TURD003 - Overcoming Perfectionism and Embracing Failure with Kristi Coughlin

More About Kristi Coughlin

Kristi Coughlin, MS, RDN, is a failure and a recovering perfectionist. After spending three years building an online nutrition practice, she decided to take a step back to pursue other dreams – to share ideas and create things. Kristi is now using her voice to share stories of overcoming perfectionism to help others get out of their own way. She is also creating products and selling them online in her shop called Effect Positivity – which means to bring about happy. The products – with messages such as You Are Enough and REAL. Better Than Perfect – are all inspired by former private practice clients.

Connect with Kristi:

Episode 003 Show Notes

Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the following products. If you click my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

Links from this episode:

Read the transcript:


Welcome to The Unconventional RD podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income streams. We’ll talk all things online business to help you start, grow and scale your own digital empire.

About this episode

Hey there! And welcome back to another episode of The Unconventional RD podcast. We’re switching things up a bit today. This is going to be my first interview episode, where I interview someone else about their experiences with unconventional income streams and dietetics.

And today’s guest is the wonderful Kristi Coughlin.

Kristi is actually a dietitian that I originally connected with online, through Facebook groups, but this was the first time we actually got to chat.

And I have to say, I’m really loving podcasting as a way to connect more intimately with other people like it’s so rad.

But anyways, Kristi is extremely passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism when launching their businesses. She also runs a really cool online store called Effect Positivity, where she sells physical goods like T-shirts with empowering phrases on them.

So during this episode, we chat about her experiences transitioning away from private practice and into selling physical goods, and then we chat about perfectionism, failure, and just being kind to ourselves on this entrepreneurial journey.

And this conversation was such a breath of fresh air. So I hope you enjoy it, too.

And one quick note before we dive in.

This was my very first time recording an interview with a guest. And to be honest, I flubbed it up.

So although I had my fancy professional microphone plugged in and I was talking into it just like I am right now, it was not recording. So while Kristi sounds absolutely fabulous, I sound like I’m speaking into a tin can. So sorry about that.

After my 1st 2 interviews, I fixed this issue. So thank you for your patience while I learn the podcasting ropes.

As my final announcement before we kick off this interview…

SEO Made Simple Online Course – live round kicks off January 15th.

Really quick, I just wanted to let you guys know that my SEO Made Simple online course, which teaches you how to grow your website traffic through Google, is about to kick off its second-ever live round.

Last January, in 2019, I ran the course for the very first time.

But since then, I’ve updated all of the content for 2020 and I’m running it again, starting actually this Wednesday, January 15th.

This course is for you if you’re tired of posting content and hearing crickets and if you’re ready to start blogging with strategy so you can see a monetary return. It’s for you if you’re ready to truly treat your blog as a business rather than just a fun hobby.

By the end of the course, you will never waste your time again creating content that no one is searching for. I intimately understand the frustrations around that.

You will understand how to get your post to the top of the Google search results and have a clear picture of how more website visitors equals money in your pocket.

And honestly, you will be excited and ready to start implementing an SEO strategy in your business.

I basically took all of the things that you need to know and organized them all into steps that you can just show up and implement on. So it takes away a lot of the mental load around getting started with SEO.

You just have to show up and do the work and then you will get the results.

So if you want to check it out, simply go to theunconventionalrdbb.com (that stands for Business Bootcamp) and click on the SEO Made Simple course to learn more.

And if you’re a dietitian, you’ll be happy to know that this course has been approved for 21 live CEUs. So this is a great chance to not only move the needle in your business, but get some continuing education units while you’re at it.

And for the next five days only, you can still nab the old 2019 pricing for this course. On January 20th, (the day that we start doing the live office hour calls) the price is going to go up by $200.

So if you’ve been on the fence, now is seriously the best time to join.

So again, without further ado…

Let’s dive into the interview with Kristi Coughlin.

Erica: Today we have Kristi Coughlin on the podcast, and I’m really excited to chat with her. She has some great things to share with us about online business and also overcoming perfectionism, which I think is such a hot topic in the RD world today.

So welcome, Kristi, to the podcast.

Kristi: Oh, thank you so much for having me. Erica.

Kristi’s Background

Erica: Yeah! So I’d like to start, I think, by just getting to know you a little bit more. Kind of like, how long have you been an RD? What got you into the field? And sort of like a higher-level overview of maybe where you started in your career and where you are today.

Kristi: Wonderful. So I have been a dietitian for about 10 years. I had no idea being a dietitian was even a professional option.

The way I found out about the career was actually taking college courses at the community college. And it was the professor that approached me after class one day.

I was in classes for restaurant management cause I was working in a restaurant at the time, and I was working, to try and get promoted. And the teacher (it was a serve safe class), she came to me after class and said, “Have you ever thought about being a dietitian?”

And I said, “Wait, What?” She kind of explained it to me a little bit, and I took the class the next semester and was instantly hooked on the concept of having nutrition as a profession. So I pursued it from there on, and it’s been a wonderful career.

I started out as a clinical dietitian, like most. I did that for about four years, and then I went into teaching college courses. I taught at the same college that I found out about the profession, and then I went into school nutrition.

I did that for about a year and a half and I thought it was a dream job. I thought it was amazing and it really was awful, in my world, at least.

And then my family and I made a difficult decision to move across state lines, and so we moved across state lines. It was a restart of career, and in the area I live there are very few dietitian jobs available,

I had to kind of say, “Okay, I need to make my own business for myself.” And so I started a private practice. I’ve done that for the last three years and I’ll tell you a little bit more about that later.

