Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2005-07-13
  Creating yourself, and the trappings of a business
While I sometimes work for other people, I've pretty much kept my original business, Video Bits, going on the side for 17 years now. Its not always been a major concern, but its been open and operating, and that's a pretty remarkable thing.

I don't think the name was the best idea I ever had, but if June Fabrics can sell software for handheld devices, then Video Bits can do whatever it wants.

Mother In Chief was lamenting that she needed business cards now that she's getting back out into the business field. If you're working to re-establish your credibility and quickly build up a client base, then having things like letterhead, business cards, a dedicated line with its own answering machine (not featuring the voice talents of your three year old); and other trappings like that probably help; or if you're like me you can just be stubborn and say the heck with it.

Do you have a business card?
nope
What's your fax number?
don't have one
What's your web site?
don't have one of those either
Do you take credit cards?
no
How about checks?
well, kind of
Actually, that last one is kind of a grey area. Unless your company is < your name here > Co. , then taking checks made out to the business is one of those things that you should do (like being able to ship Fedex or UPS, or receive email). Actually receiving the check is no problem at all--they put a piece of paper in an envelope and send it to you, you open the envelope and put the piece of paper on your desk. And then you leave it there. But unless you want their accountant to call you up six months later because he still hasn't been able to reconcile the bank statement since you haven't deposited the check, you've got to get a business account set up.

While there are lots of great options for personal accounts, there's just about nothing for business accounts. Banks are still used to charging all kinds of fees for business accounts, and about the best return you can get on your deposit is half a percent for balances over $50,000. Its so bad that I'll go months (and sometimes years) without a business account, just letting infrequent checks pile up on my desk (and dodging the calls from the accountants) until its bad enough that I go through the trouble of opening one up. At one point I had $40,000 in checks sitting on my desk that I was just to lazy to do anything about (I knew if the money was in the bank it would just be easier to spend it, so it was kind of a forced savings strategy, but mostly I didn't want to have to deal with the banks).

In the end I opened up a business savings account at the same internet bank I have a personal checking account, so I can use the web tools to transfer money back and forth between business and personal (thus not needing to have business checks, when your paying bills, vendors don't care who the check is from); but the issue of looking like a real business has become secondary to my reputation of being able to do what I say I can do. Enough people know I can get the job done, that they don't mind that I don't have a business card.

Am I marketing myself effectively this way? No.

But you reach a point where that no longer matters. Where success is defined on your terms, not the world's terms. That was one of the big wins of the dot-com boom: the you're going to give me a million dollars and I'm not even going to wear a tie manifesto. Maybe you have to be a little crazy to fight the trends, but then what fun is there in being normal. So if you're going to get business cards, get them for the joy they bring you. Never do anything because you have to.

 
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Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

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Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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