Success Is Always Overnight — Until It Isn’t

Unicorn company, founder exits with $100 million dollars, startup comes from nowhere and dominates the market. 

No doubt you’ve heard all the stories and read all the articles and maybe you’re sitting there thinking “Well why can’t I create an overnight success?”. 

Next morning you get out of bed, buy a domain from GoDaddy for $10 and set to work on your plan to rule the world. 

After blood, sweat, and tears you launch… 

Crickets. Your mum buys a subscription, your third cousin tweets about your launch and your best friend shouts about it from the rooftops. Sales $14. Ego hit. Infinite. 

It’s something that happens to everyone. Every single successful startup founder you talk to will have this type of story. 

You see, success is always overnight until it isn’t. Those overnight success stories you didn’t hear about the company until they were 5 years in, 10 years in, 15 years in. 

That’s the part the media don’t tell you. Or they bury behind the click-bait headline of huge IPOs, massive exits and golden parachutes. 

Let me tell you my own story, it’s nowhere near as glamorous and I didn’t retire with a supercar and a house on a tropical island. 

It all started back when I was 12. Yes, my overnight success took 14 years. 

I stumbled upon WordPress when trying to create a blog about retro games like the NES, SNES, and N64. Most of which were older than me at the time. 

After falling head over heels, I built some sites freelance, learned more about WordPress, forgot a bunch, and then learned a ton more. 

At 18 I started with WPMU DEV, and closed a side project, a hosted WooCommerce solution. WPMU DEV doesn’t allow side-projects and I needed the money more, so despite working on it for a year the side project got binned. 

Fast forward a couple of years I quit WPMU DEV due to that rule and started at Themeco, they didn’t have rules like that and I started work on some side projects including an image compression plugin for WordPress. 

A client who I was working with on a freelance basis liked it, invested and I quit Themeco to pursue the side project. 

Now we’re 10 odd years into this so-called “overnight success” and then we sold the image compression plugin for a very modest sum and I landed a job at MailPoet. 

Again working on some side projects, and ideas and the idea of a membership plugin was ignited, after all I spent 12 months of my two years at WPMU DEV working on membership plugins and was fansicated by the space where you could empower someone to make their own money with software you’ve created. 

Then in 2020 I saw a tweet by the co-founder of LearnDash, Justin Ferriman that they were looking for a QA Specialist. A tweet, an email, a call and I had the job a few weeks later. 

My eyes were open to the add-on ecosystem, sure WooCommerce had it first but it was difficult to break into and still is with hundreds of plugins that do the same thing as each other. 

With LearnDash I saw a gap. A few slack messages later I had permission to build LearnDash plugins in my spare time and so Immerseus came about. 

We launched, scrappily, we had refunds, we had issues but we had money coming in and progress was fast. 

In the end in less than a year we had revenue of over $100,000 and sold the company to Easily Amused Inc. 

While not a massive success by some standards it was a decent result. But even this “Overnight success” took 14 years. 

So next time you see someone say how well they are doing. Don’t get jealous, don’t think they jumped the queue. Chances are they busted their ass to get where they are. 

Twitter and InideMakers are fantastic spaces for learning from others like you. Makers, Independents, bootstrappers that all are trying to create their vision and sharing success, failures, and lessons on the way. 

But most of all remember success is always overnight. Until it isn’t.

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