Here's our brand-new episode of the TCI podcast, uSpeak with Kristin Larsen, the founder of BelieveinaBudget.com. As the name suggests, she has become quite a guru in budgeting. Kristin worked as an interior architect and designer. In 2015, she started her blog journey. And today, she’s a successful full-time blogger, business owner, and Pinterest marketing expert.
Kristin has been featured on MSN, Money, US News, and World Report, CBS, Discover Card, to name a few. I’m so eager to talk with her and listen to all the secrets of her success in the blogging world and especially on Pinterest.
Kristin: Hi. Thanks, so much for having me, that was such a kind introduction, thank you.
Minnie: You’re welcome. I’m so honored to have you on our show today. Before we start our conversation, I wanted to give you a brief background of our audience. The majority of them are women involved in the field of transcription and translation, and most of them work from home by choice. So, all right. Let me start by asking you, would you please tell my audience something about you?
Kristin: Yeah. I think you did such a great job summarizing me. I need to write this down because I don’t have this. But no. I love it so much, I would definitely say that I am an entrepreneur, I did start with BelieveinaBudget which is my personal finance blog website. And then that transitioned over to Pinterest VA, which is a skill I learned that I turned into a website to help other women. Then I had a third one which is fairly new. Back in the day as one of my side hustles, I used to bake and sell dog treats.
And even though I don’t have time to do that today, I was like you know what? I should turn this into a course where I teach other people how to do this and sell dog treats online or in person. So now I have Diva Dog Bakery, and that’s been super fun and a really great creative outlet which I’ve really enjoyed doing these past several months.
Minnie: All right. Wow. That’s great. So tell me, why did you leave your interior architect and designing business and started writing blogs?
Kristin: That’s so interesting, because I – you know, you go through high school, I’m told I need to go to college, I go to college, then I get a great job. So on paper, things looked really good but in person, I was just really tired of working for someone else. It wasn’t that I didn’t like what I was doing, I loved what I was doing, I just didn’t like doing it for somebody else. I really struggled with, I think, authority which sounds crazy because I do follow the rules a lot. But I had a really hard time saying, can I please have a day of vacation? Or can I take a week off? And I was always met with an answer of you can take the time off, but your team is gonna hurt without you here.
Then I had a lot of guilt about using my vacation days. I just struggled with all of that. So, once I started my blog and it grew a lot faster than I ever imagined, I was finally able to walk away from my day job. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my field of experience, I just didn’t wanna work for somebody else anymore. I just really struggled with it.
Minnie: Okay, that makes perfect sense. And tell me how long you worked as a designer before you switched to blogging?
Kristin: Oh gosh. Maybe 10 or 11 years. So, I was really at the peak of my career in terms of my income and earning potential. I was getting really depressed about that too because every time I would look for another job or just start to explore, my salary – I couldn’t find a way for my salary to increase that much more. And all I could think about was oh my gosh, am I gonna have the same salary for the next 30 or 40 years? Is this it? And I just got really depressed by that.
Minnie: Uh-oh, okay. So also, I think during that time you also did some side hustles. What kind of side hustles you did to have some extra income?
Kristin: That’s the whole reason I started Believe in a Budget, was because I was like I’m doing all these side hustles, I’m gonna share this online. Even if it helps one person, I’ll be super excited because I had to do a lot of side hustles and a lot did not work out. One of the hardest side hustles – I don’t know. Some people are so great at this, it did not work out for me, was I donated plasma. They have this portal where you can go donate plasma and it’s so great, and you can help all these people. I tried it twice and I fainted and needed medical help both times. So, the money I made from it, it didn’t pan out. I just couldn’t do it. It was horrible. I was like, this is not good for me but it’s good for other people. But I was like you know what? I’m gonna share it on my blog and that way if someone else can go out there and donate plasma and make money and help other people, awesome. So that was the hardest one I ever did physically. That was hard. But the ones I really liked – I’d say I have three favorites.
One was mystery shopping. That was really fun, and that was – it started off very low level where I would get paid to go to a restaurant and monitor how my lunch went, and how was my server, and did people greet me? That was one of the ones I did. So you would get paid to go shopping then reimbursed for whatever you purchased, within a limit. That was fun. Then on the other high end of it, I would do a hotel stay. I got to go stay somewhere. That was really cool. So, I loved the mystery shopping because I got to try a lot of new things, that was a really fun side hustle.
Another one that was really quite lucrative was being a dog walker and pet sitter. It didn’t feel like work, I love animals, and I would get paid pretty well to go walk a dog for 20 minutes or go check on a cat at lunchtime, or whatever it was. That was great because I had a lot of clients that would contact me over and over again. So, it was almost like I was getting recurring income from the same clients. That was really fun.
