REAIR: Building a Cohort-Based Course with Jennifer Bourn

How I Built It
How I Built It
REAIR: Building a Cohort-Based Course with Jennifer Bourn
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With the Podcast Liftoff Playbook out, and Jennifer Bourn’s Profitable Project Plan is open for enrollment right now, I thought it would be a great time to re-air her interview where she talks about running a cohort-based course, and how she built the PPP. I listened to it again as I was looking for inspiration and best practices to realize the Playbook fully. And let me tell you, this episode really holds up! For members, I talk about how my webinar → paid members sales to funnel went.

Top Takeaways:

  • Online courses are NOT passive income. If you want your course to be successful, you need to evolve it.
  • Offering a PRO version was a big mistake for Jen because people bought the non-Pro version and tried to get the Pro benefits. The lesson has one offer OR makes the Pro benefits totally different.
  • Running live workshop events are a great way to add accountability and more value to your self-paced courses. You’re ensuring your students take action now, instead of procrastinating.

Show Notes:

Transcript

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[00:00:58] <music>

Joe Casabona: Hey everybody! Welcome to Episode 293 of How I Built It. This is I believe the first rebroadcast in the show’s history. It is my interview with Jen Bourn about how she reworked and revamped her Profitable Project Plan.

There are two reasons I am re-airing this episode. The first is as you listen to this, I am on vacation with my family in Disney World. We decided to bring our three small children there ahead of our three which is really exciting on Disney property conference that I’m going to attend.

But the second is that as I release the Podcast Liftoff Playbook and rework my course and start to do more live workshop events, I wanted to revisit this episode myself because Jen Bourn always brings the value. And this episode, just like her own work, and her previous episodes really helped me out with that. So I wanted to resurface it for you too. Cohort-based courses are all the rage now and Jen does them really effectively. This episode was recorded before I changed formats a little bit. So again, I wanted to resurface this content for you.

Things to look for during this interview. Online courses are not passive income. If you want your course to be successful, you need to evolve it. And Jen talks about how she continually evolves the Profitable Project Plan. She talks about how offering a pro version was actually a big mistake for her and the kind of lessons to take away there. And then she talks about running live workshops and why they’re really helpful for getting your students to act now and adding value that way.

Now, there is a super-secret third reason. As this episode comes out, the doors are open to Jen’s Profitable Project Plan. And so if you are interested in registering for it, you can go tohowibuilt.it/ppp. That’showibuilt.it/ppp. You can get 40% off if you use one of my discount codes. If you’re going to pay in full, you can use the discount code PPP-casabona-payfull. If you want to do the payment plan you can do ppp-casabona-pay-plan.

I’ll have all of that in the description for this episode and in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/293. But this is a great opportunity if you are looking to improve your business practices, especially when working with clients.

Now full disclosure: I am an affiliate, but that’s not going to change how much you pay. Again, if you use those codes I provided, you’re actually getting 40% off. So enjoy this interview. I am so glad I got to resurface it. Thanks so much to this episode’s sponsors, Ahrefs, Nexcess and LearnDash. Again, for all of the show notes and for those discount codes, you can go to howibuilt.it/293.

But for now, let’s get to the intro and then the interview.

[00:04:04] <music>

Intro: Hey everybody! Welcome to How I Built It, the podcast where you get free coaching calls from successful creators. Each week you get actionable advice on how you can build a better content business to increase revenue and establish yourself as an authority. I’m your host Joe Casabona. Now let’s get to it.

[00:04:28] <music>

Joe Casabona: This is your second time back on the show. The first time we talked about kind of the early stages of this. And I’m excited to bring you back on so we can talk about how it’s evolved over time. Because I think a lot of people think they create an online course or an online program, and then they just let it go, and then it’s truly passive income. But it’s not. And that’s what we’re going to learn about today.

Jennifer Bourn: It’s so not.

Joe Casabona: It’s the opposite of that. I’ll just tell you before we actually fully focus on any of that. When I was teaching a computer literacy course at the University of Scranton, a bunch of the teachers in my department made comments to me about how “Oh, you’ve been teaching that for a couple of semesters now. It’s on autopilot.” And I’m like, “It is not on autopilot. Computers change all the time. I put the most effort into that because it’s like my least knowledgeable group of students and it’s the most important stuff I’m teaching.” So I just thought it was really interesting that even in-person classes can be viewed as autopilot. I’ll just teach the same lessons from now until eternity.

Jennifer Bourn: Well, and I think a lot of people look at it as “Sweet, I can create this one time, and then put zero effort in and it’s just going to continue to generate cash.” And there are some instances where that may be true, but most of the time you need to be working on improving. Your first one out of the gate is not going to be your best one, folks.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And not to mention you’re at least always going to be marketing or convincing new groups of people that you know what you’re talking about. Unless you already have the entire niche for your course following you already, which in that case, you don’t need to listen to this podcast. Come on this podcast and tell me how you do it. But for those of you who don’t know you, Jennifer Bourn, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Jennifer Bourn: Oh, that’s a loaded question. I have been a designer for my entire career. I’ve never done anything else. So 22 years I have been a designer. I built my own agency after having a freelance career. I hired my husband to do everything that I didn’t want to do. He came in and took over and changed everything. It was an interesting experience. We worked together for nearly 10 years. He exited the business, so I’m now back to being on my own. I’ve gone from up to five people all the way down to just me.

I think over the last several years I really realized that as important as building websites for people were, they weren’t using the things that they were investing in. They were investing all this money in building their website and then they have all these grand plans and blogging and podcasting, and doing all these things, and then they launch it, and they do nothing. So I fell kind of into content strategy helping clients actually use the site they had spent time and money and energy into creating.

