Learn how I went from unemployable business owner to Chief Marketing Officer and what this change means for my services, courses, and programs.
I’ve been charting my own course since July 2005 when I quit my full-time graphic design job and decided to start a business as a freelance designer. At the time, my husband Brian worked for a fire department and was home with my two-year-old daughter most days, and I was pregnant with my son and wanted to work from home.
I had done some brand design, graphic design, and web design projects for friends, but never really had an official side hustle, which meant I started Bourn Creative from scratch. It was incredibly rewarding, insanely tough, and a rollercoaster ride that taught me a lot!
I discovered what I’m great at and terrible at, what energizes me and drains me, and what lights me up and shuts me down. I also got really clear about exactly what I want out of my work and my life, the boundaries I hold, and what I refuse to tolerate.
My Entrepreneurial Journey
I’ve been an employee and worked in-house, I’ve freelanced, I’ve worked with my spouse, I’ve had full-time employees and a small team, I’ve been a subcontractor and hired subcontractors, and I’ve worked remotely and in-office.
In July, my company Bourn Creative will celebrate its 18-year anniversary.
I’ve spent 17.5 years working from home and doing my own thing with no one telling me what to do, when to do it, or how to do it (except maybe Brian, my husband and business partner) — and I definitely got used to the freedom that came with being my own boss.
Over the years, I did consider a few job opportunities and Brian and I even had conversations with a few companies about being acquired but nothing fit quite right.
Eventually, Brian and I decided to untangle our work lives. In January 2019, he left Bourn Creative to work at another agency and give me more freedom to pursue my courses, business coaching programs, speaking, and workshops.
Suddenly, I was freelancing again, beholden to no one, and loving it.
- I doubled down on my courses and leaned hard into pairing copywriting and content creation services with my design services.
- I worked with amazing clients on interesting projects and stepped in to support a few other agencies with their content marketing.
- I adored every second I spent working on the education arm of my business and with the smart, driven freelancers and creative agency owners in my courses and programs.
But freelancing didn’t quite feel the same as it used to.
Something Was Missing
For the first time ever, I found myself struggling to find my “get it done” drive and stay motivated. I have always been a high performer yet I was struggling to perform.
Honestly, I had a bit of an identity crisis.
Some of it was pandemic burnout — after pushing hard through 2020 and 2021 and putting everyone else first, I crashed hard. But beyond that, I realized the problem was that I was working alone. After having a business partner for nearly 10 years, I realized that I no longer liked being on my own. I liked having a partner and I liked being part of a team.
Two other dynamics also had me thinking about the future of my business:
1. My Systems Are Established And Proven
The services side of my business runs like a well-oiled machine. I built a strong brand, niched down, simplified my offers, established documented systems, and automated everything possible. My client experience is consistent, production is efficient, delivery happens on schedule, every project is profitable, and my clients are happy.
I have a system, I work the system, and every year I further refine the system.
I enjoy collaboration and want to have impact and influence, which is part of why I love client services. But I realized that doing the work isn’t enough. I also need to be challenged. I need to be learning and growing and experimenting and trying new things.
2. I Need Finish Lines And Work That Matters
The “hurry up and wait” scenario is like a punch in the gut and work that never sees the light of day is like a thousand knives in my chest.
Time is my most valuable asset and it’s tough to find any type of motivation when it feels like your work isn’t respected or important enough to earn someone else’s time — time for discussion, review, feedback, revisions, and approval.
I realized that I need the work I do to matter and to move the needle. I also need the work to have real deadlines, not arbitrary deadlines that constantly get pushed out. I crave a finish line to cross, an accomplishment to celebrate, check marks on my to-do list, and gold stars on my goal chart — and I want to hear someone to say, “Good job Jen.”
In looking to the future, my planning centered around narrowing my services, creating service packages with finish lines, and simplifying the management and delivery of my business training courses, business coaching and training programs, and skill-building workshops to create the time needed to explore something new.
I just didn’t know that something new would be a job!
Considering New Opportunities
If you’re reading this, you may have heard that I accepted a full-time position as Chief Marketing Officer at Motivations AI. Trust me when I tell you that no one is more shocked than I am.
I assumed I was unemployable, especially because I’ve fielded multiple employment/partnership offers since the start of 2020:
- Three times we didn’t make it past an exploratory conversation.
- Once we made it to the interview stage but mutually decided it wasn’t a fit.
- Twice we made it all the way to an offer.
Not one opportunity was more compelling than what I was already doing.
No opportunity felt like a fit and every opportunity required me to give up something: vacation time, compensation, my courses, my coaching, my clients, or everything. I felt valued but not fully seen or understood. Most companies wanted to stick me in a predefined role that only leveraged a fraction of my skills and passions and focused on production.
