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I am Jennifer Bourn, Founder and Creative Director at Bourn Creative

Sep. 9, 2015

This is my first AMA, so I'm not completely sure what to expect and hop to provide some value! Here's a bit about me for those who don't know me yet!

I started out thinking I'd be an electrical engineer and after 2+ years of courses, I changed majors. I have a bachelor's degree in graphic design from Sacramento State and have been working in the field since 1997. Through college I completed six internships while working part time as a designer at a small agency. I graduated and went to work full time as a graphic designer in 2002. In 2005, with a 2 year old and a pregnant with my son, I ventured out on my own and founded Bourn Creative.

A friend taught me web design at my kitchen table to help me earn more money and I began offering web design services immediately (so sorry to those clients). I discovered WordPress in 2008, fell in love with the ability to give clients more control over their content and to reduce the revisions and maintenance I was doing for them and never looked back.

In July, we celebrated our 10 year business anniversary.

The first 5 years I was basically on my own, with my husband Brian taking care of the financials. Then Brian quit his full time career, joined the business full time, and became not only my boss (I know, crazy right?!) and developer. Today Bourn Creative is a full service design studio specializing in brand design, custom WordPress theme design, and graphic design services for small to medium size businesses. We're also a Genesis recommended developer. We work with clients around the globe and provide online business consulting and web strategy to a variety of businesses.

I manage the development of our internal systems and processes, which we have automated much of, and I do quite a bit of speaking, teaching, guest blogging, and content development for our brand, as well as content services for select clients.

We're known for working hard and playing hard. We have a Lego room. We play a lot of board games. I'm learning to cook. Our kids are now 9 and 12 and we vacation and travel A LOT ...

I think that's it ... Ask away!

Comment
27 votes   Flag
Lucas Karpiuk

Having just recently taken our first family "vacation" (1yo and 4yo), I'm curious - at what age does this become relaxing again?

Favourite board game? Do you play Monopoly by the real rules?

Reply
Jennifer Bourn

Lucas ... lol! OMG. Traveling with babies, car seats, strollers, diaper bags ... so much stuff! When our youngest was about 5, vacationing became so much easier! I could give each kid a packing checklist then and they would put everything on the list on their beds, then once approved, pack their bags. Now they pack everything themselves and it's heaven!

Our favorite board games are Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. We just got Exploding Kittens and have been playing that a ton too ... but our favorite games are those by GameWright, especially Gubs and Loot. And, the kids are just getting into Monopoly :)

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Jason Tucker

Did either you or Brian have a fascination with Lego back when you were kids? How big was your collection back then?

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Jennifer Bourn

Brian and I both played Legos as kids... but nothing close to how we play today :) We did both save some of our Legos from childhood, combine them into a tub, and stuck them under our bed for the day when our kids may want to play with them.

At 3, Carter was interested, and because neither kids put thinks in their mouths, e got them out and let them have at it. They LOVED Legos, so we bought them each a set ... and I wanted to play too, but my son wanted to do it himself. He didn't want help. So I went to the store to buy myself a set. And, if I was getting one, Brian wanted one too.

That was the start of the family Lego obsession. From that point forward, every time we bought Legos, everyone in the family needed their own set. Now we have Lego days, where we watch movies and build all day ... and because we don't take anything apart, our house is VERY full of Legos ... hence the bonus room becoming a Lego room!

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Patrice Dunckley

That is a great story!

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Jennifer Bourn

Patrice - I guess it's better than some other potential vices! Plus, it's a shared hobby with the kids... so that's worth it in my book!

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Ryan Sullivan

HEY! Welcome to the AMA. This question might be a little out of left field, but I've always wondered, what's the Grateful Dead obsession? :) Have you and Brian always been big fans? Do you meet at a concert? What's the story there? Thanks!

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Jennifer Bourn

Ryan - Brian has always been a fan. His plan was to delay college for a year to follow the Dead around with friends, but then Jerry Garcia died and college it was. We all know the music because it's almost all he listens to :) When the 50th anniversary tour was announced, and they said it'd be the last time the surviving members of the dead were going to play together, we knew we had to be there. This was a bucket list item for Brian and worth every penny. We did both shows in Santa Clara and all three shows in Chicago with amazing seats. I'll never for get it.

Since then, we've been to a Dead music festival, been out to a Dead cover band show, and now we're going to see Dead & Company with John Mayer for two nights in SF and two nights in LA in December.

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Robyn Flach

Hi Jennifer, I caught you at the first Prestige Conference on the live stream, and again at the last one in Mpls where I attended the first day in person. In your first talk, you mentioned that you developed several items you send out to new clients as part of streamlining your onboarding process. Can you talk about what items are sent to clients and how many iterations you went through before feeling like it was working as you wanted it to? Were there certain public resources that were most helpful to you in developing them? I'm interested in doing something similar and learning more about how others have arrived at where they are.

