Rogue Ink

June 4, 2008

Broken Baby Bird Necks, or Business Launching

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:25 am

I spent a lot of money last month. I spent it on a lot of valuable things. Shelter. Food. Carhartt’s. Caramel apples. And my business.

There are two phases in starting a new business. Phase One  is where a lot of us get trapped forever. We’re planning to launch. We buy business cards and a website and perhaps a marketing guru. If we’re really crazy, we get distracted by all the possible things we could buy for our business and decide we couldn’t possibly begin our launch until we have custom-made curtains for the office with our face appliquéd on the side.

Now, the money-spending phase is a legitimate phase. We are all online these days (no, really, look around you. Hi, you’re online). If you want people to take you seriously as a professional, it is wise to have a website. I’m not saying you can’t do it the other way, because you can, and I did, and I am currently, right now, but I am aware of the sadness of this situation. Because here’s what happens every time I’m in a room with other legitimate businesspeople and someone asks what it is that I do.

“Aren’t you a delightful young woman!” exclaims a fortysomething woman who runs the local business bureau.

“I am, I am! I am a delightful young woman! I am smart and talented and a very good writer! You know people who need delightfully smart and talented writers, don’t you, don’t you?” say I, playing hard to get, as I often do.

“Why, yes, I do. What’s your website, dear?”

“Ah. Well. You see . . . ”

It gets a bit awkward after that.

So. The website is valuable. The business cards are valuable because they let people carry around the name of the website (handy). The marketing guru is valuable because she can tell me to stop at buying business cards and the website and make sure I don’t embarrass myself in the execution of either of those things. She also tells me how to execute Phase Two.

Phase Two, paging Phase Two.

I have not yet gotten to Phase Two. It is with great shame that I tell you this. I realize some of you already know it, and I would like to congratulate you. Now be quiet.

Phase Two is the actual launch of the business. For those of you keeping track (and I intend to have you all poisoned later, never fear), the business was supposed to launch a month ago. Those of you still keeping track (and poison is too good for you lot) will note that this launch has not precisely happened so much as it has, in fact, not. Here’s why.

Phase One is the easy phase.

Spending money is easy. Earning money to spend is less so, but the delightful thing about spending money is that it is delivered over to another person, whose job it then becomes to please you. There are many wonderful things about this, but I need only mention that magical phrase ‘the customer is always right’, and remind you of the many times it has been used against me in my life, to let you know this is a bewitching phase in which to be.

It feels active, too. It feels decisive and firm. I, King of All That I See, have spent MONEY upon a Thing, and thence it shall be done. So went my decree. I was quite pleased with it. The problem is, I was wrong. Because in order to spend your money on the right thing, you have to know what the right thing is, and you have to know what to do with it when it arrives.

Website, for example. I’ve had the website for ages. Remember the supremely cool banner? Harry is a tiny god in human form. In fact, we have decided that he is the Lord of the Underworld in my personal pantheon. Yes, I have a pantheon. That is not the point. The point is that my website has been sitting empty of text for quite awhile, because I do not know what to do with it.

Well. I do. And that’s rather the problem.

I have to fill it with copy. Phase Two is marketing and promoting. Phase Two is sending out the call. Phase Two is put up or shut up time, and this may have something to do with why I’m all riled up. Phase Two involves putting all my newly acquired stuff to work. I have to go to my networking events with my business cards, and people will then go to my site, and they will see it, and if I have screwed it up royally, they will know all about it.

Phase Two means putting yourself on the line. It is more labor intensive than the first phase, and more personal, because it no longer involves objects being successful. It involves you, yourself, being successful. I don’t know what side of the banana tree you swing on, but for me, if I can get objects to endure things instead of me, I am all for it. But I can’t. That’s not what Phase Two is.

Phase Two is brutal.

The thing about Phase Two is you have to just hold your nose and jump. If you can manage it, get someone else to push you in. Then you won’t be able to stop it, and you’ll be grateful to the friend for making you do something scary but rewarding. You know, the way birds who shove their babies out of the nest so they’ll fly. Or break their necks on the sidewalk. I mean. Wait. WHAT?