But now I’m selling products online through a business that I call Effect Positivity (this is Erica’s affiliate link), which means to bring about happy.

Why Kristi dabbled in private practice

Erica: That’s awesome. So when you had the private practice, was it in person? Virtual? Can you tell us more about that?

Kristi: Yes, it was predominantly virtual.

So where I’m at, I’m in Central Oregon and large cities like Salem, Portland, Eugene, any city that you pretty much know from the state of Oregon is about three hours from where I live. And so to be able to tap those markets, telehealth was the perfect answer for me.

And, um, I did see some clients that were local to me in person occasionally, but most appointments were held online.

Erica: And I don’t know about you, but I feel like we share similarity here in that we both kind of jumped into a virtual private practice. I’m curious to hear maybe why you made that decision.

I talk about this in the first episode of this podcast, but I think I made that decision because I felt like it was one of my only options as an entrepreneur. And I didn’t see a clear path of another way to sort of support myself as an individual entrepreneur.

I mean, now, in retrospect, I see so many other options. But, um, was that similar for you? Or how did you make that decision?

Kristi: It definitely was very similar. There were already two established private practices here in town, and we have about 100,000 residents in our area and then 200,000 if you include the small cities that surround us. So I felt the fact that there are already two established practices, that it would be really hard to break into this market. Online just allowed me to broaden those horizons.

And so, yeah, I did kind of feel I had to do it, uh, especially because we moved and there were really no jobs available.

It was an end to a means unfortunately, looking back on all of it. So I definitely learned a lot from that experience, but yeah, it was pretty much my only option at the time.

The transition into selling physical goods

Erica: Yeah, and then eventually you transitioned and started to sell products online through your new business,  Effect Positivity. How long have you been doing that? And where did that idea come from? Can you tell us a little more?

Kristi: Yeah. So the idea was something that I had been playing about around in the back of my head for a long time.

I had known that selling services is somewhat difficult, to an extent, especially when you’re selling high-dollar services, and so I was like, I just want products. Products could be so much easier to sell. And that thought probably swirled in my head for about two years before I was in a place where I could actually pursue it.

Early in January 2019, or January 31st, 2019, I had declared on Facebook that I had my best month in business to date. I feel like I’m finally getting this entrepreneur thing down.

And within an hour of posting that, I received a phone call that my father in law had passed away, and so I was not in an emotional state to continue my private practice, and I had to take a step back. I finished contracts for a couple of clients and just kind of gave myself a lot of space. And in that space I wanted to get back to my creative roots that I enjoyed so much when I was younger, kind of as a therapy, in a sense, and I was like alright, now or never. I’m gonna start making products. And I did.

And the fun part, even though my private practice is kind of up in the air and it wasn’t as amazing or successful as I imagined, all my ideas for my products came from my private practice. So they’re all messages that my clients needed to hear. They’re all things that they were, in a sense, lacking in one way or another. And so had I not had the private practice, I don’t think I would have been able to start the products business.

Erica: That’s such good insight. I think that’s so true. Like looking back, it all has a linking thread.

More about Effect Positivity

Can you give us some examples of, like, the types of messages that you have on your products, or the types of products, even?

Kristi: Of course. So my most popular one is “You are enough.” So many of my clients would come to me thinking that they had to change something about themselves and they needed to do that through diet and food. And that obviously, you know, your worth is not defined by your size or what you eat or what you don’t eat.

And I was like, No, you are enough. And so I would assign affirmations to clients from time to time. But I figured the shirts are way cooler than that.

And then another one is “Real. Better than perfect.” That’s probably one of my favorites right now.

You can and you will.

You are beautiful.

Just keep going. That’s another one. My favorite one also.

Erica: And you have some products where you can read it in the mirror? I thought that was really cool.

Kristi: Yeah, yeah. So the shirts were all originally designed so that they’re backward. So when you look in the mirror, the messages reflect it back to you.

And one of the other things that I realized, like, that thread that you had talked about, is that so many of the inspirational messages that we share, we share for others.

And of course, there is that that goal for us, ourselves. But when you think about shirts, the messages on our shirts, it’s for other people. It’s not for ourselves.

So I figured if it was backward and we look in the mirror, then it’s that message reflecting back to ourselves, and we’re the ones reading it. We’re the ones we need to take care of. Ourselves. Before we can take care of others, right?

Erica: That’s so cool. I think that’s such a unique and awesome idea. I’m excited that it’s going well for you.

Learning to sell physical goods online

Erica: I am so curious…. Just as someone who has not really dabbled in the product world… How did you even learn how to create and sell products?

Did you take a course? Have a mentor? Like, how did you get into this?

Kristi: I am so very lucky that I have a friend who has mentored me, here in town. She has six Etsy shops and so she’s well versed. She’s sold stuff on Etsy, I think for, I want to say almost 10 years. As long as Etsy’s been around, practically, she’s been making and selling products on Etsy. So she had a lot of insights and a lot of things to consider that I had not previously known or understood.

And I had approached her with the idea of us doing something together, probably six months before my father in law passed away,

And she’s like, “Well when you’re ready, I’ll show you how to do it. We don’t need to do it together. I’ll just show you.”

And so when I was in that, I guess, a grief mode, essentially… When I was going through the deepest part of my grief of my father lost passing, we were hanging out more and more, just as friends. And she kept saying, “You should do this. You should do this. You should do this.” And so she kind of cheerleadered me on a little bit and helped me get started with everything.