Then the other one was really just taking my existing skillset, which was interior architecture, and doing some consulting work. I’d get paid for an hourly – giving someone a consultation for an hour, or suggestions. So I just took what I already knew, put myself out there, and they were all just very diverse. It was fun being able to try everything and then document it online.
Minnie: Okay. So, do you have this – do you still do that? Do you still offer this service on your website? This interior designing thing? Is that on the side? Do you still do it, or it’s totally gone?
Kristin: No, I don’t do it at all. My husband is an architect and I see it enough where I am just nope. I’m done. I don’t wanna know anything else. I just totally checked out of it. I enjoy it, I like seeing other people do it, but for myself, I’ve moved on from it. But if I ever had to fall back onto it, I’d be great at it still, because I do like it. I just moved on.
Minnie: I was not aware of this mystery shopping. So, I’m doing some research on that. I had no clue that people pay you to do that. That’d be fun.
Kristin: It was so fun. There are so many companies you can work with. You start low, you work your way up. So, your first task would be maybe you go to the grocery store and you take a picture of an item on a shelf and that’s it. You’re like cool, I just make $10.00 and I had to go to the grocery store anyway. Then as you grow – they have somewhere you could apply to be on a cruise, go to a resort, there are so many fun things you could do.
Minnie: I like the sound of that.
Kristin: I know.
Minnie: Okay. How and when did you find the power of Pinterest, and how soon did you start using Pinterest once you found out about it?
Kristin: So, I feel like Pinterest has been part of my journey for so long, without even realizing it. I can remember – I wanna say it was around 2010-ish where Pinterest was created, and you actually had to fill out an application to join. It was an invitation only. So, you couldn’t even get on it way back in the early days. I think I had to wait two weeks to get accepted. Then once you were in it, it was like wow, what is this? Then it was like that for about, I think maybe two years, then it became open to the public. So I had been using it since it debuted online.
I feel like I was in such a great position because I’d used it for four or five years just as a user, then once I started my blog and started to use Pinterest for blogging purposes, I felt I knew how to use it right away. I knew like, okay, I know these are the kinds of pins I like, I know how to write a catchy description. I definitely felt like I had an advantage because I’d been a user on it, on the platform, for so long. So, that definitely helped me.
Minnie: Okay. All right. I’m sure you have been asked a lot of times about my next question, but to tell you frankly I’m also not very familiar with this. I’m sure some of my listeners also would like to know more about it. So, what is a Pinterest Virtual Assistant?
Kristin: Okay. So the first thing I’ll tell you is that a Pinterest Virtual Assistant does not work for Pinterest. I get that question a lot as well. That’s something to remember. A Pinterest Virtual Assistant works with clients who use the Pinterest platform. You’re gonna work with clients that wanna be on the platform strictly for marketing purposes. So, the same way you might create a Facebook business page, or an Instagram business account, that’s what we’re using Pinterest for. It is for business. You can actually create a business account instead of having your personal account. And once you have your business account it gives you access to analytics, and all those fun things, that kind of stuff. But the great thing about being a Pinterest Virtual Assistant is you can offer so many skills.
And what I really like about it is that you can take your existing skillset and figure out what skills you wanna offer. For me, I’m very visual, creative, I love designing pins. You could have full-time career designing pins for clients. Your clients could be people that have a Shopify store, and Etsy shop, they could have a blog, they could have even a brick and mortar store that has an online aspect to it. So, you can design pins. That’s a really great skill to offer that pays really well. You can also get paid to set up somebody’s Pinterest account. They might be like, I don’t even know what a business account is.
You can get paid to go and set that up, you can set up all of their boards on their account, all of their pins, you can set up scheduling, you can do an audit. Let’s say you have a client that says hey, I’ve been on Pinterest for two years. Is there anything I could be doing better? And you can go in and spend some time just auditing their account, figure out what’s working, what’s not working. So, as a Pinterest VA you’re not just offering one service. You can offer a multitude of services, whatever is best for your personality.
So like I said, I’m creative, I tend to go after things that are – how does it look visually, like pins. If you are someone that likes data and spreadsheets, you might work with a client and help do keyword research, figure out what’s the best SEO we need to use for your account. There’s just a lot of different things you can do, based on your personality.
Minnie: Okay. So, your designing background must have helped you here, to create all these pins, right?
Kristin: It did. I think I had a big advantage with that. Once I started working with clients, I really homed in on offering pin design. I can’t even tell you, I would get these accounts where the contract would call for 1000 pins. Let me tell you, it takes a long time to make 1000 pins. I loved it, because I can remember very clearly sitting at a coffee shop and being like, I cannot believe this is my life. I am literally designing pins this entire week for one client. I think they had a – I think it was a jewelry store, and I learned all about rings. Diamond rings, whatever kind of rings they were. I learned about them by creating 1000 pins. I was like, this is very fascinating. I just love knowing that’s what I was doing. It was just so different. To know I could get paid to do that is crazy.