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Jennifer Bourn

Robyn - I am so happy to hear you were able to attend Prestige! I LOVE that event :) We first began working on and developing our client materials and internal systems and processes in early 2011, after realizing the hard way that 1) things were slipping through the cracks, and 2) clients simply needed more education than we had time to give.

The materials I developed at first mostly came from our own blog. I found myself repeatedly asking clients to read certain groups of posts, so I took the blog content and morphed it into ebooks and guides for our clients. I added more detailed information, content specific to the services we provide, and did a heavy amount of editing to get it to flow together nicely.

Once I had the initial materials developed, I gathered a group of my peers from a business mastermind I was in and asked them all to review everything. Ranging from complete tech noobs to savvy online business owners, they read hundreds of emails and all of the guides, and provided feedback on how easy it was to use and understand. They asked questions, told me where they got confused or hung up, and pointed out typos.

After that we immediately began using it with clients, and continued to revised it as clients had questions. Now we review everything on an annual basis, editing as necessary to ensure it is all current.

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Tim Masson

Can you tell us a little bit about your use of the Genesis framework? Why did you choose it, and why have you stuck with it? Is it just the speed of developing a new site, or something else?

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Jennifer Bourn

Tim - Great question! Starting with Genesis simply speeds up the development process. We look at Genesis as a set of Legos. Like Legos it can be taken apart and rebuilt anyway you want to create something new.

The Genesis Framework gives you a set of instructions for the header markup, navigation menus, sidebars, footer, footer widgets, etc. — and there is nothing that can’t be edited, changed, filtered, removed, or added. We stick with it because in all of our years using the framework to built custom Genesis child themes, we’ve experienced no limitations on what can be done with it.

As a Genesis recommended developer, all of our WordPress themes are built using our own starter theme created with the Genesis Framework. We use Genesis because it:

Provides a secure, search-engine-optimized foundation and a battle-tested code base

Supports Schema.org code, which allows you to output microdata in your site’s code

Uses HTML5 markup, the new code standard

Follows WordPress security best practices

Uses lightweight code which equals fast performance

Boasts a thriving, helpful, active micro-community inside the larger WordPress community (Twitter Hashtag #genesiswp)

Leverages a standardized code base that is well supported, which allows any developer familiar with Genesis to step in at any time and work on a site without needing to learn how the theme is built. This means you’re not “locked-in” with any one service provider

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Natalie Forstbauer

Awesome to have you here Jennifer! If I wanted to put up a word press site on my own just to have a page or two to capture leads and perhaps a blog and wanted it to be something that could grow with me and not limit me in the future where would you suggest I start? Is there a child theme that is super simple to use or something else you suggest? Thanks!

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Jennifer Bourn

Natalie - We always recommend anyone starting a new site for a new brand, business, idea, or venture to first start out with a simple off the shelf commercial WordPress theme. It's more important to get it started, get your content out there, and get marketing to test your idea, than it is to invest in something custom. Especially because at this point, usually, people don't have the clarity they should have before investing in a custom solution.

With that said, for off the shelf WordPress themes, I tell people to steer clear of ThemeForest, and instead take a look at StudioPress, WooThemes, ThemeFoundry, Pretty Darn Cute Designs...

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Vladimir Prelovac

Hi Jennifer and welcome :)

1) Can you tell us a bit about automation of your internal systems and processes?

2) What had the biggest impact on getting your brand out there?

3) One feature you miss in WordPress that would make your life with clients easier?

4) Whom would you like to see in an AMA here? :)

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Jennifer Bourn

Vladimir - Thanks for the questions!

1) It's just the two of us, so it was critical to automate as many repetitive admin and project management tasks as possible to free up our time to spend it with clients on things that matter most. Chasing down their email used to set up a Gravatar isn't a good use of our time, but diving into website strategy is. Because we flat rate most projects, confused clients with lots of questions, who need extra hand-holding tanks our profitability ... we created education and training materials, pre-written emails, and more to teach them everything we need them to know and walk them through the technical details we need them to do. The great thing is that they actually feel MORE cared for, say they receive better service, and give better testimonials now with the automated systems in place, than they did when we were doing it all ourselves.

2) Showing up. Over and over and over. People can't give you money if they don't know who you are ;) Early on I did a lot of local networking to get my name and my business name out there. Then I shifted to less local networking and more big entrepreneurial and online business conferences where there were 500-1,000+ people in attendance. I did that for years and still do. In the WordPress world, it's being on social often and actually responding to people and having real conversations, writing for our blog consistently, going to WordCamps to meet people in person, co-organizing our local WordPress meetup in Sacramento, and co-organizing WordCamp Sacramento. I also do a lot of speaking, which is a great way to get in front of a lot of people at one time.

