with it. You know, this is better than nothing. And it was better than nothing.
Erica: And a lot of it, I don’t know if this was your experience, but a lot of it does have to do with your audience size that you’re selling to. So three people, if your email list is only like a couple hundred people or a thousand people, like, that’s great. You know what I mean? So sometimes I think people overestimate the percentage of their audience that is ready to buy something online. It’s, it’s very small.
Jen: Yeah. And there’s people that have reached out to me and they’ve been like, Oh, I’ve been following you for two years. And I just want to chat with you about your course or something like that. It’s like, wow, like you’ve been hanging out for two years with me? That’s crazy. So there are people that really just want to sit back and kind of see how things go.
And that is one of the other things that kind of really aligns with that gradual process of building your business. It’s that know like trust. And for some people, it takes a little longer, especially online, you know? We just have to show that we’re human beings and we’re real people and we’re there to help. And eventually if they’re interested, not everybody is, and that’s totally okay. But if they are, they might at some day reach out and say, Hey, I want to work with you.
Erica: The fact that you kept showing up and offering it, that builds confidence with your audience too, that it was not like a one-off thing. Like this is real and serious and she’s done it multiple times. And I don’t know about you, but for me, every time I re-run something, I get more confident and I feel like it’s even better and I’m more excited to promote it. And that probably helps sales too.
Jen: Yeah, that’s something I ask for the participants in the course, I’m always asking them for feedback. Part of my group program, I have like a midpoint survey and then an exiting survey. And I’m asking them at those times, like, how is everything going for you on a scale of one to five? Like the audio, how’s the audio of the course? You feel okay? And they’ll provide me feedback there. And how do you feel about the content? Do you feel like we’re being supportive enough for you? Like these kinds of questions, just to make sure that it’s reinforcing to us that the price point is right and that the program is right.
And when we get more of that feedback that gives an opportunity for, hey, do you feel comfortable with a testimonial? Or when people email me their success and I’m like, you should share that in our Facebook group, that would be so amazing for everybody to see.
And then I screenshot it and I share it on Instagram to be like, hey, if you want to be a part of this program, like just take a look at what people are and the results they’re seeing. And it’s definitely worth it to think of it in the long run and think about the long game for those kinds of things. So at some points, it’s fine to do like a one and done thing, but for other things, it’s really about the growth and development about what you’re creating and, and really where you see your practice going in the future.
Where Jen sees here business heading in the future?
Erica: So do you have any other income streams on the horizon?
Jen: Oh yeah. I mean, they’re all little like small buckets really, but I do diabetes prevention classes, so it’s a kind of a contracted thing. So that’s like another little side gig. I have affiliate links for different things like ConvertKit. And one of the pages on my website, the one for RDs, those are a lot of the affiliate links. And they’re like, like I said before, I only do affiliate links for things that I actually use. So I switched, and I mentioned this in your Facebook group, I switched from MailChimp to ConvertKit. And when I did that, I deleted my MailChimp affiliate link because I was like, I don’t believe in that anymore.
Personally for me, ConvertKit is better. So I changed that in my For RDs page to show that now this is my thing. This is what I really, really believe in. And this is how it’s helping me. So on that page is a lot of my different types of affiliate links of the different systems that I use. And so with those, it’s anywhere from like zero to, like I said, for RD2RD, like upwards of $500.
So, but that’s the thing about the entrepreneur world and building a business. While the main part of my business is the private practice, as far as one-on-one clients and the course, that’s not all that it could or should be. To be honest, I don’t want it to be dependent on if I have to see another client or if I have to do another course launch. It’s a factor. And that’s one of my other future goals, is to get my website to hit that Mediavine goal and to be able to have that income coming in, to cover the costs of the actual SEO work and just running the website. So it’s all about figuring out what I can do to promote what I’m doing, but then also help cover the cost of my business.
