Dispelling the Myth of the Overnight Success



We've all heard the story before. The young ingenue blogger, the fledgling tech start up, the independent fashion designer – suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Virtually out of nowhere they're a star, with major traffic, press coverage, and everyone is clamoring to get in with the new hot thing. They're an overnight success, right?

Most of the time – not exactly. While attention, fame, and success can arrive swiftly and on a massive scale, it's important, essential even, to remember that what seems like an overnight success is usually the product of more hard work, time, and energy than we might ever imagine.

Years In The Making

Think about a company like Pinterest. Overnight success, right? Actually, the site was launched back in January 2010, and had just 5,000 users by that August. It wasn't until late 2011 that Pinterest reached over 4 million visitors, then skyrocketed to nearly 12 million visitors in January of 2012. It's huge now, but the founders nearly went broke trying to get to this point, and worked crazy hard to make it happen.

If there really is such a thing as an overnight success, it's an extreme exception to the rule. Most of the great bloggers out there have been at it for a long time, and pardon my French, but they've worked their asses off for it. They may have become popular quickly, but they weren't doing nothing before it happened.

Take Leandra Medine, and her blog, The Man Repeller. She was a journalism student before she was a blogger, honing her writing skills and channeling her unique voice. She started her blog in April of 2010, and arguably didn't become a phenomenon until well into 2011. Even Atlantic-Pacific‘s Blair Eadie, who seemed to burst onto the blogger scene has been fine-tuning her photography, her look and her brand for years (She also started blogging in 2010).

Practice, Practice, Practice

Even the bloggers you might call “the old guard,” like BryanBoy, Cupcakes and Cashmere, and Style Bubble were actively blogging, chatting in forums and becoming fluent in the online language that became the blogging style we know in 2012. Before The Coveted, IFB's founder Jennine Jacob was talking in forums in 1998 – did you even realize the Internet was around then!?

Sure, it's ideal to have a natural talent for photography, writing or whatever you may be pursuing, but more often than not you'll find that it's practice and patience that get you to the top of the heap. Sure it helps to have a well-placed friend who can put your blog in front of the right eyes. That may be the catalyst for that growth you seek, but the truth is, most people aren't going to put their name behind something they don't think is any good – so be good. Be worthy of that one-in-a-million shot by practicing, improving, trying, failing and trying again.

Even if there is such a thing as an overnight success, so what? Take every small achievement of your blog and use it to propel you to the next leap. Every new follower, every comment, every unique page view, it means you're doing something right.

What do you think about overnight success? Do you think it's a myth or a reality?


image credit: Atlantic-Pacific


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42 Responses

  1. MJ

    Love this article! I think that an “overnight success” is a myth. It takes a lot of hard work, patience, and dedication to get you into the place where you can be recognized as a success.

    I remember when I started blogging three years ago I would go to all the big blogs and see just how long they had been blogging and for the most part they had at least 3 years or so in so that put everything into perspective for me.

  2. zoobia

    I know it’s cliche, but I always say “there’s no such thing as an overnight success.” Even when success comes quickly (say, less than a year), there is usually years of prep that came before. That includes previous blogs that functioned as “practice blogs” or learning how to write, take pictures, or tweak html.

    To be successful requires daily work to bring you closer to your goal. And then you have to maintain a certain level of consistency and quality; its not like the actual “work” just goes away once youve reached a certain level of success.

  3. Stephanie Liu

    Great article Taylor! Very good point that can apply to any overnight phenomenon. It’s definitely a myth! Anything that is considered an overnight success – think about how hard they must’ve worked to get to that point, to get to that certain publication, or to get to the right people, where and when they’re suddenly noticed all over the internet or the world in one night.

    Justin Beiber performed on Youtube years before he became an instant star.

  4. Jenn Staz

    I must admit that when I was a naive blogger, I was anxiously waiting for my big break! But now that I’m a little more seasoned, I realize that it’s about the hard work and good content, and lots of fun interactions.

    All of the experience I gained makes me have a TON of respect for all hard working, passionate bloggers!

