Your brilliant idea will probably take two years to gain sustainable traction
And that’s after you begin executing the idea.
With some regularity, I’m asked for advice on starting a business or launching a product, especially by freelancers hoping to generate recurring revenue. Usually the person asking knows I’ve had some success in this regard with Authentic Jobs and a line of letterpress posters.
My response is the same each time I’m asked: plan on any new idea taking two years to gain sustainable traction.
Two years feels daunting, and the expression on their faces when I utter this confirms the feeling. But when that reality is accepted, expectations are more manageable.
Authentic Jobs began in September 2005 as a pro-bono service in the sidebar of my personal website. One year later (almost to the day), it was launched as a paid-for service with its own domain. It would be another year before it was generating any sort of respectable income, and three more years before it would produce a living wage for myself and my family.
My letterpress posters experienced a similar idea-to-traction timeline, although these remain a side project.
One final example:
Last month marked one year since beginning work on Spoken, which we affectionately refer to as “the Instagram of audio”. We’re still in private beta, and yet we’ve been working on it after-hours for 12 months. Twelve.
I conceived the idea a couple years ago but didn’t begin executing until September 2014 when I assembled a small team to make it happen. I anticipate it will be another year (at least) until Spoken gains significant, sustainable traction.
We’ve yet to take on any investment, which arguably could speed up Spoken’s traction timeline. Or maybe not. My experience watching other startups — fully funded or bootstrapped on a dime—suggests it takes a couple years to get off the ground, period.
So, be honest with yourself. Expect a two-year timeline. Stick to it with consistent effort, and chances are you’ll find yourself with a sustainable product sometime in 2017.