Yes, that’s right. There is a chance that I will break my metaphorical neck on the sidewalk. I may do all my marketing stuff and get no new clients and misspell things in my press release (as you know I am in the habit of doing) and say unkind things about the Queen of England on my blog (oh, NO. What have I done?). There is a chance it won’t work. It is a real chance, and it does not go away by not recognizing it. Trust me. I tried.

The thing is, if I fly, I get to fly. And then James will be jealous of me. And really, isn’t that worth the risk? Isn’t that worth any risk? I think so.

Subscribe. Tomorrow I get wings. And, with any luck, cojones.



  1. When I was your age, and I KNOW just how much you love hearing any statement that begins with that phrase, “Phase Two” was the second half of my shift after lunch. It occurred five days a week, and I got to go home after it was over. Home was “Phase Three”. “Phase Four” was sleep. In the morning I’d head out to start “Phase One” all over again.

    I think you’re on the right track.

    Comment by RhodesTer — June 4, 2008 @ 5:48 am | Reply

  2. Well if you’re spending so much money at Carhatt’s, you can use all that hiking equipment to rig up safety harnesses etc to attach to the nest. That way, even if you fall, you’ll have something to catch you. When you know you’re all securely kitted out, it’s easier to just hold your nose and jump right in, because you know for sure that you’re not going to hit the sidewalk, even if you don’t manage to fly. Then you can climb back up and give it another shot. Since practice makes perfect and all that.

    Now, I’m not sure what that metaphor translates into in terms of a safety harness for your phase two jump in real life (I have to admit that I really don’t know, as opposed to going all Yoda on you, because frankly, I’m getting all my small-biz start-up info from you. But just go with me here), but I know you’re a clever cookie — you’ll figure it out.

    Comment by Sunili — June 4, 2008 @ 5:59 am | Reply

  3. I feel your pain, I really do. I am just about at exactly the same spot, perched on the nest edge contemplating the long drop to the concrete.

    Yes I have a website ( But after that comes the “sending out the call”. Inviting, no, make that begging people to judge you and your work. Facing the fear that this may all be a glorious dream destined to end in a messy splat.

    I have a growing suspicion that this fear does not end with phase two, or three, or four, or, well you get the idea. I suspect (and the more experienced free fallers should feel free to confirm or deny this) that running a successful writing business is really all about nose holding and jumping, over and over again.

    Looking forward to seeing you fly.

    That could be taken as a very dark, depressing view. In fact, it gives me hope. Because if everyone faces this then we are no different, even though we are only starting out. And it means this moment is not the final do or die, it is just one moment of opportunity which will be followed by many more.

    Comment by Rebecca Leigh — June 4, 2008 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  4. 1. At the very least, launch the blog half of it so you can stop putting PR on and start putting it on your own blog. We really don’t give a shit if you haven’t done your site copy. Yes, you want to impress us. I know.

    Darling? You impressed us a long time ago.

    Don’t believe me? Fuck, I’m still here commenting despite my lack of my favorite plug-in, n’est pas? That’s a small miracle in itself, trust me.

    2. Please don’t say unkind things about the Queen of England because then I’ll be forced to go Canadian on you and politely disagree. Or I could go French and tell you to fuck right off, but then that’s just getting nasty. We love our Queen (Yes. Queen of England is Queen of Canada). So please don’t pick on her. Or her Mum, because that’s even worse.

    3. I think you fear failure about as much as I fear being Superman. So I’d like to know what you’re really afraid of.

    4. No one is allowed to fly before I can. But when I do, you’ll be the first I tell the secret to, deal?

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — June 4, 2008 @ 9:39 am | Reply

  5. Tei,

    Trust him. That’s a small miracle. Awesome friggin’ writing draws the Man With the Pen, and you’ve got it in spades, but he has a fetish for a certain plugin. Holy moly.