Minnie: Yeah. And then at the same time, you are learning other stuff also, right?
Minnie: Now you know everything about diamonds or jewelry.
Kristin: The jewelry business. I know. I was like, well, that’s an extra skill I didn’t know I ever wanted, but now I have it.
Minnie: It’s amazing. It’s like the horizon is so big, you just keep on adding things to this. So, wow.
Kristin: Yes, I know. Definitely, a lot of diversity, which I really like.
Minnie: Yeah, okay. So, do you think it’s a good work-at-home job for someone?
Kristin: I do. I think you can work from home; I think you can work while you travel. I think as long as you have access to Wi-Fi you can work anywhere. And the other thing I really love about working as a Pinterest VA versus some of the more general social media jobs is that Pinterest is not time-sensitive. That’s something I try to tell all of my students. Let’s say you’re managing someone’s Facebook account, which is a great skill to have. A lot of times, you have to be able to respond to the inbox on Facebook, or the DM, or reply to a comment. You’ve gotta be able to respond pretty quickly.
Now, Pinterest isn’t like that. It’s not big on comments or sending Messages. So, a lot of the work we do, it’s not time-sensitive. You can schedule a lot of it out, there’s no big deadlines, you don’t have to worry about that kind of thing at all. That was really appealing to me as I started down this journey is, you know what? I can do this during the day, I can do this at night, it does not matter what time of the day. I don’t have to worry about what time zone my client’s in because nothing’s time-sensitive.
Minnie: Yeah, then actually this makes it a better work-at-home job, I would say.
Kristin: I [inaudible] [00:15:39] too. And especially – we don’t have children yet, but I know a lot of our students do. So for them, being able to hop on the computer while their kids are down for a nap, or at school, that’s been really helpful for them as well. They can work in bits and pieces to get the job done.
Minnie: Okay. All right. Would you like to share your journey from being a Pinterest Virtual Assistant to becoming a Pinterest expert, actually?
Kristin: Yeah. So, I think it really comes down to practicing, continuing your education, continuing to learn and experience. For me personally, the more clients I worked with the faster I was able to really get a grasp of what Pinterest is all about. So, you have to work with a variety of clients because no two clients are ever gonna be the same. Pinterest just isn’t like that. So for me, the more accounts I could get control of, the more I could practice pinning, the more types of pin design. I could get a feel for okay, this is what’s working, this isn’t working.
Then when I’d work with another client I’d be able to be like, okay, now I know how to be more efficient because I made a couple of time mistakes with the previous client, taking too long to design a pin. And I know I can do it much faster by creating these templates. There’s a lot of things I learned on just practicing which helped me become more efficient. I think that’s a big thing. If you wanna advance from being a Pinterest VA to a Pinterest Manager, to a Pinterest Expert, you’ve gotta be efficient. I think while you’re being efficient, you’re also saving money.
So, a job as a beginner that might’ve taken me eight hours to do, as a Pinterest Expert it might only take me four hours. But if I’m charging my client a flat rate, it doesn’t matter to them how many hours it takes for me to get something done. They just wanna see a finished product. So for me, the more efficient I became, the more skilled, I was actually saving a lot of money. I was able to get a job done in half the time, I could have a bigger profit, then go help and work with more clients. So, I think that’s been huge, it’s just the learning, and practicing, and getting the experience.
Minnie: So, how long it took you from actually starting as a VA to becoming an expert? So, how many years, I would say?
Kristin: Oh, it was fast. What happened was, even though my blog was all about side hustles, I wrote this blog post just about how amazing Pinterest is. And this case study showing all these screenshots of, here’s what happens when you use Pinterest, you get all this traffic back to your site, this increases your sales and your revenue, all the things. So after I wrote that blog post, within a week I had several different bloggers reach out to me asking to hire me. So, I gained experience real fast. I would say within a matter of a few months after I worked with those bloggers. And I said yes to everybody.
At the time – and I don’t recommend this, I wasn’t as concerned about my income and how much I was charging a client. I didn’t even know how much to charge, that was hard. I definitely did not charge my value. But I got a lot of experience, and within a matter of just a few months on these accounts I was able to transition to businesses. And some of these businesses have bigger budgets. I was able to charge more, and get more experience with them. All of a sudden I go from working with bloggers to businesses that have shops. I worked with children’s toys, and spas, and authors.
