Back in 2014, I made over $13,000 in my first official month running Strategy Studios, a new online business consulting company I’d started just a few weeks prior.
If I wanted to, I could market my business using those numbers and I’d probably bring in a ton of clients.
Why? A couple of reasons.
First, new entrepreneurs want quick wins and want to believe they can make too-good-to-be-true amounts of money just a week after they start their business. So when other entrepreneurs who do achieve unrealistic dollar amounts are willing to share examples like the one above, they’re rewarded with a ton of leads.
Second, because the entrepreneurs who have shared these numbers are getting a ton of leads, it’s caused an unhealthy – and, frankly, alarming – marketing trend that makes entrepreneurs feel like this is the only way to successfully market their business.
The problem with this is that it sets up new entrepreneurs to think this is what they’re supposed to achieve. To think that they’re somehow doing something wrong if they don’t make 13k in their first month.
Wrong. So wrong.
And that’s why I don’t use those numbers to market my business. Never have and never will.
Pretty simple. Because I’ve been an entrepreneur for 7+ years and have been either making or raising money online for over 10 years.
That means I know there’s a whole lot more to the story of what it takes to build a successful company than one misleading number, and I’m not comfortable using numbers that perpetuate misunderstandings.
What is true about those overnight entrepreneurial success stories? What secrets have I learned in my entrepreneurial career about what it takes – and what it means – to be an overnight success?
Glad you asked. Here are 6 secrets I’ve learned about overnight entrepreneurial success stories.
1. Overnight Entrepreneurial Success Wasn’t Actually Overnight.
Reality check: you know that entrepreneur you see come out of nowhere to land on top of the business world, and do so seemingly overnight? The one who no one knew a week ago and everyone, literally everyone, is talking about this week?
She didn’t actually start her business last week. She’s been working in the same background as you for months, maybe even years, and you just didn’t know it because she was toiling just like you are, figuring things out the same as you.
And then one day it clicked for her and she had an “overnight” breakthrough that made her the latest star. But the overnight breakthrough was anything but overnight. It took her years to learn the skills that eventually paid off. You’ll learn them too. Keep going!
2. She Probably Has Related Prior Experience
If you look closely, the entrepreneurs who do really have quick success – like the 13k month I had my first month in business – probably aren’t starting from scratch. I certainly wasn’t.
I had years (10+) of expertise in my field and had been CEO of a fast-growing 7 figure venture before leaving to start my business. I had contacts and people who’d been asking to work with me for years.
When I finally left my job and offered my services as a separate business, I had a market ready, willing and eager to work with me. That’s much different than the situation a new entrepreneur finds herself in if she’s starting from scratch.
Look closely at the stories you see and understand the background behind the story: Teachers create courses, social media managers take their skills from the agency to freelance, copywriters quit their jobs and work for former clients.
3. Hindsight is 20/20
This is one that’s becoming all too obvious to me, as I’m in the first few months of starting a brand new business: hindsight is 20/20. What do I mean?
I mean it’s easy – really easy – to forget just how long things take. I’ve built at least 5 businesses before and when I went to start this one, I knew it would be hard, but I forgot just how hard and just how long it was going to take. Everyday I’m amazed at the hours I’m putting in to achieve what seem like micro gains.
I know they’ll pay off eventually, and pay off big, because I’ve done it before. But right now? It’s a ton – I mean a ton – of work for little gain.
I’ve felt this before, I’ve lived it before, but because our brains like to gloss over the really hard stuff it’s easy to just say “yep that was hard” while blocking out just how hard it really was.
It’s why I’m surprised all over again on business #5 just how hard this is, and it’s why some overnight success stories legitimately forget how much work they put in before they made it.
They forget about the years of working jobs that set them up for quick entrepreneurial success. They forget about the late nights. They forget about the lucky breaks.
All that stuff adds up, and all of it matters.
4. They Invested In Themselves *and* In Technology
Here’s another one that gets me in the business world: new entrepreneurs will invest all day long in their own personal development but resist investing in the technology they need to run their business, or vice versa.
Entrepreneurs who make it quickly aren’t scared to invest, and they aren’t scared to invest in every aspect of their business. If they’re comfortable with personal development but uncomfortable with technology, they lean into the technology and learn it.
If they’re tech wizards and have never looked inside themselves, they get *really* uncomfortable and are willing to examine and improve their mindset and habits for maximum impact.
New entrepreneurs who hold themselves back from one side of their business or other will grow much slower than those who are willing to go all in and learn it all.
5. Burnout is Real.
Have you ever followed one of the overnight success entrepreneurs for 3 months, 6 months, a year after her big break? Unfortunately there’s a high chance (probably 75% of more) that she’ll experience burnout sometime in that first year after her big breakthrough.
I see it all the time: she’s on top of the world for months and then, all of a sudden, there’s a blog post, a Facebook post, about an illness. A breakdown. An inability to get out of bed. To do any kind of work.
Overnight entrepreneurial success – even when it’s years in the making – often comes with a heartbreaking price and that price is usually called burnout.
I should know.
I experienced it with one of my businesses and it took me almost 2 years to recover my health.
Now I mentor other women in the hopes of helping them avoid the same fate.
Slow and steady growth isn’t as sexy as overnight success, but it is much better for your health, your sanity and your relationships.
Stop being envious of the overnight entrepreneurial success and start remembering how entrepreneurs who are in this for the long term put their health ahead of quick financial gains. Your body and your business will thank you. Trust me.
6. The Businesses Probably Aren’t Sustainable.
Business burnout is just as real as personal burnout. I see businesses everyday that appeared to blow up overnight and then, 6 months later, have been crushed and destroyed by that growth.
Easy come, easy go.
A mentor once told me that the best size business is the one that can still keep its promises, and it’s a lesson I remember every. single. day. When you push and push and grow too fast, your business is more likely to buckle under the pressure and lose its ability to keep its promises.
What follows? Unhappy customers, refund requests, hits to your reputation and falling revenue. It’s a spiral that’s hard to come back from.
It’s also one that’s easy to prevent if you choose slow and steady, smart growth over buying into the overnight success is the only success myth.
Have you fallen for the overnight entrepreneurial success myth? Do you beat yourself up because you don’t think you’re growing fast enough? Did any of these secrets ring true to you or, even better, show you that you’re in fact on the right path and perfectly normal in your entrepreneurial journey? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!