And then as my business grew, and my business changed and shifted, and my clients kind of changed and shifted, I started offering courses as well. Profitable Project Plan is my flagship course. It led into workshops, like Content Camp and some of the other mini-courses that I offer.

But Profitable Project Plan really kind of was a game-changer for me. I know a lot of people create courses to escape client work, but I love client work. And I still do client services to this day. I believe if you’re going to sell a course doing something you kind of should be doing it yourself.

Joe Casabona: That’s 100%. People ask me, “Are you getting into podcasting? Or are you like doing the LinkedIn Learning courses? Do you still do development?” And I’m like, “Over at LinkedIn Learning, I’m teaching development. I have to keep doing development, otherwise, I’m not going to know what I’m doing.” So I agree wholeheartedly.

Plus, I mean, depending on the course, my courses are generally priced below $500, those can generally be a lead to more client work, right? Somebody takes my course, they’re like, “This is all great. Now I know what’s going on but I don’t have the time to do it. Joe will do it for me?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s, that’s my done for you service. Let’s talk.” So yeah, I think you’re absolutely right there.

Something else you said there was you grew to maybe like five employees and back down to one. I feel like a lot of people think the number of employees you have shows how big your business is. When in actuality it just shows how much money that you’re spending that maybe you don’t need to spend.

Jennifer Bourn: Okay. I adore the fact that you said that. I have this mindset, I felt I was victim of this for a long time, I think that there is this kind of notion that if you’re not always launching, and you’re not always on the next thing, and you’re not always hiring another person, and you’re not always growing, and we’re hiring, and we’re growing, and we’re hiring, and we’re launching, and I have the new thing, like if you’re not always in that mode there’s something wrong with you, like you’re not doing enough.

And I kind of fell victim to that for a while. I was like, “If I’m not growing, and I’m not hiring, and I’m not doing all these things, and I’m not doing enough, then I must be crap. Compared to everybody else, I must just be crap.”

I think there’s this fallacy in that that I got to peek behind the scenes of a lot, a lot of business. A lot of businesses. I got to work with a lot of really big-name people that you probably would recognize if I said their name. And I got to peek into the back end of their business in our time together and what I realized is that the outlay of cash that it costs to be chugging that train, and to keep that train going is unreal.

When I talk about establishing your hourly rate and building profitability into your business and things like that, one of the things that I always kind of highlight is this notion of everybody talks about building a six-figure business or a seven-figure business.

And nobody talks about the back that that six figures or seven figures gross. But when you look behind the scenes, yeah, you might have made a million bucks, but you spent like $750,000 in ads, and another 100 grand on people and you’re walking away with…what? 50 grand? 65 grand? And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is smoke and mirrors.” I net more than you do and you have a million-dollar business. Like that’s insane.

I started to realize, as I gained more experience in business and more exposure to kind of the behind-the-scenes working of a lot of different kinds of businesses, I realized really just how little gross matters and how much net matters. You want to talk six, seven figures, whatever, like talk to me about what you’re bringing home, and then we’ll have a discussion.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I don’t brag about how much money I make every…I make enough money to support my family, and I’m happy with that. Who doesn’t want to make a little bit more? But if your business is bringing in a million dollars and you’re spending a million and one, your business is a failure. You’re not making any money.

Jennifer Bourn: People always ask, “How much money do you want to make? What are your goals? How much do you want to get?” And I’m like, “Look, as long as every time I swipe my ATM card, I can buy whatever I want and I don’t have to think about it, and I can take the vacations I want and travel with my family, what more do I need?” That is amazing.

Joe Casabona: That’s what I think is a problem is the hustle culture or whatever. People think that they need to start a business to build a big business. I quit my job at an agency because, I mean…longtime listeners have heard this a million times. But I started my business to spend more time with my family. So as long as I can make…

Jennifer Bourn: I think that’s why a lot of people quit.

Joe Casabona: So to those people who are like us, don’t listen to Gary Vee or the person saying, “Oh, yes, I grossed a million dollars last year, and you’ve got to always make more money. And now it’s $10 million or whatever.” Just do what makes you happy. As long as you can support your family or support whatever it is. If you decide you start a business for x reason and you are fulfilled, great. You’re doing great. Don’t listen to anybody else. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

Jennifer Bourn: I think that’s part of the thing too is when I originally implemented what became Profitable Project Plan in my business, when I first created those systems and processes and rolled them out with my clients, I was able to reduce the amount of administrative time on projects by 50%.

And when you’re doing 10, 12, 15 projects at a time, which is what we were doing, that is an amazing amount of time that you’re saving. And with that extra time, you have a decision to make. If I gave back a full day per week of extra time, am I going to fill that with more client work to make even more money? Or am I going to let that be. And I’m going to work less for the same amount of money.

You get to choose as the business owner. Some people are going to choose to work more and make more. And some people are going to say, “I’m really happy with where I’m at and I would love to work a whole day less per week.” That’s what I chose, by the way.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. 100%. Me too. This year I didn’t have much of a choice because with the pandemic we’re keeping our kids home. So on the days my wife works, I’m dad. I’m lucky enough to have a business in a position where I can take half of the week off and still be able to support my family.

Jennifer Bourn: Well, I think that was one of those things. My kids right now are 17 and 15. But when I actively kind of started shifting the way I looked at what success meant to me and what I wanted my business to be, and what I wanted my lifestyle to be, great…My kids were a lot younger. They were like 6, 7, 8. They were little and I thought, “You only have so much time.”

