Pollyanna’s Take

There are defeats more triumphant than victories. ~Michel de Montaigne, French Renaissance Philosopher

Typically, I’m the one doing the firing.

I’ve had to sever ties with clients over the years for one reason or another, and I’ve never regretted doing so.

But somehow it feels different on the receiving end.

Being fired.

Let go.

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Disaster Client Ahead

I wonder whether other small business people — say, electricians or wedding planners — find themselves dealing with a potential Disaster Client.

Someone like Jackie (name changed to protect the guilty!).

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To The Rescue

Here we go again. Once more, a client of mine has stumbled — unwittingly — into a dark cave, and I’m summoned to haul her out.

Only this time, I decided to write about it.

So other unsuspecting people won’t go through the same sort of misery. Continue reading

You Gotta Have Friends….

Sometimes we have to accept the fact that we can’t do everything by ourselves.

As a Virgo, that’s not something I embrace. I tend to believe the more people involved in a project, the greater the likelihood of errors.

BIG errors. Messy, even.

But as 2012 wound down, I found myself at wit’s end with a project designing a new Website for a client. They wanted me to create a form, something to let their customers choose different-priced options and see — via a running total — how much they could anticipate paying for a certain service. This form also needed to capture the customer’s contact information so they could follow up and clinch the sale.

Not an easy task.

Hiding my head in the sand comes natural for me, so I designed the entire site (including the form) and got everything looking and working to their satisfaction.

Then they asked if the form worked.

Not yet, I stammered. But it will.

Eventually.

Did I admit I had no clue how to make it work?

Of course not. I’m a Virgo, remember??

What I did know was it involved programming. Yuck.

Back when I was taking Web design classes, programming really wasn’t part of the equation. So I went to the drawing board.

Or rather, the learning board.

I tried online how-tos, bought computer books, searched for code I could copy-and paste, and consulted my go-to gurus.

To no avail.

Now I felt pretty sure I could eventually figure out how to code the form, but there loomed a fast-approaching deadline.

And I believe in bringing projects to completion on time.

So I went begging for help.

I found a company on the West Coast that does expert programming on a contract basis.

Just what I needed!

We corresponded via e-mail and phone, and they assured me this piece of the puzzle was right up their alley.

And they even made me feel better about it.

Designing is a right-brain activity, they told me. Programming calls upon the left side of the brain.

Well, no wonder!

My project is now finished, and I feel relieved. Still, I shudder at how many places it could have blown up in my face.

Am I the only person in the world who finds collaborating on projects tricky?

Why don’t Laptops come with Full Instructions?

The other day my laptop stopped working.

Without advance notification. While I was in the middle of a client’s huge Website redesign project.

Nooooooooooooooooo, I thought. Not now.

I’d been working on it all morning, before putting it into Hibernation mode over the lunch hour. When I returned, it refused start back up.

Oh, I could hear its fan whoosh for a second. Then promptly go quiet.

I unplugged everything and re-plugged. I waited.

Nothing.

In frustration, I called the Geek Squad at Best Buy, hoping some techy person could help. The tech had me turn on this, unplug that, remove the battery. He had me describe in detail the sounds my machine was making. In the end, he said he couldn’t do any more and recommended I haul it back to the store and let them run a full diagnostics to see what the problem was.

Hmmm. I just didn’t want to do that. I’m up to my ears in work right now, and the store is a good hour’s drive away. That means a minimum of two hours drive time, plus who-knows-how-long waiting time.

Fortunately, my machine is still in warranty, so I called toll-free to the company that made it.

After explaining the problem again and detailing the steps I’d already performed for the Geek Squad, this representative asked me which lights were lit. To which I responded, ‘None of them. I’ve unplugged everything in preparation for taking it back to the store.’

He had me plug it back in and Voila! It worked!

Now before you think I’m another computer illiterate, I have to remind you I’ve been running my own Web Design company for eleven years now. I’ve lost count of how many computers — PCs and laptops — I’ve owned, how many lines of computer code I’ve written or corrected, how many computer issues I’ve helped others with.

And while none of us ever knows all there is to know about anything, I rather assumed I knew something about computers.

But I was wrong.

Turns out, leaving a fully charged laptop plugged in and charging makes the battery OVER-charge. It gets hot and bothered, so to speak, and just shuts down.

