In July 2018, my agency Bourn Creative celebrated its 13 year anniversary and over the years, the company has evolved and changed just as I have. I am incredibly grateful for my business and the flexibility it has had to morph and transition into exactly what I needed it to be to support each phase of life.
Including the next phase of life where everything is changing again.
Let me explain…
The Early Years Of Bourn Creative
In 2005, while pregnant with my second child, I founded Bourn Creative, started a freelance business, and quit my full time job as an in-house graphic designer. I was lucky to keep the company I worked for as a client and it made the transition much easier.
But while I was a great designer, I knew nothing about running a business, juggling freelance workflows, and pricing my services appropriately. I worked up until the day I went into labor and was back at it just a few days after returning home from the hospital — after all, 1.5 years earlier we bought a big new house with a big giant mortgage, and if I wasn’t working, I wasn’t making money.
In 2007, I began actively seeking out clients to grow my revenue but with two little ones at home, I intentionally kept the business small, tight, and highly profitable. My mission was to do great work, be home with my children, and keep it going until both kids were in school everyday.
In late 2008, I discovered WordPress and began creating WordPress websites for clients.
It was a pivotal point in my business that allowed me to diversify my services, raise my rates, and sell more recurring revenue style work. I also learned a tons about better managing the business, packaging my services, and increasing profits.
Over the next year, my business grew like crazy, I was turning around an insane number of sites each year, and I began working with a subcontractor. Unfortunately, my main subcontractor was dealing with personal issues and slowly becoming unreliable. Around this same time, my husband Brian began exploring a career change, wanting to leave the fire department to pursue something new. Ultimately, he decided to learn programming (thank you Genesis Framework) and step into the role as developer to help me out in my business and relieve the stress I was dealing with from my subcontractor.
Huge Changes For Our Family
For almost five years, Brian worked full time with me at Bourn Creative and full time at the fire department. During that time, he also found out he had gallbladder cancer and was dealing with the fallout of that. It was an incredibly tough block of years for Brian and I and few people outside our immediate family knew what was going on because we kept most of it private.
From 2011 to mid-2014, we put all growth and forward movement for Bourn Creative on-hold because we weren’t sure what Brian’s future would be, or if he would even have a future.
I cried a lot and Brian tried not to think about it, keeping himself busy with both jobs and working nights and weekends. We maintained the status quo, taking on only the work that naturally came our way, while I worked to automate as much as possible to reduce stress for Brian, protect my own sanity, and boost profits. I also needed to free up time so we could spend as much time as possible with our kids.
What was amazing though is that the existence of Bourn Creative allowed Brian to completely reinvent himself and change careers. In 2014, with a medical “all-clear,” he left the stability of the fire department for the uncertainty of self employment. He joined me as partner at Bourn Creative and took over all of the stuff I didn’t like doing in addition to leading our development efforts.
Working With My Spouse
When Brian took over the day to day management of Bourn Creative, it was primarily a design company that also offered development services. But I was burned out and over the next few years, we made small changes, one after another, and eventually turned our small agency into a development company that also happened to offer design services.
We worked side by side (at home but in separate offices), serving amazing clients, producing work we’re very proud of, building fulfilling relationships, going out to lunch a lot, traveling, and enjoying the hell out life. Trust me when I say that nothing changes your perspective on life than facing your own mortality or that of your spouse.
Pursuing My Own Thing
While we enjoyed the work we were doing, I also craved something of my own. I thought starting Inspired Imperfection would deliver that, and it did for a while, but it wasn’t enough.
I spent my entire career — almost 20 years — building other people’s empires and dreams and wanted a chance to build something of my own.
Nearing my forties, I was also in a new place mentally and began thinking more and more about:
- My role in the world
- How I can help other people and share my experience
- What type of impact and influence I want to have
2018 Has Been Amazing But In Fluxx
I had clarity, then I didn’t. I had a plan, then it got blown up. Honestly, the year was wildly fun but all over the place. Some of this manifested in delays on personal projects that has driven me crazy — but most of it has been very positive.
While we did some custom website projects together, most of Brian’s work has been managing the business and serving our engineering and development retainer clients, and most of my time has been split between serving our print and digital design retainer clients, paid writing and ghostwriting, and creating content and delivering courses under my personal brand.
As a business, we’re enjoying our best year to date.
We didn’t eek past our highest gross year (that was a miserable year), but we had our best net year by far — and that’s a much bigger win for me because it also meant we made and kept more money and I worked fewer hours than I ever have before.
As a family, we also have never been happier.
- Natalie is a sophomore in high school, she participates in several clubs, is a straight A student, takes dance classes, and is discovering that she really likes business and design. She also has her own blog and is getting involved in WordCamps as a speaker and a volunteer.
- Carter is in seventh grade and bogged down in middle school homework. He’s an introvert who is pursuing his black belt in karate, is obsessed with video games and Rubik’s cubes, and loves the outdoors.
Thankfully, they both still love to spend time with us and are a joy to be around.
We play a lot of games, watch a lot of movies, and we’re on a quest to visit all 59 US national parks. This year we visited Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Rocky Mountain, Saguaro, Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, and Guadalupe Mountains national parks on three epic road trips.