If you look at it from…I think Natalie at one point, we were talking about this with somebody and I’m like, “She’s 10. In eight years she’s gone. I only have eight more years. I want to suck up every single minute that I can and make the most of it, and travel and go on vacations and do all these things.”

So I did all this stuff for Profitable Project Plan. I created all of the things that became that program so I could work less and I could go and take 6, 7, 8, 9 weeks of vacation a year and truly shut down and not check email and not do client work while I’m traveling because I have that limited amount of time.

Right now my kids are 15 and 17. Natalie is going to college next year. I’m like, “God, when my kids are gone, sure, I could work more. What am I going to do when nobody’s here to play with?” But for right now, success to me is being able to obviously not travel in 2020 but being able to spend as much time with them as I can and really, really suck all that up before they move on.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s not exactly the same but my daughter is going to be going to school next September. She’ll be spending more of her time outside the house than inside the house. It’s been nice. I can just pop upstairs and say like, “Hey, kiddo, what are you doing?” She’s been watching the Star Wars Lego holiday special, which warms my heart.

Jennifer Bourn: Oh, I love that.

Joe Casabona: I know. She’s like my favorite person. I guess I can’t really say anymore because I have two. Anyway…

Jennifer Bourn: She’s your favorite daughter.

Joe Casabona: She’s my favorite daughter. Absolutely. So we’ve both established now why we’ve started our businesses. When we’re talking about Profitable Project Plan… again, the last time you’re on the show, you kind of talked about how you came up with the idea and things like that. It has evolved considerably since the last time we spoke. Maybe we can talk a little bit about exactly what it is because I don’t think we’ve touched on that yet. It’s already been very tangential. Jen and I usually see each other a couple of times a year, but we have not obviously in 2020. So a little bit about what it is and the goals of the program and then how it’s evolved since the last time we spoke.

Jennifer Bourn: Profitable Project Plan is basically my business in a box. Everything, every system, process, resource, script, call framework, email that I’ve written for clients to walk them through and handhold them through the website building process, to bring leads in, to build recurring revenue, to manage contracts, and change orders and get paid for all of the time that you’re working. This program combines all of those things, and then the training on why it was created and how to use it, and how to implement it in your business. So that’s kind of the premise of the program itself.

Now it has changed a lot since the last time we talked. Like you said, the program began as a six-week course. It is now a 10-month program. It is a 35 lessons, all live with me. It is me and you live. 35 live lessons, 35 live Q&As, 35 handbooks, one for every lesson, plus scripts and templates and resources.

And not only has the content and the curriculum of the course evolved and grown over time, the software I use to deliver the course has changed over time. Partly because I was putting off launching. I was delaying, I was putting it off. Like, “No, it has to be perfect. I want it to be all the big vision of the things that I’ve imagined.” So that led to me doing nothing.

I got a kick in the pants by a good friend who put me on the spot and made me launch it like with the worst thing ever. But it got me out the door, it got the beta going, it got testing coming in. And from there, every single time I ran it, I looked at “How can I make this better? How can I make this better for people?” And I got real-time input. Every time I run Profitable Project Plan, at the end, I do a survey. You do a course survey. What did you think? What do you wish was in the program but wasn’t? What’s missing? All of those kinds of questions.

And I gathered my testimonials in that survey, and I incentivize people filling out that survey by gifting them with another lesson or some kind of free thing. That if you fill out the survey, you get invited to a special training only available for people who fill out that survey.

So I have a very large number of course participants fill out that survey and they tell me what’s missing, they tell me what they wished was in it, they tell me what…I don’t really get much of that anymore because the program has grown so much. But each time I’ve been able to look at those surveys and say, “Okay, what would bring the most value to people in this program?”

So the first time I ran it, it was just me talking like this. Like just talking head. Then the second time I ran it, I tweaked things a little bit. Now every single lesson has a full deck of slides. Like thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands of slides I have created for this all bonkers. Bonkers! Because I’m also not somebody who’s going to sit here and talk to you while one slide sits on the screen for five minutes because that’s boring. Who wants to do that? So it’s just insane.

But I didn’t have one slide. The first several times I ran it, I didn’t have examples of all the worksheets and things. I would give you, “Fill out this worksheet. Complete this exercise.” And somebody’s like, “You know what? It would actually be really helpful if we could see this already done.” Oh, that’s a really good idea. So now every worksheet I give you in the program, I also give it to you completed. So if you don’t know what to say or you’re stuck, you can see how somebody else might have filled it out or completed it.

Everything didn’t come the first time. The first time was a beta. It was, “Hey, let’s see if this works.” I don’t even think that I had all the workbooks and everything the first time. And we introduced the workbooks and we introduce scripts, and then more call frameworks and all of these different things. But each time, it’s just “How can I add more value, and how can I tweak what I’m already doing so that it’s easier, so that there are fewer questions?”

Part of having live Q&A in the program was totally selfish. People are like, “Ooh, QA, sweet, this is going to benefit me.” I’m like, “No, this totally benefits me.” You asking questions tells me where my content is deficient. If I deliver a lesson for an hour and then there’s QA and there are a lot of questions, me as the course creator needs to listen to those questions and say, “Where is my content in this training falling down that these are the questions being asked?” So then I go back and I update that training to address some of those questions. So every time I run it, there’s less and less and less questions.

