In the last quarter of 2017, just a few months before launching this exact website, I read the following article by the famous habit-forming guru, James Clear. No, you don’t have to read the whole thing, I’m just going to share this section: “I wrote a new article every Monday and Thursday in 2013. My first article was published on November 12, 2012. I’m proud to say that since that time I have published 114 articles on JamesClear.com and received 686,937 unique visitors. Best of all, 40,637 people.”
I thought, “Hell, I can surely write two articles per week. I mean, if that’s what it takes to become successful online, I’ll do it. Onward!”
And off I was. I created a blueprint, a content calendar and I prepared myself for a writing frenzy. Yes, I didn’t start immediately. This time I knew better. After all, over the last few years, I started and later abandoned more than 6 sites. Wasting more than 6 years of my life – but that’s a whole different story. That’s why this time I decided to plan things out in advance.
But it wasn’t only the annual report by James Clear that inspired me to write like a maniac in order to reach beyond-normal internet fame. I was also fired by the black-wearing t-shirts minimalists who convinced more people than Christ that owning a lot of stuff is not so cool.
According to their about page, it took them less than a year to create a cult-like following of screaming adults who now hate possessions and wear the same underwear even on Hanukkah. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus both said farewell to their fancy corporate jobs and publish a book that later sold millions of copies worldwide. All of this for under a year.
“It shouldn’t be so hard. Since they did it I’m going to succeed too,” that’s what I thought. And in March 2018, I registered the domain durmonski.com and I started publishing articles like a mad man.
Progress Is Slow
I don’t know about you, but it seems that everywhere I look, there are people who have succeeded online in less than a year, sometimes even just a few months. I don’t know their full first story, I don’t know exactly what happens behind the scenes, but the net is flooded with stories of folks who started a blog, and after a month, bang, they are the new internet sensation.
Probably there’s something exceptionally wrong about my approach since I’m still not able to “make it” after publishing hard for 2 years.
But let’s back up a bit.
So, I had a plan. It was simple, easy to implement, not so hard to execute with a lot of potential – to publish articles twice per week and eventually become super famous.
Surprisingly, I did it.
I published two articles per week for a bit over a year. Some weeks I even published 3 times. At the end of 2018, I had around 97 posts published in total.
You might be thinking, “WOW. That’s an impressive number. Why I haven’t heard about you on the news?”
Simply put, because this strategy didn’t work. At least for me. Yes, I published more words online for one year than the average internet guru does for 5, but this didn’t bring a lot of results. The number of people visiting my site per day after the first 12 months was around 200. Not bad, but surely far from what I was hoping for.
Besides, I was not even close to the number of email subscribers James Clear accumulated after only a couple of months – at the time, I had around 120 email subscribers. And I’m sure that out of these 120 at least 30 were completely careless of who I was – they were simply too lazy to unsubscribe.
Something had to be done, fast.
Hope Will Help You Keep Going
My new revised strategy was to share my work more.
You see, I’m not much of a social media kind of guy. I chat with my friends occasionally online but I prefer talking to them in person. Besides, I have other things to do. I don’t want to waste time liking pictures and posting status updates – then liking even more pictures. And also, people have better things to do. Why should they be interested in my social media posts?
Yet, the one and only Garry Vee constantly endorses the importance of sharing your work. In all of his loud and provoking speeches, he literally screams at the crowd how vital it is to share your work. So I decided to give it a try. To build online relationships with others and to show my work without sounding like “look at me, I wrote an article and I’m so smart” kind of guy.
I started posting my articles here and there. Sadly, since I don’t have the holy blue dot next to my picture on my Twitter profile – i.e. there isn’t a raging crowd of fans screaming my name and waiting for my new tweets to express gratitude towards my persona – when I published something it was like shouting in an empty concert hall or like throwing a rock in the ocean – no one noticed nor cared. My publications quickly vanished in the endless internet rabbit holes. Even the 200 followers I have didn’t like my post.
It felt demoralizing, to put it mildly.
But I kept going. I shared my articles on places you haven’t heard before hoping for results that will make my site the next trendy news on Google.
And after traumatizing my fingers by forcing them to write cheesy clickbait content with the intention to get more likes, I shared one piece on HackerNews one stormy evening. Surprisingly, without some extra effort and without forcing people to like it, this piece got featured on their home page and later on their newsletter.
I got over 300 subscribers for one week!
My hope was rejuvenated.
Comparing Yourself To Others is Bad
It was addictive. I checked my stats every couple of hours and I felt like my work finally matter. Like I matter!
In just a few days, I received more cheering from new readers than I had received in the past year.
