Leonard Kim tried to launch a blog five years ago. But after writing only three posts, he gave up. Now, five years later, he’s a regular columnist for Inc. magazine.
Ten years ago, I started a small business for only $1,500. When it launched, I had no customers and zero income.
But since then, I’ve done over $800,000 in business — even though I took one year off. And in my best year, I had $129,000 in sales.
How did Leonard Kim and I pull these things off?
By working on things consistently, step by step, one day at a time . . .
Leonard Kim, Writer
Five years ago, Leonard Kim studied the work of writers and bloggers. He read Seth Godin and Copyblogger. But when he tried to launch his own blog, he pulled the plug on it after writing only three posts.
I don’t know why Leonard stopped the blog. But fortunately, he didn’t give up on writing.
A couple of years later, he wrote some long-form posts on Facebook and received a few compliments.
Then, in May of 2013, he decided to write something on Quora, a popular question-and-answer website.
He wrote one post, but it received little response.
The next month, however, someone put his post in front of a thousand people, and he was inspired to write further.
Just a few months later, Leonard’s Quora posts had 2 million views and he was named a Top Quora Writer.
Leonard kept on writing. Six months later, he had 10,000 followers and 5 million views on Quora.
A few months later, he’d written a book, and had articles appear in Inc., Huffington Post, Forbes, and other publications.
In eight months, his Twitter following had gone from 550 to 30,000.
Then he started to get paid for his writing.
And now he’s become a regular columnist for Inc. magazine.
How I Grew My Business from Zero to $800,000 in Sales
But I did some marketing and, within a few weeks, had a couple of clients who were sending me work on a regular basis.
I had a lot of previous experience in direct marketing. So I set up a database, created my own highly targeted mailing lists, and created some very eye-catching full-color mailing pieces.
I’d send out these color fliers with a personalized note on my company’s stationary to hundreds of carefully selected contacts at publishing companies.
Eventually, I had this entire process refined into an exact science. When I’d do a mailing, I’d then email the person I sent the letter to, a couple of days after they should have received my letter.
Those emails were very short, personalized, asked a simple question, and had the right subject headings to get opened and read.
By design, what I did was never intrusive or annoying like cold calling … and it worked.
Each time I’d send out a mailing, I’d get one or two new jobs worth several thousand dollars.
The jobs I’d get would pay for the mailings, and leave me with a profit, which I could further invest in the business, and some side businesses I’d also created.
Every now and then, when I had time and things got slow, I’d update my contact list, send out a new mailing, and bring in more work.
It was a consistent, step-by-step process. And as my business grew, my mailings got better and better. Not only did my skills improve but I had better and better projects, and more well-known clients, to highlight in the mailings.
That’s how I went from having zero in the way of sales to doing $129,000 in my best year.
The Hidden Bumps Along the Road: or, the Iceberg Principle
Every business or entrepreneur will experience bumps along the road.
Even if you’re consistent, you’ll face obstacles, problems, and plenty of hard work.
But people are often blind to this when they see someone who has achieved success because they only see the end product.
All of the tremendous, step-by-step work that went into achieving that success lies hidden, in the same way that the bulk of an iceberg is invisible, hidden below the surface of the water.
In the words of M.J. DeMarco, people overlook the fact that success is not an event, it’s a process.
Dan Andrews of the TropicalMBA Podcast says that it takes 1,000 days to really get a business off the ground.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get by financially in the early days. But it does take time for a new business to really take off, unless you’re lucky.
In the beginning, if you have a service business, you’ll have to take whatever work is available to keep the cash flowing and to build up your credentials.
For example, when I started my business, I did all sorts of things I no longer do: I took on some small projects. I used to edit books myself, because, at first, I needed the money. And I would sometimes get bad clients.
But as things went along, I made continuous improvements.
After the first few months, I no longer took small projects. Today, I haven’t edited a book in many years — I have incredibly gifted editors who take care of that. And I no longer have any bad clients. I work for some of the best publishers in the world — and I have enough scheduled work that I no longer worry about marketing.
How Continual Improvement Compounds Over Time
I love James Altucher’s idea that you should try to improve only 1% every day, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. That sounds like a small amount, but if you improve only 1% a day, in one year you will be 38 times better at something. That’s a 3800% change.
Those results are probably too good to be true, but they do show how important continual improvement really is — and how small improvements actually compound.
Because of that compounding effect, set a smaller goal. If you have a business or some other pursuit, and you improve only 1% each week, over the course of a few years you will still have made incredible progress.
Success is a process, not an event.
Another key point, noted by Taylor Pearson, is that we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, and greatly underestimate what we can accomplish in a year.
That’s why, he says, having 90-day goals is a good idea. Thinking in larger blocks of time is a better approach, strategically, than worrying over the small things you must do each day. And it’s those longer-term goals that make your day-to-day tasks feel meaningful.
The key, though, is to keep making continual improvements on a consistent basis. Those small improvements will eventually allow you to make exponential progress — to accomplish things that would have been totally beyond your imagination and your abilities in the past.
Keep on Moving Forward
In the end, the blueprint for both personal and financial success is simple:
Continuous learning. Continuous improvement. Make small improvements, but consistently. Stair step your way to success by getting just a little better each day … a little better each week, and a little better each month.
Do this for the rest of your life, and exponential progress will be yours.
Looking back, you’ll be amazed by how much you’ve learned, and by how much you’ve accomplished over the long term.
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