I think two, technology changes. Like Gutenberg and the Block Editor wasn’t a thing when I launched the course. So at one point, we had to go back and change some of the client training materials and the education materials in the way we talked about websites. Because if I just kept selling the same course, they’ll be like, “But this is old. This isn’t how WordPress does it anymore.” So you have to go back and update those things and make sure that it’s current so that everything is still applicable.

[00:23:04] <music>

Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by LearnDash. Look, I’ve been making courses for a long time, I’ve taught at the college level and I’ve created curriculums for several different organizations, including Udemy, Sessions College, and LinkedIn learning. When I create my own courses, there’s no better option than LearnDash.

LearnDash combines cutting-edge eLearning tools with WordPress. They’re trusted to power learning programs for major universities, small to mid-sized companies, startups and creators worldwide. What makes LearnDash so great is it was created by and is run by people who deeply understand online learning, and adds features that are truly helpful for independent course creators. I love the user experience.

And now you can import Vimeo and YouTube playlists and have a course created automatically in seconds. I trust LearnDash to run my courses and membership. And you should too. Learn more at howibuilt.it/learndash.

[00:24:11] <music>

Joe Casabona: I like what you said about the QA. I did the same thing. When the pandemic started, I started offering like free 15-minute calls to people who want to start podcasts. And lots of people were like, “This is great. You’re so generous with your time.” And I’m like, “This is market research for me.” Like, I’m revamping my course. what am I going to include in it now?

Somebody actually asked, they’re like, “What’s in this for you?” And I’m like, “What? I’m getting information from you. Like you’re a warm lead now.” I’m not pretending that this is like some just “I get nothing out of it”.

Jennifer Bourn: Not like these focus groups. One person at a time.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s perfectly fine. You get help. I get help. It’s wonderful. So I love that. And then you mentioned the technology changes.

Jennifer Bourn: Oh, I did.

Joe Casabona: I’m really interested to see like…because we talked about your gear the last time too just because I’m all about that. I feel like our gear has changed similarly. So what do you have going on in the background now? What does your control center looks like?

Jennifer Bourn: Well, from a foundational perspective, the course was always run on WordPress. But I used MemberPress when I first launched. In terms of membership software, I adore MemberPress. It is easy to use, it is easy to learn. It made getting a course up and running so simple and fast. So I love MemberPress.

But as my course started to grow and I had different kinds of content and different things, and I wanted different menus and I wanted different stuff out of it and I wanted to provide a different kind of experience, I ended up switching over to…Oh, also payment gateway. So I switched over to LearnDash and WooCommerce because I also needed to be able to sell tickets to Content Camp and all of these other things.

So MemberPress with Stripe and PayPal made it easy to get started. But in terms of me selling other things like tickets, Content Camp, other courses, whatever it might be, I needed a robust solution for payments. So when I switched over to WooCommerce, I’m like, “This is probably a good time for me to start looking at core solutions.” So I switched over to LearnDash, which also is what powers Content Camp. So I switched over to that in terms of software to deliver the program.

I use Zoom to do all the live sessions, Vimeo to host all my videos and embed them in on my site. I’m thinking what else do I use. I’ve got my Scarlett, I don’t know what the whole thing is, my fancy mic.

Joe Casabona: It’s not the solo. It’s like the big one. It’s not the i2i. It’s like the IEi or something like that?

Jennifer Bourn: It is a Scarlett 18i20.

Joe Casabona: That’s it. Yeah, it’s a big one.

Jennifer Bourn: And it’s got this whole little rack system right here.

Joe Casabona: I used your blog posts to get that rack system. I had a different interface, which I’ve switched twice since we last spoke. I have the RODECaster Pro now, which I love.

Jennifer Bourn: Nice. I think some of it too is looking at the room like…the first time I ran this, I had a blue wall behind me. If you look at my older videos, the wall was blue and it was nice, but it was so hideous on video. I then had some echo in my office. So we got rid of the blinds and hung two layers of curtains and blackout curtains, and we put in the new wall behind me to kind of give me something more plain and brought in some sound-deadening panels, I’ve got these things that you see on my desk.

Joe Casabona: Desk marks.

Jennifer Bourn: Yeah, they just kind of go all the way around the front of me.

Joe Casabona: I think we have the same person telling us what gear we should get.

Jennifer Bourn: I think we do. But yeah, it’s like each year, at the end of the year, I look at all the equipment I’m using and I look at where could I do a little bit better, upgrade my quality a little bit more? I look at equipment, that kind of stuff at the end of the year. And every year I tend to add something that just kind of makes it a little bit better. Every year you got to get a little better.

Joe Casabona: Absolutely. Something that’s really helped me this year that might help you, especially with the live streams but also with my own courses, I like to switch between slides in my face to keep it dynamic, like you said.

I recently hired a video editor because I realized that was the biggest bottleneck in my own courses. And I’ll just give it to somebody who will take like a fraction of the time and the cost to deliver great videos. But to make his job easier, I got a Stream Deck and I use Ecamm Live to kind of switch between screens easily. So like I’ll switch between slides and my face, or I’ll bring in my face on the slide. But that’s really helped me in my courses. And that was a big upgrade for this year.

Jennifer Bourn: I have one of those and I have not set it up yet.

Joe Casabona: Man, I will show it. See, this is…

Jennifer Bourn: I need a pro to come set up my gear.

Joe Casabona: I can help you with that. I’m about to upgrade to the Stream Deck XL, which is like 32 buttons. Because I realized I gave Brian Richards advice that I did not take myself. He was like, “Should I get the 15 button or the 32 button?” And I’m like, “You are going to hate yourself…”

Jennifer Bourn: Always buy more than you need.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. So I have the 15 and with the end of the year spend money, so I spend less on taxes. strategy… I’m not an accountant.

