Going Freelance?


From the number of enquiries forwarded to the Freelance Dietitians Group, it appears that many dietitians are considering working freelance. Some contemplate this route while holding an NHS post or other employment. The combination of an NHS job plus freelance can be a realistic and comfortable option for many but any freelance work should be kept completely separate from your work as an employee at all times. 

No easy option

It is worth stating that freelance is not an ‘easy option’. In order to be successful it requires a lot of hard work and commitment. Seeing the occasional private patient ’after hours’ may seem to be easy money but note the following:

  • If you are using the NHS computer, email facility, clinic space, diet sheet or any other resource, this is fraudulent and you are putting your job at risk.
  • Are you declaring the fee to the tax office – paying tax on it and national insurance?
  • Have you had to ‘advertise’ for clients?
  • Pay for a receptionist to book the appointment?
  • Are you insured should the client trip on the carpet on the way in?
  • What will you do if the client does not pay the fee, or even turn up?

Still keen?

Perhaps the current job is becoming stressful or dissatisfying, not the career path or opportunity that you had hoped? It may be worthwhile to stand back for a minute and look at the benefits of being employed before launching into self-employed status.

As an employee you receive:

  • Holiday pay and entitlement; maternity/paternity leave; sick pay.
  • Paid-for CPD and meetings, plus travel costs.
  • A regular salary paid into your bank and your tax, national insurance and pension taken care of.
  • Annual salary review and a likely pay increase.
  • An office, fully equipped with furniture, computer and telephone.
  • A team of colleagues for support, help and advice. 
  • Regular time off, such as at weekends.
  • Insurance – professional indemnity.
  • Resources – scales, diet sheets, nutritional software programmes, etc.
  • Secretary and administrative help.
  • Loans for cars, seasons travel ticket.
  • Discounted meals, teas and coffee.

And there may be more …

Remember that when you are freelance ALL of the above must be arranged and paid for by yourself.

On the back of an envelope, or similar, write down your current salary. Now add 30% and that is the likely value of your present remuneration package including the above benefits.

  • Will you be able to earn this amount as a freelance and thus maintain your present standard of living?
  • As a freelancer, how many months do you plan to work, how many days (or part days) a week?
  • Have you allowed for holidays (unpaid)?
  • What happens if you have an accident or fall ill and cannot work?
  • Which type of work are you aiming to undertake: industry, journalism, public health, private patients; and where will you find it?
  • If you plan to see private patients, for example, how many will you need to see to earn the same money? What is a realistic rate?
  • Do the numbers look realistic or appealing? How will you attract these clients? Will they all turn up for the appointment? Will they actually pay you?
  • What will your outgoings be? Note expenses such as travel, insurance, advertising, resources, office rental, and so on.

Join other freelancers...

If you are still eager to go it alone then WELCOME.

Join the Freelance Dietitians Group for help and support.

Read our Fact Sheets for the valuable information to be gleaned from them. They are written by freelancers for freelancers.

Attend our 'Starting Out as A Freelance Dietitian' course.

Write your Business Plan and step out into the unknown, confident in the new path that you have chosen.