3) Adding "preserve editor scroll" to the editor. I HATE that every time I save a page or post I am working on, the screen jumps me back up to the top of the editor and I have to scroll back down to where I was working.

4) Corey Miller, Ben Fox, Jason Cohen, Heather Brunner, Mendel Kurland, Reid Peifer, Kiko Doran, Shane Pearlman, Jake Goldman

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Mario Peshev

Hey Jennifer, thanks for the AMA :)

1) What percentage of your work is with remote customers (another state or abroad) that you've never met?
2) How do you plan your workload and how long are you booked for upfront?
3) What is your selection process for service providers and partners?

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Jennifer Bourn

Mario - Thanks for the questions!

1) About 90% of the work we do is with clients we have never met in person. Most come to us through a referral of a past or current client.

2) We're usually booked out for about 30 days ... so it's not too bad. If you're booked out any longer than that, I truly believe you're either not charging enough or saying yes to too many projects.

Our projects move in cycles. I handle intake, strategy, and design. Once design is approved, I kick it over to Brian for development. He starts the development and I move on to the next client project. I finish design on project 2 and send it to him for development and move into project 3, while adding/formatting the content for project 1. And the cycle continues.

Because we are a full service agency, I also do brand design, print materials, social media, ebooks, book cover design and interior content layout, direct mail, information products, email marketing, event materials, workbooks, programs, signage, and more ... so needless to say, we're always at capacity.

3) We're still figuring that out! We first do a lot of talking on the phone/chat/Skype to make sure we like each other. We then do a trial project together to see if the potential partner can walk their talk and deliver quality work in a decent time period.

This also give them a chance to sample what it's like to work with us ... We move fast and are a bit intense when it comes to work. Quality control and minute details are what we look closely at, and holding everything that leaves our offices to a certain standard is what has allowed us to grow our brand and gain more work than we can possibly do.

If the trial project goes well, we usually do a couple more to make sure the work/results are consistent ... then ideally we discuss an agreement for ongoing partnership and iron out all needed details. But as I said ... this is still something we are flushing out!

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Mario Peshev

Great answers - thanks for the detailed response!

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Jennifer Bourn

Thanks!

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Patrice Dunckley

So great to hear more of your story, I love your blog and have learned so much! After much absorbing and lurking, I am finally ready to get started with a web presence so your AMA is right on time for me. Your sage advice on the following:

I have narrowed down my choices for email capture to gotdrip and active campaign. What say you and why?

If I choose to Vlog by re-purposing a live-streamed video, how do I get started?

Thanks, in advance.

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Jennifer Bourn

Patrice - I have never used Active Campaign, so I can't comment there. As far as GetDrip is concerned, I have several friends using it and they love it, and we're exploring moving some of our client systems there too. We're also looking at FeedBlitz which has added automation and segmentation recently and I really like what I have seen so far ... so I'd check them out too before deciding the best option for you. Just be sure to consider what you need right now, and what you may need in the future, because changing platforms is not fun!

Publishing video posts on your blog is a great way to diversify content. Just be sure you also publish a details overview, notes, or a transcript below it. Not everyone who comes to your site will be able to watch a video and they may click away and not come back ... but everyone can read ... plus the added content will help produce better results for SEO.

If you have video from a live event or virtual event, you can edit it as needed with Camtasia for PC or ScreenFlow for Mac (which is what we use). I found ScreenFlow much easier than Camtasia. You could also just hire someone to do it .. it may be much cheaper in terms of your hourly rate to hire someone else to prep it.

One 60 minute live stream video could be edited into several shorter videos for your blog, so repurpose away!

When publishing on your site, my preferred method is to upload the Video to VimeoPro and then emned the video on your site. With VimeoPro you don't have another site's branding all over your video (ahem YouTube) ... and their player is just visually better looking. I would then also publish the video to YouTube for SEO, with a link to the blog post in the description.

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Patrice Dunckley

Thanks so much for your time and expertise!

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Jennifer Bourn

No Problem!

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CarlosandLizi NutritionCoach

I tried to put a disclaimer on the footer of my website so it is just clickable and I sort of did it but since I don't know code or anything about this stuff it looks weird. www.ElizabethGorostiza.com
Can you tell me what I did wrong?

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Jennifer Bourn

Hmmm this is Brian's realm, but let's see ... Right now the word Disclaimer is an H2 ... not sure how you added it, but it should be a link added to the footer text above it. Try adding the plugin Genesis Simple Edits (wordpress.org/plugins/genesis-simple-edits/) to access/edit that area more easily.