Jennifer Bourn: Kind of like, Folks, this is the best time to invest in Profitable Project Plan. If you need to spend money at the end of the year, why not spend it on something that’s going to help you make more money?

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I love talking gear and the setup. I’m a big fan of LearnDash. I think I’m still the bootcamp videos. Like if you look at those intro videos, I think that’s still me.

Jennifer Bourn: Nice. It’s been a nice switch. I like the structure. It was interesting selling the live Content Camp, the live workshop, running the live content workshops, and things. Each workshop session was a different lesson in LearnDash. So like whole workshop was a course. But we went through the course live each day. It facilitated it really, really nice. I could integrate chat rolls so there’s live chat. And then we jumped over to live Zoom working sessions. I really like the software. I think there’s some things that are missing in it, but nothing’s perfect.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. They’ve done a lot of work. I think 3.0 came out this year.

Jennifer Bourn: Yeah. Content protection is where I have the issue. Why the hell is that not built in? And why is the only option a super bloated plugin that has e-commerce and all kinds of other crap that you don’t need in it?

Joe Casabona: Actually, they just rolled out groups/memberships in like July. So I don’t know…

Jennifer Bourn: But I’m talking like content protection for PDFs and course materials.

Joe Casabona: Oooh! Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Bourn: With Memberpress, I use delightful downloads. If you didn’t have that membership and you weren’t logged in, you couldn’t download anything. That kind of seems like a no-brainer for online course stuff.

Joe Casabona: That’s super interesting. That’s so interesting.

Jennifer Bourn: That’s my wish list. If anybody is listening, that’s my wish list.

Joe Casabona: Duly noted, those who work at LearnDash.

Jennifer Bourn: But I love that software. I think it’s fantastic. You run courses…It’s been fantastic for me.

Joe Casabona: Likewise. I’ve been on it since I launched my online courses. I was using Sensei at first. And then Justin reached out, I was like, “Hey, why are you using Sensei?” And I’m like, “I didn’t know anything else exists.” And he’s like, “Well, try LearnDash.” And I’m like, “Okay.” So I’ve been on that forever. Plus, I mean, if you’re still using MemberPress, it does have MemberPress integration, too. I think it’s really flexible, very affordable. This is not an ad for LearnDash.

Jennifer Bourn: That’s true. They were not one of the sponsors.

Joe Casabona: They were not. But though I will say Restrict Content Pro also integrates with LearnDash. So the sponsor does as well. So that’s your gear, your setup, your tech stack. And then we kind of got the methodology for how you evolved your content over time. You’ve added a lot of content too obviously. How did you decide what to include? Was it like whatever got the most votes made it in? Or were you answering specific questions?

Jennifer Bourn: That’s a great question. When I first started offering Profitable Project Plan, I offered Profitable Project Plan and Profitable Project Plan Pro. Those were worst ideas. Like such a bad idea. Because everybody wants pro but people cheap out and then they buy the other one. But then they spend all the time in the Q&A asking the things that are covered in Pro. And you don’t want to be like, “Thanks for that question. If you want to spend more money, then you would have this.” But you can’t. You can’t be rude. I felt like I was constantly in this weird position of like, “Well, we cover that in the thing…” Such a bad idea.

After that one time, I’m like, “We’re getting rid of that. We’re getting rid of it and I’m rolling everything that was in pro into the regular.” That was the getting paid. All the getting paid. Because originally Profitable Project Plan was just the everything needed to run a WordPress project from start to finish. From onboarding, welcoming your client, an onboarding to post-launch follow-up, and value add. Pro was money matters and getting paid on time, and sales calls, and contracts, and change orders and all those things.

So I really was like, “Okay, Pro is a huge pain in my butt. I’m going to roll everything in a Profitable Project Plan to just offer one thing.” So all that got merged in and it went from like six lessons to nine. And then I was getting lots and lots of questions about copy and strategy. So that made it expand to like 14-ish. We expanded a little bit more. But I was getting all these questions like, “I have this process down. I took Profitable Project Plan, I implemented everything in the program, my projects are now taking me less time, I finally have time to get out there and market. How do I get clients? How do I get clients?”

And I noticed that that started popping up in the Q&A more and more and more. So I created a second course called Lucrative Leads. I originally launched it as an evergreen standalone course and I realized that I kind of hate evergreen courses. I missed the live. I missed the interaction and all of that.

And everybody in Profitable Project Plan was like, “But I need the lead stuff.” So I was like, “You know what, I’m just going to roll Lucrative Leads into Profitable Project Plan, too.” So I took all the stuff that was in Lucrative Leads, I rejiggered it a little bit to completely customize it for designers and developers, instead of being more generic for entrepreneurs and I rolled it into Profitable Project Plan. So then it expanded to have the whole lead generation section.

And recurring revenue was the bonus. Like recurring revenue was the bonus training for when people filled out the survey. But it was so popular, we rolled that into the actual core part of the program. There were so many questions and so many people were like, “Tell me all the things about Recurring Revenue,” that that lesson was so crazy, I’m like, “Okay, we need to expand on this.” So it became a six-unit lesson, like a six-unit portion of Profitable Project Plan by itself.

Then I talked to so many people, again, in the Q&A throughout the program, they’re like, “But what about people that they want a website and they don’t have a logo? Or they don’t have a brand? How do you change onboarding? How do you change how you start a project when you have to back up and do a logo and color palette and typography? And how do you manage that? And I was going through that in Q&A and I thought, “I created all the same systems I created for the website stuff for the branding stuff in my business. At this point, I’m already practically giving them my entire business. What’s that part two? I might as well add that in.”

