The Bourn Identity : A Candid Talk With Jennifer Bourn

Jennifer Bourn , founder of the eponymously named Bourn Creative, wears many hats, even within the WordPress community.

A well-known WordCamp speaker, she leads the client strategy and design work, manages the Bourn Creative brand, and creates their internal systems and processes.

She also speaks often on podcasts, summits, and live events. As co-organizer of the Sacramento WordPress Meetup group, she has helped in building and maintaining the vibrancy of the community.

We met up with Jennifer recently to talk about her WordPress journey.

Interview With Jennifer Bourn:

A change in your college major proved to be instrumental in starting your journey as a designer. Tell me more about it.

I grew up around computers, my dad was an Electrical Engineer, and he encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. At the time it seemed like a great choice, but after about 2 years of programming courses, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my career.

The classes were boring, the homework was tedious, and while I was good at it because I worked hard at it, writing code didn’t come naturally or easy to me. Plus, to be frank, I was the only girl or one of only two girls in all of my courses, and the boys were really nice to me until we got our grades and mine were higher. Then no one who’ll talk to me in class, which was lonely… and I’m a talker!

At the time, I was working for a woman who ran a small advertising agency and was doing design for her. Now that was fun. I’d sit in class and wish I could do something like THAT for my career. She was the one that told me I should change my major to Graphic Design.

I had never heard of graphic design. So I did some research, and knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. Sacramento State had a stellar design program and it had just become an actual major (not a special major). So I applied, got accepted, transferred the next semester, and never looked back.

The same woman who pointed me toward design, also helped further my knowledge of the industry. I learned an enormous amount working for her, as she let me get my hands dirty in all areas of the business. She connected me with two internships.

The head of the graphic design program also became a mentor of mine, and throughout my time at Sacramento State, we worked together in a variety of different ways. She pushed me harder than anyone has ever pushed me to be and do my very best. She connected me with valuable internship opportunities, gave me the opportunity to help develop course materials, and eventually invited me back to teach a semester and fill in for a professor on Maternity leave.

You choose your clients and make sure it is a win-win situation for everyone. How do you bridge the gap between developers and clients?

I have been in client services for my entire career, so I learned to navigate the field very early on. Brian is the same way. It really just comes natural for us.

The key is to remember that the conversations with potential clients is not as much about you as it is about them. They should do most of the talking and you should do mostly listening, question asking, and clarifying.

It’s not the time to get into discussions about code, specific solutions, or minute details. It’s about making them feel comfortable, heard, and understood, while inspiring confidence in you. You need to show them you’re excited about their project.

The sales conversation is an opportunity for you to make sure both parties have the best possible experience. That may be by working with you, or it may be by working with someone else. As long as you come to the conversation with the highest good for both parties as a priority, you can’t go wrong.

How do you handle a Catch-22 when clients do not know what they know what they want? What are your pet projects – small local businesses or giant conglomerates?

If we’re speaking with a potential client who wants to work with us, but doesn’t know what they want, we will often propose a paid Scoping and Discovery Phase.

This is where the client will hire us for set number of hours to help them create the creative brief and scope of work required to meet their objectives. It is also a great opportunity for both parties to test the waters working together before signing a large contract.

At the end of the Scoping and Discovery project, the client has a full creative brief and scoping requirements document. We then use that to create the proposal of services, or, if we decide we’re not the best fit for the project, the client can take their docs and use them to obtain proposals from other agencies.

What is your pricing strategy – based on plans or hours?

When it comes to pricing, we use a combination of pricing structures:

  • Most of our core services are done on a project basis, using flat rate pricing.
  • Several clients have ongoing monthly retainers of X hours for X dollars, with priority status awarded by numbers of hours booked.
  • Some development work, revisions to projects, and scope of work changes are pure time and materials and are billed hourly.

What are your top priorities during a project’s design and development phase?

Our top priorities throughout every project, especially website projects, are to keep communication lines open and to ensure the client always knew where we are at and what’s happening with the project.

We also take a very active approach to project management to keep projects on schedule and in scope, and to address change orders quickly and efficiently.

List the Top Five WordPress plugins that you think are quintessential to build a site.

To be honest, we don’t use many plugins. For theme development we don’t use any plugins but Advanced Custom Fields Pro and custom plugins we may write for a specific project.

As far as the final website, plugins we commonly use are:

  • Yoast SEO (WordPress SEO)
  • Google Analytics by Yoast
  • Content Aware Sidebars
  • Simple Page Ordering
  • Post Promoter Pro
  • JetPack

Tell us more about your WordCamp experiences – anything that has made an impact, any funny incidents?

Brian began going to WordCamps a couple years before I did, partly because of child care and partly because I went to more entrepreneurial type events. In 2013 our child care issues were solved and we could begin going to events together, and that year I attended my first WordCamp — WordCamp San Francisco.

I met a ton of amazing people, several I had seriously only known through social media. I had a great time, and I wanted more. In 2014 I think we went to 5 or 6 different WordCamps and was fortunate enough to speak at four of them.

It’s funny. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a teacher, but never pursued it because all I heard from adults around me was that teachers are paid terribly. I’ve always said that if I weren’t doing design, I’d be a teacher. WordCamps and speaker give me the opportunity to fill that desire and give back to the community by sharing my knowledge at the same time.

I’m really excited that we’ve got a great organizing team in place and that we’re finally bringing the first WordCamp to Sacramento this fall.

Genesis is the basic theme for all your websites. Why does it have an edge over its competitors?

As a Genesis recommended developer, all of our WordPress sites are built as custom child themes on top of the Genesis Framework.

Genesis is a parent theme. It’s no different than using the 2015 WordPress theme and building a child theme on it. The Genesis Framework is a toolbox for building child themes that gives you a consistent output of HTML markup and a standardized style sheet to work from.

We use the Genesis Framework as a parent theme because it:

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

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter

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