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CarlosandLizi NutritionCoach

Thank u Jennifer

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Ryan Love

+1 for genesis simple edits.

BobWP has got a tutorial which should show you how to use it - bobwp.com/genesis-simple-edits-plugin-tutorial/

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Jennifer Bourn

Thanks Ryan!

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Karena Kreger

Hey Jennifer! I first heard you at the first Prestige Conf and was totally inspired by your process and how it feeds the desired lifestyle for your family. I'm about to take off for a month to adopt overseas. I've got someone backing me up while gone but not able to do the heavy lifting of development, just the maintenance stuff. Can you talk about the level of communication you give clients and practical ways you take off without the whole world falling over while you're gone?

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Jennifer Bourn

Karena - Wonderful question! It sounds silly, but we take different levels of vacation :)

1) Sometimes we don't ever tell clients we're gone because it doesn't make a difference on their projects. These trips are usually shorter, and we make sure we get every project to a point where the next steps are on the client before we go. So far, it has never been an issue, as most clients need more than than they think to review design drafts, make decisions, write content, etc.

2) Sometimes we go on vacation where we are not working, but we are still accessible by email periodically to move things forward as needed ... again, this requires us to work to get projects to a good spot before the trip.

3) On most trips we take, I complete shut off work and check nothing, but Brian still checks everything once or twice a day.

4) Twice a year we take time off with no email and no work, and no clients. Usually a week in the summer and two weeks at Christmas/New Year's.

We take a vacation or trip of some sort every six weeks or so ... mainly because that's about as long as I can hustle my butt off before starting to feel burnout. This schedule creates mini 6-week sprints. During this time we work like crazy to get projects done and/or pushed off our plates. This schedule also creates mini deadlines and urgency with clients -- and it motivates them to get back to us faster, finish their stuff faster, and get their project done faster ... which everyone loves!

The key to this success is being completely open and honest with our clients at all times. If we have a trip coming up, we'll let them know during the sales conversations, by email, and with a quick phone call. We also add notifications to our email signature, changing the color and text each time it's a new trip so they don't tune it out.

So far, we have never had a client take issue with us taking a vacation or traveling and not being available because we prepare them in advance and make sure that when we leave they are waiting on nothing from us ... but that they then owe us stuff by the time we get back :)

Hope this helps!

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Ben Weiser

What 3 things have you learned about the business of web design that had you known in 2005 would've saved you a lot of time, money, and headache? Do you ever use freelancers to help you work on projects? What's the best way for freelancers to get noticed by web design agencies? I hope that wasn't too many questions :)

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Jennifer Bourn

Hmmm ... Three things I have learned that I wish I knew?

1) I am worth much more than I think and I should charge more.
2) When estimating projects, I need to account for my time not just spent doing the work, but emailing, talking on the phone, attending meetings, project management, admin time, etc.
3) It's okay to say no. Another project will come and fill the gap, you don't have to say yes to everyone or every project. Sometimes it's better to not do a project than do one you don't like.
4) It's okay to fire a client and part ways if it means you will save your sanity and mental health.

Ooops, that's 4!

Currently we do not use any freelancers. Everything that leaves Bourn Creative is done by either Brian or myself or both of us. Before Brian joined me in business, I did use a contractor for development for a few years.

The best way to get noticed by agencies is to be visible. Show your work online, show up to events, network like, crazy, and get to know people who work at agencies. Much of business IS who you know and have relationships with ... and many agencies aren't going to risk their reputations on a freelancer they don't know ... because it is a risk.

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Ben Weiser

Thank you for answering my questions!

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Jennifer Bourn

Appreciate you taking the time to stop by Ben!

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Juliet Le Breton

Jennifer,

Hello from sunny Africa! I'm a fellow Elevate member, hope one day to meet in person.

Meanwhile, some questions:
1) Desperately seeking global social entrepreneurs: I'm honing down on my niche - social entrepreneurs who work in developing countries (or have enterprises that work in developing countries - they might be based in the US/UK themselves). Trouble is, I can't find them online. And I know they must be out there. I've tried the usual social media sites (twitter, FB, LinkedIn, Quora) plus the main search engines - and can find one or two but no real reservoir of them. Any ninja web navigation tips that you think can help find my posse?

2) What CRM do you recommend for start ups? (ie those of us who don't have the income yet to afford infusionsoft)?

3) Would you use bitcoin (ie accept or send payment in it)? Online financial transactions in Africa are prohibitively expensive & slow (taking days) and the demand for bitcoin is growing here as its faster, cheaper. But as I'm neither a techie, nor an economist, so it seems a little risky to me - but then hey, I live in Africa - everything's a risk. What's your take?

4) Any recommendations for killer lead magnet ideas? Also do you think free gifts on email sign up actually does lead to sales further down the line, or just annoys potential customers on your list. (Do you still have one?)

OK I think I've asked more than my fair share here. Thank you so much! You are an inspiration!

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Jennifer Bourn

Juliet - Great to see you here! Here are my thoughts ...

1) I have never heard the term social entrepreneurs, so you may just be using a term that you know, but others don't typically use ... or it may be too new. I'd start searching for related titles and terms and work that way.

2) Even if you do have the money, I don't know if I would recommend Infusionsoft. Check out Insightly, 17Hats, or if you use BaseCamp like us, check out Harvest. Some I have heard are good, but haven't had experience with myself are Zoho, SugarCRM, and Base.

3) Bitcoin is weird. I know what it is, but that's it. I know nothing else. Personally, I would never use it and think it's weird.

4) The best lead magnets are those that are so good, and provide so much value that you seriously consider NOT giving it away for free, but charging for it. It seriously needs to be that good to cut through the over hyped clutter domainting the internet today. One I have seen working really well are mini-courses with short videos or audios and transcripts. The key is providing the content in multiple formats. Another is the workbook style freebie, where people actually get exercises and things to do that help them make progress.

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Ryan Love

Love the answers so far and you've already answered the two main questions I had for you, (about genesis and some of your internal systems and processes), so thanks for that!

What's it like working with your husband? How do you guys keep the balance between work/everyday life?

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Jennifer Bourn

Ryan ... OMG. It's not all unicorns and roses. Sometimes we seriously disagree and I think because we're comfortable with each other, we're harder on each other, and sometimes not as nice. We just get right to the point and don't sugarcoat anything with each other. We've had days where I threaten to quit and he threatens to fire me ... and vice versa.

When Brian came into the business full time, I actually hired him to be my boss ... and he changed everything. I cried, I was mad, and we argued. But all of the changes were to make my life and the business better. I'm not super great at the daily details of running a business.

Now our roles are so intertwined, we do wonder if we can do what we do as well as we do without each other... and that is a challenge we discuss daily.

We got married the day after I turned 20 ... so we grew up together as adults. I don't really know adult life without Brian. We created our "ways" together and frankly we run our business the same way we run our life. We are true partners, but depending on the topic, one person gets final decision rights.

For example, I pretty much always win design, marketing, strategy, food, clothing, kid stuff discussions ... and Brian pretty much always wins anything related to money, budgeting, development, operations (business and home), etc. We don't have traditional family roles and we mix it up in business the same way.

Our biggest challenge is turn off the work stuff ... and it's much harder for Brian than it is for me ... it's not talking about client projects after 5:00 pm or on the weekends ... it's not sitting down at our computers at night or on the weekends. I think that's why we travel a lot and take so many vacations and trips. It's easy to detach from work and focus on us as a couple or on family when we're away from the office.

It also helps that we don't share offices :)

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Jennifer Bourn

One more thing ... we also go on a lot of lunch dates ... and travel together without the kids! Now that's fun :)

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Marianne McGuire

Hi Jennifer!
Thank you for your generous contribution. I did want to ask you something about one of your Facebook posts regarding a warning you gave about WordPress site security at the time (around 3 months ago). You recommended that we turn off comments to keep our sites safe till they sorted it. I did so but when I recently tried to turn them on again, they wouldn't come on. I did it the usual way; check the box and I don't think I have any strange Apps that would prevent it. Is there a way to un-do what I did (I can't remember how I turned them off in the first place, perhaps you might remember what you recommended...?)
Thanks so much!!

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Ryan Love

Hi Marianne, I know it's ask Jennifer anything, but I thought I'd jump in, in case I can help!

In your WordPress Discussion settings, do you have "allow people to post comments on new articles" ticked. Should be the third setting down.

Then in each individual page/post, do you have "Allow comments" ticked. (If you need a visual, check out www.createmarketgrow.com/wordpress-discussion-settings/

Let me know if that helps, or if you need further help!

Al the best,
Ryan

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Marianne McGuire

Thank you so much Ryan, I appreciate that!
I had that ticked already and I just checked the individual boxes as you suggested but it still didn't work...maybe there's a plugin that's interfering...I don't know.
All the best to you Ryan!

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Jennifer Bourn

Marianne - Hi there! Under Settings in the left admin menu menu, there is the Discussion section. Make sure the option to "Allow people to post comments on new articles" is checked. Also, double check a few of your blog posts to make sure commenting is enabled on the individual post itself as you can set this on a post-by-post basis too.

If neither of these work for you, double check the plugins that you have installed, and assess any that may have settings to control the appearance of comments. I know there was one or two being recommended at that time to temporarily disable comments.