That was the last piece that got added in. So now we’re at 35 live lessons. It’s lifetime access, which acts a little bit different from what I’m learning about how other people do lifetime access. It’s a little bit different than how I think about it. My lifetime access is truly every single thing that’s in this program you get forever, and not just I enrolled in 2017 so I get what was in 2017 forever. It’s I enrolled and anything that gets added to the program forever, I also get to benefit from.

So we have people that have been in the program for a couple of years that they’ll retake the course or show up in different lessons and they’re like, “Hey, 2020 I nailed my lead gen. I nailed this part.” In 2021 my focus is on recurring revenue. So they’ll show up and they’ll look at the recurring revenue lessons, and they’ll go through that and they’ll focus there and implement there. But with lifetime access, you have the ability to do that without being stressed, like, “If I don’t go to every single thing, and I do it every single thing and sacrifice every other thing in my life. I’m going to lose access.” That’s a terrible feeling. So, I’m like, “No, you can just have it forever.”

Joe Casabona: I love that you said that because I approach it the same way. Like you buy the course, anytime I add stuff to the course, you have purchased the course. And maybe the people who are buying it today pay more than you paid because now they’re getting all that content…

Jennifer Bourn: That’s true. My first beta was only 500 bucks.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. So that’s a huge value for those people. But they played the waiting game a little bit to get some of the newer stuff as well, right? If you want it all today, you’re paying one price. These people bought in early and their reward for supporting it early is they get the new stuff too.

Jennifer Bourn: That’s the thing. I feel like the people who are like, “You get lifetime access to exactly what it was the day you bought it,” it’s almost kind of like punishing the people that believed in you in your early days.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Jennifer Bourn: I’m like, “That’s janky.”

Joe Casabona: So what? So I get some updated modules every couple of years? Like WordPress changed, that’s worth a lifetime access I guess? I agree wholeheartedly with you. I bought some access to lifetime…These courses were like less than 50 bucks cheap so I’m not that mad about it. But they’ll say, “You get lifetime access for whatever, $30.” And then a couple of years later, like, “I had to revamp the course. So like you get a discount on the new version of the course.” And I’m like, “That’s not lifetime access.”

Jennifer Bourn: That’s not lifetime access.

Joe Casabona: Again, I’m not that mad because it was like $30 but that’s not lifetime access.

Jennifer Bourn: That is true.

Joe Casabona: I love that. I agree wholeheartedly with that. With the lifetime access people, so you have a live…There’s a live portion of it as you mentioned. The people who signed up in 2017, if they just want to show up to this year’s live sessions, can they?

Jennifer Bourn: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: Wow, that is huge value. That is huge value.

Jennifer Bourn: So at the end of this year, which is like next week, everybody who is in Profitable Project Plan now, we call them Profitable Project Plan alumni, which means you’ve already gone through one full version of the program, you have alumni access, which is a new LearnDash course with everything that was in the immediate past program. Because Profitable Project Plan, everything’s rolled out weekly. So the whole normal one resets to week one.

Joe Casabona: Got you.

Jennifer Bourn: So when you’re an alumni, you have two courses: the current that rolls out every week and then the alumni with everything from the immediate past. You can go back to anything you want. But also in terms of the weekly emails of like, “Hey, this lesson is coming up. This is what we’re doing,” next week an email will go out to everybody that says, “Hey, for 2021, do you want to get communications like a new student or do you want alumni-only?” And you can choose. So if you want the heads-up email every Monday, “This is what we’re doing this week. This is the time. This is where we’re at. Here’s all the details.” You can get that. And it doesn’t matter if you signed up in 2016 or 2021.

Joe Casabona: That’s so smart. I’m thinking about things. Jennifer Bourn has delivered high value for me today because, again, we’re recording this some time vortex stuff. We’re recording this on the same day we recorded the webinar, which was live. This is out several weeks after the webinar. But I have a lot of stuff to think about over the holiday now, which is of course for you listening live has already happened. So hopefully you’re seeing me do things based on this conversation. Gosh, we’ve been talking for a long time already. I had a question about the Content Camp.

Jennifer Bourn: Sure.

Joe Casabona: Because you were talking about LearnDash and as you were talking about it, I’m like, “It’s weird that she’s using LearnDash for an in-person thing.” And then I remembered about 2020 how there are no in-person things. So you ran that as an online workshop this year? Yes?

Jennifer Bourn: I did. 2019 was the first year. We were all in a big ballroom and we got to workshop together.

Joe Casabona: I had a hardcore FOMO for that by the way. I forgot. I had a conflict…

Jennifer Bourn: It was so good. I’m like, “Dude, it was so good.”

Joe Casabona: I don’t doubt that at all.

Jennifer Bourn: But yeah, 2020 obviously we couldn’t do that. I was just about to sign of a new contract when the stay-at-home orders all went into place. So we had to rethink, like, how do you hold…? Because the thing that’s amazing about Content Camp is it’s totally interactive. You’re doing the work on the spot. It doesn’t show up and watch somebody tell you everything you should do and then you have to go figure out how to do it on your own later.

It’s like, “Let’s get it done on the spot right now and ask questions if you get stuck.” So I had to figure out like, what’s the best way to do that in a way that we can take it online? And look at, how do I do that without overwhelm when people are already having Zoom fatigue, they’re already kind of at this point of being overwhelmed with too much on their plate?

