By Andrew Neitlich

Do you suffer from kakorrhaphiophobia?

By Andrew Neitlich

The above-mentioned term, according to Peter Bowler’s book The Superior Person’s Second Book of Weird & Wondrous Words, means a morbid fear of failure. (He notes the irony of the word, for surely someone who must tell his or her doctor that he suffers from this condition will trigger the condition by trying to pronounce it correctly!).

Fear of failure is something any self-employed web designer/developer must overcome, and quickly. It is hard to do, because most professionals are trained to be perfectionists.

Here are areas where you almost have to fail in order to eventually succeed:

1. Marketing. Some marketing tactics will work, some will not. And most need to be continuously tested and improved. If you give up after getting a poor response your first time, you will not get far.

2. Products. Some products will be in demand, some will not. And it is better to launch a “good enough” product than to wait for perfection.

3. Business ventures. Most entrepreneurs are lucky to get one successful venture. And sometimes it can take 10 tries to get 1 good one. I like the cheetah’s approach to getting prey, as noted in other articles on Sitepoint: If you see an opportunity, go after it fast. If you see it slipping away, stop, catch your breath, and go after different prey tomorrow.

4. Any form of client or human interaction. Yes, we all should strive to be professional at all times. But humans are tricky. We all tick differently, and interpret things in different ways. It is hard to know the impression we make, as that impression depends as much on the other person as it does on us. So we will inevitably fail in making a good impression on some people. Over time, hopefully, we can get better at sensing different styles and adapting to them.

So get out there and be good enough instead of perfect, and fail from time to time. The best (A+) students often end up working for the good (B) students. Start being a good student; stop being an A+ student.

Say it with me: No more kakorrhaphiophobia!

  • No more kakorrhaphiophobia!

  • The best (A+) students often end up working for the good (B) students.

    I laughed when I read that, but the more I think about it, the more I realize the accuracy of that statement! Several of my colleagues fit this theory, and I myself am a college dropout–with two Masters Degree holders among those on my payroll.

    Curious if others can attest to similar circumstances?

  • pdxi

    One problem that I suffer from is trying to achieve too lofty of a goal, and beating myself up if I don’t succeed. I changed my mindset so that I recognize my current successes, and I set realistic goals for myself.

    It’s a good way to beat a morbid fear of failure: Don’t set easy goals, but don’t set impossible goals.

  • Ryan Wray

    No, but I have Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. This blogs title almost killed me: in fact, writing this post was even worse! :p

    But seriously, good post.

  • drakke

    Wow Andrew, you really cut right to the bone on these blog posts! I saw a quote somewhere that said basically this: ‘to succeed all you need is ignorance and confidence’

  • the.decoy

    I think that’s similar to being quick and efficient, instead of being perfectionist and rather slow. =P

    I consider myself a perfectionist and I don’t want to lose this perfectionism ever, but I think it can be bad sometimes. So the most important thing is probably “doing the job”.

    I’ll certainly think about this a lot later.

    No more kakorrhaphiophobia! =P

  • otnemem

    Well, I have mixed fillings about this. Of course I’m very demanding so my position might be biased.

    When I’m trying to launch a product (or service) I always want it to be as close to perfect as possible. When I see that we are closing to the deadline and delaying launch could mean we are missing the opportunity, we start to think about cutting features… delivering something that works.

    Although we do this from time to time, we are always careful that whatever we released is A+ quality. This is where I disagree a little. No matter how little is what we do, I always expect A+ quality. Less than that I feel it is mediocre :(

    What do you feel about this? What are your standards for services/products you buy? Do you feel ok about receiving a website soon, with all the functionality, but bloated with bugs? would you prefer less functionality to achieve the deadline with the minimum ammount of bugs?

  • digitman

    Andrew, I have a question.

    I get most of my business from sites such as RentACoder, Elance, etc. My question is, in these cases, how long should the bid request be?

    Whenever I bid at a project, I think of a few questions to ask about the client’s requirements, and comment on those questions, make suggestions etc.
    But often that backfires, as I go to comment on the questions, I go on and on and the comments are pretty big. Hence, the bid request gets about 1-2 pages long.

    Do you think writing long bid requests at the first correspondence is a good thing, or a bad thing?

  • VeraciTek

    Your 1 in 10 estimate is almost exacly what we’ve experienced at http://www.veracitek.com. Not to mention they seldom begin as soon as we hope. Even clients who are in a “big hurry” seem to be fine with waiting around for 6 weeks or more to approve the project. Then, of course, once they decide to go they are in a hurry again. Go figure.

  • aneitlich


    I can only answer for me. When I post a job on those sites, I ask for two things:

    1. Specific URLs developed/designed by the bidder.

    2. Their thinking on how they will approach the job (e.g. development platform).

    Inevitably I get these types of responses:

    1. Those that “answer the mail” with answers to questions that I asked but aren’t right for what I want.

    2. Those that don’t even bother to answer my questions, and/or who post a generic portfolio so I have to do the work of sorting through their work to find potential sites that are relevant. It’s remarkable how many people there are who do that!

    3. Those that answer the mail and might be right for what I want.

    The third category is who I contact for more info. I am a bit analytical, and like to go back and forth. But I also like concise answers.

    The problem with bidding sites is you never know how serious a client really is. So my advice is to start by being brief and showing how you can meet their requirements.

    Then, if they get back to you, concisely answer their questions.

    Frankly, the odds of winning any single bid on these sites is pretty low. Those that get my business typically only do so after a phone call, after presenting excellent references/sites, and after a good proposal (for larger jobs).

    So that gets to another thought: Learn the fundamentals of trust- and value-based marketing so that these sites become only a small part of how you get business. Get most of your business by being a visible thought leader, referrals, etc.



  • digitman

    Thanks Andrew, that really helped :)

  • Ryno

    Hi Andrew,

    I belive you’ve mentioned previously that you put the majority of your web development work through sites like eLance. Have you found it more profitable to use these sites for most projects? What about finding a great development company and using them for every project where possible?

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