This is a story of starting a business from scratch, told in real time.
It’s my true story of building Polynate from idea to execution and — hopefully — to success.
It’s gray and rainy out today. The streets are quiet, the city is hushed. There’s eggnog in the fridge and stockings on the wall. Tomorrow will be a quiet day of lounging, snacking and snoozin’ with the boy and the cat. Just how we like it.
I wish all of you, dear friends, a warm and cozy holiday with your loved ones. In the spirit of gratitude and giving, here’s a few fun things I’ve rounded up on the interweb for you:
Santa, donning his most fashionable and finest, courtesy of Mage Design:
An amazing, psychedelic amorphic dancing blob by the ever talented and extremely odd Sam Lyons:
And lastly, the most brilliant and beautiful interactive mobile website ever made, Written in the Stars. With it, you can write personalized messages and send them to your beloveds. As they move their smartphone above their head and direct it towards the sky, your message appears, written in the stars.
Here’s one just for you, from me: http://STARS.AKQA.COM/yPFGM
Click the link, then hit the “watch” eye-con.
When the site went live six weeks ago, I thought sure, I could swing one new Profile a week. At that point I had spent so much time procrastinating that I didn’t want to allow myself any room to do more of the same. One a week seemed like a push but it didn’t seem unreasonable. If I work really, really hard I can do this, I thought.
I’ve come to realize this pace isn’t sustainable. Not for one person. Not for me, right now. Each Profile takes a significant amount of work, which leaves me with little time to focus on other parts of Polynate. Like building an audience, or updating and maintaining the website, or managing social media, or researching new and interesting businesses for future pieces, or say, designing business cards.
So, I’m switching things up. I’m going to release one new Profile every other week.
While I’ve been lucky to have a bit of help from writer friends and Tim, Polynate is essentially a team of one. This is less by choice than it is by consequence. Of course, I would love to work with talented and passionate people but last I checked, not a lot of folks are willing to work for free. So until Polynate is at that next level — whatever that may be — I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I just need to make sure I find balance between writing new Profiles and everything else.
My biggest fear with Polynate is that I will inadvertently stray from what I want it to be. While truthfully that is still very much developing, I do know what I don’t want it to be. Number one on that list is half-assed. I don’t want to churn out half-baked Profiles to meet a deadline. I don’t want to make crappy graphics in haste. I don’t want to deliver generic Q&As because I didn’t have time to sit down and write interesting questions before my interviews. I don’t want to create something mediocre; I want to create something lasting and fantastic. And I want to give myself a fair shot at doing that, which means taking time to do the work and do it well.
On the flip side, I’m terrified of losing traction. The pace at which things have been developing and unfolding has been truly exciting to watch and monitor. Admittedly, I’m afraid if I slow down now I’ll lose that momentum. But I’m also afraid that if I don’t slow down now, I will burn out completely and that momentum will be even harder to recover. I guess we’ll just have to see.
With that, a new Profile will be released next Tuesday, December 16th. I hope you come back and check it out.
Due to the holiday, I decided to forgo releasing a Profile this week. I didn’t think it would be fair to the subject since folks are preoccupied with family, friends and festivities. But I will be back on track next week, so please stop by.
In lieu of a Profile, I leave you with this very strange, very awesome, very retro PBS Remix of Julia Child. It may be a couple of years old, but it never actually gets old. I hope you find the stoner humor as amusing as I do.
Happy Thanksgiving friends!
How is it Thanksgiving already? What the hell.
The past month has escaped me, obviously. Every week I meant to post something and every week I failed. I have plenty of excuses, like shooting 10-12 hours a day and utter exhaustion, but I’ll spare you. Instead, let’s get down to business.
Since launching nearly a month ago, a bunch of things have happened. I’ve gained small but mighty traction via Instagram (thanks guys!); seen upticks in visitors to the site (thanks for installing/translating Google analytics Tim!); found encouraging leads for new Profile subjects; outsourced my first Profile to a willing and talented friend; got my first email from a total stranger (thanks Jim!); built and sent my first attempts at a Mailchimp newsletter; and totally neglected every part of my life that allowed for leisure and procrastination. Friends, this is what we call inertia.
Inertia, according to Wikipedia, is the tendency of objects to keep moving at a constant velocity.
I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the “right” choice, “right” direction and “right” look for what I was creating. Months fretting. But once I decided to jump in, things just started moving on their own. And judging by the people I’ve interviewed and the Profiles I’ve written, this seems to be the case universally. Once you commit and start doing, you’re well on your way. Things just start moving, whether or not you like it. It’s your job to keep up.
I’m not saying that the growth I’ve seen has been monstrous. To me, it’s truly monumental, but in the larger landscape of Big Shit Everywhere, it’s pretty small. But those small victories feel just as amazing as the big ones. To see that 75 people started following me on Instagram in three weeks, or that I’ve had 250+ new visitors to the site in three days spanning everywhere from Germany to Argentina to the Philippines, is HUGE for me. It is what propels me forward and makes those long days worth it. So, thank you. Sincerely.
