It Will Take 5+ Years To Build Your Online Business. You Still In?

In the online marketing space, the name of the game is overnight success.

Take this small sampling of Facebook ad headlines I’ve been collecting for the past week (while simultaneously ruuuuuining my feed by clicking on all of them).

  • Create leads out of thin air
  • Less work, more traffic
  • Generate $20,000 in a single 5-day challenge
  • Escape your 9-5 in the next 6 months
  • Get how sales funnels work in < 7 minutes
  • I tripled my income in 3 months

Notice a theme? No time, no work, make money. The new American Dream. It’s too good to be true and yet impoooossible to resist.

You know what I’m talking about – you’re reading an ad, a blog, a squeeze page (ick) that essentially says, “Work less, get rich (in 30 days or your money back?)” and your bullshit detector staaarts to go off but then a little voice says,

Maybe I AM doing it wrong. Maybe I should be filthy rich by now!?! They must know something I don’t know.”

That little voice is a skilled salesman – and online marketers are counting on it. (Because it does the work for them.)

And that little voice is what, ultimately, brings so many of my clients to see me.

There is an urgency, a breathlessness, a sense of panic, almost, as if they were about to miss the very last train out of Gravy Station foreeever and I am their last hope.

That little voice’s biggest fear is that you are late to the greatest party ever thrown. And, when unchecked, it will scare you and stress you and seduce you, if necessary – anything to get your attention – until you frantically email your web designer all the reasons why you need this re-brand/this campaign/this website YESTERDAY, dammit!!!!

That little voice is right about one thing – small businesses in this state couldn’t have called me a moment too soon. Buuut it’s not because I’m the very last scalper with tickets to Easy Street, but that I’m the last stop before that little voice takes them – and their business – of a cliff.

And I take this responsibility seriously, as unpopular as it makes me to that little voice – and, in most cases, the client, too.

This is probably why it took me sooooo long to upgrade my bullshit detector and learn how to stand up to that little voice, once and for all. It’s uncomfortable to be the bearer of bad news. But, after years of working with dynamic, gifted, and increasingly exasperated small business owners, I discovered that it is far more uncomfortable to watch someone you respect and admire crash and burn in the pursuit of a magic pill.

So, when I hear that little voice come out in my client’s frantic, panicked emails, I know just how to respond:

If I told you it would take 5+ years to get where you want to be, would you still want to do it?”

This is a question that online marketers don’t want you to answer — or even entertain! When you start to think about the long game of building a business — not the glittering fantasy of 5 figures in 4 minutes or whatever that little voice wants to sell you today — you will lose the urgency to do things YESTERDAY and, with it, the impulse to buy your way to success.

You will also come face to face with that little voice’s worst nightmare — the idea that building a business will be (gulp) both difficult and time consuming. And that even if you loooove what you do and loooove your clients and loooove working for yourself and have passion oozing out of your damn pores, building a business will STILL be difficult and time consuming.

You still here? Good. Because I have a silver lining for ya.

I know, the possibility that you could be FIVE (PLUS?!) YEARS away from your business goals might feel like a punch in the gut. But, you will save thousands of dollars and hoooours of headaches by going into it with eyes wide open.

If you’ve been building your business, brick by brick, client by client, night by night, and that little voice has you quietly wondering why you’re not filthy rich yet, here’s the good news:

You’re NOT doing it wrong. You HAVEN’T missed the last train to Easy Street.

And the only thing “they” know that you don’t is how much small business owners like us wish we could skip the hard stuff and just head straight to “success.”

I’ve been there myself. And I’ll tell you what my biz mentor told me when I had my own little “Why am I not soaking in bathtubs of hundred dollar bills yet?!” tantrum:

What if it’s supposed to be hard?

What if honing your craft and refining your systems, brick by brick, client by client, night by night is the best (and fastest) route to where you want to be?

What if chasing a dollar on a string will lead you, not to the big bucks you seek, but straight into burnout looooong before even hitting that 5 year mark?

What if hurriedly quitting your 9 to 5 in pursuit of the “do what you love” dream is a surefire way to doom your business, rather than elevate it?

Are you still in?

Whatever your answer, yes or no, consider yourself damn lucky because you just saved yourself oodles of time, money, and tantrums.

And if you said “yes”, then you probably just saved your business, too.

Now, give that little voice a vacation and get back to work. It’s only a matter of time…

Note from RKA: I decided to expand on this post with a Facebook Live. Enjoy!

Rachael Kay Albers

Rachael Kay Albers is a creative director, business comedian, and brand strategist gone wild. She writes and performs about branding, pop culture, tech, and identity. When she’s not muckraking about marketing, Rachael runs RKA ink, a reinvention studio and branding agency for businesses that burn the rulebook. She's also on Instagram a lot.