How long does it take?

First, I want to thank Justin Jackson for the mention on Build Your SaaS podcast.

Second, an episode of Build Your SaaS is part inspiration for this episode in fact. Couple that with a couple of conversations I had in a forum last week is where this question comes from.

Since they are two sides of the same coin, I thought that I’d share some thoughts around it.

How long does it take to become successful

So inside the forum thread was a person who was curious how long it takes to become successful in freelancing. Which obviously varies from person to person and business to business. Some may never get there in fact.

I responded to the question with another question “What does success mean to you?” And whatever that meant is what will dictate how long it could take.

Then in another thread we were taking about specific sales strategies and why it works and doesn’t work for similar businesses. It went on for quite a number of back and forth posts.

What came of the conversation was a needed level of patience and trial and error. In marketing and sales, you do things that you can get results quickly on and other things that take time. For example, Ads are quick, whereas Content Marketing is long term.

This particular strategy fell more on the side of longer term but this person wanted a quick win. So in this person’s eyes, the sales strategy didn’t work because not enough time was given.

What does success mean to you?

Before I dive into the answer to today’s question, I want to share with you what Justin and Jon unpack in their podcast episode. Justin has been championing a bootstrappers mindset campaign recently. Where the idea is that business is hard and everyone’s journey is different.

What they talk about in this episode is how MailChimp took 6 years to hit 10,000 users. That’s the point at which the owners became full-time to MailChimp instead of running their consultancy firm.

The flip side to this was that DHH said in a comment thread that Justin had been a part of “If it takes 5 years to get to the point where the business can pay two salaries, it’s possible that the business isn’t destined for that long-term.”

Which is interesting and fair to say. But everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s situation is different. There’s no formulaic answer to this question.

I’ve been working on my business full-time since 2010, so that’s 8 years. I’m in it for the long-haul. In business, if you are freelancing, chances are that your goals are some sort of lifestyle goals.

You aren’t looking to exit, you aren’t looking to get acquired. You should have the mindset for the long term.

What do these numbers actually represent?

People throw around outrageous numbers that are 6, 7, 8 figures like it’s as easy to get as stepping outside you front door to get the mail.

I want to share with you some comparisons to put context around these numbers.

  • 100 Senators in the United States Congress
  • 3400 people to build the Empire State Building
  • 20,789 seats in Madison Square Garden
  • 114,000 seats in May Day Stadium in North Korea
  • Dallas, TX has a population of 1,300,092
  • NYC has a population of 8,623,000

2 phrases come to mind here.

“Patience is a virtue.” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

The advent of the internet has made it super easy to shout from the hilltops. When folks are shouting, they want to be heard. So the larger, more astronomical that number and the shortest amount of time to that number is what’s heard most and seems attainable. Where they are really the 1% cases.

Point to keep in mind that success in business is all based you and your actions of today to move the needle of the business. It’s what you do today that you control. You don’t control the person who has to put their hand in their pocket, take out their wallet and pay you.

Ryan Carson said to me on Live In The Feast, that it’s the discipline of the day-to-day mundane tasks that you need to learn to love in order to realize your long-term goals.

There’s no such thing in business as a quick win. Especially in the freelance world. If you aren’t in it for the long-haul, then maybe freelancing isn’t for you.

If you are in it for the long haul, then do things today to move the needle of the business. Do what you can control, keep in mind your goals and your journey are your own and no one else’s. If you want those big numbers, you need to do the work to get them. It won’t be overnight.

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