Ep. 6: How to build a successful Dietitian brand without burnout with Stephanie Dorfman

dietitian turned designer podcast

Welcome back to the Dietitian Turn Designer Podcast.

Today, I’m excited because we have one of my previous clients, Stephanie Dorfman. She’s a registered dietitian in New York and has her own private practice. Stephanie Dorfman, Nutrition. Welcome, Stephanie.

Hi. Thanks. So excited to be here.

Yeah, thank you for being here. I wanted to just start out by talking about the project that we did together. So we did your branding and your website. Can you tell me what your brand and website was like before we work together?

Yeah, definitely. And I’m so thankful for all the changes and updates that we’ve made. I like many dietitians that are starting in private practice. They build their own website – So I did that and then I was like, oh, this looks pretty or oh, this looks nice. But design and putting things together like that is not my strong suit. So it did what I needed it to do for like a year or two and then as I was ending or clients that like had a budget to upgrade my website, I reached out to you and we’ve known each other from dietitian business school. So that was like a great connection and I absolutely love the brand colors. Everything is just so perfect and what I want my clients to see and get and my clients to feel when they look at my website. It’s really like you took whatever was in my brain and put it onto a web page. Yeah, it was just like a really awesome process.

It’s so funny because whenever I log into Canva, I have a folder that I call the Land of Misfit logos, like logos that were rejected. And yours is the cover of photo because at first we drew a doughnut and we decided to go in a different direction. But I’m always like, I wonder if I could use that doughnut somewhere else. It’s so cute. I’m like I don’t know how I could enter right that into somewhere else. But yeah, we ended up doing the coffee mugs and I drew a couple of different variations. I think we ended up doing the little tea bag with the heart on it. But I also drew in with your dog and tell us your tell us your dog’s name do my dog.

He’s all over my website, his name is Norman – he’s the best and the mug you drew with him on it was super cute. I did want to separate my dog from my brand in general I went with the more generic one with the tea bag with the heart on it.

Yes, yes. That’s so funny. My dog is in here right now too, and you can’t see him because he’s laying behind me. But yeah, I try to not incorporate him too much for the same reason. Because I’m like, he can’t, the dog can’t be my identity. Oliver is my cohost, so he’s, he’s back here, supervising.

All right. Some of the things we wanted to talk about today was how to build a successful brand without burning out. I was wondering if you could share your personal journey of building a successful brand and your practice without feeling overwhelmed or burned out.

Well, it’s interesting also because also I don’t know generalizing but a lot of dietitians do a lot of different things. They have their hands on different projects so and say for me as well I have a few different. Whether it’s like counseling jobs or volunteer experiences, or I actually have a fulltime job alongside with my private practice- the private practice was a COVID adventure when I was furloughed from my fulltime job. So I just had time to do things. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be asked back to my job, but thankfully, I was. So I started to practice and I don’t know, I guess I went in with the mentality with like hope that I would make something successful, but at the same time if I didn’t, it would also be okay. I would like to learn – I am here to just get experience and so I’m still learning like I’m still learning how to grow something successful or figuring out like why some things aren’t working and some things are working. It’s the constant learning experience but I’ve yeah. Yeah, I know I always say that is you’ll never know everything and that’s probably true in many areas of life but especially within business because honestly they’re all kind of just experiments. It’s kind of like we’re just doing the scientific process over and over again trying to figure out you know what clients is all the time to it. I work a lot with, with clients eating disorders or disorder eating and working on relationship with food and intuitive heating. So I tell them all the time to go into experiences with curiosity rather than judgment. Get curious about why things are happening rather than judgmental, which I also think helps with with figuring things out. Because rather than being hard on yourself and judging yourself, if something is important like do you get curious about it? And how can I make this better? What can I add rather than like what am I doing so terribly?

Yes, definitely. I wanted to ask you, you know, how did you navigate the process of this learning as we go and kind of embracing the idea that it’s okay to not have a rigid plan? I know we talked about curiosity, but was there anything else that kind of helped you in the actual moment of, you know, feeling stressed about, like, is this actually working?

I mean it’s it’s unavoidable to not feel stressed, like, is this actually working? And I questioned that often in dietitian Business School and also just through having a private practice or being involved in DPGs as a dietitian. I met a lot of my now dietitian friends that we talk to, we consult about our problems and talking about why things are working or not working or what’s working for you and how can I adapt that. Through this whole process and so that’s been that’s been really helpful just to have a sounding board for stuff like that.

Yeah. And are you in a leadership position for the nutrition entrepreneurs?

Yes, I am the chair for nutrition entrepreneurs, I cannot speak highly enough of nutrition entrepreneurs. There’s so many resources or dietitians going into private practice or just dietitians in general. There’s just so much information. I know that you’ve been a huge supporter of our Spring Summit events. And other things. So yeah, I love the nutriiton entrepreneurs. So I will be the past chair going into next year. I’ve been in office like that for almost five years and some of the committees.

Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, I always attend the annual summit. It’s one of my favorite events because I obviously, I love things that are virtual because they’re easier for me, because I have two little kids. It’s harder to travel. So I appreciate when things are virtual. And it’s also set up so well because it’s actually. Really interactive. Then people come by and visit your virtual booth- for people that haven’t been before.

Can I talk about Spring Summit? It was also a COVID adventure. I was actually the director of meetings during that year and I was in charge of planning this whole networking event in Indianapolis that never happened. So we migrated and and formed this summit and it was really like taking a life of its own and because it’s like so big and like you said like it’s just a cool event where you have interaction and communication as if you were in person like it’s a very cool thing.

Speaking of learning as we go and growing as a weight inclusive dietitian, what are some strategies that you’ve used to maintain your sense of balance and avoid that pressure of feeling like you have to continuously grow?

Well something something else I picked up and I feel like everything I’ve learned in terms of dietitian business school is that it is okay to coast and it’s okay to stay stagnant for a little bit. You don’t have to have this constant and if you could it could partially be because I do have a fulltime job and do have a salary like a stable salary, which I doubt a lot of dietitians in private practice do not. So there is that constant mindset of what can I be doing because I don’t have much time. It’s funny, you kind of worry, but also understanding that coasting is okay – that may impact your success or the way that you present to your clients.

Yeah, definitely. And also just kind of letting yourself celebrate the successes that you have. I feel like I need to personally do a better job of that myself because I tend to be like okay, what’s next instead of just stopping for a minute and saying. Wow, this is amazing. And you know, everything that I’m doing, I’m enjoying and I’m working with so many great clients. I just need to take a minute and breathe it in.

And I look back on like what I say to clients is to appreciate all of the wins. Nothing’s too small to celebrate. Yes, appreciate where you’re at now and how you’re out there. And then of course we can think about the future, but don’t let it be all incompassing – it’s not an all or nothing kind of thing.

Yeah. And then you mentioned the coasting that made me think the other thing that Jennifer talks about in dietitian business school – or now it’s Business School – a lot is having a parking lot of ideas because I am that person that’s like, oh, that’s a good idea. That’s another good idea, so I use click up and I actually have a parking lot list where I just go and I dump that stuff there because if I don’t, I will try to do it all at the same time.

Yeah, no, I currently have, but I I don’t use an app for it. But you can’t get to everything and you can’t expect yourself to get to everything – There’s too much to do.

Yes, definitely. Yeah. I actually did the episode that came out before this one, when it comes out, was about systems and workflows and automations. And I just kind of nerded out about click the up and a little bit about notion and stuff. So I use them both and I talk about why I use them both in that episode, but actually use both of them.

Yeah, yeah, there’s so many that somebody uses some in place. So many choices.

Speaking of systems and software. We talked about SEO obviously during your project and I know that that can be challenging for a lot of dietitians because it’s not something that we obviously learn about. Can you provide any tips or insights into what you feel like you have found this help to increase your SEO and visibility online.

It’s such a new thing for me to be considering, but I think having my website that you help me with WordPress has been really helpful in terms of. SEO related blog typings. There are those plugins that you could use and they give you like red lights or green lights for if you could improve anything for SEO. So that’s been really helpful. Sometimes I’ll go on those free domain authority sites to see where I stand or if I have any if I’m right for any keywords or things like that. So I know that the process and I know with time it also helps to also keep that the back of my mind but. With time it’ll naturally improve, but I know if there’s a ton of things that I could be doing to help – I could be putting more blog posts in or reaching out to other providers like writing articles or something to get more back links to my website. So there’s there’s a lot of things on my list that I want to do. But again, like stay curious, knowing that there is time for this.

I love that because. I think sometimes people, and I’ve had people say this before, like I’ll build their website and like a month later they’re like, I don’t see it when I Google, you know, this area nutritionists. And I have to explain that it takes time and also when I build your website, I’m only doing the foundational pieces. So kind of think about it like building a house. I have just set the foundation and the website should be a living, breathing Organism almost in a way. So that you know, you’re puting out quality content, but there’s also other reputable people and websites linking back to you so that Google recognizes your authority in this area. And it’s a long game for sure. And also, you know, I think people need to think too about, like, where are they getting their clients from? Like, is it referrals? Is it social media? Like, I can tell you that for my nutrition practice, I’ve gotten one in three years. I’ve gotten one client from Instagram for nutrition.

Yeah, Instagram and social media is not my strong suit. And I with that content creation in general, it’s not my strong suit. I feel like I give a lot more with these kinds of like conversation, whether virtual or in person or with clients or central referrals or.