And so I made my first products, or sample products, with her right before spring break because we were going to Disneyland and I really wanted to get some pictures at Disneyland and just kind of see if I got any response from the shirt.

So I think you had a question about that…. If I tested my product or validated it first. That was pretty much my test run. Wearing shirts at Disneyland.

And then from there I, like, officially launched my Etsy site in May and I really didn’t do much with it until probably October. Kind of still working through a little bit of that grief and things like that first,

But yeah, I finally gave it a whole lot more attention in October. Right around my birthday, I was like, “All I want for my birthday is people to buy something from my shop.”

Selling on Shopify and Etsy

Erica: So does someone else drop ship it for you? Or do you actually have them shipped to your house and you mail them out?

Kristi: So right now, as a continued part of that testing and validating my idea, it is a drop-ship process.

So it’s through…. Um, I use Shopify as my website and for the dropship, through Etsy.

And they, do printing for individual runs. So it’s called direct-to-garment, where they print it on one single garment and then they can send it out directly to the consumer. And so I don’t have to be involved in that process 100% right now and that’s the reason why I started that way.

I really wanted to get a better idea of size, run, color preferences, and messages that people liked before I put in a large bulk order to have products screen printed, which is my goal for this year, to get some screen printed items.

Erica: Such a good point. And really, I think this is something that new entrepreneurs don’t think about sometimes. Like, maybe testing a little bit before you go all-in with either money or time.

Kristi: I mean, I may have made those mistakes in my private practice. Yes, definitely. I know I have for sure.

Erica: Oh, the time I spent three months making a program and I sold one? Uhhhh, yeah.

So okay, cool. That’s really helpful and insightful.

What to expect when selling online

Erica: I’m just trying to get an idea for myself and for people listening… Do you see this being a huge business that’s gonna be your main thing? Or is this something you’re doing as a side hustle? Or how’s the business doing now? (Like in revenue) And where do you see it going?

Kristi: Yeah, so I’d say right now it’s more of a side hustle, and it’s something that I’m just kind of playing around with and getting a better feel for. But I do have some big goals for going forward.

For example, creating wholesale accounts and wholesaling the product with either local stores or other dietitians if they have a physical location or want to buy for their clients or something like that. I’ve had a lot of dietitians reach out as gifts for their clients, which I think is amazing.

So um yeah, I’m definitely on the smaller scale of it right now, but I think that’s normal in any business, right? Like that’s just the starting point. It doesn’t mean that it has to stay a side hustle or that has to stay in this like “small scale”. It is small, but it’s growing. And the more attention and love I give to it, the more it grows and the more sales I get.

So I am really excited because I’ve really only given it love for a few months at this point and I’ve shipped to 18 states, Washington DC, and the United Kingdom. So that’s pretty cool.

Erica: That’s super cool, right? And I totally agree. I feel like there is a lot of pressure out there to, you know, try something and all these expectations of “It’s going to make me six figures in the first year.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never experienced that. I’m more of a slow and steady grower.

Kristi: Yeah, and I would say, even my friend, that’s been selling on Etsy for a really long time. She’s done it as a side hustle most of that time.

But this last year she’s focused a ton, and I want to say, December she did over $10,000 in sales on one shop alone, and that’s been her best month in business. So I feel like I’m trending in a normal range right now, like I’m not behind.

And so anyone who does to try this, this mode of business, and you’re like “I’ve only gotten 10 sales and I have been doing this for five months…” That’s actually pretty decent.

I think I had reached 20 sales, and Etsy told me I was already performing better than 55% of Etsy sellers.

So yeah, apparently there’s a lot of people who just put stuff up on Etsy and think of it more as passive and you don’t have to do anything to work it. But you really do have to work it.

Why have stores on both Shopify and Etsy?

Erica: Totally. Gotta drive people to the store. Um, so, what’s the difference between the Shopify store and Etsy store Are they linked? How does that work?

Kristi: So my stores are linked. I have products that I’ve created that are available in both Etsy and on my Shopify site. But I do have a more extensive collection of products on my actual Shopify website there.

When you post products to Etsy, you have to pay 20 cents per listing and then you need to renew it every four months.

But one of the tricks that I’ve learned is you want to renew it more frequently than that to keep you abreast of the algorithm. You know, SEO, all that good stuff. I know you love that stuff.

So if you have a product that’s underperforming and it’s not selling, it’s not getting a lot of use and things like that. It can really hurt your algorithm to keep it on the Etsy site.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t interested in the product… I wanna have a variety of things, so I keep it active on my website, but not through Etsy. So they are like essentially the same, but just different variety or different options on each site.

Erica: Okay, so is the idea that Etsy will bring some native traffic that you wouldn’t otherwise get on your Shopify site?

Kristi: Yes, definitely. So I do pay for their Etsy ads. It’s Etsy ads but it’s also through Google. And so I’ve gotten some business through that for sure. In fact, my first sale that was to someone I didn’t know was a result of a Google ad through Etsy.

So yeah, trying to diversify the ways that people come to me. It helps to bring in a different traffic, that I wouldn’t necessarily bring to myself like that.

Erica: Yeah, I have not dabbled at all with either Shopify or Etsy, so this is really… I’m learning a lot by listening.

Would you do anything differently?

Erica: So if you had to start over with selling products online from the beginning, do you think there’s anything you would have done differently?

Kristi: I would’ve started it sooner.

I would have started it sooner and I would have given it 1010% sooner if I was in that emotional capacity to do it.