I used LearnDash. And what we did, like I said, each workshop in Content Camp is a different lesson, and they would unlock at the time of that workshop. We pre-recorded the training so it would unlock. If you were coming to a workshop at 12 o’clock, at 11:55 it would unlock. And there was a short 15-ish to 20-minute-ish training video that walked you through a concept. And that entire training was documented in a workbook you got.

And there was a live chat roll so you could ask questions. And we were answering questions. So the pre-recorded video taught. I was live answering questions in the chat room. And when the video ended, we jumped in a live Zoom working session to do the work that we just learned about and talked about.

And they had the workbook to help facilitate that. It was almost 300 pages by the time you take into like the title page, and like notes pages, and different things. But every single workshop session, had the instructions, had all the content for the training, worksheets to help you get it all done, screenshots and instructions, and then the pages to kind of work and do the work with the premise of: what if you wanted to sit down on a Saturday on the couch under a cozy blanket and get this work done without sitting in front of your computer and being on Zoom because you’re sick and tired of Zoom? Well, the workbook was like Content Camp without the computer.

Joe Casabona: That’s super interesting. Now it’s 2021 as people are hearing this, the pandemic is still happening. Are you going to do it again? Is it going to be online again? Have you not announced that yet if that’s like super-secret information?

Jennifer Bourn: We are doing Content Camp again. I’m actually going to start running Content Camp more than one time a year.

Joe Casabona: Nice.

Jennifer Bourn: My initial premise with Content Camp was like, “Let’s come together and get a year’s worth of content, ideas, brainstormed mapped out and ready to go.” Yes, you can totally do that. But is it more effective to say, what does my content look like for the next 90 days? Is that more doable? Yes. Is there less overwhelmed with that and pressure with that? Yes.

So we’re looking at a shorter time frame of like, what can I get done in the next 90 days? Or if you want to do six months, what does my plan look like? Let’s map that out. And let’s map that out from how do I make money and reverse engineer that? So every single thing that you do with your content leads people to the way that you get paid. That’s the key is everything that you’re doing, having a purpose of putting money in your pocket while delivering great value. So Content Camp is going to happen more than once in 2021, and the next one is in March.

Joe Casabona: All right. I will link to that as well.

Jennifer Bourn: As of right now it’s in March, maybe April. But March.

Joe Casabona: March April-ish. Towards the end of Q1, beginning of Q2. So I’ll link to that in the show notes as well. Again, that’s going to be over at howibuilt.it/201. I think that’s really valuable. And I wanted to bring that up, because I feel like that and Profitable Project Plan go hand in hand. You mentioned the content should be leading people to help make you money. The Profitable Project Plan is the thing that puts those systems in place to help you be as efficient as possible. I didn’t ask explicitly the question “how did you build it?” but that’s been the whole conversation this whole time.

Jennifer Bourn: That is true.

Joe Casabona: First of all, you mentioned that like evergreen courses didn’t work for you. Is there anything that you removed from the Profitable Projects Plan? Is there anything you removed from there because you realize it wasn’t working or anything that you reworked as far as that goes?

Jennifer Bourn: Ooh, that’s a good question. There were a couple of client bonuses that I pulled out of Profitable Project Plan because I thought they were a little bit redundant with some of the other stuff we were talking about, and I wanted to use them in Content Camp. So I’m like, “We need to be a little more strategic here on our end as well of looking at what we’re doing.” So a couple of things changed in that regard over time.

I think like the Recurring Revenue unit that’s now six trainings, like the copywriting content that was in there was originally a bonus. The recurring revenue unit that’s there started out as a bonus, like a test the waters. “Will people even like this?” So some of the original bonuses and things like that have disappeared and been replaced with more comprehensive versions or more comprehensive training.

Joe Casabona: Got you.

Jennifer Bourn: And then I think we’ve pulled out some of the older content that as WordPress has evolved and changed in the way that working the block editor showed up and all of that. You have to get rid of the old stuff that doesn’t align with how things are being done today.

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Joe Casabona: It’s interesting doing the bonus stuff as kind of like… was it just like, like one video that you kind of just like touched on the topic a little bit, and then you’re like, “This works”?

Jennifer Bourn: Survey. You fill out course survey, then I’m going to do this copywriting bonus, and see what is the feedback. And people are like, “This was amazing. I wish that there was the whole lesson of all this stuff.” And I’m like, “Okay, clearly, this should be more than a bonus.” So I use bonuses a lot of times, especially the ones for doing surveys and things like that and gathering testimonials and all of that as a way to test out new content that I’m thinking about using to see what the feedback is going to be.

Joe Casabona: My biggest takeaway here is that you build a Profitable Project Plan over an amount of time it evolved. You didn’t just launch the whole thing at once and you’re like, “This made me rich overnight. It’s amazing.” You did a lot of testing. And you’re better off because of it and your…do you call them students or attendees?

Jennifer Bourn: Participants.

Joe Casabona: Participants. They’re better off because of it because they’re getting a lot of value and they’re contributing to how the course is shaped over time. I think that’s great. I’ve rolled out big, multi-hour-long courses kind of in a vacuum and then I’m stuck there wondering like, “Did I waste my time on this? Is this really what people wanted?”

Jennifer Bourn: I think there’s this thing that happens when you invest… You don’t really think about the change that it’s going to have, like the effect that it’s going to have on you personally. When you invest in a program like Profitable Project Plan or some other business training program, whatever it might be, you think, “Ooh, I’m going to invest in this and I’m going to improve my business. I’m going to get this thing done.”

