26 January, 2020  •  5 min read

An Overnight Success

Well…That’s a lie. Here’s the truth about overnight success. Nothing happens overnight. It can happen, but so rarely it’s not worth thinking about.

Success isn’t about tips, tricks, and short-term strategies. It’s about boring yet effective concepts like hard work, patience, and iteration. You know this already, but sometimes it takes someone peeling back the curtain and showing you what that process actually looks like. You know this already, but sometimes it takes someone/something to explain you what that process actually looks like. When it comes to my story, this process started about 5 years ago.

The Beginner Phase

At the age of 20, I started working on freelance projects while I was still in college. Within a year, I worked on a good number of projects to earn enough money that I can spend. Almost every other project was from someone I knew, from friend or a family member, or through their references. Still, to this day I remember the first time I took upon a client project. It was not a very big project. I downloaded a couple of different free vector graphics and combined those to make a decent logo. The client really liked the idea. I was paid a decent amount of money for that and I was happy.

Shortly after that, while I was still in college, I got a college placement in a good and reputed IT company in Ahmedabad. I was kind of an internship. I worked there for only 1 month and 12 days to be exact. I really didn’t like the work environment, or I was not ready for the job. I felt like I’m not doing this 9 to 5 grinding for the rest of my life. So after graduating, I continue to work on freelance projects and have earned a living as a full-time freelance designer.

I was lucky, in all sorts of ways. But here’s the thing about luck. It rarely tends to come unless you go out there and look for it. You need to do the work. And then put the work out there.

I’m completely self-taught designer. I learned everything from the Internet; from YouTube videos, Blogs, Medium articles, and many more resources out there in the wild (you can read more about what I used to learn here), created by this amazing community from all over the world.

I also placed bid on different freelance work platforms. I pitched to agencies I wanted to work for. I applied for the design contests when I was hopelessly under-qualified for them. I’m socially introvert person, but I got involved in on different social media platforms, asked some really stupid questions and then some slightly smarter ones too. I learned as I went along, and found it’s not that hard to become an expert in anything if you are really passionate about it, and are willing to put in the hours.

My background had inoculated my from fairy tales, and I never thought the world owned me a living. Instead, I went out and grabbed it - albeit in a very shy, clumsy and inept way.

The details of the beginner phase aren’t as important as the goal - traction. Even though you need a more advanced skill set as time goes on, the beginner phase is the most important because it’s where 99% of people fail.

This is why I never got why people focus so much on competition. In any field or life path, competition is irrelevant because the bulk of your competition is people who are going to quit soon.

I knew no one would hand it to me.

So it came as a surprise to me to realize how many creatives really did buy into this corporate bullshit; the idea of a decent, well-paid 9 to 5 job, with no stress.

Until last month, I was only working 3 hours a day for a product innovation company on a part-time basis. I used to come home at 1 pm in afternoon and then just relax. I used to sleep a couple of hours and then start working on other freelance projects in the evening. My friends and family members used to tell me that your daily routine is perfect. Work only 3 hours and then just chill out. But they didn’t know that before earning this lifestyle, what I had faced, what I have experienced. I worked on weekends and holidays to make this happen. I also had to cancel plans with my friends just to finish some shitty client project. Those things weren’t perfect, but in the end, they all paid off. They paid off in a big way. And most importantly: they took time.

I look back the very first logo design, very first UI design I created for an actual client. I find the designs to be awful, but it had one element that let me know I was on the right track. It made sense. My designs weren’t polished, but I at least I created something on my own.

I bet so many people are not happy because they aren’t getting what they want in life; they are expecting it too quickly and want all their dreams to come true today. But they fail to comprehend what actually goes into achieving that. Most of the time, their goals are coming at the expense of Netflix or video games. Not money. Actual time.

Here’s the truth about overnight success. Nothing happens overnight. It can happen, but so rarely it’s not worth thinking about. As a designer, I’ve heard hundreds of overnight success stories over the years, especially in software industry when startups came into existence.

But dig deeper, and you inevitably discover a far longer, messier story of struggle, practice and persistence, of small victories followed by big set-backs. Or luck that came as a result of staying positive and putting good work out there, day after day.

I may not be the successful person from other’s perspective, but more myself I’m very much successful in the business/work side of my life.

On to the Next One

About a year or so ago, I was earning very less money. Right now, I’m working part-time for two different companies. Earning a decent amount of money that I can easily afford a good lifestyle. I use public transport for the commute to work, I generally eats a very normal food, wears decent clothes and shoes.

But at the end, I earn enough that I can easily afford my day to day lifestyle. It’s very decent, yet amazing.

Based on my experience, here’s how you really find success:

  • Do the good work
  • Put the work out there
  • Tell people about it
  • Learn whatever you can on a daily basis, then do what you can to improve
  • Keep a daily journal to write down your thoughts and experiences
  • Must use a to-do list to track your progress

The formula is pretty simple. What’s hard is overcoming your own doubts and fears, and other people’s indifference.

You should be trying for that moment for the rest of your life. It takes tons and tons of work. It takes some serendipity. It takes a lot time. But it is a huge privilege to do what you love everyday.

And the way you do that is becoming an “overnight success”. Because all those people you call an overnight success? They have the same story as me. They worked. Maybe you didn’t see it. But you’re seeing it now.

You don’t suck, you just haven’t put in the time.