Obviously, at that time, I really wasn’t. But I would have just created like crazy because the more you’ve got on your site, the more that you promote it, the more sales that you get, the better you do on Etsy. So that’s really helpful.

And then I would have started my website sooner. I started with Etsy to kind of, like I said, test or validate the idea and then went to the website.

I probably would have gone to the website sooner because I linked that to my Facebook and literally got three sales within a day.

Erica: So that’s amazing. All right, so you would have started your store sooner.

What has worked best for marketing?

Erica: Any other tips? How about marketing? How is that going? Do you have any insights on what’s worked best for you or not?

Kristi: The thing that has worked best for me is getting on Facebook and linking my Shopify to my Facebook site. And although I don’t have a huge following on there right now and it’s becoming more and more difficult to get organic traffic, I have been able to get quite a few sales through Facebook with my website. So that has been wonderful.

But making sure that when you set up your website, you do all your search engine optimization stuff, and you’re using your keywords, and you know, you’re doing all the type of things that you talk about very regularly, on your Shopify site. So it’s just like any other website.

Then the same thing goes with Etsy. I had no idea how heavy that was in terms of keywords and making sure that that information was not helpful for just spots, but also people coming and trying to purchase the product. So the more that I’ve optimized my Etsy sites, the better it has gone as well.

So yeah, search engine optimization. You’re not gonna get away from it. Basically, yeah.

SEO for online stores

Erica: I’m really familiar with content marketing SEO and making articles and things like that, and less so about store product SEO…. Do you know off the top of your head what types of keywords people are googling and finding you through?

Kristi: So I don’t know which off hand. I haven’t looked at it in a couple weeks from the holiday, but the way that the key words are, it’s basically what are people going to look for, right?

So, like, one of the things that I have used a lot in the past was birthday gifts or presents. But then doing all the different variations of that. So each Etsy listing has keywords. “Gifts for her”, “funny presents”, or “inspirational products”. Those are the types of keywords that I’ve used quite a bit.

I have a platform that helps you go through and make sure that you have competitive SEO. So it kind of takes the guesswork out of it for you, and it helps you to say yeah, like, that’s a really competitive one. It may get some traffic, but it’ll be really difficult, versus this one has high conversions and lower competition.

So that site has been incredibly helpful in this whole process.

Erica: Do you mind sharing? Which one you use?

Kristi: I use E-rank.

Erica: Okay.

Kristi: Yeah, I think it used to be called Etsy Rank, but they were told to stop using the word Etsy.

Erica: So E-rank, that makes a lot of sense.

Kristi: Yeah. So it helps you in terms of your keywords, but also any attributes or any missing information that may be in an Etsy listing. Because any information that’s missing within that listing will cause it to be skipped by your algorithm.

So optimizing the product listing is really what it helps with the most.

Erica: That makes so much sense. So many parallels to, like, recipe schema and things like that. You want to make sure it’s completely filled out and all that.

I’m assuming that’s a paid tool. Do you know how much it is per month?

Kristi: I want to say it’s $10 or $12 a month.

Erica: That’s so reasonable.

Kristi: Yeah. And again, it’s one of those things that I probably would have started using much sooner had I realized the value of having those optimized keywords and even optimized listings. Really, it was really helpful.

Also, don’t go in and change every single listing all at the same time, because that will kill you in the algorithm. You want to slowly make changes here and there. And I learned that one the hard way. So just throwing that one out there.

Erica: Interesting. I would not have thought about that. I use a tool called SEMrush for my blog SEO keyword research stuff. And that’s $99 a month. So yeah, $10 or $12 is totally worth it. Thanks for sharing that.

Promoting your store on Facebook

Erica: Going back to what you were mentioning about Facebook being a good win for you for marketing… Are you talking about linking your website on your Facebook page or your personal profile? Or both?

Kristi: So I link on my Facebook page, but then share that to my personal page.

Then I’ve also got a couple of pop-up Facebook groups that I run for conferences, like the Today’s Dietitian Symposium. And so I’ve shared them in there and, um, that has that has been helpful as well.

What are the profit margins on physical goods?

Erica: And this is a random question. I didn’t put this on the list, but it just popped in my head. What are the profit margins on this type of business?

Kristi: It really depends on what you price your product at. So when I first got started, I just wanted to get sales.

And so I was probably getting 10% of the sale in return. Now my products are marked up anywhere from 50 to 60%.

But I regularly do discounts, so I typically make 30 to 40% off the products. It’s cool.

I’m like thinking, and this isn’t even like Shark Tank, I know my numbers well. The way I could make it cheaper is getting some of the products screen printed and having it in bulk and shipping it myself.

So that is definitely, um, what is up on my radar this year… as well as wholesale. Wholesale will be an even bigger game-changer because then I could put in large orders for those wholesales accounts, get extra products that I have on hand, so that when I get an order through Etsy or through my website, I could ship it myself, and that is how I’ll make more money off of it.

But again, just kind of testing the field and seeing what people really like and then working on taking that next step.

Erica: This is so cool. I feel like if you ever put out some sort of training on this, people would eat it up, because I feel like you’re so helpful and clear on how it all works.

And I really knew nothing about this prior to this podcast interview. So it’s really interesting. A different avenue. You know I love to talk about unconventional income streams, so I’m glad you’re the first interview.

Kristi: And it’s a really popular thing going on right now. I think it’d be great for more dietitians to get on board with it.

I’ve had some dietitians ask and they want to know, and then a few of them are a little reluctant to do the drop ship type stuff. And I can understand. It’s got its pros and its cons, but you know, it’s just something to add to your empire, and so many people are doing it.