  5. Incognito

    Interesting article. But I would say that it depends of the country you are from. In the USA blogging is taking seriously as a real job, in France eventhough we have famous bloggers they don’t get as much attention as the american one simply because in french mind this isn’t something that is considered a job. Everything depends on the mentality, we can only state Garance DorΓ© as the real successful french blogger because she really worked her way to get her blog noticed but I think that her success is partly due to the fact that she also writes in english and that she doesn’t live in France.
    I don’t know if I was clear but I also think that overnight success doesn’t exist but in blogging to work your way out also depends from where you’re from. Writing our blog in 3 languages really helps us figuring out the differences between audiences and brands.

  6. Ally

    Relative to the specific blog, overnight success can come. However, the blogger in question usually is a great writer or photographer. People don’t want to read poorly written articles nor look at drab photographs. It’s harsh, but it’s what it boils down to in the in.

    On Tumblr, it’s easy to gain followers. I come from Tumblr, so my perceptions of gaining followers for my blog is a bit off. I’ve got about six right now, and I’m quite happy! This post is all over the place, but I feel those with “overnight success” realize early on that followers and attention won’t come right away, but keep writing quality articles and actively interacting with others through social media.

  7. LibertyLondonGirl

    I started blogging in 2006…my first contract based on my blogging rep came about in Feb 10, and I have been making rent since Jan 2011. Now it’s a fully fledged and pretty successful business – but definitely not an overnight success! LLGxx

      • Adela

        I do too! And it’s a good example of the above.. I don’t believe in overnight success.. But reading that LLG comment makes me even more determined!
        Adela x

  8. goodbadandfab

    I think it’s important to put our goals into perspective. As fashion bloggers, we write because we are passionate about fashion and writing. I don’t think any of the successful bloggers started with the sole goal of making money off of it. If you write out of genuine love and dedication, then the money, success and fame may come! But the steps cannot be reversed.

    personal style and fashion musings of a LA fashion lawyer living life in the fab lane

  9. Samara

    This article came right on time for me. I am a new fashion, beauty, and natural hair blogger. Thank you for the encouragement and tips! As look at how the blogging community is growing I can’t help but notice a lot of fashion bloggers gaining popularity. I also notice a lot of women doing the same thing. I hope to be able to find my place and be able to inspire. Great article.

  10. Donna

    I never have thought there were many overnight successes. I read a lot, and everyone that has made it any where has done so with perseverance, hard work and patience. Nothing has ever come easily for me. It took me 12 years to get my first degree, sometimes going part-time, sometime taking a year off. But I kept at it until I finished, and I was the first person in my family to get a degree.
    Some people may “make it” faster due to luck, knowing someone influential, or having more money to buy more expensive fashion, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t still work hard.

  11. Andrea B

    “Before The Coveted, IFB’s founder Jennine Jacob was talking in forums in 1998 – did you even realize the Internet was around then!?”

    This made me laugh and also cringe. I was talking in forums in 1995. So, yes, I certainly knew that the Internet was around then, lol. Surely I’m not the only thirty-something who visits these parts?

      • Mary Ann

        I used Prodigy in the early ’90s…remember it well, lol! Then moved on to AOL in the mid ’90s. Things change so quickly these days. πŸ˜‰

      • Andrea B

        I’m glad I’m not the only one! I remember all those nights tying up the house phone line, desperately trying to finish conversations with other young writers online before my parents would kick me off. And sneaking into the office to get online when I couldn’t sleep but muffling the modem with a blanket or something so my mom wouldn’t yell at me.

        Oh, the things I did to have access to other people who understood my dreams of being a writer “when I grew up.”


  12. Andrea

    Great shout-out!! It’s so easy to get discouraged as a rookie, by all these great bloggers out there who have like 50.000 followers on bloglovin for example. But as you said, their success definitely didn’t come out of the blue. So I’ll just keep working my a** off and feel ridiculously happy about every comment and every new follower. πŸ˜‰
    xo Andrea
    Wonderful and Marvelous

    • Lyn

      it’s important that newbie bloggers (including me!) don’t easily get discouraged by the slow progress of our blogs. Good to remember that those popular bloggers also started out just like us, and they didn’t get to where they are now by giving up and quitting when things were going really slooooow! We all have to work hard to get to where we want things to go. Stay positive and persevere! =)

