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Katie Keith, Operations Director of Barn2 Media: ‘Non-literary books helped restore my love of reading’

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Katie Keith is the Operations Director of Barn2 Media, a WordPress agency based in Devon, England.

Together with her husband, Andrew, Katie established Barn2 Media back in 2009 and turned it into a top UK WordPress companies. Later on, in 2016, they switched to selling premium WordPress and WooCommerce plugins. These are now used on more than 5,000 websites in over 75 countries.

Katie has a 15-year background in WordPress, project management and marketing. She is responsible with plugin support and manages the company’s web design projects, but also gives advice on how to optimize your experience with the WordPress platform.

Prior to creating the company, Katie worked for seven years in a marketing job for local government, where she was responsible with encouraging people to foster or adopt a child. In an interview on Indie Hackers, Katie said that she was stuck in this job for far longer than she really wanted. Even if both her and her husband have discussed the possibility of having their own company for a long time, they felt they were missing a great idea, so this is now her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:

“Stop waiting for the perfect “big idea”. Read forums and look on Quora for ideas and gaps in the market, and build a few products that won’t take too long to develop.”

Our interview with Katie revealed how college years developed a hate for books which was eventually cured with… the right books. 🙂 Once again, putting the right books into your hands is invaluable. Happy reading!

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

My favourite business book is The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. I don’t agree with everything in this book, but am inspired by his approach to working smart rather than working hard. I love how he has raised awareness of the fact that by working in a clever, strategic way, you can escape the 9-5 and build a business around your lifestyle.

My favorite non-business book is the Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I first got into this fantasy series when my daughter was very young. Escaping into such a complex, multi-faceted world was the perfect antidote to sleepless nights and other frustrations of having a young child!

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

When I graduated from University after studying English Literature and Philosophy, I felt very burned out by reading. I had spent too long studying books with the aim of getting good grades, applying the latest trendy theories to the texts in a way that ruined my enjoyment of them. For the 6 months or so after graduation, I read a combination of very simple story-based books and book about science and physics. These non-literary books helped to restore my love of reading, and showed me that I could enjoy it again without having to be too intellectual!

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

I have been influenced by books that talk about changing the way we work. I already talked about The 4 Hour Work Week, and ‘Rework‘ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson had a similar impact on me. I have used principles from these books to build my own business where I can now work fewer hours for a higher income than when I had a traditional full-time job.

What five books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

The 4 Hour Work Week‘ by Tim Ferriss – The Bible to escaping the 9-5 and creating work that fits around your lifestyle instead of the other way round.

Rework‘ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – An insider’s view of building and running a software company. This book touches on lots of important points such as how to design your product in a way that meets users’ needs while staying small and manageable, and running a modern distributed team.

The $100 Startup‘ by Chris Guillebeau – This book consists of case studies from people who have built successful businesses with little or no initial outlay. Personally, I believe that startups put far too much emphasis on seeking outside investment, and often create unsustainable businesses as a result. I built my own business gradually with no external investment, and appreciate the fact that books such as ‘The $100 Startup’ show that this is a viable alternative.

The WordPress Plugin Business Book‘ by Freemius – This e-book provides an in-depth look at building a product-based business selling WordPress plugin, which is what we do at Barn2 Media. It’s very insightful and covers a lot of topics that many plugin companies get wrong. For example, it talks about the importance of creating a recurring revenue business model, which is vital in this industry.

The Idea in You: How to Find It, Build It, and Change Your Life‘ by Martin Amor – Lots of aspiring business owners spend their lives waiting for that one big idea. I did the same for most of my 20’s. Eventually, I learned that if you get experience in an industry, then ideas will come to you. In many ways, it doesn’t matter what the ideas is – it’s the execution that matters. This book highlights the range of ways you can find a suitable business idea, and cuts through the idealism.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

Currently, I read outside my daughter’s bedroom door while she falls asleep (don’t ask!) and before I go to sleep at night. I always read on my smartphone these days; it’s always with me and I like the fact that I can read without having the bedside light on. My iPhone is set to reduce the amount of blue light at nighttime so that it doesn’t interfere with my sleep.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

I’ve read many times that writing things down helps you to remember and absorb what you read. Unfortunately, I can’t be bothered to do that!

I conquer the torrent of information by saving interesting articles to the Pocket app on my phone, instead of letting them interrupt my day. I can then read them later, when the time is right.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m currently reading ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind‘ by Yuval Noah Harari. This is a fascinating account of human history, told from a brand new perspective. It has made me think about what it makes to be human and what makes us different from all other species. It has also helped me to understand our place in history.

Links where you can follow Katie Keith or find out more about her projects:

All books mentioned by Katie Keith in this interview:

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