- Our three week summer road trip also took us to six Dead & Company concerts and Brian and I try to have a date night at least one a week — usually to dinner and then to see a local band.
- We’re both also enjoying our non digital hobbies. I read, cook, build Legos, and do crafts, and Brian has been learning to play the guitar. Brian’s foray into music has also led to us hosting a once a month open jam and dinner at our home.
Behind the scenes though, like I said, things have been in fluxx.
So much so that the website redesign Bourn Creative was going to get at the beginning of the year still isn’t done and the course I wanted to launch still isn’t launched.
Considering New Opportunities
Several times over the past five years, we have received offers from other companies to acquire Bourn Creative, to hire me, to hire Brian, or to hire both of us. Earlier this year, Brian received an appealing offer that we seriously considered but also wasn’t just right.
We’ve done really well for ourselves and take a lot of vacation, so getting either of us is tough.
In the fall, a conversation with a good friend led to another potential opportunity for Brian and we again considered what it might mean for our company and our family. We ultimately ruled it out because we love our lifestyle.
In October, I went to CaboPress — my favorite (and the best) business event hosted by our good friend Chris Lema — and came to the realization that my work and Brian’s work aren’t as tied together as they used to be and if the right opportunity showed up for either of us, we could take it and the other one would be okay. It was perfect timing too because right before our Thanksgiving road trip, that conversation Brian had earlier this fall started again, but this time it was more serious and solid.
While conversations continued, I went to WordCamp US and participated in the first Genesis Shapers meeting. The whole conference was like a giant family reunion and after hugs and hellos, the first questions everyone asked were:
- How are things?
- How’s the family?
- How’s business?
I was dying. Seriously.
I was connecting with long-time friends and I couldn’t tell anyone (mostly) that Brian was considering leaving Bourn Creative and that our lives were in the midst of a massive change and instead just smiled and said something like, “Things are great. We’re doing lots of the same. Working hard and playing hard.” And then I tried to keep the focus on the person I was speaking with so I didn’t have to say much else.
The following week, Brian received the offer letter with everything he wanted. He signed it the same day and is officially leaving Bourn Creative, once again experiencing a major career transition.
Another Career Transition For Brian
Brian begins his new role as Associate Director of Business Development with 10up in January, which means I’m once again flying solo and Bourn Creative is back to being my baby.
We sort of are.
This isn’t something either of us sought out. It isn’t something we planned for or something we even thought we wanted. But we’re once again entering a new phase of life and business:
- Personally, we have older kids who have busy schedules and one who is about to start driving — and they need us in a different way than they did when they were little. College is also coming on quickly and that will change things even more.
- Professionally, while we love what we do, both of us were also getting a little bored. Yes, every client is different, every project is different, and every strategy is different, but at the core, we’re building site after site after site, and both us realized that wasn’t necessarily what we wanted to be doing for the next 10 years. Plus, WordPress is changing, theme development is changing, and the knowledge and skill requirements are increasing — and when Brian realized he wasn’t excited to dig into new development practices, he knew it was time to consider a change.
Brian has been long-time personal friends with Jake Goldman, the founder and president of 10up since he moved to our area several years ago — and Jake is the one who taught Brian about how to structure our retainer contracts and has greatly influenced how we operated as an agency.
The idea of Brian joining 10up has come up more than once, but the role and the timing weren’t ever quite right. So when the opportunity to join the company in a business development role and work alongside Jake presented itself, Brian was all in and the offer was too good to pass up.
He’s excited to not only work with and learn from a friend but to work with an amazing team — being part of a big team is the one thing he really missed about the fire department — and I’m excited to support him!
Plus, in terms of daily life, not much will change for our family:
- Brian will still work at home but just shower and shave more often and dress nicer and he’ll still be taking them to school everyday.
- We will still be able to take all our normal vacations, but we may fly instead of drive to save time.
- We will also get to keep all of our same doctors for continuity of care, which is important for Brian given his health history.
What This Means For My Agency
Overall, not too much is changing for me.
I’m coming full circle back to the roots of Bourn Creative and the first five years I spent on my own doing design, writing code, and working with subcontractors when I needed them.
This week we notified our clients about the transition:
- For my design and copywriting clients, nothing will change.
- Some of Brian’s engineering retainer clients will be going with him to 10up.
- Our website support clients won’t notice a change except they’ll work with me instead of Brian.
- As for the custom WordPress sites and theme customizations, I’m exploring what that looks like for me moving forward.
Looking To The Future
They say when you make a decision doors begin to open and the universe responds appropriately and so far that’s been true.
I’m excited to:
- Continue serving my graphic design and digital design clients through Bourn Creative.
- Revisit the Bourn Creative site to change up the services offered and how they are structured.
- Dedicate more time to creating content and courses for Jenniferbourn.com.
- Pursue more paid writing and ghostwriting, and services centered around content strategy, planning, organization, and copywriting.
- Host my brand new Accelerate Retreat in February.
- Explore new exciting opportunities.
- Do more speaking and lead more workshops.
- And of course, we’ll both continue to co-organize the Sacramento WordPress Meetup and WordCamp Sacramento.
Transition can be tough and scary, but I’m open to anything and I’m pretty excited about what is already showing up and what the future holds for us both.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for what 2019 will bring.