It felt good to be wanted but again, I figured I was unemployable from both expectation and compensation perspectives. I assumed that I had been doing my own thing for so long that I couldn’t not do my own thing.
Until my friend made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Accepting A Full-Time Position
I’m blessed to have a few close friends who know me almost as well as I know myself, who also own businesses, and who I can talk candidly with about anything.
Chris Lema is one of those friends — one of my best friends. He’s the brother I never had and our families adore each other. We’ve done masterminds together, we’ve worked together on various projects, we speak at and support each other’s events, we’ve attended and spoken at a variety of conferences together, and we vacation together. I’ve shared everything about my business with him over the years, and he’s been an invaluable sounding board and mentor.
Chris is the most strategic person I’ve ever met. He’s planning his next move before most people even start playing the game.
- I’ve watched him hire high-performers and A-players.
- I’ve seen how he crafts a role to fit a person and their strengths.
- I’ve seen how he nurtures and supports team members, setting them up for success.
- I’ve talked to friends who felt unqualified for a role Chris offered, only to rise to the occasion and realize later that it’s a perfect fit.
In early 2022, Chris joined Cherith Analytics — a decision he made while we were coworking in Bandon, Oregon with our friend Shawn Hesketh. Then, I watched as he bought five personality assessment technology brands, tucked them into a new company, and was named CEO.
Getting To Know Motivations AI
Chris hired me to design the visual brand and website for his new company Motivations AI. But first I had to experience the technology and the personality assessment first-hand.
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. I’ve done plenty of personality assessments over the years and the results are usually mediocre at best.
- Most assessments ask questions like “Would you rather stay home and read a book or go to a party with friends?” And because sometimes I prefer to stay home and read a book and sometimes I prefer to go to a party, both answers are right. And if that’s true, how does that give me accurate results?
- Most results are only sort of relevant. Parts of the results feel like me and parts feel like they were written for someone else and only some of it is relevant to my work.
- What to do with the results and how to apply them to your work or life is up to you to figure out and it’s not easy. Most people look at their results once and then never look at them again.
The MotivationCode (MCode) assessment was totally different.
I didn’t have to answer a bunch of seemingly random questions or answer the same question asked five different ways. Instead, the assessment asked me to share stories of times in my life when I felt accomplished, at my best, happy, and fulfilled. Then, it asked me questions about my unique stories and experiences.
When I received my results, I was floored.
The results were accurate, insightful, exactly me, and totally relevant to my life and my work. When I was asked to highlight the parts that perfectly described me in green, I laughed and covered an entire page in green. The results explained why, even when doing something I was good at, sometimes I struggled to care and other times I went all-in.
I immediately thought, “Everyone I know needs to do this assessment!”
Joining The Motivations AI Team
Chris mentioned the possibility of me joining Motivations AI sometime in the future back in September, and we talked about it a bit more when we were in Cabo in October. Brian and I then talked endlessly about what it would take to get me to say yes and what it would mean for my business and our family if this opportunity ever presented itself.
I definitely didn’t think it would happen so soon!
When Chris invited me to join him as CMO in late December, I didn’t have to think about it long. In fact, I didn’t have to think about it at all.
I said yes on the spot.
We had finished designing the Motivations AI visual brand and style guide, we were wrapping up the website design, and I was having a blast. I was excited to join a collaborative team and work on a product that helps people better understand themselves, find more joy in their work, and live happier, more fulfilled lives.
And saying yes didn’t require me to give up anything or sacrifice what I’d built or created.
The role was crafted to not only be a perfect fit for all of my skills, strengths, motivations, and passions, but also for the life I’ve created for myself and my family.
I’m Excited About The Future
While most people start with a side hustle and work to grow it into a full-time business, I’m doing the opposite. I’m leaning heavily on my systems and automation to transition my full-time business into a side hustle with as little impact as possible — and planning to hire a couple of part-time support folks to continue to grow the business.
- At the beginning of January, I started as CMO at Motivations AI, and love everything we’re doing. We’re moving fast and doing work that matters and the team is fantastic. It’s been amazing working with my friend every day, I’m using all of my skills to support our brands and team, and I’m learning new things and being challenged.
- Also in January, I kicked off Profitable Project Plan, Content Creators Club, and a new private mastermind group. I love working with clients to build powerhouse brands and helping freelancers and creative entrepreneurs build successful, sustainable, profitable freedom-based businesses.
And yeah, I’m still finding my groove and figuring out how to balance all the things. But so far it’s going great, I’m thrilled, and I’m waking up every day inspired by the work we’re doing.
So, thank you!
Thanks for being part of my community, for your support, and for reading this! I’m so excited about what the future holds and I can’t wait to share it with you.