It’s funny because I think that Instagram is almost more businesses because I do get a lot of people from Instagram for a website and branding stuff. Yeah. So it’s been interesting because it’s the reverse. So for my practice, it’s a lot of referrals and local Google SEO searches, but for my design studio, it’s it’s social media a lot. Speaking of coasting and being curious and kind of not putting too much pressure on ourselves, can you talk about some ways that we can prioritize wellness and self-care, especially since you have a full time job and you have your practice? What are some ways you’re able to incorporate that?

Yeah, I mean, self-care is super important and the first effort has their own definition of of health, of Wellness, or self-care and whatever. I prefer to do something that I find extremely beneficial for myself. Now that the weather’s very nice – I’m in New York – and it’s gorgeous and sunny and it’s summertime. I like to get outside in the morning, I’ll walk Norman to the park where I’ll go for a run or just some fresh air or something. That’s just for me. And then it helps me kind of get into a better place to start my day rather than just like opening my eyes like brushing my teeth and then sitting in front of my computer like doing something that’s a bit for me that I appreciate and make sure that I can make up. And so starting my day off like that, it has been really helpful. But for some it could be like taking an afternoon break or taking time for lunch or whatever. So it totally depends on what you prioritize in terms of self-care. And do I want to be keeping busy? Yes. But do I also appreciate the time and tell myself to appreciate the time that I have to breathe or maybe sit on my couch and watch TV? I love my couch and I love TV! I love taking that time for me also decompressing. You don’t have to be doing everything all.

So now you have to tell us what your favorite shows are currently that you’re watching.

I feel like a lot of things have just ended and now I’m like, well, I’ve actually just finished the last season of a better call saul, which is like the spinoff on breaking band. That was really excellent. And I’m also watching the last season of Marvelous Ms. Maizel. What are you watching?

Well, I have two children, so I’m watching Bluey and Spidey and his amazing friends. I will say on Mother’s Day, I got to watch what I call adult TV for an hour. I watched Firefly Lane.

I don’t typically get emotional with those things, but that book, that show it really…

Yeah. I’m preparing to cry a lot in this last season because I’m already.

Yes, get ready.

Yeah. Can’t wait. It seems kind of similar. I know we’re getting off a little bit, but it seems kind of similar to the ending of that show with Christina Applegate – dead to me.

Yes, it’s similar.

Oh well, can’t wait.

I loved the show and the actresses but and the book too is so great. But yes.

Oh, perfect. I’ll have to save that one for like a night when the kids are like, already asleep. Is that if if they would ever go to bed, that would be nice. So coming back to business stuff, So let’s talk a little bit about community and connection. So I talked about this in the last episode with Sarah Petty, and we talked a lot about, you know, making sure that we are communicating effectively and thinking about the different intersections of people that are consuming our content. So I’m just curious how do you approach creating meaningful connections with your clients and your community?

Yeah, community wise again I mentioned having like my community from nutrition entrepreneurs. Then that actually I reached out to a bunch of people from Dietitian Business School because I thought that they would make like really good executive committee members. So I brought a few of those onto our executive committee. So that’s been a really nice community to have and just people to bounce ideas off of and talk to and just be there. In terms of creating content for clients, I’ve done some work with with some student interns that are like students in college that are interested in nutrition or learning more about becoming a dietitian, so sometimes I’ll ask them like what do you want to learn? Because I feel like there might be and client or certain words for the people that I want to be reaching. So that’s been really interesting to learn from and also just from other amazing weight inclusive and anti diet professionals on Instagram. I send out a monthly e-mail and I choose my top ten post that stood out to me on Instagram every month and I send it out to my listserv and with hopes that my clients will start following these people and maybe change their algorithm on social media a little bit. Start getting a bit more weight inclusive notes and messages on their feeds but also. To show that there are more weight inclusive providers out there than they think and also they just say things better – like they have the way with the words and I don’t. So I appreciate when I’m like oh this is exactly what I’m trying to say.

Yeah. I know that’s a great idea. I love you call it your Instagram roundup. Right.


So sign up for Stephanie’s listserv so you can get the Instagram roundup every month. Yes. So let’s talk a little bit about – can you share a specific example or maybe an experience where embracing that weight inclusive approach positively impacted your business? So basically I’m asking. Since we are businesses that are very values based and that’s different than you know someone that maybe (not that all businesses aren’t values based) I always feel a little weird saying that, but I this is a little different because that is the core of our business and I think that kind of makes our approach to marketing and all those things a little bit different. So have you noticed in a way like what makes you unique and how you approach marketing with that in mind?

