Going all digital
Maeve Hanan is a freelance dietitian, nutrition consultant and health writer.
I started off with online dietetic work by taking on a few side projects while I was working full time in the NHS. I then made the switch to working full time as a ‘digital dietitian’ when I went travelling for one year around Asia and North America. Working as a digital dietitian was a great experience for me.
I loved the freedom and fl exibility of online working, and the fact that it allowed me to travel around Asia and America without needing to take a career break. I also enjoyed setting up my own business and working as a freelance dietitian, although, I won’t lie – this was also stressful at times!
It is important to be aware that income can be less reliable when working as a freelance digitial dietitian. As no career change should be taken lightly, it is important to weigh up all of the pros and cons to see whether this would work for you.
It can also be helpful to seek support from a career advisor, lawyer or accountant (depending on your needs and situation). There are usually free business support services available from the local council as well.
Types of online work
One of the most important yet challenging aspects of working online can be fi nding work and setting up links with clients, especially if you are travelling like I was! However, I found that having a social media presence was really helpful with this, as well as being a fantastic way of networking with dietitians from all over the world.
Another good idea is to pitch your services to magazines, brands or companies that you would like to work with.
Trying to secure a variety of income streams is usually a good idea when starting out with freelance work, and, luckily, there are several different types of online dietetic work, such as:
- nutritional consultations using General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant web-chat and video-call services
- meal planning and recipe analysis
- writing nutrition articles
- nutritional consultancy work for brands and companies
- webinars, online groups and online courses
Like anything new, it can take a bit of trial and error to fi nd out exactly which types of work suit you best. It’s worth trying a few different things, unless you have a very specifi c niche in mind. It is also important to plan your rates, so that you don’t undersell yourself or your services.
Although the fl exibility of working online is fantastic (and gives you the opportunity to do other things like travel!) this can also lead to some issues with work-life balance, as it is very easy for the work day to merge with time-off.
It is therefore important to try to stick to a work routine, and to set boundaries between work and leisure time. Finding co-working spaces to work from can help to separate work life from home/travel life as well.
On a practical note, working on a computer for long periods of time can be tiring and can lead to back pain. To look after my posture, I got a laptop stand and used a good chair where possible. I also felt so much better when I included more movement in the day – at the very least trying to get up and walk around once per hour.
Want to go digital?
I feel really lucky to have had the experience of working online while travelling, and I hope that this will become a more common career option for dietitians. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, I’d defi nitely recommend looking into it! But make sure your do your research beforehand.
How to work as a digital dietitian
This podcast from Laura Thomas (RNutr) and Katherine Kimber (RD) is really useful for anybody who is considering working as a freelance dietitian.
The following Facebook groups are good networks when setting up a dietetic business or working online: