This past week, I joined for an interview on the WP Elevation Podcast. In the episode, I share what it’s been like to work as part of a husband-wife team, why personal brands are so vital to your success, and where I see Bourn Creative going in the future. I also talk about how we got clear on our ideal client, what I spend my average day doing, how we create content regularly for the blog and our marketing, business growth, ongoing support and maintenance, and more.
Hear all the details in the full interview, or check out some of the highlights and brief overview below.
How Bourn Creative Got Started
Troy kicks off the interview with discussion around how Bourn Creative got started:
Bourn Creative was founded in July 2005 as a pure design company, offering brand design, email marketing design, and print graphic design services. We quickly added web design services, began using a private label content management system, Light CMS, then discovered WordPress in 2008 at version 2.7. We loved the functionality it brought to our projects, but we stuck around for the community and it has been a mainstay of ours ever since.
Originally the business was started out of necessity. We had a 2 year old, Jennifer was pregnant, and we had daycare issues. Starting her own business solved those problems. At the time we did whatever it took to get up and running, get income coming in, and take care of our family as best we could.
From day one, I had always managed the financial end of the business, then a few years in, I began teaching myself to write code and eventually joined the business full time to lead development.
Over the years, our client profile has evolved and shifted, and today we work with small to medium-sized businesses in what we like to call the “not-quite-enterprise” space, providing a complete suite of design and development services, specializing in custom WordPress publishing solutions.
This year we celebrated our 10-year business anniversary and with each year has come greater clarity and focus about what work we want to be doing and what clients we want to be serving.
The Day-to-Day Grind And Time To Unwind
Next up, Troy and I talk about the daily grind, what fills my day, how we unwind, and building our personal brands.
My day-to-day time is mainly centered around email. I consider myself a professional emailer most days. When not dealing with email, my time is fairly evenly split between three things:
- WordPress development
- Project management
When we’re not working, we unwind as a family best in the outdoors. We’re fortunate to live in Placer County, California at base of Sierra Nevada foothills, and live close to a lot of cool places:
- 90 minutes from Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevadas
- 1 hour from Napa Valley
- 90 minutes from San Francisco
- 3 hours from Yosemite National Park
We’re surrounded with a lot of trails, lakes, and outdoor adventures, so we do a lot of hiking, biking, kayaking, and adventuring — the key for us is to get away from the house.
Building A Brand
Troy mentioned that Jennifer and I do quite a bit of speaking on podcasts, as part of virtual events, and at live events and conferences, and we also do a fair share of interviews, content marketing, and blogging…
While Jennifer is much better at it than I am, we are both cognizant of our own personal brands and shaping them in the way that we want whenever possible. We also co-organize the Sacramento WordPress Meetup where we provide others in the industry a platform to speak and grow their skills.
As far as blogging and content marketing goes, Jen gets all the credit. She starts all blog posts with pen and paper. Then flushes it out on her laptop usually outside, in bed, or in a comfy chair. Unless you’re going to commit to a regular schedule, don’t blog at all. A dead blog with no new or recent content is worse than not blogging at all.
Last Fall We Completely Rebranded
Last fall, we completely rebranded everything but the business name with the intent of shifting our brand positioning to attract a different client profile. Today we’re seeing the fruits of that labor. The quality of our new client inquiries has increased and those that aren’t a great fit have dropped off.
We’ve also been adjusting our internal systems and processes to ensure that we’re providing the highest quality services to those clients. Larger scale clients do have a different set of expectations and needs. They require more time, more consulting, and more personal, active project management.
Now we’re focused on meaningful growth, not just growth for growth’s sake.
Troy and I then hit the Elevation Round, a series of quick questions and quick off the cuff answers. The questions and the shortest versions of my answers are below:
- What’s the #1 thing any freelancer needs to know? Pick up the phone or meet your clients in person. Stop emailing!
- What’s the best thing you’ve done to find new customers? Networking within peer group and where our clients are.
- How do you stop competing on price? Build your own personal brand and add value to your clients or products so there’s no comparison.
- Any tips for writing better proposals? Treat your proposal as a marketing piece.
- What’s your favorite CRM tool? We manage our day to day operations with Infusionsoft and Basecamp.
- What’s the best way to keep a project and a client on track? Mutually agreed upon deadlines and check-ins (on the phone).
- Any ideas for getting referrals from existing customers? Just ask! And provide ongoing value to your existing client base.
- What’s the #1 thing you can do to differentiate yourself? Educate others and help out. Start small and get involved with your local WordPress meetup or get involved in a Wordcamp. Continue to educate and give what you’ve learned is a great way to separate yourself and build a personal brand.
Maintenance & Support Plans
Before we closed out the interview Troy wanted to talk a little further about maintenance and support plans, why they are needed, and how they work at Bourn Creative.
We communicate with clients that WordPress is software, and like all software it does require maintenance. It’s not set it and forget it. There are updates that are required. We also talk about the history of updates, and while many updates are stable, some are not.
We speak openly and honestly with them about proper maintenance procedures and our process:
- We first test everything on a staging URL to ensure no issues
- We check for any conflicts or problems
- We check our own code and make sure nothing has been deprecated
- We check any plugins installed for conflicts or errors and make any needed adjustments
- Only after everything has been tested do we push the updates to the live site
We also offer clients three different types of ongoing maintenance and support options:
- Maintenance only
- Maintenance and support by email and phone
- Maintenance and support by email and phone, and design/development hours
Last Words Of Wisdom
My advice for anyone starting their own business is to not do it alone.
Not everyone is lucky to have a partner built in like I do. So find a community, find a mastermind group, find someone to have coffee with to talk shop regularly. Being able to speak with others who “get” where you’re at and act as a sounding board can be invaluable.
Check out the full interview:
Check out Jennifer’s Interview from 2014: