If you've been blogging or Etsy selling for a while now, you've probably polished quite a few skills in the process. Have you ever considered taking one of those specialized skills and turning it into a business all its own? That's exactly what Kate Ahl did with Simple Pin Media. As a contributing blogger and VA, she learned the ins and outs of Pinterest to help grow the site, Frugal Living Northwest, then she took her skills on the road and started her own Pinterest service company.
Simple Pin Media helps bloggers and small business owners promote their brand on Pinterest so they are freed up to create awesome content that serves their readers, customers, and clients. When it comes to rapidly-growing businesses, I tend to picture a cut-throat, extremist CEO running the ship. Kate couldn't be further from that image! She's kind, people-oriented, and has grown her business through referrals by genuinely caring for each client and employee she brings under her wing.
On the Podcast
01:09 – Unemployment was Running Out, So Here's What Kate Did…
05:44 – An Unexpected Service
07:46 – The Simple Pin Solution
11:10 – Keep your Personal Pinterest Account or Start Fresh?
13:57 – The Secret Scoop on Secret Boards
16:49 – A Comparison of Pinterest Tools
24:02 – Pinterest Strategy
26:00 – The One Person Who Helped Kate Grow her Business
28:07 – People over Proficiency
31:19 – A Typical Day for an A-Typical Family
33:43 – How Kate Wows her Clients
36:19 – Why We're Our Own Worst Enemy
40:05 – Kate's Funny Kids
You're gonna love Kate. Press play on the podcastplayer below to hear her story!
Unemployment was Running Out, So Here's What Kate Did…
About four years ago Kate started working with a friend of hers who owned Frugal Living Northwest. Three years into her role as site contributor, Kate's husband lost his job. As they approached the end of unemployment, they knew Kate's part-time salary wasn't going to be enough to support their family of five.
This was in early 2013. Facebook was changing its algorithm and people were flooding to Pinterest. Kate's friend, Angela Davis, suggested that Kate become a Pinterest manager and manage people's business pages on the site.
Initially, Kate thought Angela was crazy. Angela encouraged her by saying, “just do some research. Practice with the Frugal Living NW site and see what you think.” This was September of 2013, and Kate spent 2 months saturating herself with everything Pinterest. She joined Facebook groups, read tons of blog posts, discovered Viraltag, and consumed everything possible about the site.
In January of 2014 Kate got a friend to help her create a website for her new business, then she started her client list with 2 blogging friends of Angela's. Kate said to them, “I will take you on as beta clients, and if this doesn't work, we're just gonna pretend it never existed!”
Kate was ready for the business to fail but she also really wanted it to work because her family needed the income so badly. (I think you can figure out how this one ends!)
An Unexpected Service
The main benefit that Simple Pin Media provides is that bloggers and business owners don't have to worry about Pinterest. They can focus on their readers and followers because that's what will last forever. What Kate really provides – beyond more followers and pageviews, is the relief of someone walking alongside the blogger. They don't have to navigate a confusing form of social media alone.
The Simple Pin Solution
Simple Pin Media has several different packages depending on a business owner's budget and needs. No matter which package a business owner chooses, the essence of what Simple Pin does is take exactly who that blogger or business owner is, and pin pins that are 50% their content and 50% content that fits their brand.
Each client starts the process by filling out a branding form so Simple Pin knows just what they should or shouldn't pin for them. Oftentimes, Simple Pin will clean up board covers and chance the location of boards. They may re-do the titles and descriptions of boards so that they're optimized not just for Pinterest but for Google too.
Simple Pin maintains a business' Pinterest account by keeping it fresh and keeping it active. Kate says that consistency is key when it comes to being successful on Pinterest.
Keep your Personal Pinterest Account or Start Fresh?
Many new bloggers and business owners wonder if they can keep all of their personal boards, pins, and followers when they decide to launch their new site or business. It can feel so daunting to start a social media account from scratch.
What does Kate think about transitioning a personal Pinterest account to a Business account?
If your business aligns with some of the personal boards you already have, feel free to keep it and transition it over to your business page. When you do this, make sure you put all of your business-focused boards at the top.
For example, if you're a mom and you've already created several boards for kids activities, crafts, and clothing, and you decide to start an Etsy shop full of hair bows for girls, you can keep that personal account. Just add new boards solely focused on your business, as well as intermixing your product pins in with the boards you already have.
On the other hand, if your new business is completely different than what you pin about (for example, you're starting a cat toy business and you've never pinned a single thing about cats!) then it's best to just start fresh with a brand new Pinterest account and page.
What if you can't decide?
Kate says a great rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “If I was to sell my business today, would I be able to sell this Pinterest account right along with it?” If the answer is no because there's too much of “you” wrapped up in that account, chances are it's not the right account to use for your business.
If you're not willing to give up your Pinterest page, then you should consider keeping that page for your personal use and starting fresh with a new business-only Pinterest page.
The Secret Scoop on Secret Boards
There are several great reasons to use secret boards on Pinterest:
- Pin personal items that don't relate to your business. (Ex. Kate's family had to remodel a bathroom in January, so she pinned all sorts of bathroom ideas to her secret board under her business account!)
- Pin a bunch of items at once without flooding your followers' feeds. Scheduling tools and programs can help you to do this as well, but a DIY approach would be to save those items to a secret board and pin them to the appropriate boards throughout the week.
