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For many people, this is the key to a more enjoyable life, as a nutritionally balanced diet can make a big difference to how someone feels, in terms of energy levels, quality of sleep and a general feeling of wellbeing.

Your personality will be almost as important as your qualifications when it comes to making a success of a career as a dietician, and certain qualities will make you more suitable for the role, including:

  • Being patient and sensitive – many people will come to you after years of wrestling with their problems and will need your help to break long established habits, which can be hard and emotionally-charged work. A non-judgemental approach will be necessary to make your clients feel comfortable and supported.
  • Being a keen advocate of a healthy lifestyle – although it doesn’t change the facts, a dietician who follows their own advice will always inspire more confidence in their clients. By taking your own advice, you will also be a great advert for your services, so try to ensure that you project a healthy image whenever you are working.
  • Excellent communication skills – as a dietician you are likely to have to explain some complex scientific ideas to a wide range of people, meaning that your ability to make yourself understood will be paramount.

Dieticians often work in settings such as schools or hospitals where they can encounter a wide range of people who need their help. Potential clients could include:

  • Those with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Those who are too ill for a solid foods and need a balanced liquid diet
  • Pregnant women
  • People with food allergies or intolerances
  • People suffering from diabetes or kidney disease
  • Those who are trying to lose weight
  • Older people who may have specific dietary requirements
  • Children who may have limited diets due to food phobias or sensory issues
  • Those who are unable to gain weight

Qualifications needed to become a dietician

A dietician’s work puts them in a position of responsibility as their role involves educating and encouraging someone as they make major life changes.

As a dietician you will need a qualification in Nutrition and Dietetics which is approved by the British Dietetic Association which is the professional body which oversees all dieticians. The qualification can be a degree, MSc or diploma and will usually take around four years to complete, including practical and theoretical work.

Universities all have their own entry requirements for dietician courses, but usually the minimum qualifications you will need include 3 GCSE passes in subjects which include maths and English, and two or three A-Levels in science based subjects including chemistry.

Some of the areas that a Nutrition and Dietetics course will cover include:

  • Microbiology
  • Sociology
  • Nutrition
  • Health education
  • Communication
  • Psychology
  • Food science
  • Dietetics

Benefits of freelancing as a dietician

The life of a freelancer is attractive for many reasons, and as a self employed dietician you can expect to enjoy:

  • Flexibility over when and where you work and the option to pick and choose the clients and settings which you prefer
  • The ability to plan your workload and manage your own time to achieve a work-life balance which suits your commitments
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • You can choose to expand your skills to include research, consulting, education and a range of other fields that could benefit from your expertise
  • Being able to take advantage of tax planning opportunities

You can use our Freelancer Calculator to work out your potential earnings.

Finding work as a dietician 

One of the first things you will need to do when working as a freelance dietician is to create yourself a website. However people hear about you, the chances are that they will research you online, so being able to direct them to your own website which contains details of your qualifications, skills, experience and any other details they may wish to check, is ideal.

It is also a good idea to register with the Health Professionals Council which is the regulator for this field of work. This will reassure your clients as to your credentials and give them confidence in your abilities as well as ensuring that you are included on their register. Registering with the British Dietetic Association is also a good idea as the organisation acts like a trade union for its members and provides help and assistance as well as a monthly magazine and access to job listings via their website.

Word of mouth is a great way to build up your client list, and it is easier than ever given the prevalence of social networking sites. You can create a profile which you use for professional dealings and interact with potential clients on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and by using industry or advice forums. Ask for reviews from your clients and add them to your website to lend credibility to your credentials and encourage people to feel confident in your abilities.

Hard copy advertising can be a great way to boost your profile in your local area. Asking local health food shops, medical practices or alternative medicine providers to keep your business cards or flyers in a prominent position could help you to target people who might be looking for someone with your skills in their local area.

How to succeed as a freelance dietician

One of the most important things to consider about being a freelance dietician is how you will manage your finances. You will need to inform HM Revenue and Customs of your self employed status, and you will be sent details of how and when you will need to complete your self assessment tax return.

However, you will also need to keep track of your business income and outgoings, either by keeping accurate records of any spending that is wholly and exclusively for your business or by using a business bank account for everything to do with your work. One of the best ways to reduce your tax bill is to ensure that you are deducting all your expenses to reach your total profits. There are lots of recommendations about how to determine what can be included, but one of the easiest ways to be sure that you are doing everything right is to use an accountant.

For more information on running your own business, we have plenty of other useful resources:

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