Booking your first paying client after starting a nutrition consulting practise is a moment of glory. Finally, all your years of studying have paid off and you're officially going to start changing lives!
Unfortunately, it doesn't always go as you envisioned it.
I'll be the first to admit: I failed my very first client.
During our initial consultation I dropped some serious knowledge bombs and covered everything that (I thought) was holding her back from her full potential. I provided a long list of foods to avoid, superfoods to include and supplements that could further optimize her health. I even suggested she overhaul her home cleaning products, because they were filled with dangerous endocrine disruptors.
Weeks passed and she didn't book a follow-up.
In fact, I never saw her again.
What I didn't realize at the time, was that my strategy was terribly flawed. Even though I did exactly what my education had taught me to do, I was overwhelming my clients and preventing them from meeting their goals.
Does this story sound familiar?
If so, you are not alone! Reflecting on your practice, and identifying where you can improve is so important. Here are 5 common mistakes you may be making as a nutritionist, and how to prevent them.
Mistake #1: You Aren't Listening Enough
The primary mistake I made with my first client was focusing on helping her reach her 'full potential' without ever asking her to define that.
I didn't ask her to describe her ideal life, what made her feel her best, or how she felt when she was at her best.
Instead I made a lot of assumptions, and ended up recommending changes that didn't align with what she wanted her life to look like.
Solution: Ask, Listen, Ask Again
Learn to ask the right questions, and you will get the right answers. Deep down, your clients probably know what they want, but they might need your help to articulate it.
Here are some questions that offer valuable insight:
- "What are 5 words that describe you when you are at your best?"
- "What needs to happen for you to feel that way more often?"
- "What prevents you from feeling the way you want to feel?"
- "What are your nutrition-related goals and how do you want to get there?"
- "What are your non-nutrition-related goals?"
From there, make recommendations to help them live this life. Do not make recommendations based on the life you want them to live.
Mistake #2: You Make Health Seem Way Too Difficult
If a client comes to you because they want to eat healthier, and you make it seem like in order to do so they need to cut out sugar, meat, grains, soy, dairy, gluten AND carbs – they're probably going to believe that healthy eating is way too difficult.
You don't want your clients to walk away from a session thinking "How can I possibly stick to this? I just want to have a normal life."
Solution: Take Baby Steps
As wellness professionals, we tend to live in a health bubble and forget that most people don't even drink water, get enough sleep or meet the minimum 5 servings of veggies/fruits per day.
So start there!
If your client eats a coffee-shop muffin every day for breakfast, they probably won't switch to a green smoothie overnight. First help them pick out a healthier muffin and have an apple on the side. Give them a smoothie recipe to try on the weekend.
To change a habit, focus on the smallest possible step they can take in the right direction and have them do that for 1 week.
Your self-esteem might get in the way. You may have a voice in your head saying, "I'm not offering enough value." But understand that simple recommendations that can be implemented are much more valuable than complex recommendations that are never implemented.
Mistake #3: You Go Too Hard on the Supplement Recommendations
Introducing supplements too soon, or recommending too many, can take the emphasis off of lifestyle changes and make wellness seem unrealistic and unaffordable.
People have a tendency to focus more on a pill they can take than a change/habit they can make. Yes, there are loads of supplements that can optimize health and performance, but they will never be as powerful as building a solid foundation of food, sleep and hydration.
Solution: Take a Minimalist Approach
Stick to the basics to start, like probiotics or a protein powder. Depending on the client, you might even want to wait until the third or fourth follow-up to introduce supplements. Always emphasize that supplements are designed to support a healthy diet and lifestyle, and that they cannot replace it.
Mistake #4: You Unintentionally Scare Your Clients
Yes, it's the 21st century and all of humanity is caught up in the middle of a big science experiment. But, do you really need to tell your clients that?
In the early stages, your clients probably don't need to hear about how their cleaning products are full of endocrine disruptors, that their water bottles could be linked to cancer, or anything else that will scare them.
Solution: Encourage Using Hope, Not Fear
Make product recommendations gently, like letting your client know your favourite brand of BPA-free canned goods. Get them excited and feeling empowered about doing things that will reduce their toxic load, like drinking more water by keeping a nice refillable bottle on hand.
Most people don't switch to a non-toxic lifestyle overnight. It takes years. Focus on helping them make healthier choices overall, and prevent stress (which is the worst toxin of all).
Mistake #5: You Offer Single Session Appointments Without a Plan for Follow-Up
If you leave it to your client to book sessions, they're not going to see you as often as they need to. Everyone gets discouraged, encounters setbacks, and has a busy life. Clients tend to avoid you when they're 'off-track,' which is actually when they need you the most.
Solution: Sell Packages
Don't let clients book a one-off appointment with you. Instead, sell 6-week or 12-week programs, and meet with them weekly during that time.
When you're making small changes each week that your client can actually achieve, they will be excited to report their progress and the visits will generally be very positive.
This will give you more room to focus on small changes, since you know you'll be meeting again in 7 days. Hold your clients accountable to their appointment times and send a check-in email between meetings if you know they need extra accountability.
To prevent making these common mistakes that lead to overwhelm, follow this flow when conducting an initial consultation for a new client:
- Establish their goals and expectations, then re-establish them.
- Identify 1 or 2 small changes they can start making right away.
- Introduce one supplement at maximum (ie. a probiotic).
- Get your client pumped-up and excited about their new lifestyle. Reassure them that they can totally do this.
- Confirm when you will see them next before they leave.