Charlotte's career advice on becoming a freelance nutritionist
For the last few years now, it has been an honour to be asked to speak about my freelance nutrition journey to the nutrition students of St Mary’s University as part of their annual nutrition careers panel. However, this year I have my hands full juggling running the business and looking after my little 8-month-old and sadly have been unable to join live for this year's career panel. That's why I wanted to share my journey and hopefully inspire fellow students into making the jump into freelance nutrition.
Where did my freelance nutrition career begin?
My nutrition career began after commencing my undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics at King's College London which was way back in 2007!! (which I can hardly believe). The team at KCL delivered fantastic lectures grounded in evidence-based practice which certainly created a solid foundation to start my nutrition journey and eventual career.
Top tip try and choose the best degree and qualification for you.
The best piece of advice I would say is to spend the time researching your degree course. The worst thing will be doing a degree and then finding out it's not the correct qualification which would then require retraining or worse commencing another degree!
Did you know? Unfortunately, the title ‘nutritionist’ isn't a protected or regulated title so many practitioners choose to call themselves a 'nutritional therapist or nutritionist' without an evidence-based nutrition degree that has the scientific rigour, alongside the critical appraisal skills required to analyse the findings from nutritional research and put into your nutritional practice.
What nutrition degree should I choose? The Association for Nutrition also known as the AfN for short is the leading and trusted nutrition body that accredits nutrition degrees. This means that once you graduate you can apply to be a nutritionist accredited with the AFN. Any nutritionist that has been accredited with the AFN will have the letters ANutr or RNutr at the end of their name. You can also search the AFN register for accredited nutritionists near you.
My nutrition career
My nutrition journey started when I commenced my Nutrition and Dietetic undergraduate degree at Kings College London way back in 2007 - which is a scary 15 years ago! This kickstarted my first few years of work experience within the nutrition and food industry. Shortly after I transitioned to working for Nestle Health Science in a commercial nutrition and sales role for a dietetic product called peptamen. I did this role alongside completing my MBA. Then after 5-7 years of working my way up to Head of Marketing for a nutrition company, plus relocating and living in Spain for a year I came back to London and studied for a Master's in Human Nutrition and sports at London Metropolitan of which I was awarded my degree and research with distinction.
Why not see my full career background and connect with me on Linkedin?
My first job
After graduating my first job was with Kerry Ingredients and Flavours as part of their competitive graduate programme. I worked with a small team in their Bristol HQ on their consumer research and development department advising on a whole range of things from the lower salt regulations being rolled out to coordinating the consumer research into new food products that were being developed. Looking back this was a really fantastic insight into the food and ingredients industry and having a nutrition background was definitely an asset.
Many years after working at Nestle Health Science, I relocated to Spain and this was when I had to pivot into a more commercial and marketing role as the tiny island of Gibraltar, although super sunny, had no nutrition or health jobs. At the time I was very concerned that I would be damaging my career as I was working in a new industry. However, hindsight is a beautiful thing and now I see all my years working my way in marketing as a huge advantage and asset which has crucially alongside the MBA I studied helped me grow the business knowledge required to scale my nutrition start-up to what it is today.
Now I don’t advocate everyone goes through the long hours studying for an MBA nor should they have to pivot into a career in marketing but what I hope it does help reassure any student is that no career is a straight line, everyone's journey will have ebbs and flows with both right or wrong jobs. Please remember it is the transferable skills that should be an asset to your nutrition business. Every new skill you learn is a real asset especially if you decide to go freelance and set up your nutrition business.
What skills and training would I recommend for any student hoping to go freelance?
I learnt my business skills whilst working my way up to becoming head of marketing at various tech companies in the city and also through studying for my MBA. However, I certainly would expect or advise anyone to choose to do this unless they wanted a career in the marketing industry. What I wanted to do was take all the learnings I have gained from my business and marketing background into my AfN-endorsed CPD courses.
Here are the courses we have designed to help you set up a freelance nutrition business.
If you would like to start one of these courses and you are a student - please email us and we can give you 20% off our RRP.
Most importantly we have developed these courses to be on demand meaning you can learn and grow at your own pace.
Try not to feel too pressurised to learn everything and be the best at everything!
My biggest mistake was trying to earn my head of marketing salary in Yr 1 of launching my business. This meant I worked 80-100 hour weeks and it was a tough challenge. Set realistic expectations rather than putting too much monetary pressure on things as you may get burnt out along the way.
Why not check out our popular talk live on youtube?
I've recorded this video on my top tips on 'How to become a successful freelance nutritionist'
How do you make money being freelance?
The most important thing to remember is freelance means you have to pay your own tax whether self-employed or through corporation tax. When you charge clients you need to factor in administration time, tax implications and any overheads you have to ensure your business will be viable after its first year.
The best piece of advice is to start small and gradually scale. See clients on a weekend and when you have enough demand go part-time in your day job and then gradually take the plunge.
Running a business can be stressful and lonely - have a good support network around you!
What is a typical day being freelance?
Being freelance is a real asset as I can choose to see clients around my other work commitments. I can also develop talks, and content from anywhere which is a real privilege with my new work/life balance.
Here are some of the exciting projects I may work on in a day:
Develop a corporate webinar for a large FTSE company - this can be in person or online.
See 3-4 clients online or in one of our clinics each day.
Catch up on administration - invoices to be sent, account reconciliation etc
Posting on social media and building our supportive community.
Tasting or reviewing new products for a company launch.
Earning money by giving talks and interviews on various nutrition topics
Teaching nutrition lectures at Nottingham University or speaking at the careers panel for St Marys.
Developing online courses to help clients and fellow nutritionists.
How to get your first job after graduating?
My advice to anyone who wants to have a nutrition business is first aim to get a job after graduating. This can be as a nutritionist in industry or a commercial role, a health coach or many other opportunities. See these first few months and years as a way to build your career up, gain confidence experience and most importantly have a financial float.
When I first set up my business I did it evenings and weekends whilst keeping a steady day job that way the financial pressure is off as we all had bills and rent to pay.
My last piece of advice.
Try not to compare yourself to anyone else, we are all different and on different paths it's better to simply look back and reflect on your own journey - rather than comparing apples to oranges!. Our journeys are all unique and there is no bad job just a lot of learning experience along the way! Back in the early days, I used to compare myself and think why am I not doing the same things as this person then with time and with a lot of experience I've learnt to understand and focus on what really matters to build up a successful career. We can only focus on so many things in one day so try not to feel like you need to be everything and anything. I know many of you want to be social and build a social following and that can be very lucrative but I advise many people that that's not the only channel and you can definitely have a career without being on those channels.
If you ever need advice please do take a look at our AFN courses or reach out for any upcoming mentoring spots that we run.
Most importantly the very best of luck in your career and your remaining degrees!