- Pin ideas or inspiration. If you're creating a new series for your blog or just need photo inspiration, secret boards are a great place to collect ideas without having to worry about descriptions and organization.
Secret Tip: A way to pin to 2 accounts at once. Pinterest doesn't make this easy, but there is a trick within Tailwind. You can add both accounts into the scheduling program, and from there, as long as you're logged into one of your Pinterest accounts, you can add pins to either one.
A Comparison of Pinterest Tools
ViralTag – Pin and schedule content from anywhere on the web. The pin number is unlimited. Cost: $29/month. (affiliate link)
Tailwind – Same batch pin scheduling, but Kate prefers their analytics. Tailwind also has smart scheduling so they'll pick the best times for your pins to go out. Price: $15/month and a limit of 400 pins per month. Or pay annually for $119 ($10/month) and get unlimited pins.
Ahalogy – Functions like a sub-Pinterest for only a select number of people. If you're approved to be a content partner. (There are only about 1,500 or so) then your content is shown to brands who can use your content on Pinterest or their own site and potentially pay you for that content. However, as a user, you're severely limited by the content selection and what you can pin from Ahalogy. For Kate, it's a new window of exposure for her client's content.
Board Booster – Great program for Pinners who want to set Pinterest on Autopilot. You set up a campaign and then Board Booster loops through content that you already have on a given board. It can take a long time to set up and be confusing, but the program is still fairly new. It doesn't work well if you want to continually discover new content to pin. Price: First 100 pins are free. After that, the monthly plans come out to 1 cent per pin. (ex. $5.00/month for 500 pins)
Kate's biggest tip in regards to killing it on Pinterest is to be consistent. You need to be fresh, active, and curating great content.
With so many things on our to-do lists, how can we realistically be consistent with Pinterest?
Kate recommends getting on Pinterest for a few minutes in the evening while you're relaxing. Some people pin for 10 minutes per day, 3 times per day, but if that feels like too much, just use a pin scheduling tool to ensure that you're pinning at least 20 pins per day. You can get on Pinterest once a week and schedule out those 20-45 pins per day for the whole week. We can all find one hour per week to devote to Pinterest.
The Person Who Helped Kate Grow her Business
In November of 2014 Kate hired a business coach. She felt like she was tripping over her feet. She was in the middle of growing her team and had lots of ideas on what she could do with her business, but she didn't have a good foundation for it.
Kate's business coach has helped her to think clearly and strategically about how to put a foundation in place that would allow her business to be a well-oiled machine.
Kate found her coach via a friend who was working with him. She emailed the coach and said, “I'm a mess. I need help.” They started working together the next week and they're still meeting twice a month.
People over Proficiency
Kate now has a team of 11 women in the Portland area. Her first hire was in July of 2014, and she chose an artistic, creative friend to help her find outside pins. Her friend knocked it out of the park! Since then, she's hired her team members based on referrals from friends.
The first thing Kate asks someone when she gets a referral is “tell me about who they are? Tell me what their strongest asset is?” If the answer is, “they're loyal, they're dependable, they're trustworthy, and they're hard-working” then Kate is sold! She can teach a team member how to do what she does, but finding someone with good character is not so easy.
As long as a team member is consistent, asking Kate questions, and committed to their client, Kate knows they're on the right track.
The benefits of hiring local.
Kate loves having a team that's local to Portland so they can meet twice a year to talk about what's going on with each of their accounts. Most of the Pinterest strategy comes from Kate, but she also wants to give each staff member the freedom to try new strategies and really see what works best. In between in-person meetings, Kate's staff members communicate via a private Facebook group.
A Typical Day for an Atypical Family
Kate schedules blocks of time to work Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 1 PM. During the week, Kate's daughters are both in school most of the day. Kate's husband is a traveling preacher, so he's generally not working on Mondays and Tuesdays.
On Mondays and Tuesdays Kate husband and her son pal around together while she's working. Wednesdays through Friday Kate shares a sitter with a friend. Her son gets to go over to a friend's house and have a great time, and Kate gets a great deal on childcare.
The evenings are sacred family time. No computers. No screens. Kate may pop on the computer in the evening after the kids go to bed but that's rare these days. When she was both a blogging contributor and running Simple Pin, life was a bit crazier!
How Kate Wows her Clients
As a nurturing personality-type, it comes naturally to Kate to foster her client relationships. Her business is not on autopilot. She touches base with them in many ways:
- Gives feedback on content
- Makes sure the right links are in their posts
- Makes email sign-ups more apparent
- Is available. She sees them, sees their content, and knows that they're working hard.
- Kate doesn't offer just be a pinning service but coaching to help you be a better business owner and manager
Why We're Our Own Worst Enemy
Despite Kate's business success and great feedback from her clients, Kate can still be her own worst enemy sometimes. She gets discouraged and begins to doubt herself from time to time. She questions whether people find her services valuable and whether they really want more information from her.
(Isn't this true of so many of us Mamapreneurs? It can be a daily battle!)
Kate's Funny Kids
You'll have to tune in to hear Kate's son's funny antics!
Stay in Touch with Kate
Kate's New Course: Pinterest 101: How to Set Up Your Pinterest Page for Success