If you look at big YouTubers, big YouTubers are doing the same type of thing and making their own products and drop shipping them and stuff like that.

So, yeah, it’s definitely the thing to do right now.

What about taxes?

Erica: One of the things that intimidates me about selling physical products is taxes. Because I live in California and digital goods aren’t taxed in California but physical goods are. So that seems like it would be very complicated.

I know there’s, like, a bunch of stuff that you can use to calculate the taxes. But how has that been for you?

Kristi: So calculating the tax for the buyer, you mean?

Erica: Yeah, like sales tax, and then submitting it.

Kristi: That’s all done through the websites for me.

Erica: Amazing.

Kristi: Yeah. Otherwise, yes, it would be a terrifying thing,

But based off of where the product is being shipped, Etsy or Shopify does those things for you.

So they will calculate how much tax the person owes and then automatically collect it when they’re making the payment.

Erica: And then do they submit it for you as well?

Kristi: I don’t know if they submit it for me as well. We’ll find out more of those details when I do my taxes this year. Um, but yeah, they definitely calculate for you and collect it.

Erica: So you’ve got that part covered. Awesome.

Yeah, that’s always been, like, really intimidating. There are so many laws, especially when you’re doing physical and digital goods. And if you have affiliates that have sales tax nexus, depending on where your affiliates are and how much business they do. It’s so complicated.

Kristi: So oh, my gosh, yes, you’re like, bring in the tax person and help me. So that will be all on my tax lady.

I had signed up to work with a bookkeeper earlier this year, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. She had life changes. She got pregnant, and she’s like, I’m gonna dedicate more time to my baby. I’m not gonna do this after all.

But yeah, it definitely helps to work with a professional who knows all that stuff.

Erica: Yeah, I have not worked with a professional yet either, but I literally have been emailing with a person to make an appointment in January. So I’m right there with you.

It starts to get… I feel like when you’re just a little solo entrepreneur, when you’re just starting out for the first year or two, it’s not that complicated. But then as soon as you start to get more income streams from different sources or you start to hire people or outsource, you’re like Whoa. This is is gonna be a lot more work.

Kristi: Yes, it’s definitely…. It could be something, though that will absolutely be a segue into perfectionism, if you’re ready to talk about that.

Erica: I am.

Making progress, despite perfectionistic tendencies

Kristi: But it could be something that can paralyze us and cause us to not take that next step.

And I think you’re kind of saying this right now…. that you’re interested, but you’re also kind of nervous about it.

And knowing that you don’t have to have all of the answers right away, that you can figure out those answers along the way and you’ll be just as successful, if not more, is really important to this conversation.

Erica: Totally agree. I feel even with the launch of this podcast, I probably put it off for, like, a year or even two years longer than I should have.

Like, literally, two years ago almost, to this January….Two years ago I went on a trip and wrote a list of over 300 episode ideas.

This was January 2018…. And now here we are, January 2020, and I’m just starting. Yeah, perfectionism definitely got in the way a little.

Kristi: It’s definitely plagued me in so many ways over the last several years.

I don’t even know how long I wanted to have my own private practice before I actually started something. I did market research with a friend and we were going to start a practice together.

I think we were either still in our graduate program or we had just finished our graduate program and she and I were already dietitians when we were in a graduate program.

So we’re talking probably eight, 10, 11 years ago, I wanted to start a private practice, and I didn’t do until three and 1/2 years ago. So that was a long time to drag my feet in terms of that perfectionism.

And one of the things that got my way was setting up an LLC and the cost and figuring out logistics such as setting up the whole LLC, figuring out taxes, and how to pay for things. Like those were huge, paralyzing things for me.

And I just think…. If I would have gotten started earlier, where would I be right now?

And so that, I think, is what drives me to continue to make progress so that I don’t fall back into that same pattern.

Erica: So true. Like, the time just goes by and you’re like, man, I really haven’t taken any action on that idea.

Yeah, I need to be quite honest. I am a sole proprietor and I’m incorporating in January. So I’ve been running my business for like, four or five years without it. So it’s still possible. I mean, obviously a little more risky, potentially, but you don’t NEED it. You could still do it even without it.

Because in California it costs like $1000 to form an LLC. So it’s on the pricier end, and that definitely held me back. But I just did it anyway.

Kristi: Yeah, and I think because I, starting out as a dietitian I had already owned a home and owned a car and had two kids. And, you know, I had some things that I definitely needed protected.

And so I was fearful. And fear goes hand in hand with perfectionism.

Pushing through fear

Kristi: I was fearful of what would happen if I didn’t go that route. I was fearful of the $1000 that it would take to start the LLC. And just fearful of what that would entail or what if something went wrong? How would that impact myself and my family and all of that?

But yeah, just learning to stare fear in the face and say, “Yeah, you’re not gonna get the best of me anymore.” has been hugely liberating.

Erica: Yeah, and I feel like sometimes we overblow the fears maybe a little bit with entrepreneurship.. I mean, you could get let go from your job at any moment as well. That’s kind of scary, but people don’t really think about that or talk about that either. So you know, there’s pros and cons to everything.

Kristi: Yes, and there’s risks with everything. So you’re right. It’s risky being employed by someone else.

I became a dietitian right after the economic downturn. I graduated with my bachelors in 2009 and started my dietetic internship. So I entered the profession at a time where full-time jobs were lost and people were cut back to part-time. And it was a really difficult time to enter the field.

But again, it was risky, right?

So if I had just taken on that risk for myself, instead of helping someone else out, again, where would I be now?