And you don’t really think about the fact that when you actively work on your business, and you build systems, and you build processes, and you document what you’re doing, and you get scripts in place, when you do all of this work, every bit of that work is honing your craft, which means you as the expert get better, and you have a greater fundamental understanding of what you’re doing.

And because you’ve documented and everything else, you also bring greater confidence to the table every time you show up for a sales call or for consulting or just a meeting with the client. Because you’ve done all this foundational work, you know you’ve got systems supporting you, you know your process inside and out. You can talk to people with confidence. You kind of discount some of that personal growth that ends up happening is a byproduct from actively working on your business and improving the way that your business is showing up every day.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Man, that’s fantastic. I’m sorry, it’s given me a lot to think about right now. Thank you for that advice. That makes perfect sense. I have a podcasting course, I never really thought about…I mean, I thought kind of on a micro level like I need to do these things, and I need to do this, and I need to make sure this gets done. I built the process as I was doing it, but putting it all into a course made me think of it as kind of the macro level. How does all of this become one big thing, one big process for me to efficiently podcasts? Because podcasts take a lot of time and a lot of us don’t have a lot of time. So how can I make this as efficient as possible?

So you’re right, as I put the course together, it made me think about my processes and how they all work together. It makes it easier for me to talk about those processes when I go on other podcasts, and it helped me improve those processes to make it even more efficient for me.

As we wrap up here, I always like to ask if you have any tips for the listeners. Now, we talked about the Profitable Project Plan, so if there’s some piece of advice that you could give listeners as it pertains to what you teach in the Profitable Project Plan, that would be great. Or if there’s like some amazing thing you learned putting it together that we haven’t talked about yet, that would also be a great tip for the people listening to this episode.

Jennifer Bourn: Ooh, that’s a really good question. I would say two things. First, if you have never spent time documenting everything that you do in your business, do it. It is the most enlightening exercise you will ever do. Not only from realizing how much time you waste on dumb crap, but you are going to start seeing patterns in your behaviors.

If you sit down and everything you do each day you just get a notebook and write it down line, line, line after line, keep doing that. When I first started doing this in my business, I documented every single thing I did every single day for three months straight. I’ve done this multiple times over the years. But when you go back and look at that you see patterns of things you’re doing over and over and over.

And if it’s showing up over and over, it should be documented and then delegated or systematized, or automated. Automate that with software, delegate it to somebody else, get a VA, hire somebody, whatever it is. But if you are doing it over and over and over and over, it is something that should be part of a system or process that you can delegate or automate. That’s number one.

Number two is… What was number two? Oh, I know. I was going to stress out there for a minute. I think number two is really looking at what your goals are in your business. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to work on? Where do you see yourself in a year? Like if at the end of the year you didn’t get X, Y, Z done, what are you going to be bummed about?

So many of us at the beginning of the year set these big lofty goals. We set these new year’s resolutions, we set these big goals, and when they’re too big, we often end up abandoning that goal because the amount of work to get to that big giant goal is crazy. So we look at, what do you want to get done in 2021? What do you want to get done this year? And then break that up into little milestones. What are little milestones that you can achieve?

And create little points of celebration along the way. That’s one of the things in Profitable Project Plan why I like breaking up into units. We do the sensible sales unit where we talk about money and sales and contracts. And at the end of that, you’ve got a framework for your sales calls, you’ve got your contracts and your change orders dialed in. You’ve got this done, you’ve accomplished a lot. Like, let’s celebrate that. And then let’s move on to the next unit. Little celebrations along the way as you take action.

But the key is looking at what’s your big goal and what are the little things, the little milestones to help you get there. Because that’s also going to help you prevent distraction. It’s going to help prevent that bright shiny object syndrome, of instead of constantly making steps down the path to your goal, you get like, “Ooh, I’m going to go on this trip. Oh, I’m going to…” And then you have to come back. So when you have a clear goal, and you have little milestones along the way to work toward and you get to celebrate, it’s more exciting, and it keeps you on track and it keeps things fun.

Joe Casabona: Great advice. Great advice. This actually goes hand in hand with the season premiere episode 200, which as you’re listening to this came out last week. But again, time vortex. I haven’t recorded it yet. But if you haven’t listened to it, it’s all about my 2021 yearly theme. Jen Bourn, have you heard of the idea of a yearly theme?

Jennifer Bourn: I have.

Joe Casabona: I talked all about it in last week’s episode. So go listen to that. I think it’s the same idea. Instead of setting these big, overwhelming goals that you could get distracted about have a yearly theme. This year, mine is the Year of Opportunity. So how am I going to create good opportunities for myself? Then, again, have guideposts, have little goals along the way, and celebrate those little goals as you do them. I love it.

I didn’t explicitly ask if you have any trade secrets for us, but you’ve given us a lot today. I’m just going to ask, where can people find you if they are interested? The Profitable Project Plan might be currently running as this episode comes out. This episode is out on January 12th. So might be running late.

Jennifer Bourn: We will be talking about money value. How to get paid on time, every time, and no longer work for free.

Joe Casabona: Got you. First of all, can people still sign up for it?

Jennifer Bourn: Yes.

Joe Casabona: So if you want to learn about money this week, and I assume hit the back catalogue of the lesson that you missed, where can people sign up for that as well?

Jennifer Bourn: Jenniferbourn.com is where you go. Jenniferbourn.com/profitableprojectplan is where you can find all the details.

Joe Casabona: Fantastic. Again, I will link to all of that in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/201. Jennifer Bourn, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.

Jennifer Bourn: Thank you for having me.

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