All these bigger types of people that I had never been around before. So, my experience level grew really fast, and I would say probably within a year I was charging pretty high rates. Also at the same time, there wasn’t anyone else doing what I was doing. It was really – I didn’t have any competition. So, that also helped me, for the most part, just landing every single client. Being a Pinterest VA, no one had ever heard of that. I just called myself one, because I didn’t know what else to call myself. So, I went to expert, I would say, within a year because I was working with so many clients.
Minnie: Okay. That’s quick. I’m sure you’re very smart and you are good at what you are doing. So a quick learner.
Kristin: Yes. And I think my biggest thing is, being definitely an overachiever was, I was so worried about making sure my clients got results, I probably spent too much time on their account versus what I was paid. But I just wanted them to succeed, I wanted to prove my worth, I was just willing to put in whatever it took to be successful. So, when I wasn’t at my day job, I spent all my free time learning as much as I could about Pinterest, working on my client’s accounts, doing whatever it took to make sure I was gonna set myself up to walk away from my day job.
Minnie: Perfect. Good for you. I was on your website, I found out that you offer a few e-courses also. What kind of courses are those?
Kristin: Since 2016, which is so exciting, we have had our signature program which is Become a Pinterest VA Today. That’s the one where we teach you, basically, how to start a side hustle as a Pinterest VA. So, we’re gonna help you land your first couple of clients, we wanna help you make $1000.00-$2000.00 a month. It’s just something fun for you to do in your spare time. Then recently we launched a hire program which is more one-on-one coaching. That’s really exciting. This is for someone that wants to do the transition from being a Pinterest VA to a Pinterest Expert and just do this full time, like how I was doing it.
That’s been really good because now we get both ends of the spectrum from someone who starts off as a beginner, now we have people who have gone on to make six figures. We’re getting to work with clients like that, or scaling from four figures to five figures, then from five figures to six figures. So that’s been really, really fun. That’s Pinterest Expert Business Academy. That sounds very official because we take it very seriously. We do so much one on one coaching and lots of homework assignments, and we do lots of reviewing of materials. That’s very, very hands-on.
And then I’m excited because, in a few weeks, we’re launching our middle of the road program which is our Pinterest Manager Academy. And that’s for all the people that are stuck between that PDA, doing it in their spare time, but they’re not ready to be a Pinterest Expert and do the full time, but they wanna be able to make maybe $3000.00 - $5000.00 a month. So, I’m excited about this because this has been a missing puzzle piece for a long time and we’re just trying to figure out, how do we help people truly scale at every level if they want to?
So, I love it because now I get to talk about the beginning, and the basics, the expert staff, the middle of the road stuff where you’re stuck and you don’t know how to keep moving forward. So, I’m just so excited.
Minnie: Well, good. When do you start this new one, new course?
Kristin: This will come out in the fall. We’re gonna be celebrating, which is so crazy, our five-year anniversary of Pinterest VA. I cannot believe this has been five years. My life is so different, we’ve helped over 4000 students. This is just so exciting. This is gonna be one of the new – something new we’re gonna be celebrating this fall, and I can’t wait to share it with everybody.
Minnie: Congratulations on that, and all the success with whatever new venture you are starting. So also, what kind of advice would you like to give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
Kristin: This is such a good topic. I was just talking to – I have two team members – well, different team members but yesterday I was talking to Jessica and Kim. They have been with me for probably three to four years. And they work with me part-time but they also have their own businesses, which I love. I’m very supportive of hey, come work with me but have your own thing, we can all do amazing things. So we were all having this specific conversation yesterday, talking about what was it like for us in the very early days of our business? What did we do that could help other people?
And I have to say the overall, general consensus was you have to show up and put in the time. We each put in probably about 20 plus hours a week because we wanted to be super, super successful. I would say that’s what really set us apart. So, if you don’t have 20 hours, that’s fine. We were all in an urgent rush to each leave our current positions and do something different. So we were probably more on the extreme side, but I would also say you can’t put in an hour of work a week and think you’re gonna have a full-blown business. I don’t think it works like that. I don’t know anyone that can come in, put a little bit of work in here and there, and then be like why don’t I have any clients?
You have to be consistent. You have to show up, you have to treat it like a business that’s not a hobby. We’re here to make money. And you have to just put the time in. The hard part is, in the beginning, you might feel like you’re putting in all this time and you’re not being rewarded for it, you don’t have a client yet, you’re not making any money yet. But it’ll come. You just have to put the work in. If you work hard, you’re not gonna fail. I really just think you have to show up, even if you have to get out your planner and say you know what? I’m gonna set aside an hour every single day and maybe two hours on the weekend and I am gonna check things off my list of something new I need to learn to be successful. You can do it, you just have to show up.
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