    It’s okay to fear. You nailed this one so beautifully, I was nearly teary. Everybody’s afraid to fly. ‘Cept me, I already know how and James forgot that.

    Look, the sidewalk is really scary and looming, so they say don’t look down, right? But then ol’ Icarus, he gets it right and he flies, and he gets everything he thinks he ever wanted, and then the sun melts his wings and he crashes anyway.

    Failing, that’s scary. Succeeding? It doesn’t always work out, either.

    Then maybe you’ve got big jobs or too many jobs and no time for friends and family or finding the man or woman of your dreams or downing a pint at your favorite real pub (or playing your favorite RPG). You have to dance on command all the time and not just get your own words to be brilliant but all your clients’ words, too. You find out that working for yourself is a metaphor for having sixteen new bosses a month. Now not just your failure looms but all their failures. Geez.

    There’s only one way to find out what’s on the other side of that fear. Jump, with friends all around you. They’ll catch you before you splat, and they’ll coo softly if your wings get singed and you need to moan.

    (You know what Naomi says, if real ones can’t support you, you’ve got a lot of 2.0 love all around. Well, that’s a paraphrase.)

    I come here for a good crack-up and I get emotional and inspiring? Whazzup with that?

    Love that Tei-style versatility. Well-done.



    P.S. I know this Experience Designer who can help focus your vision… if you feel like having outside perspective.

    Comment by Kelly — June 4, 2008 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  6. So jump already! As someone whose own neck has been wrenched a few times, I can assure you – you’ll recover. Any wound you cause yourself in those initial leaping stages will heal over. You’ll learn from it and like a broken bone, you’ll be stronger for it.

    Pretend you’re a real estate agent. You don’t care about real estate all that much, do you? I mean, you like it and all, and you may even own some. But if you botched up a real estate deal, you’d survive (minus a few lawsuits, but you’d survive). Thing is, your ego and identity is still entangled with your craft. I know. I’ve been there. I still go there occasionally. Separate your self-worth from your application of your skills and you’ll find leaping a hell of a lot easier.

    Comment by Lori — June 4, 2008 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

  7. Tei, Rebecca, and all who are poised to leap: Please see my post dedicated to(and directed at) you over on my blog.

    Comment by Lori — June 4, 2008 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

  8. Tei,

    I signed up for a triathlon and trained for it without ever going to see where it would be until the day I did it. So when I got to the swimming part and looked at how FAR and how DEEP I had to swim and realized at that moment how dumb it had been of me to be doing all my training in a swimming pool doing laps where I could always touch the bottom, I stood there in my little caary yellow swim cap shaking to pieces.
    I had to make the woman behind me promise to push me in if I didn’t jump.

    But…here is the part that I want to mention..when I got out on the other side of the lake…I really DID feel like I could fly.

    Jump in Tei. Or we will ALL COME AND PUSH YOU.
    Cause you’re worth it. You are going to love flying.

    Comment by wendikelly — June 4, 2008 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  9. Doing *something* is better than doing nothing.

    A website with just your phone number is 10,000 times better than no website at all. Phone number plus “Copywriting Services” is three times better than that.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — June 4, 2008 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  10. Rhodester: Yeah, what do you know. That happened when I was my age, too. Hmmmm. . .

    Sunili: You know better than to give me an extended metaphor like that. I mean, really now. We may never get on topic again.

    Rebecca: Honey? You sound full of sweetness and light and optimism, and I do not have the heart to be all wry at you. Speaking of small miracles. You go for it.

    1. I didn’t know I could do that. I can do that? Let’s move the blog over right NOW. And of course I want to impress you, but I figured I’d just have Liv do a cool knife trick or something.
    2. I know the Queen of England is the Queen of Canada. My history teacher done good. And I didn’t really say unkind things about her. Trouble is, saying unkind things about OUR ruler (-esque creature) doesn’t ruin anyone’s career these days, so it’s a bad example. I borrowed yours.
    3. Success.
    4. Eh, indeed.

