start-up snakes and ladders

Confession time.

I’ve been working on one of my projects since Autumn last year and it still isn’t ready.

I started it with enthusiasm.  I was free from the shackles of employment.  This was my chance to create something for myself.  Put it out there.  Show what I’m made of.

I attended lots of start-up events, went to pitch evenings, watched live-streams that educated me on “how to work with developers”, “UX journeys for the uninitiated”, “AWS and the Elastic Beanstalk”.  Yes, really.

I followed the rules of first business projects (keep it small; base it on something you know about; don’t spend too much money).  I designed the layout of my website whilst I was away in India before Christmas.  Every evening after sunset, I’d work on it a little more, figuring out the work-flow, the right colour combinations, how many pages my site would need, what features were essential.  My mock-ups were beautifully simple.  I was ready to take on the world.

And then it turned 2013 and my enthusiasm fell off a cliff.

can’t I just go back to bed?

There’s a reason why so many successful entrepreneurs all seem to have boundless energy and the sort of pep that repels me at twenty paces.

It’s because keeping up any degree on motivation on a project is really, really hard.  And it becomes a vicious circle.

circle of despair

spiral of despair

Helpfully, the Mack has taken away all of my shoelaces, belts, etc.  And I’m no longer allowed out on the balcony unsupervised.

a real product development cycle

You see all these articles about product development with fancy graphics and jargon about the key stages of the development cycle.  They make out that there’s a sign-posted, well-lit cycle path, shielded from oncoming traffic, leading you to your dream destination.  Not in my experience.  It’s closer to a cruel game of snakes and ladders…

game of life

game of life

tantalisingly close

My project, which is a website where creatives (designers, photographers, film-makers, copy writers), can buy customised contracts for their businesses – so they don’t have to waste time and money on lawyers – is so very close to being ready.

But it feels like my bastard child.  I’m struggling to give it any love and attention.  I’m favouring other projects.  And, as a result, it keeps throwing tantrums and breaking things.

Every time I go to test that it works, the entire site crashes and comes up with a MySQL error message that sends shivers down my spine.  I have developers on standby to complete the last tidying up bits, but I can’t tell them what needs doing because I can’t get past a certain point before it boots me out.

I try to purchase a contract through the site and my Paypal account is blocked.  They need to verify my home address by calling my land line.  What is this, 1992?  Who the hell still has a land line?  I try to call customer services (from my mobile, not my non-existent land line).  The number they give doesn’t connect.  I’ve emailed them, but who knows if they’ll ever get back to me.  I’m stuck in a Paypal freeze-out.

I can’t help but have that feeling that the closer I get to completion, the further away it recedes.  Taunting me from just out of reach.  Probably sipping on pina coladas in some tropical oasis.

If I’ve learned one thing from this process it’s that you have to do some work on your project every single day to stay on top of it and keep momentum going.  Even if it’s only a small thing.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  No excuses.  No let up.  No quitting.  Projects fail because people give up on them.  I don’t care if my projects fail because people (ungrateful morons) don’t want my product.  I do care if they fail because I couldn’t be bothered to see them through.

Woo Hoo.  Feeling pumped.  Dear Paypal….. I’m not sure you noticed, but it’s not 1992….

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