It’s been an hour since I took the site live. My heart is racing, my stomach is queasy, my hands are sweaty. I can’t believe after all this time it’s finally out in the world, circulating in the internet universe as a real thing. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for this moment in time.
I sent out an email blast to 70 contacts and will announce it via Instagram and Twitter to my small but much appreciated following. That’s the most I can muster. I’m hoping they’ll share it within their own circles and word will spread, like pollen from flowers.
The first big push is over. Onto the next one!
After months of meddling, fiddling, procrastinating, motivating, doubting, writing, designing, questioning, coding, and most of all building, Polynate is three days away from officially launching. Just. Three. Days.
I’ve had several prospective launch dates in mind, none of which I’ve met and all of which I’ve been too chicken to commit to or even say out loud. What if I announce it and then can’t make it happen in time? Is this ready? Am I ready?
Last Sunday a funny thing happened. Everything was looking and working great and I was finally feeling like it was resembling a fully functioning site. Until I pushed it too far. And crashed the whole thing. And spent two days in utter panic until Tim and external tech support were able to put ole Humpty Dumpty back together again.
But in that panic, on the second night before the necessary repairs were made, I resolved to commit. Something about having all that work and time and effort and love teetering on the abyss made me wonder what I had been waiting for and why I had waited so long. So I bit the bullet and announced via Instagram (to all 26 followers) that Polynate would go live this Sunday.
After all, nothing is ever perfect except the process of attempting perfection.
Last week I hit my stride. Or at least, a stride. I worked a lot on the layout, graphics and responsive features of the site; launched a new Contact page; learned more coding (thanks Tim!); continued to design the homepage; and fiddled with copy, again. Needless to say it was a productive week.
I typically work from home, sat at the kitchen table with coffee to my left, a notebook to my right and WNYC as my soundtrack. Oh yes, talk radio is the work-from-homers’ best friend. That good old steady stream of leftist news and artsy topics; the comforting illusion of others; the greatest faux-worker you never had. But every now and again — when you’ve heard that same breaking news story for the fifteenth time or are just not into yet another analysis on the impact of classical music — there is always talk radio’s punchy little brother, the Podcast, to turn to.
This past week I discovered a podcast recently launched by Alex Blumberg, a former producer of the golden standard for brilliant podcasting, This American Life, as well as co-founder of Planet Money. StartUp is “a series about what happens when someone who knows nothing about business starts one.” So far there’s four episodes, each of which track in detail the messy, trying, often confusing business of starting a business. It’s an honest account of the thoughts and conversations we have with others and ourselves when faced with building something from the ground up, told in real time. Ultimately, it’s a story of process seeking progress. Sound familiar?
Alex, if you’re reading, nice to meet you SPIRIT ANIMAL.
After spending the last year picking up odd freelance design/video/marketing jobs, traveling throughout Asia, and trying to figure out what it is I really want to do, I went back to work last month. Not to a permanent 9-5 but to a frequent freelance styling gig I gave up a year and a half ago to pursue other things. A step back? Maybe. Money in the bank? Definitely.
Even though the job was a meager one month commitment, I still found myself struggling. After being on my own schedule for the past year and finally assembling something of a daily routine, I had difficulty adjusting to a change in pace and an even harder time doing something I have zero interest in. On the one hand, I am incredibly fortunate to have a gig that requires a one-month commitment at most, pays generously, and demands little more than time. But on the other, abandoning what I’ve been working on while disrupting the rhythm that’s taken so long to find has felt like a palpable compromise.
It’s your typical catch-22: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. How do you balance building a business that’s not generating any money with doing unsatisfying work strictly for the income? When do you sacrifice the money in order to maintain momentum, and when do you just take the cash in order to keep afloat? When do you surrender the security of a paycheck and put all your chips on the table? Do you?
I thought about this conundrum a lot while I was working. What was interesting was observing how I felt about it. The first week I was vigilant about not being persuaded by the money: I had more important things to do; my work had value and integrity and this was organizing sweaters by color. By the end of the second week and throughout the third I had given up any hope of simultaneously working on Polynate. I became mechanical and each day became a number — a countdown to the end and another dollar in my hand. When the fourth and final week arrived, I had already received more than half the money for the job and was senselessly spending it: I worked hard, I deserve this; go ahead and spend, there’s more coming.
Oh, how quickly I faltered. What began as resistance morphed into indifference and finally into resignation. The importance of my time and energy investment in Polynate was quickly undermined by the simple truth that money makes things easier. Period.
So here’s what I’m wrestling with now: three weeks after wrapping the job and I still haven’t settled into a productive routine. Reversing gears and finding my rhythm is proving trickier than I thought. Granted, I’ve been preoccupied with a trip to the remote mountains of Montana and British Columbia, but that’s not to say I haven’t had my share of down time. Because I have. And plenty of it. What I need to remind myself is that I am the only one steering this ship, and if it’s going to go anywhere, I need to get off my lazy ass and steer the damn thing.