Why is perfectionism so common in dietetics?

Erica: Totally. And do you have any thoughts on why perfectionism is so rampant in our profession? I know it gets talked about a lot.

Kristi: Yeah. A lot of dietitians, I feel as if we’re cut from the same mold. Like we are the same person in a sense.

We’ve got tons of our type-A friends out there.

Erica: I feel you.

Kristi: I know that we do have some Type B in our pool here, but most people fall within that Type A classic perfectionists in our profession.

I think part of it kind of comes back to how I even found out about the profession. An instructor saw, probably, those traits and those qualities that are very common in a dietitian and called me out and asked if I had ever thought about being in the profession.

And I will be completely honest. I had very similar conversations with students that were in my classes when I was teaching at the community college, those intro to nutrition courses.

And I do, I did, caution some people and say, like, “Why are you going into this profession? Are you in it to make $100,000 a year every year, starting out? Or are you in it to change people’s lives?” Because nobody had that conversation with me.

Um, but yeah. We all are cut from the same mold. for the most part. And I think that’s why I love dietitians so much. Cause you guys all love me and understand me for who I am because you are me.

Erica: I know, our communities are amazing. So many good friendships and so real and supportive.

Kristi: I think so. Yeah, it’s wonderful. But you know, at the same time to add to that, I think a lot of why we have rampant perfectionism in our profession is also the result of our training.

And so I very distinctly remember being in college nutrition courses and the instructor saying like, it has to be this way, and they would accept no deviants from that whatsoever.

And so when you have this culture of everything has to be exact and precise, and there are no exceptions to that. It does breed perfectionism.

And so I graduated my undergrad and then went into the internship and had these messages beat into my brain like, this is how it has to be. If you don’t do this, you’re wrong. You’re a failure.

That was really interesting to me. Now I look back and realize, “Oh, my gosh. It was almost as if we’re bred to be perfectionists.”

Erica:  I was having a similar insight in the shower! Yeah, kind of like, being okay with being wrong sometimes or admitting that you did something wrong or, you know, moving and growing from an experience and not getting so defensive. I feel like that’s something that I’m constantly working on.

And I was just thinking back on it… I think part of it is, I was raised in a high school community that was very academic oriented, and then college was the same way.

And you’re right, like especially in school, in academia, like at least in the sciences, it is very black and white. It’s like, this is the right answer and this is the wrong answer. And you want to be right. You know what I mean?

Kristi: But I think that the craziest part in all of this, let’s be real about it…. With science, we have a very black and white, this is how it is, this is how it is not…. But when you read research articles, that is not at all how the research falls.

Erica: 1000%. But that’s how we are schooled. I feel like there’s a huge gap. Sorry, I’m really passionate about education. I tutored for a really long time in college and then I tutored high school students afterward.

But yeah, I feel like since we’re all still hung up on standardized tests and multiple-choice like, it just leaves no room for that grey area of the discussion. And, yeah, I’m not a huge fan.

Kristi: It also squashes creativity, right?

So I think a part of my difficulty in getting my private practice launched and growing it, aside from it being an end to a means, was I had all these perfect expectations in my mind of, “You can’t do this until you have that.” and, “Until you do this, then you can’t do that.”

And, hey, it was paralyzing. It was absolutely paralyzing in so many respects.

And I think, had I not had so much perfectionism beaten to my brain… That, “You have to interpret this information exactly like this.” and in terms of marketing, “If you don’t use science-based information when you’re communicating with masses of people, then you’re wrong.”

And you just can’t be an entrepreneur and run a private practice and have science based messaging all the time to people. Because it doesn’t resonate with them. At all. Period.

Oh gosh, that’s one I get really frustrated about. You have to learn to communicate with people, especially as an entrepreneur.

You have to learn to communicate with people in a way that gets them excited and gets them engaged. And you do that through telling stories.

With research, if you just take the main point and regurgitate that, that’s not a story. It doesn’t resonate. It lacks emotion. It lacks everything that engages the person listening to you talking.

That is a whole nother topic, but something else we need to help our professional with.

Erica: Yeah, definitely. And we don’t learn that, I mean at all.

Kristi: None of it. We learn none of it.

Collaboration over competition

Erica: Yeah, I feel like looking back, that you’re right. I think one of the reasons why The Unconventional RD brand (it didn’t start as a business, but it grew into a business) and the group was successful was because it was really a platform where I was just sharing what I was trying.

I was trying to be fully transparent. And then that grew into a community. I think there isn’t enough of that, necessarily, in our profession.

Kristi: Definitely, there’s not enough of that.

And I almost get the feeling in our profession (and it’s so unfortunate), outside of your group and a few others similar to your group, there is a lot of competition over collaboration.

It kind of stems from our internship days and our undergrad days, where we’re all trying to go out for the same internships, and we know that 50% of people don’t get into internships that apply, maybe even more, so you kind of want to keep a couple of secrets hidden in your back pocket, and you don’t want to tell everybody everything, and it creates a huge level of competition within our profession.

So we’re going against each other instead of helping each other. And so when you have that platform for us to come together and have that collaboration over competition, it makes a huge difference.

And you’re right. It’s something that you can’t find very many other places, and it’s a breath of fresh air when we’re bred in our profession to have a lot of competition with one another, which is very unfortunate.

Erica: I hope that that’s changing. One of my missions is to help open up the online world because it’s limitless. You can reach people anywhere.

Giving yourself permission to do you.

Erica: Circling back to what you were saying earlier, feeling like maybe you had to do one type of career before you were allowed or had permission to do something else….