I love when I get those clients where I can tell they’re so frustrated by the diet industry and they’re so frustrated with what dieting and that mentality has done to them or has not done for them over the last X number of years of their life. So when they come to me and they’re like, well, I want XY&Z and then I also want to lose weight and I just validate that it normalize it, that it’s totally okay to have those feelings but similar to what you were saying in terms of like we’re very values based. I tell them like I don’t have a crystal ball like I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. We’re not going to focus on weight like which is or that way to define success, whatever that means. But we’re going to kind of take a step back and get curious about things of how things feel in our body and maybe how that may impact your your own values of how you see banks or view yourself or view others. So yeah, just focusing more on being okay with that, knowing what’s going to happen, but understanding that it’s probably going to be better. And you’re not so focused on dieting and numbers and so concerned with the size of your body. And you have more time and more space and more energy to put into things that really break the joy and bring others joy.

Yeah, that reminds me with my clients. I do what I call a pie chart exercise. And I have them kind of just, you know, pay attention for a week or two and then come back and fill out that pie chart of how much time are you spending in what areas of your life, And is that what you want your life to look like?

Yeah. I do the pie like that, too. I’m like, how often do you think about food? And so many times they’re like, so much, like all the time, every day. And I’m like, think about how much energy and how much brain space you’ve used up with that.

Yeah, exactly So. You talked about working with students. I want to ask this in two ways. First, what advice or steps would you give to students who are interested in going into private practice as a way inclusive dietitian?

Yeah, I would say find people whether it’s on Instagram or through your Dietetic internship or online or through. Like if you’re a part of nutriiton entrepreneurs, if you come to the spring summit behind people where you can ask questions and sometimes you have to pay for some sort of like professional mentoring service just to bounce ideas about something. Becase well, we just because we don’t learn about this in school. So a lot of the stuff that you’re going to learn is so valuable, but you can only get it from like, you know, places or other dietitians that have been there before and just be open to learning. If that’s something that you have to start right out of your internship or right out of school or anything, you can get professional experience. You don’t build any up to it until you feel ready to take that libre. Start it on the side or you don’t build it up a bit or slowly. It doesn’t have to happen all that fun. So like again that black and white thinking we’re all or nothing thinking it can, it could be a slow, a slow process.

And then would you say that you have any kind of different advice for someone who is out of school and works a full time job and wants to start a private practice?

Yes, because that was me. I mean, granted time was not real during Covid

Time is still not real.

But yeah, if you if you have a full time job and maybe it’s not your your passion project like it’s not what you find you’re the most joy in, then then yeah, I mean look into it. Then learning slowly if you have the time, but. But again, like going in with curiosity, without the pressure and have it be something that’s fun and enjoyable. It shouldn’t be something that’s adding stress to your life. It should be something that that you’re excited about doing. But also not all dietitians have to go into private practice, right? You don’t have to do that. Don’t have the time where you have a family or you have other projects going on that are not interested related. Like that’s fantastic. Like it’s it’s nice to have different branches of life that you’re interested in. If you do want to go into private practice then listening to some podcasts.

I was going to say I’m, I feel like I’m the poster child for kind of having a variety of things that you do because I have like 3 or 4 jobs. So that’s to say to people out there that have a lot of different interests you like she just said, you don’t have to do this one track thing. If you enjoy doing other aspects or other types of things, then you should do it. Because if it brings you joy and it’s feasible and you know, something that you can actually, you know, have the time and the resources to do, then go for it.

Yeah, My friends and I go, I have this awesome dog community at my building. So I met a lot of new friends through having dogs and like Norman has all this. But we talked about it. We’re like, what if we just opened a doggy daycare.

Yeah no that would be awesome. Oliver used to go to doggy daycare when I worked like outside the home. Every day he would go to doggy daycare. But also like yeah that he could he could be like the mascot. We could do a new logo with Norman in it for real.

I will be reach out to you for my doggy daycare.

Ooh, that would be so fun. See. And that’s another thing. Like, of course I make websites for dietitians, but when I get people that aren’t dietitians, it’s exciting too, because I’m, I get to do something Different. Yes, I swear, every time I get a new client and they send over their Pinterest board, I’ve always like, this is going to be my favorite project. But I say that every single time because I’ve always liked. I’m always like, I love this. So can you tell us where everyone can find you?

Yes. You can follow me on Instagram at stephanie.dorfman.nutrition and stephaniedorfmannutrition.com and you can book a free discovery call with me there, you can download some free resources. You can do my little “Are you ready to become an intuitive eater quiz”, which is really thoughtful and interesting. I’ll have even sign up for my e-mail, consider the history and all in my wonderful website.

Awesome. Alright, well thank you so much for being here today. I enjoyed chatting with you and we’ll see you next time.

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    courtney vickery dietitian website brand designer

    Hi, I'm Courtney

    I'm a Dietitian turned Designer who loves helping weight-inclusive private practices get more clients with designs that stay true to their values & mission.

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