My good friend and fellow entrepreneur Tim left a really good comment on my last post. Here’s an interesting excerpt:
No matter what the data says you ALWAYS have doubt and the doubt increases significantly the closer you get to launch – a fear of the unknown is only natural. What makes this even more complicated is that just before a big change or launch and immediately after is when you really have to bring your A-game. During this stage you will work harder than you’ve ever worked before and you will see the least amount of reward. You’ll experience exhaustion, enormous emotional ups and downs, you’ll be physically drained, mentally spent and it’s difficult to keep this pace up.
THAT is what makes launching a new site an experience like no other.
Over the past five or six months, I’ve busted my balls on LockerPulse. It’s something I really believe in. It scratches my own itch – it improves my experience as a sports fan. However, without having a live site, you don’t get the natural feedback to know that you’re going in the right direction (which is yet another reason why you have to launch as soon as you can). It’s an intense grind.
Then you launch the site. We did a pretty low-key launch, but stuff still went wrong (which is yet another reason why you should almost always do a low key launch…). We tell everyone we know, we want lots of feedback. The majority of the feedback has been positive, especially from the serious sports fans, certainly enough so that I know we’re going in the right direction.
But some of the feedback can be really disheartening, even when people are trying to be honest. They criticize your hard work – sometimes it’s their first thoughts and they haven’t had the time to really explore the site, sometimes it’s a flat out difference of opinion, sometimes it’s because they don’t understand the constraints of your project (in this case, things like presenting stories from almost 1,000 different sites or not being able to use logos because of licensing), or sometimes they don’t understand what will make a great, profitable site in the long-term. I have a pretty thick skin, and almost everyone is well-intentioned, but it still can really sting.
Inevitably, one or two of the things people say will really eat at me. Certainly the mental exhaustion of the project exaggerates this. Of course, since the site is new, traffic is the lowest it will ever be, so you start to question everything you’ve done. It can make you go insane. Again, from experience, I knew all of this was coming, which is why I have a 30-day rule inspired by the 37Signals One Month Tuneup: no major site/business changes for 30 days. We can fix technical issues (and believe me, I have been), but nothing more. No deviating from the original business plan. It’s too early. As a person who cares deeply about the project, I’m too likely to over-react.
The crazy thing is, I know all of this is coming and it’s still impossible to prevent. When you pour everything you’ve got into a project, it’s impossible to meet your highest expectations as soon as you want it to. I was sort of half-joking when I posted that hand-drawn chart The Web App Launch Emotional Rollercoaster, but it’s 100% true from all of my experiences.
And for the most part, I’m relatively calm and even-keeled, and I’ve got really good people around me. If I wasn’t and I didn’t, and I didn’t have any experience launching a website, it’s easy to see how this whole thing can really snowball on you and you can self-sabotage your business before it even gets off the ground.