Erica: I don’t think I’ve talked about this recently, but the Mediavine requirements recently went up, unfortunately, from 25,000 sessions a month to 50,000 sessions a month. But that also means that when you get in, you’ll be making twice as much money. You can actually project that once you hit that 50,000 session a month mark, and you’re in Mediavine and your ads get optimized, like you should be hopefully making like at least an extra thousand dollars a month from ad revenue, which is not small potatoes.
Jen: No that’s great!
Erica: They did mention when they announced it, that I think in 2021, they were going to work on, they were kind of vague, but they were like, we’re gonna work on putting out something for people with lower pageviews. So I don’t know what that’s going to end up being, but we’ll see.
Jen: Yeah. I’m curious.
Jen’s best tips for gradually becoming self-employed
Erica: I think this was probably really inspiring for people! As we wrap up, do you maybe just have your top few pieces of advice that you would give people who see themselves following a similar path as you, with maybe the more slow transition out of employment and into entrepreneurship?
Jen: Absolutely. First of all, I would say work with your company with your full time job and negotiating what kind of boundaries you can set, whether it’s pulling back a day or shifting from a regular eight to five, to something like a seven to five, and then having that day off, like, there’s a lot of flexibility in the dietetic positions in different companies. And sometimes companies will be like, Oh no, that’s not okay.
But if you can look at that and say, actually like, this is very flexible, this is very much a possibility, and if you work with other dietitians, even negotiating, as far as coverage goes, cause I know the hospitals, you know, that’s kind of an issue is making sure there’s dietitians there. So if you work as a team and say, Hey, if we all want to cut down on our days, like how can we do this? And how can we bring this to management as a potential idea for all of us to get an extra day off?
So I think that’s my first recommendation. If you want to work on something, a practice, a business, whatever the case is, is to really work with what you have in your business and leverage your professionalism, leverage your position of I’m a good dietitian. I’m improving my work and my day to day skills and my day to day tasks. So this is what I’m asking for.
And that’s my first thing, to make sure that you have some of that ability, if you don’t, then it really does come down to like, okay, weekends, weeknights, like what’s some time that you can work around that, which sometimes isn’t ideal, especially for like moms and working several jobs, whatever the case is, but that kind of goes back to setting boundaries of your different roles in your life.
So after that, if I could go back personally and start from scratch, now that ConvertKit has a free option, I would do the free ConvertKit. I would have a landing page and not a website. I would make sure that I have some kind of juicy opt-in, something that would be for the niche that I’m interested in, and it can always change, which is awesome, but creating something, some kind of free problem solver for your niche and then get on social media, even if you decide later on to take insurance and then you go through the doctors and the office route, still learning more from your ideal client via social media is so, so important.
And so from the get go, and it took me some time to focus on that, but if you know what you want to do, then focus on that, reaching people, building your email list, getting that audience growth. And from there, start to look at, okay, so do I have the capacity to go to the paid ConverKit? So if I’m doing that, what kind of income stream can I create to cover that cost?
Again, for me, it’s always about the covering it, whether it is coming from your full-time job income, or something else, but still looking at that long term, you know, how is this cost going to be covered? Especially once I get out of my full-time job. So that’s what I would do to start with and really just kind of roll with that for awhile.
It takes time to grow those relationships with people and to get those followers. And after that, once people start asking about working with you, totally biased again, but Practice Better has a free EHR and you can use that for three clients. And if you do the telehealth version, I always recommend pairing it with doxy.me for the free tele-health part.
So it’s free. And I think that is the easiest way to get into it without feeling this like financial burden of starting a practice. So that’s what I would do from the start. And then once I started getting paying clients and I would start getting, you know, ideas for things kind of up and running, then I would start advancing to the next level of Practice Better where it includes telehealth and includes more features and really just kind of take it from there. Once you feel comfortable with having enough money coming in, that it’s easy to put it back into your business.
Erica: I can’t really speak from experience cause I never did the private practice thing, I tried private practice and then I was like, Oh Nope, not for me. Then I did everything I could to avoid that stream of income. And I built around it, like I’m going to do freelance writing and then work on stuff on the side.