Of course, as you can probably guess, this didn’t last long. I got my dose of online fame and it was over for less than a month. My traffic went back to normal – not good enough.
I never stopped though. I kept publishing articles and I kept checking what other online makers were doing.
At some point, I stumbled on the website created by Anne-Laure Le Cunff. Her project is called NessLabs. A really cool place where she writes articles on neuroscience, productivity, and other interesting stuff about personal development and habit change.
I was intrigued by her work the moment I read her first article and I was really interested to hear her story. Apparently – mentioned in an interview – it took her 4 months to grow the subscribers-base of above 6000 people. Four months!
How many people were interested in my work?
According to my MailChimp account at the time I had 400 subscribers for nearly 2 years of hard work.
Again, it felt like what I’m doing was dull and that I’m simply wasting my time.
“Why it’s not working? Why people don’t love me? What’s wrong with my work? Why others are able to reach massive results in a couple of months and I’m still struggling despite my champion efforts?”
My mind was full of doubtful thoughts. From rage to sadness to anxiety. My inner state looked like a colorless rainbow. Like I had a curse and that the holy grail of online fame was this impossible to reach artifact.
I knew that my work wasn’t flawless. Yet, I often received emails (and I still do) from readers saying how much they love what I do. How untraditional and interesting my articles are. These emails were the only thing that kept me going.
But why things are not growing?
At the moment, May 19, 2020, there are 700 people subscribed to my email list. In January 2020, I launched my membership program and so far I have 15 paying members. I still receive praise from people who are just finding my site and the best thing about the work I do is interacting with my readers – I send out a weekly newsletter and people often reply with their thoughts.
These specs are not impressive. I know. I won’t get a ton of likes if this is shared online. People won’t invite me as a guest on their podcast. I won’t get interviewed on Indie Hackers or other similar sites looking to praise quick wins.
But to be honest, I don’t care. I don’t do it to become famous anymore. I do it because I love doing it. I love sharing notes from the books I read. I love connecting with people. And I love exploring interesting ideas. Besides, since 15 people were willing to pull out their credit cards and pay to read my stuff means that there are others who will do the same – they simply need to find my content. It’s just a matter of time.
Or at least that’s what I tell myself all the time.
“So what’s with all of these confessions?”
That’s a good question.
The reason I wrote my short rant-like story is to tell you that starting a business online is hard work. The results are slow. The competition is fierce and that there are always folks who seemingly figured things out faster than you. However, regardless of how well other people are doing, you can still make it. You just need to keep doing it.
Think about it.
Yes, there are online gurus who made it in just a couple of months’ time, but these folks are exceptions. Thousands of other people are starting businesses on a daily basis. But how many of these projects endure the first quarter? Few.
Only a handful of people are able to keep going despite the setbacks. Usually, life rewards exactly these folks. The ones that are able to overcome the struggles and continue regardless of the pain and the hardship.
That’s what you’ll find in every self-help book. All the authors will tell you the same thing about success – persistence is key.
But persistence is not the only thing needed. Based on my experience, I’d say that the following are also important factors for reaching your goals online:
- Prepare for really slow progress: You think that you’ll have enough paying customers in one year? Make this two. Even three. There are a lot of factors involved in running an online business and a lot of things that can go wrong. If you’re not willing to commit at least 3 years of your life to make a project work, don’t start at all.
- Build an audience in one place: Pick a platform and build your audience there. Don’t try to be everywhere. Yes, it might sound cool to have Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and even a Vimeo account, but updating these channels will take time. Time you’ll need to work on your main business. The best audience you can build is over email. So, collect emails. While having a lot of followers on social media sounds cool, your email list is what matters. If tomorrow Instagram updates their algorithm again – which happens all the time – you will scratch your head because your reach will decrease substantially, thus your income.
- Don’t compare yourself to others: There is another reason why I don’t go to social media – the first reason being that I found these places noisy and time-consuming – it feels discouraging to read the posts of the folks who made it in less than a month. I understand that they’re happy about their success, but if you’ve been working for years on a project, and if you haven’t still reached the desired outcome it can feel demoralizing. You can learn from these folks, but don’t dwell on their success.
- You have to love what you do: I mean really love what you do and don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love doing it. After all, it will take you years to make your project profitable. If you’re starting out with the intention to become rich, you’re starting for the wrong reasons.
That’s basically it.
There’s no magic formula and not magic course that will transform your online business. Just hard work.
The question is, are you willing to do the hard work?
After all these years, I can say that I surely am.
Hopefully, this post will inspire you to start your own thing.