I think I had the same block. Thinking, “Who is gonna listen to me and my blog about nutrition?”

Like I mean, I hate to say it, but I would see people criticize others, being like, “Oh, they’ve only been doing this for two years.” or whatever, like, “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” Or, “They don’t see clients, so don’t listen to them.”

But that’s not a helpful, uplifting, positive message or supportive of our endeavors.

And to be quite honest, I don’t think it’s serving anyone to try to do it all.

I think if you’re trying to see clients and your heart’s not in it… If you’re trying to blog and that’s where your heart really is, you’re doing a disservice by spreading yourself across those two things instead of focusing on where your true passion is and where you want to make a difference.

Because you CAN help people through your writing or whatever. You don’t have to help people one on one. It’s not required.

Kristi: Um, hands up in preaching position. Preach it because absolutely, yes, yes, yes.

Don’t be afraid of specializing and niching down

Kristi: And even outside of trying to do everything as a business owner ourselves and saying that I have to do it and it must be done by me and not wanting to delegate or having other people help with it…. Just trying to be a jack of all trades and see people who have every possible element under the sun and doing that as opposed to specializing, does our profession a huge disservice.

And if we go back to the education piece and kind of get off topic with it, I even think the fact that we have generalized dietetic internships and we’re not focusing or specializing in being food service or clinical or public health or whatever entity under any of those umbrellas would be.

I think we’re hindering our profession significantly. And if you look at medical professionals, like doctors and nurses and even physical therapists, they’re highly specialized and they don’t see everything. With the exception of a general practitioner. That’s your general medicine doctor.

But they know when to refer out when something is not under their umbrella. So, yeah, we can move the needle huge for our profession if we focus on specializing and delegating out what is not our passion.

Erica: I have thought about that as well. So many times.

I remember, when I was in school (we actually graduated from undergrad at the same year, except I did a little circuitous route and did something else for a few years before going back to school to become an RD) but, um, yeah, I felt the same way when I was going through the grad program.

Like, okay, yes, this is a broad field, but I did feel like there should have been tracks that you could go down and stay in. Bouncing back and forth between all of them, yes, I did feel a little bit like I graduated and I knew a little bit about a lot of things, instead of a lot about one thing that I wanted to focus on

Kristi: Yeah, and that is great when you’re just getting started out. But then to put us out into the professional world and say “Have at it”, not only does it hinder our profession because we speak about things that we aren’t well versed in, but then it kind of also confuses us.

Like, as a private practice dietitian or as a business owner, I have had a major identity crisis because I’ve enjoyed so many things, but I haven’t specialized in one or two things. That made it really difficult.

We could have gone past all of that if we would just have specialized dietetic internships.

Kind off-topic, but I feel like this goes along with the perfectionism thing?

Erica: I do feel like one of the themes that comes up, at least in my group, is the fear of niching down. Because they’re afraid they’re going to get trapped in it, or what if they don’t like it, or I don’t know.

I think that ties into perfectionism because it’s this idea that whatever you’re starting with or whatever you’re doing, that’s what you’re gonna be doing forever, or something like that. You know?

Kristi: Married to it and there’s no room for a divorce, kind of thing.

Yeah, you’re absolutely right with that perfectionism. We think that once we make a decision, that if we deviate from it, then we’ve failed in one sense or another.

Change and failure are part of the process

Kristi: And so I had told you, for this episode I want to talk about perfectionism, but also failure.

Some people would see my private practice and be like, oh, it’s a huge failure. And so I’m taking ownership of that term and saying, yeah, it’s a failure.

But what most people define failure to be is not what failure truly is. Failure is a stepping stone in the path of where you want to go, and you have to experience all of that in order to have the success that you desire so much.

So all my perfectionist RDs out there, all the dietitians listening, or RDs to be…. Please embrace failure. Please embrace it as a necessary stepping stone.

And just because you made one decision and it was a mistake and it didn’t go the way you wanted to or whatever, that’s actually exactly how it’s supposed to happen.

Erica: Yeah, I mean, I can’t even tell you. I think actually, in the first episode of this podcast, I went through some of my failures, but probably not even all of them.

It took me a really long time, like three years of dabbling, to figure out what I even wanted to do. And even today, I’m still sort of pivoting.

Recently, I made the decision to focus more on The Unconventional RD brand.

But, like, even that was scary, because I was, or am, afraid of the judgment of, like, I’m a dietitian, but I’m not doing dietetics anymore. Now I talk about business. You know?

But people can judge you for anything and everything, so you just have to go with what feels right to you.

Kristi: So then my biggest question for you – Is it that other people are judging you? Or are you passing judgment on yourself and really kind of thinking and taking that in?

Erica: Um, I think I’m afraid of other people judging me. I don’t even know if they are. It’s just my own fear, yeah, popping in.

Kristi: I think because there is so much judgment about, you know, kind of the things you said earlier…. “You didn’t do clinical, so you can’t do private practice. And you have to do this in order to do that,”

Because there has been quite a lot of that in the history of our profession (I actually feel it’s getting better), but because there has been a lot of it… People may not actually pass those judgments, but we kind of have those thoughts in the back of our minds.

And that’s what is speaking to us or telling us, “Are you sure you want to do that? Don’t do that. If you do it that way, then people are going to say something.”

So we’re kind of… what is it… we’re transferring it. So we’re transferring it from where we’ve read it before to ourselves. And yeah, that’s just a recipe for disaster.