Jen: But you have an amazing business. I mean, for you to be supporting dietitians and you are like, again, this is me fan girling, right? But you are filling that gap of the marketing and the business side of things that, like we said, not a lot of us get in our education and you are there to just be that person for us and no pressure or anything. But, but for real, like it’s just the things that you come up with are so genius. And I am just so grateful for all the dietitians that are in more of the RD business support area because they know that we need help.
And that there’s a lot of dietitians that want to do private practice and want to build that. But then we’re like, well, wait a minute. How do I get my name out there? How do I reach people? What do I do for my website? And that’s where you come in and it’s just, it’s so so awesome that we have other dietitians in this realm that know more about what we want to do and that we can support.
And it’s really a mutually beneficial thing. My husband doesn’t get the support that dietitians have, even from practice to practice and like referrals. And he’s like, but don’t you want them? I was like, there are 37 million people with kidney disease. I’m thinking I might help 5,000 of them in my entire career. Like this is a drop in the bucket for what needs to be out there.
I am more than happy to refer out, to get more help, to get more people into private practice because it is so needed.
Erica: That’s exactly how I feel about SEO. Some people are like, Oh, why would you teach other people SEO when you could just take all the top spots like in Google? But it’s like, I’m not writing about everything!
And there’s not even one iota close enough amount of dietitians showing up on the first page of Google, like very few. So there’s so much opportunity that we’re not capitalizing on. And I feel the same way. It’s like, as a profession, we need to get out there more. And this is one way, if you like writing, basically you need to understand SEO to make sure you’re not wasting your time, in my opinion.
Jen: Oh yeah, totally.
Erica: It’s just great. I love seeing where everything’s going. Well thank you again for being here. I think your story is super inspirational and real. So thank you for sharing all the details and all the twists and turns in your path.
How to Connect with Jen
Erica: Where can people go if they want to connect with you further?
Jen: Well, a lot of times I’m still on Instagram. It’s @plant.powered.kidneys – I’m on my website right now, it’s JenHernandezRD.com. But I’m looking at changing that domain. So I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but that’s what it is right now, JenHernandezRD.com. There is a link specially for dietitians who are interested in really kind of starting up their business and the different sources that I use and things I use for my own business. So I have those as resources, books, and podcasts, and Facebook groups, and different types of systems to use.
So I think that’s a great place to start when you’re looking for ideas.
Erica: Wonderful. Well, thank you. And I will put the links to all of that in the show notes, in case anybody finds it easier to just click on the link, they can head to theunconventionalrd.com/episode039 and I’ll have links to Jen’s website. So no matter what, if it changes in the future, I’m sure it’ll get redirected to the right location or social media handles and all that and her resources page.
So thank you again for being here. Really appreciate it.
Jen: Thank you so much, Erica. This is totally awesome. I’m really, really excited to be on here. So thanks for having me.
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Erica: Hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you have a quick five minutes to spare, I would so love and appreciate if you could hop on over to iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to these episodes and leave a rating and a review. Getting those ratings and reviews helps boost the of this podcast and allows more people to find and enjoy it. So it really means a lot to get them.
Thank you to the 44 people who have left a rating and to the nine people who have left a review, especially those reviews. They are so clutched to get. I appreciate your support so much and it totally keeps me going week to week. So have a great rest of your week and I will see ya in the next episode.
Subscribe & Review on iTunes or Spotify
If you’re not yet subscribed to The Unconventional RD podcast, I highly recommend doing so today! Click here to subscribe on iTunes. That way, you’ll be able to easily find all the new episodes, right when they come out. You can also follow on Spotify, if you prefer to listen there!
PS – If you’re really loving what I’m putting down, it would be amaaaaazing if you could leave a review on iTunes, too. Reviews help other dietitians find my podcast, which I think helps us all!
Simply open the podcast on iTunes, then go to “Ratings and Reviews”, and click “Write a Review”. This is your chance to let other people know why they should check out the episodes or share stories of how it’s helped you!
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.