No bells. No whistles. No red flag. No popup warning.

Nothing. It never started smoking, never felt hot.

Why hadn’t I heard that before? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the manual that came with my laptop.

Oh, who am I kidding? Maybe it was. I certainly don’t read those things!

So there you have it. Learn from my mistake.

If you usually work on your laptop while it’s plugged in, at least unplug it at night to give the battery a chance to drain (or whatever it is batteries do at night!)

Did you already know this? (And if so, why didn’t you tell me?!?)

Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

I’d just started my new Web Design business three months previously and was actively seeking new clients and new projects.

Earlier in the week I’d been contacted by one of the officers of our local shopping mall association. They had a Website but it wasn’t doing everything they wanted it to, nor did it look as inviting as they knew shoppers expected.

Would I come by the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and do a presentation for them? Nothing too fancy, nothing too formal. Just kind of let them know how I could transform their online presence, as well as a general idea how much that would cost.

Sure. Of course. I was elated! Something this big had the potential of changing my life.

Gathering my presentation materials — informational fliers, business cards, etc. — that morning, I fought back a case of nerves as I pulled into the mall parking lot.

I’ve met most of these people before, I told myself. I can do this. It won’t cost them a fortune. I need the business, and doing such a potentially-extensive site will look good on my portfolio.

I had my car radio on but wasn’t really listening to it. I was previewing in my mind’s eye my presentation — visualizing success, I believe they call it.

Suddenly the announcer screamed something like, “Oh, my God, NO!” and started talking about a plane flying into a tower in New York City.

The news-hound in me wanted to learn more. I wanted to be in front of the TV like I was during Space Shuttle Challenger’s ill-fated explosion shortly after takeoff in 1986.

It was incomprehensible to me that, in the midst of all that destruction and loss of life, my life was going on.

Now my nerves became super-charged as I walked into the mall. Everyone was talking about the disaster, speculating on the whys and whos. After introductions, I began my presentation, sensing that no one was really listening, no one was really caring.

I could hardly wait to wrap things up, to get back home where I could glue myself to the TV.

And I did. Just like hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

My Flag will be flying tomorrow, and my thoughts and prayers will be offered up for my innocent fellow Americans who lost their lives, their family members, their jobs.

By the way, I wasn’t selected for the mall project, but my life did change — other projects have come along, other BIG news has taken place. I’ve come to a deeper faith, to an inner conviction that, regardless of what terrors this world throws at us, the final outcome is cause for joy. God wins!

On being needed too much

You know, there are days when I just wish I could escape!

Maybe to some place like here:

Sunshine on lake

or here:

At the bayou

or here:

A sunny stream

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my family, I love my job, and I genuinely like most of my clients.

But sometimes it seems as if they conspire to need me, all at once! And it’s frustrating, not to mention stressful, trying to be all things to all people.

I cherish my “me time,” when I can write, read, bead, or just loaf. And I haven’t had very much of it lately.

Maybe that’s why I’m cranky.

Probably time for a vacation!

Running my own Web Design business, I have to be the chief cook and bottle-washer. I wear all the hats — receptionist, designer, sales person, public relations specialist, photographer, accountant, billing person, collections person, even janitor. I can’t imagine it any other way.

Serving my client’s design needs, making sure they’re delighted with the job done (and spreading the word to others) is a labor of love for me. Even a “rotten” day (and there have been thankfully few) is better than slaving away in a cubicle for “the man”!

But living in a family doesn’t mean one person has to do everything, does it? What happened to sharing the load?

Somehow, everybody (even the dog!) decided I’m the “point person.” The go-to person. The entertainment committee, food committee, sounding board, and a host of other titles.

It’s nice to be needed — just not that much!


Give a little to get a little

Well, it was bound to happen.

I almost had to fire my first client yesterday — not my first client, but the first time I came close to severing ties with any client.

We started off fine. He wanted a Website redesign and “X” was the amount he was willing to spend. I assured him I would do it, even though it was less money than I’d normally charge. Half a loaf is better than nothing, right?

Not always.

Then the project grew. He wanted:

  • photos — lots of ’em
  • contact information on every page
  • and new copy — keyword-rich copy that would propel him to the top in the search engine listings.

Now I never promise results in Website design. There are just too many variables with page rankings, and the darn search engines keep changing their parameters.