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Marianne McGuire

Thanks so much for your response Jennifer!
I had that box ticked already and I just checked the individual boxes as you suggested but it still didn't work. Regarding the plugins, I didn't add any since I turned comments off a few months ago. To be honest, they have always just been there, 11 of them. My designer must have added them, Akismet, Acunetix Secure WordPress, etc. So I'm not sure if they are interfering...

Thank you so much for your great work!

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Ryan Love

Marianne, what theme are you using? Perhaps post a link to your site and I'll see if I can see anything there.

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Marianne McGuire

Thank you so much Ryan! My Theme is Lifestyle Pro Child. My site is www.letgoandknow.com

I really appreciate your taking the time to look :)

Thank you.

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Ryan Love

No problems Marianne, had a quick look and unfortunately can't see anything obviously wrong.

What plugins have you got installed?

If you want, I'm happy to take a look in the backend of your WordPress site, but it would mean giving me access to your admin area, with your username/password. (If you want, you could create a temporary user and then delete that once I've seen if I can fix the problem.)

If you do, feel free to email me at ryan@createmarketgrow.com

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Marianne McGuire

Wow, thank you Ryan! I'll email you :)

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Marianne McGuire

I have to thank Ryan Love so much for going out of his way to look at my site and spot why my comments were turned off. He sent me an email with images all clearly pointing out the issue. Incredibly helpful...can you imagine what kind of amazing high quality service he provides???

Thank you Ryan, I look forward to finding out more about your business. I appreciate your help so much!!! Wow!

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Magic of Miles

Hi Jennifer,

Someday I'd love to catch up with you but for now am happy to see that your life is going great. :)

Thanks for the AMA session.

Here's my question -

My husband and I both work from home as well, together on many projects and separately on some. We're in the travel space so business doesn't stop at 5pm of course, nor when we're in a different country or supposedly "on holiday". Would love a few tips on how you and Brian manage the work/personal balance.

Oh, and we do share an office. :)

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Jennifer Bourn

You do share an office ... wow! I'm impressed! I think Brian and I would kill each other if we shared space! He likes things clean and almost unlived in, and I'm a messy piler. He likes quiet and I like blaring music. There is just no way!

When you work at home, shutting off work is always tough because it's right there!

What has helped us the most is establishing boundaries.

For example, when we're at dinner whether it is at home or at a restaurant, we don't check Twitter, or email, or Facebook. Those kinds of behaviors, I believe, send a message to the people you are eating with that you'd rather be somewhere else, that you don't value them or their time, or other people are more important.

We also get out of the house whenever we can. It's easy to not work when your computer isn't nearby! So go on a date, see a movie, go for a hike, take a walk, go to a concert, hang out at a bar ... whatever it is, get away.

When getting out of the house isn't an option, we'll hit the backyard. We spend a lot of time out there, and often leave our phones inside on silent. The world isn't going to end if you don't check email or social media for a couple hours. Pretty much no one is that important. Frankly, I've checked out for days and when finally do check in, it's the same old stuff.

I'd also say to be as productive as humanly possible when you are working, so you can feel more comfortable and confident when you do check out. For me that means 1) Setting a boundary that I only "do" social media on my iPhone. 2) Committing to leaving my iPhone on silent in the kitchen while I am working to eliminate distraction. 3) Closing my email and only checking it a few times a day. These practices allow me to get WAY MORE work done in a short amount of time... and then taking time off is much easier.

The other thing to remember if you have kids, is that they pay attention to what's going on more than you think they do. So we talk to our kids about our schedule. We let them know if it is going to be a crazy busy week with longer hours ... and we always make sure to communicate what this crazy week will create for the family.

For example, when we redesigned our brand/site last October, we sat themn down and told both kids that for the next month (all of October) we were out on all things not a must. We told them they needed to step up and take care of business. That they needed to help out, get along, be good, and help make life easy. We told them we'd be working every day, even on the weekends and were totally honest. We said, "Life will sort of suck for this month, but then we'll have 8 days in Disneyland & California Adventure, staying at the Grand Californian as our reward." They had no problem getting on board for that!

Hope this helps!

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Magic of Miles

It helps that we are not always in the same state or country so we love when we do get to have time in the office together. :)

Thanks so much for the tips Jennifer! There are several here I'll implement immediately, having to do with the usual suspects... iPads, iPhones, computers, social media, email and the like. It's amazing how much time everyone spends on them these days.

I know I can be a ton better at time management (at least I gave up using my iPad in the kitchen because I got too many floury fingerprints on it. To unwind I like to bake cookies, cakes, etc.).

The Grand Californian is a lovely property indeed, and I'm sure you and your family enjoyed the trip after all the hard work!

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Ahmad Awais

Hey, Jennifer!
I hope I am not too late. First of all nice to have you here. Amusing story, I myself am an Electrical Eng. converted to WordPress & esp. Front-end.

Here are a few questions
— Any plans to jump in the product market space?
— Services niche is hard, how do you scale your business, what is the average length of a project that you guys do?
— How do you find work/life balance? Follow a routine or not? If you do, then what routine?

That's about it.

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Jennifer Bourn

Ahmad - Thanks for stopping by! I'll be here all day :) To answer your questions ...

We've considered jumping into the products space, specifically WordPress themes (entrepreneurthemes.com/) .... but we haven't dove all the way in yet because we've got more paying client work than we can handle at a much, much bigger price point. So far devoting time to create & sell products that race to the bottom in price (from an end user standpoint) hasn't made sense because we're so busy. But it something in the product space is definitely something we're kicking around.

Services can be fantastic with great clients who pay you what you're worth and value the time and effort you give, and the services you provide :) I enjoy client services. With that said, scaling is tough. Really tough. We're struggling with what that means for Bourn Creative.

For us to scale up as an agency, we have to change the way we work and our own processes. Right now though, life is so good, that we're questioning whether we want to scale up right now and potentially mess up a great thing. We're also internally debating whether scaling up services is the route we want to go, of it keeping our services company small is best and venturing into the product space... Hopefully we have answers to that for ourselves soon!

As far as average project length goes, a typical website design/build is 60-90 days on the short end, sometimes much longer depending on what we're building out. Many client stay with us for a long time though for ongoing support and additional design services.

And about that work/life balance thing ... I don't believe in work/life balance. I think it's a joke. I think it's a recipe for mediocrity in work and in life.

I believe in work/life integration. I believe that it's like a teeter-totter, with work on one side and life on the other. A flat teeter-totter is boring and totally not fun. You want it to up and down. That means sometimes life will be the priority, family will come first, and work will take a backseat ... and other times work will be the priority and family will take a backseat.

The key is to never spend too much time at one end of the teeter-totter. It works the best and is the most fun when it's tilting back and forth, with each end getting time at the top and the bottom.

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Ahmad Awais

Thanks for the detailed answer.
And by work/life balance, I did mean work/life integration.
Scaling or going into products space would be a difficult decision. I hope you make the best out of it. Good luck :)

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Mari Carmen Pizarro

Hola Jennifer, we met at Elevate and I love your work. I am curious, what has been your biggest lesson learned (or your blessing in disguise)? I have been in business for over two years after a long corporate career and love to learn from those that started earlier than me.

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Jennifer Bourn

Hi Mari - I've learned two HUGE lessons over the years that have impacted my trajectory in a big way.

1) You can only go so far alone. No one person can be great at everything, nor should they be expected to. No one person can know everything there is to know. Together with other people, you can go so much farther than you ever thought you could.

Asking for help, support, feedback, advice, whatever it is doesn't mean that you're any less than. It doesn't make you weak. It doesn't mean you're not smart, valuable, or knowledgeable. It makes you human. It makes you smart to seek out information from those who have walked before you or already experienced what you're now experiencing.

Surrounding yourself with those smarter than you and asking for help when you need it is completely underrated!

2) Charge more. For most of us, what we do is something we're good at. We've probably been good at it our whole lives. It's more than likely something that comes easy to us. So what do we do? We devalue it. We brush off the value we deliver because it's easy or no bid deal. As a result we undercharge.

We undercharge because we're only counting the time to actually do the work. We undercharge because we're afraid of someone saying we're too expensive or not worth it. We undercharge because we feel like impostors because what we do seems easy. We undercharge because it "shouldn't cost that much."

But we're wrong. Our clients wouldn't be hiring us if they didn't NEED what we have to offer. Our talents don't come easy to them, so they need us to help them. They need us to provide services, just as we need other people who have skills in areas we don't.

They key is to make sure that we're not arbitrarily raising prices just because. YOU have to deliver valuable equal to what you charge ... but before you can expect others to see it, you need to see it.

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Beth Hayden

Hello, Ms. Jennifer! :)

Thank you for being so generous with your time - I love that you're getting asked so many different types of questions.

Here's my question:

What's your best advice for trying to maintain healthy boundaries with clients, and making sure you get compensated fairly for your time?

Backstory: When I was doing WordPress development, I had so many projects that went out of scope, or ended in frustration on both sides, and I constantly felt like I was making $2 an hour because the clients always want to add more...and more...and more to the project (or they needed so many revisions that we both resented each other by the end). I eventually stopped doing WordPress projects because I always felt like they're weren't profitable by the end of a long, drawn-out ordeal. It was miserable.

