By John Sonmez June 22, 2015

How to Become an Overnight Success

It seems that everyone wants a shortcut to success.

I constantly talk to programmers and wannabe entrepreneurs who are ready to give up and throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble.

It reminds me of this quote by eight-time—yes, that’s right, eight-time—Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman.

“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy-ass weights.”

Everyone wants to be a success, but don’t nobody want to spend years doing hard work and making sacrifices to get it.

The truth is, there are no overnight successes.

Well, maybe there are, but I haven’t heard of any.

Even the ones that seem like they rose instantly to fame, once you listen to their whole story you find out they spent years practicing, honing their skills or waiting for the right opportunity.

I’ve never heard of a single person who went from nothing to super-successful overnight—or in any relatively short time period, for that matter.

Aside from randomly winning the lottery, success takes hard work, dedication, consistency, and commitment.

If you are striving for success in your life—real success—you are going to have to “pay your dues,” so to speak. There is just no way around it.

A little bit about my story and this blog

One of the reasons I am writing this post today is because I recently read a comment from someone complaining that after six months of consistently blogging, they still hadn’t risen to the ranks of success.

Numerous people have also complained in a similar fashion about their career, advancement in a programming language, or some other matter. It seems that there is some confusion about how long it takes to actually achieve a measurable level of success—at least in blogging.

So, I thought I’d share some of my numbers and stats with you so that you can at least see how things played out for me. (At least as far as blogging was concerned.)

Your results and mileage may vary.

(For the full story of how I actually retired at 33 years old, read my book: “Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual”.)

In the beginning…

I started the Simple Programmer blog in November of 2009—that’s about five and a half years ago (at the time of this post).

You can read my very first post here.

The first month of the Simple Programmer blog, I got a total of 44 pageviews.

The second month, I got 373.

Six months in, I got 4903 pageviews that month.

And after writing blog posts almost three times a week for about a year, I was getting about 12,000 pageviews a month.

My writing sucked. I sucked. I didn’t make any money from the blog and it was by no means a success, but… at least I was getting 12,000 views on my blog each and every month.

Notice how long it took to even reach that point. A year of consistent, dedicated blogging.

Stagnation

Then, in 2011, things stagnated and even regressed a bit.

For pretty much all of 2011 my pageviews dropped below 10,000 per month. I was actually losing some ground.

But, I kept at it. I still wasn’t making money. My blog wasn’t well-known at all, but I was in this thing for the long haul.

I slowed down a bit and didn’t blog three times a week anymore, but I pretty much blogged at least once a week.

An inflection point

Finally, in 2012, I really started to get traction.

In the early part of the year, I started hitting numbers above the 12,000 views mark I’d reached in 2010.

In August of 2012, one of my posts really took off and I hit an astronomical—at least at the time—pageview record of 79,346 views in a single month.

Another huge blog post hit again in December of 2012 and I broke my previous record to reach a new high of 95,772 pageviews for that month.

I ended up finishing the year with 401,921 pageviews, which was more than four times the pageviews I had received the previous year.

I still wasn’t making any serious money from the blog, but I was putting a couple of hundred dollars in my pocket each month from some minimal advertising and some affiliate links with Amazon.

Growth continues

2013 saw more sustained growth, as the monthly averages were now consistently hitting around 50,000 page views per month.

September and October of 2013 saw some nice bumps into the 100k+ pageview range.

2013 ended at 784,388 page views, which was just shy of double what I’d had in 2012.

By that time, I actually had enough traffic to make around $1,000 a month on Simple Programmer.

2014 was an even better year, with pageviews in just about every month averaging to about 90k+. That year ended with 1.1 million page views.

And so far, 2015 has not seen a single month with under 100k pageviews. In fact, February of this year set an all-time record of 263,901 pageviews in a single month when one of my posts went viral and landed on the front page of LifeHacker.

Last month, May of 2015, this blog brought in $4,817 in advertising and affiliate commissions and helped generate another $4,877 in product sales of my “How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer” package.

Screenshot 2015-06-17 22.56.43

My overnight success took over 5 years

The “overnight success” of the Simple Programmer blog took over five years to really reach what I would call critical mass.

After working hard every single week, I am finally getting to the point where Simple Programmer is a business that can sustain me and allow me to even hire a few employees.

To someone looking at the picture from the outside, it can seem like Simple Programmer just popped up overnight and suddenly became successful, but the truth is it took a lot of time, effort, and consistency to build this blog into an actual business.

I’m not saying you have to blog for 5 years

But, what I am saying is that you are going to have to put in a little more effort than blogging for six months and suddenly calling it quits when you aren’t seeing massive traffic and comments on all your posts.

What I am saying is that you might need to put some serious effort into your career and advancing your skills if you want to climb that corporate ladder and make it to one of those top rungs.

What I am saying is that you might fail a whole bunch in starting a business or building some software before you see any success it all.

If you want to make an impact on this world, if you want to truly achieve some measurable level of success, you are probably going to have to work at it—and you’re probably going to have to do it for some time. (Don’t stop three feet from gold—which is, coincidentally, the title of a great book.)

Plan for the long haul

When I first started investing in real estate, every investment I made was part of a plan to make money 10 to 30 years in the future.

I didn’t try to get rich quick in the short-term. I didn’t even plan to for the medium-term. I planned for the long haul.

As a result, many of my friends and colleagues went bust when the real estate bubble burst about five years ago. I didn’t. I’m still around today, holding all of the properties I started with and in a better position than I’ve even been in.

It’s not because I’m a super-smart, savvy, real estate investor. It’s because I planned for the long haul. I bought properties with 30-year fixed loans instead of the fancy pay option arm that was so popular for a time.

In your career, in your life, you need to do the same thing.

Too many people bank on stepping up to the plate once and taking a single wild swing to knock it out of the park.

They don’t even bother practicing. They just assume that they get one shot at it and that’s it.

Worse yet, some people—most people—never even step up to the plate at all.

Don’t be one of those people.

Don’t be one of those programmers.

Instead, think about playing some long-ball.

Think about embarking on a journey that might take five or ten years to complete.

Pick a spot, dig a trench, and settle in for the long haul.

Successes are not made overnight.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."