  13. Jessica Smith

    Overnight success is just an illusion. Granted, after years of trial and error, yes, one morning you wake up and you realize that suddenly you made it. To everyone else, it appears as if you woke up that special morning and you were simply handed everything that you wanted, no questions asked. Contrary to popular belief, you weren’t handed your dreams because you got lucky, but because you put in the effort to make those dreams a tangible reality. People are blinded by the illusion of overnight success. Some people are discouraged when they see their peers so easily succeeding, while they’re spinning their wheels, running in place, and feeling like they’re not going anywhere no matter how hard they work themselves into the ground. Little do they know, that person who is succeeding did work hard to get where they are. People expect to just automatically be awesome at whatever it is they want to do, not realizing that as mentioned in the blog, behind the illusion of overnight success lies years of practice, perseverance, and patience.

  14. K

    Yep.. Long hard work, incremental success. I’m pretty successful, and it makes me cringe when my MIL or other friends say, “I know I’m going to be a great blogger because of…” and then list totally random things.

  15. karina

    This definitely is a very timely message. It always seems like the β€œbig” bloggers just became big when blogging became popular and whoever starts now has no chance… BUT, obviously, this is not true. Thanks for the encouragement! πŸ™‚

  16. Marisa

    Myth. There is no such thing as overnight success with out spending time working 24/7. In most cases success is earned. I personally started a company 2 years ago and know that I work very hard to make it what it is today. Congrats to all that hang in there and make it!

  17. michelle

    I agree that blogging success or any other kind of success takes time. I’ve been blogging since late 2009 and I took the effort to update the blog regularly. Commenting on other blogs, etc… Even when my school work was piling up..
    I also worked hard to improve my photography and writing in order to create larger blog audience and eventually now thanks to that, I’ve also snagged photography and styling jobs. I’m a sole believer that nothing comes for free..not just pricewise but also effort-wise..

  18. michelle k

    I agree that blogging success or any other kind of success takes time. I’ve been blogging since late 2009 and I took the effort to update the blog regularly. Commenting on other blogs, etc Even when my school work was piling up..
    I also worked hard to improve my photography and writing in order to create larger blog audience and eventually now thanks to that, I’ve also snagged photography and styling jobs. I’m a sole believer that nothing comes for free..not just pricewise but also effort-wise

  19. Treacle

    I’m so glad you wrote this! I’ve had several people accusing me of being an overnight success because they only just heard about me in the past year. What they don’t realize is that I’ve been blogging for 4 years. Comparisons don’t help your blog grow, and making comparisons with false assumptions is even worse.

  20. the mannikin

    so inspiring! thanks for this post IFB, you always seem to know what I need to hear! I’ve been blogging since August 2011, and am SLOOOWLY building up an audience, but patience is one thing I lack! I’ve always felt like you need connections to get anywhere further than where I am, but you’re very right, there’s other ways to go about it!

    For now, I’m just going to enjoy writing and blogging about what I love to those who want to hear it πŸ™‚ Cheers! xoxo

  21. Monique

    I agree everything said in this article. I do believe success does not happen overnight. to have a successful blog it take hard work and dedication. My blog “The Glam Pages” started on 2010 with little that 2 views and just yesterday my viewership is slow climbing and gaining followers. I think it really sad that most people expect instant gratification because they are influenced by TV shows such as The Jersey shore and Keeping up with the Kardashians.

  22. kimmie

    Glad you wrote this. I’ve been blogging for 5 years (fashion blog started September 2010) but it wasn’t until a yr later that I started to get any recognition for it and it’s very, very, small at that. Satisfying, but small.

    When I looked at some of my favorite bloggers, it took at least 2-3 yrs before they started working on extra projects outside of their blog. If you look at Emily Schuman (Cupcakes and Cashmere), she has a book coming out in the next few weeks BUT she launched her blog 4 years ago. Karla Deras from Karla’s Closet just released a jewelry collection BUT she launched her blog 4 years ago. No matter how you look at it, IT. TAKES. TIME. Whether they were already in the industry working behind the scenes or this was something that they stumbled upon, it took them time to get here.