But I got busy and designed a killer home page. He loved it. Problem was, his cash flow had dried up, and he was going to have to scale way back.

Uh-oh.

Having already invested hours on this project, I wasn’t a happy camper.

When he suggested I “hook up the new home page with the old other pages” and we’d be done, I hit the roof.

I explained that aesthetically, a Band-aid approach wouldn’t fly.

He wasn’t listening.

So I slapped together the remaining pages, not wanting to expend any more time or effort on something that wasn’t paying squat.

Late that night, I got an angry message from him.

The next time we talked, we “duked it out.” I again explained what he needed and told him I couldn’t do it under such a meager budget. I volunteered to return his deposit, remove the pages I’d published for him, and turn him loose to find another designer.

Whoa, he said.

After much haggling back and forth, we finally agreed to finish the job we started.

I’d get more pay, he’d quit micro-managing, and I’d do him an awesome job.

Now that‘s what I call win-win!

Time to Count my Blessings

I came back from Christmas vacation with the same cold I had last November — ugh!

So, instead of belaboring my runny nose, stuffy sinuses, coughing, and general misery, I’ve decided to put on my “Little Mary Sunshine” persona and count some of my blessings. Here goes:

1) My Job. I can do Web Design whether I’m sniffling or not. I can schedule client meetings for when I feel less contagious, take care of the drudgery (filing, etc.) that has piled up, and teach myself new tricks — all from the comfort of my sickbed.

2) The Internet. Who says a sick person can’t shop?? Not me!

3) My Novel. Since I’m up to my ears in revisions, I’m not having to come up with new scenes (for the most part), connect the dots between plot lines, make sure my timeline is reasonable, etc. Plus, being sick gives me an “excuse” for foggy-thinking.

4) Beading. Working with many-colored, many-shaped beads is relaxing and offers another creative outlet. And I get to wear or sell some of the stuff I make!

5) My Sheltie. Dogs love you unconditionally. I’m sure they notice when you’ve always got a Kleenex at your nose, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I think what matters to them is the lackluster look in your eyes when they bring you a ball to toss!

6) NoteTabs. This cool product by Avery lets you write, mark, and highlight, right on the tabs! They’re more substantial than “sticky notes,” and they come in more than two dozen styles and colors.

7) January Thaw. Today, it was above 40 degrees!

8) My Family & Friends. They bolster me up, make me laugh, and turn my world into a warmer, cozier place. Thanks, everybody!

9) My Bed. Pity the poor people in Haiti who are suffering through the aftermath of an earthquake. Everything looks like it’s in ruins; kind of reminds me of what the Gulf Coast looked like after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

10) Faith. God never gives us more than He and we can bear. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Music for Writing

My Favorite Domer finally sent me a belated birthday present, and I couldn’t be happier!

It’s a CD from the Band of the Fighting Irish for the 2003 season, and besides including all the favorites — the Victory March, the Alma Mater, Damsha Bua (the Victory Clog), and Hike Notre Dame, to name just a few — it has a little jazz (Birdland), some rock (Bohemian Rhapsody), some oldies (Saturday in the Park), classical (1812 Overture), and whimsical (Mario Medley).

As someone who spends a lot of time at my computer, I really appreciate being able to choose different styles of music to listen to. When I’m doing Web Design, I find myself tuning in to rock, usually something with lyrics (especially those I can sing along with!). I find it helps me focus (especially if I’m just doing routine maintenance on a site I’ve created!). But no way can I write fiction with somebody singing — too many words, and I’ve lost all track of my storyline!

So instrumental music becomes my primary companion when I write (and re-write). I often opt for classical — Mozart is a perennial favorite — and I have a stack of CDs and an MP3 loaded with hours of background music. In addition, MFD has compiled numerous CDs for me (“writing music,” he calls it) — everything from hard and soft rock (no lyrics!) to movies themes, piano and other instrumental selections.

One of my writing buddies is the exact opposite. She can’t write with any music in the background (she calls it “noise”). I wonder if it’s true that one person’s “noise” is another person’s “music?”  Whatever, I find it distracting to listen to things like the pipes creaking, branches scraping the gutter, and even owls hooting — must be because I write suspense fiction!

How about other writers out in blog-land? What’s your pleasure — music or silence? And, if music, what type?