    Kelly: Thanks so much. And yes, success is frightening. I’m weaseling along right now just fine, at a normal level of income, and it’s a lot less scary than doing a big to-do launch and finding out how much new business I can get. It’s also less income than I’d really like to be making, but it’s enough. Lot easier to stay down here on the ground and just scootch along.

    Easy, though. Easy’s for suckers.

    2.0 peeps make me happy inside.

    Lori: I know this in theory, but not application. Trying to have that magical mind-switch.

    Damn it, y’all, now I have twelve post topics for tomorrow. And HOW do I feel about knowing what I’m going to post about in advance? That’s right.

    Wendi: You ARE pushing. Push push push. Good for you. And ME!

    Tony: True this. See what I can do. Or rather, what Harry can do.

    You’re wonderful. Thanks for being here.

    Comment by Tei — June 4, 2008 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  11. Oh Tei, your comment would have been a perfect ending the comment stream. I’ve thought so other times so I didn’t say anything, but I had to this time because I’ve been in this exact same spot for five years. Reading your development is getting me closer to jumping, so you can’t stop on me now, dammit. Not that this is all about me, as much as it (always) sounds it is. As usual, your post was great because you are a fantastic writer who is brutally honest with herself and who touches on things we relate to. Also, it is damn hilarious. For these and so many other reasons, we push you. The main reason, though, might be because that’s what you taught us. I can’t count how many times you’ve said to others, esp. me: Jump already! So consider this payback. 🙂 In the words of Ben Stiller in Starsky and Hutch: DO it.

    @James: WHAT?! Are you a royalist, Frenchie? Tabarnac! If only I’d known. Some good material, that. 🙂

    Comment by Steph — June 4, 2008 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

  12. @ Steph – I’m Canadian. We just love our Queen. Big time.

    @ Kelly – You read me too well, my friend. And it’s not a fetish – it’s called accessibility 😉

    @ Tei – While Kelly’s comment was really all about me (gotta love it), learn from it. She’s right. She’s talking the flip side of your fear – the success and what it can bring.

    Up with RPG, that’s all I’ll say.

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — June 4, 2008 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  13. @James: I’m shocked. And uh oh: I’m not really into the queen. What does that mean?!

    @Rogue, baby: You mentioned networking. Um, how do you network? I’ve been trying to figure that one. I never get out. I tried one of the business networking groups in town for a year but it cost me more than I ever made from it: those chumps didn’t want to hire an editor or writer. Maybe you can write a post on networking or something for freelancers?

    Comment by Steph — June 4, 2008 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

  14. But really…isn’t Phase 2 more of a PROCESS than a 1-time-out-the-nest-fly-or-fall? Your website won’t fail and crash and burn and break baby bird’s necks in the first day, or even the first year. Think of it as…(I’m not as good as with the metaphors as you are)…building something. Phase 2 is the actually BUILDING of your business, while Phase 1 was just buying all the supplies. Sure, your foundation might be a little ugly, your press releases misspelled, but I just can’t believe that you can’t improve as you go, fix those misspellings, add walls and doors and pretty paint!

    Comment by Tara — June 4, 2008 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  15. Honey, anyone who writes a post as well as you do is doing others a disservice by NOT making the leap. I’m still kind of new to freelance writing too, but I’m doing okay. Just do what I did – close your eyes and just jump in!

    Comment by Kimberly — June 4, 2008 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

  16. Tara,

    True, but a big loud launch is like the first splash into the lake at the summer party with all your friends around… whether it’s all about you or not, you fear they’ll remember your bellyflop always. So you want to get that first moment perfect, and you can get crazed by that desire.


    Worth remembering:

    Weasels are cool, scrappy, get-it-done dudes. Weasel on while you need to.

    There ain’t no perfect;

    It’s not all about you. We’re all, all ego. It’s all about us. Why ask “Does this launch make my butt look big?” when each of us is wondering about our own flaws, and thinking everyone else is perfect and has it all together? Just go.

    How’s that for mixed metaphors?



    Comment by Kelly — June 5, 2008 @ 1:08 am | Reply

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