So how do you set up and maintain boundaries with clients, and make sure you don't end up going in the red on every project you do?

Thanks,
Beth

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Jennifer Bourn

Hi Beth - Boundaries are HUGE. So are crystal clear contracts and client communications that spell out in detail exact what is and what is not included, and what happens if they want us to do items not included in this scope of work, or if they want extra revisions, etc.

We flat rate most projects, so I totally hear you. To be honest we had the most problems with the types of clients you're describing and very similar situations when our fees were lower. The less a client is paying the more they think they deserve and the harder they want you to work. It's crazy I know, but everyone I speak with seems to have had the same experience, so you're not alone.

The higher your rates get, the fewer problems like this you'll experience. I think part of it is because those clients at the low end of the cost spectrum don't have enough real business experience to understand how much time it takes, how much work is involved, and they are desperate for success. They are reading blogs, hearing how WordPress is cheap, and how you can get a great site for little to no money. They attend conferences and think they need every single feature speakers talk about. The number of people obsessed with speaking pages and media pages who have never spoke at an event or done any media blows my mind -- but that's for another post!

Tip #1: Charge more. Client who run real, legit businesses understand there is a cost of doing business. They understand change orders and contracts, and they know things take time. They get that this isn't magic.

Tip #2: Spell out every detail of what is and what is not included in your contracts. Include a section on what a flat rate agreement is, what it means, and what happens if they need services outside the written scope of work. How is that handled.

Tip #3: If they push for extra services not included in the scope of work, remind them that you are more than happy to do anything and everything they need, but that your original agreement was for a specific scope of work, and that this wasn't included. Let them know you're happy to jump on the phone with them to discuss the impact to the project.

Tip #4: When clients are paying you for their website, many seem to think you're now their free tech support for email and everything else related to the internet. Again, let them know you're happy to help them with anything they need at your normal hourly rate of X, which is discounted from X because they are already a client ... or if you don't provide those services, have a referral ready to go.

Tip #5: Include a clause in your agreements about when you are available and when you're not. Include expected turn around times, expectations, and process details.

Tip #6: Don't assume they actually read your contract! Many won't ever read it. At the start of the project, schedule a phone call to go over all of the contract details and to see if they have any questions. This gives you a chance to reinforce how things are going to work. And, when communicating by email, in a friendly way, include reminders of what's included in the contract.

For example, when sending over revised design mock ups. Say something like, "Here are the revised design concepts. This is the first of three rounds of revisions included in our agreement, so you have two more opportunities to provide feedback and make changes to reach a final. If you find that you need more revisions and time to work on this with us, no problem! Just let us know so we can talk about how this impacts your project/budget and then get you over a change order!"

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Beth Hayden

Thank you for this incredibly helpful and thoughtful answer, Jennifer! I appreciate you taking the time to put all these thoughts down for me! :)

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Safiye Aysen Duman

Hi Jennifer,
My story is very similar to yours :) I have a 3 year old and pregnant. We just started our business last year with my husband.
We are on the product side , developing wordpress plugins both free and premium. Do you have any advice on marketing to get recognized quickly?
Thanks,
Safiye

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Jennifer Bourn

Safiye - The fastest way to expand your reach and gain visibility for your product is to build relationships with people you may consider a "center of influence" ... and not just in the WordPress space. Look at any influencer that serves people who use WordPress, or teaches online business building or online marketing.

Now let me quality ... this isn't fast ... it's a long game strategy ... but I say it's the fastest because if you put in the time and effort you'll gain much more ground, at a faster rate piggy-backing on their influence than you would piecing together other quick gain marketing strategies.

Create a private Twitter list of influencers you HOPE would share your products with their audiences some day. Create a Facebook list of Influencers. Connect with those influencers on LinkedIn. And then engage. Focus time each day to browse those lists specifically and retweet, share, and comment on their posts. Join in conversations. Help them get to know you and show them that they matter to you.

Bookmark their websites in a special folder and visit their blog often, leaving authentic comments. If they host events, live or virtual, go to them and ask a question at the mic or in the Q&A section, introducing yourself by name and website URL. Provide a testimonial about their event if you liked it.

Influencers typically don't recommend products from complete strangers they don't know. If you contact them out of the blue with a "please recommend my product" or "Please review my products" or please be an affiliate" message, it will likely get deleted.

But if over time, you have built up a relationship with them, and they have had a chance to get to know you. Reaching out becomes an entirely different experience. You can then more naturally mention the products you're working on and that it may be a great fit for BOTH your audiences and a win-win ... also, be prepared to give them a copy of anything you want them to potentially recommend FREE

Hope this helps!

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