Erica: Yeah, and I feel like I weirdly usually don’t let that stuff hold me back. I still move forward anyway, but I definitely am very impacted by negative criticism, so I just gotta keep working through it.

Kristi: Yes. And I feel you, because there are so many things I wanted to do over the last even three years that I haven’t done for fear of the same type of thing. But you’ve made massive progress on things that I kind of sat back.

It was like, ooh, I could do this, I could do that, I could do this. And I didn’t take action on any of it. And so I haven’t made that same massive progress in that same time frame.

So I think with perfectionism, we also then compare ourselves with others, right? And that causes us to have some hindrance with whatever it is we’re trying to achieve.

But kind of just staying in our own lane and reminding ourselves that we’re on our own path and we’re on our own journey and comparing our progress to our own progress and making sure we’re truly passionate about what we’re doing.

So this is like my last biggest message for everyone here, unless something else pops in my head, I guess.

Follow your passions

Kristi: It can be so easy to see what other people are doing and doing well and being successful at or see something as a potential way out of where we currently are.

I read this all the time in Facebook comments, “I have this full-time job that I don’t really like. So I want to do my own thing and I want to start a private practice.”

And I’m like, “That is the worst reason to start a private practice.”

It’s kind of like me moving to a new state and saying, “Well, there’s no other jobs. I might as well do this.” It lacks passion.

So when you’re going through that process, please, please, please, try and identify what you’re passionate about. What truly brings you alive and gets you really excited and pay attention to that and figure out what you can do and do that every single day.

Then perfectionism won’t matter. It won’t hinder you because you are so excited to share your message that it doesn’t matter.

Do work that feels good

Erica: It’s true, and also not even just thinking about the topics you’re into, but also the type of work.

I feel like most people automatically jump to 1:1 work or counseling, and that’s not everyone’s strength, you know?

You can do writing. You can do online teaching. You can blog. You can do recipe development. You can do online courses. Like whatever, you know, there are so many ways.

So once you’ve found the topic you’re interested in, I think it’s important to also think about the type of work that sits well with you. You know? So you’re not dreading all your tasks.

Don’t be afraid to carve your own way

Kristi: And just because you don’t see it already being done out there doesn’t mean that you can’t do it.

Like, I do know that there are a couple of dietitians who have Etsy accounts, or that have Etsy pages.

I don’t know of many, but, you know, even if other dietitians weren’t doing that, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do that as a dietitian or that I can’t to do it.

So being open to creating your own path and doing your own thing is probably one of the number one pieces of advice I’ve heard from well-established dietitians who are really well known within our profession and even outside of our profession.

They saw a hole in the market and they pursued it. And that has been the answer to their success. So definitely do your own thing.

Save 20% on your 1st purchase from Effect Positivity.

Erica: Yes. Well, I think it’d be great to close out this episode with your special offer that you have available. Can you tell us more about what you have for people to sign up for?

Kristi: Yeah. So if you visit my website. You’re gonna share the website in the show notes?

Erica: Yeah. You can say it out loud too though.

Kristi: Okay. So the website is effectpositivity.myshopify.com and that’s effect with an E.

It means to bring about happy.

If you go to my website and you sign up for my email list, then you get 20% off your first purchase. This is something that I don’t offer in my Etsy shop, only on my website.

And from there you’ll get, um, I’m not gonna send a whole bunch of emails all the time, but promotional information. If I want to run a sale for future things or published new products. Different things like that. You’ll be the first to know about it, and you may see the occasional inspirational message for me from time to time.

Erica: That’s amazing. And thank you for that generous offer. I think people will be excited to check it out.

I feel like we went up and down in this interview. We talked about business. We talked about perfectionism and failure, and it was so…. I don’t know. It really felt good to talk about this stuff. And I hope other people enjoy listening to you and resonate with what we have to say.

Keep in touch with Kristi

Erica: Where can people go if they want to connect with you more? Either on the website or online social handles that people can find you.

Kristi: Social handles –  @EffectPositivity

That’s effect with an E. Again. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram with that handle.

And if you want to send me an email, you can. It’s [email protected].

Though I would honestly say, connecting with me on Facebook and sending a DM, you’re probably going to get a much better response than you would from email. So, just saying it as it is.

Erica: Well, I’ll put all that in the show notes in case people want to reach out. I know I’ve reached out to people who I have heard on a podcast before, so maybe some people will!

Kristi: Yeah, definitely. And I’m happy to talk about it and I’d love to share some more of these messages with people.

And another last fun plug is at FNCE this year, or technically last year, I spoke about perfectionism and how it is hindering your client’s progress. And that’s available on Facebook. If anyone is interested in checking it out because I think perfectionism is more rampant outside of our profession than we realize from time to time. So if we can address that for our clients, we can help them make progress as well.

Erica: Awesome. Yeah. If you send me the link, I can put that in the show notes too.

Kristi: Will do.

Erica: Awesome. Well, thanks again for being here.

Kristi: Thank you so much for having me here today, Erica. I really enjoyed our conversation. And I look forward to talking with people some more about perfectionism and maybe even setting up your own drop ship or Etsy shop in the future.

And oh, another great thing. I’m gonna be launching a podcast this year as well and it’s called “Bring About Happy.” It will be talking about the messages on my products, but also this theme of overcoming perfectionism and such, so really excited to share that with everyone.

Erica: I love it. Can’t wait to listen.

All right, guys. Well, I hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you want to check out links to anything that we mentioned, just go to the show notes page at theunconventionalrd.com/episode003.

Thanks, and I will see you guys next week!

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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.