    Also of note: the common thread with all of them is that they offered great, original content: beautiful photos, great writing, and a unique voice. You can see the growth in their posts and they’ve done it consistently. If we focus on those components, we may not become the biggest blogger out there, but we can definitely use our blogs as springboards for other projects if desired. We have to be patient though. You don’t want to be a flash in the pan!

  23. Emily

    I started my blog in mid 2008 and am still growing and constantly learning everyday. I’ve seen bloggers come and go as well as ‘younger’ bloggers become successes before mine – some in a mere space of 6 months of its inception (clearly they are doing something right).

    Blogging is all about being original, finding your niche and persevering. Instead of feeling like a failure I use other bloggers’ success as a driving force to push myself to be better and to become successful.

    That said, becoming successful is also about the opportunities you are given and the people you know. If you have the right contacts, the right team (e.g. a great photographer etc) then you are bound to succeed.

  24. kat

    An encouraging article. Truthful and honest. I have to say it’s a lot of hard work!

  25. Maria Losch

    Love the article and comments! I started blogging about 3 years ago but under 3 different blogs and finally found a name/brand that fit all the things I like to write about. I chalk those previous blogs as experimenting and worth the experience.

    One question I have for blogs that weigh heavily on style – do people even care about the written content?

    I’m not talking diy’s and tutorials or specific topics like this blog, obviously one needs to read through them. I’m strictly speaking styling or a theme of some sorts.

  26. Martha

    This was a great reminder that things don’t happen overnight and ANYTHING that succeeds requires hard work, time and knowledge.
    Always keep pushing yourself to learn more, grow more and accept change.

  27. All Around Her

    Great and encouraging article! Being VERY new to the blogging world I realize it does take a lot of hard work and time. I’m learning a lot and excited to learn more and improve where necessary!

  28. Amber

    Great post. I started my blog back in 07 and started a new one in 2010. I’ll admit that I was naive myself at first and always compared myself to the big bloggers. Til this day I still feel discouraged at times but that is normal. I’ve come to realize that if you just keep at it, believe in yourself, interact with others AND maintain a healthy life outside the internet (because what goes on outside affects what you blog, imagine being home 24/7 not being active you aren’t inspired to write anything!) Am I right? Anywhoo, my time will come and when it does I will be ready!


  29. Debora Faria

    Great article! πŸ™‚
    I also think overnight successes are a myth. I’m actually confirming that with my own experience. I started blogging last sptember and my blog has had ups and owns in terms of page views (more downs than ups, actually =P). I have also started looking more closely to other blogs so I could try to understand what makes them so special… I admit that observation has taught me running a blog requires a lot more effort than I imagined when I wrote my first post… So, right now, I’m doing what you say: trying new approaches, refining my posts style, upgrading my content. Some times it does’t work… but nobody reaches Rome in one day! And I do appreciate every page view I get. Even though not so many people reached my blog yet, I was already seen in a lot of countries πŸ™‚
    Wish me luck πŸ˜‰

  30. Julia

    Great post! I was also discouraged at first, when I haven’t seen any results for more than a year. But now when I look back and realize how much I have grown since I started my blog. And although I still think that not everyone is born to be a famous blogger, if you like what you do, you should continue.

  31. JustFedTheModels

    Thank you for this post. A lot of times new bloggers(myself included) get a little down on themselves when traffic is low and there is more spam versus legitimate comments. But yet again you reassure us that this will soon(hopefully) come to pass. I’ve spent lots of time on here even before I was blogging to prepare myself for it all. Thank goodness for ifb. I’m not being cheesy at all, but I feel like you guys are guardian angels for us starting out. <3

  32. Diana Misetic

    As an independent women’s contemporary label, I have found that in addition to wearing multiple hats running my business, I am also working to create a name for myself and seek press coverage. It is a very tall task and stumbling upon an editorial and press is fish and bait game. How will you succeed is people don’t know about you? Ultimately it is just that – brand awareness. It is a difficult feat in general for a few people to create something great and it comes with years of various efforts. It may peak in a year or two, but for that point to arrive you have a background in countless failures and experiments to get the one solution that proudly elevates you!

    Diana Misetic

  33. erin

    Blogging definitely requires consistency, but it only takes 1 post to catch like fire and you could be “famous over night”