How long does it take to create a successful online business?


I asked this question on Warrior Forum years ago and it still get’s varied replies. While the Small Business Association says it takes 5 to 7 years for a business to see a profit,  even they can’t judge what you consider to be successful. Why?

Because your level of success totally depends on what your goals are for your business, if you meet those goals then you were successful. But only a few people responded with this common sense answer, the majority responded with an actual figure.



But equating your success to an actual number is bad.  When you don’t even get close to the number you hoped for you may give up because you think your goal is un-achievable. But none the less, the amount of million dollar responses I received totally caught me off guard.

Many of those who responded had short time frames for achieving success. Some of them even said they could easily achieve these astronomical eight figure incomes in 6 months. Now, I will admit that a few people have achieved these results but they were rare exception to the norm.

Jeff Bezos for example, had a 5 year business plan and was astounded when it only took him 3. (His case was rarity in the world of business.)

If you peek behind the curtains of any business claiming quick success overnight, you find out that most of their “Overnight Success” has been grossly exaggerated.

Facebook didn’t just pop up out of nowhere to be the Mega social media giant it is today , it took Mark Zuckerberg and his team over 7 years to become an Overnight Success.

Even Seth Godin, one of Internet Marketing’s most highly successful entrepreneurs, said: “it takes about six years of HARD WORK to become an overnight success.” because it’s true.

Most of the responses I received to my question on Warrior Forum were just positive thinking, or in some cases pure fantasy, instead of a thought out plan.

According to most of the relevant data about online businesses it would appear that the SBA was actually correct in their forecast.  It does take most online businesses 5 to 7 years to achieve their planned level of success.

Would you agree?



  1. Hey Gordie,

    This is a dicey question for me. The length of time for the success of any business depends on a variety of factors. Such as:

    – the goal of the owner
    – uncontrollable factors like natural disasters, accidents, sickness, security breach, death, political and government factors,etc.
    – the demand of the product/service
    – the competition level, etc.

    For an ideal situation, it would be okay to agree with the predictions of the SBA of 5-7 years. However, this stat was based on average successful businesses for a time.

    Personally, I cannot place a time frame for the success of a business because success is an ongoing concept. It is not end but a means to an end.

    For those who set a goals and defines success with them, they could be right. But, I will summarily state that whenever an online business succeeds in meeting the needs of its customers then it can boast to be “successful”

  2. Hey Gordie,

    I agree with the Small Business Associations projections of 5-7 years. This is true because it provides an average of researched data on the failure and success of business.

    However, how long to create a successful online business is still related. Some could be less than 5 years and others could be more than 7 years!
    Sarah John recently posted…Here’s Why Customer Service Courage is the Best Thing Since Sliced BreadMy Profile

    • No not exactly, online marketers have reported that 5 to 7 years is exactly how long it took the so called gurus to become internet millionaires. Now most of us don’t want to be millionaires but then again the majority of them didn’t set out to be millionaires it just happened when they decided to take massive action. There is no wrong answer , the answer depends on whatever your business goal is. If it’s $2,000 a month and you achieve it in 3 months, you’re successful.
      Gordie Chase recently posted…The 4 Google myths that can hurt your SEO!My Profile

  3. Hey Gordie,

    That’s hard because as you mentioned, there are other things to consider like what “success” means to the business owner.

    One person may think making $30K a year is success, while another thinks $30K per month is the success.

    Depending on the goals and how much effort, time, and productivity you put into a business is going to determine WHEN you’ll reach said goal.

    Marie Yovcheva recently posted…Why Your Sales Funnel Doesn’t WorkMy Profile

  4. I agree with what’s already been said here in that it all depends on what you call “success.”

    Some people quit their job after they’re making $3k/mo whereas some people wouldn’t dream of quitting their job until they’re making a high five-figure monthly income.

    The worst thing to do is to put a number to the amount of time you’re allowing yourself to become successful because ultimately it takes skill, patience, and time.
    Corrisa recently posted…Easy Fundraising Ideas For Church Youth GroupsMy Profile

  5. I think you summed it up perfectly “Because your level of success totally depends on what your goals are for your business, if you meet those goals then you were successful.”

    Not everyone has the same goals and targets. I guess once you hit your personal successful goal then the next big challenge is to set another goal and hit it or do you just accept where you got to and be happy?

  6. Hello Gordie:

    I really like yo because you remind me of some of my real friends stationed at Fort Lee in the nineties talking about how we could change the world.

    Did we ” hell no” as I looked back we did it our way” and that’s how any person does it not because we were in the army.

    My son just called up and asked me for 500 today and I told him I gave you that truck he is commercial truck driver. “figure the rest out” that’s how life goes do your own diligence and figure things out.”

    That’s whats everything about keep it real,

    Thanks for your help
    darrellantonio recently posted…Wow ! Blogs Really Influence a Shopper’s Decision’sMy Profile

  7. Hi Gordie,

    The question of how long does it take to create a successful online business will depend on the type of business, the promotional capacity, and level of demand for the product/service.

    If an online entrepreneur is able to get hold of these then being successful online will come as fast as lightening! This is my thought!

  8. Hi Gordie,

    This is an interesting discussion you started.

    You are right with what you said, that your level of success totally depends on what your goals are for your business, if you meet those goals then you are successful.

    I also think it depends on which part of the world you are located. In some countries it doesn’t take too much money to be successful while in others it takes a lot more money.

    What constitutes a successful online business in these different countries will be different.

    And this translates to less time needed to be successful in some countries, versus other countries.

    Do you agree?

    • Here in the west we equate money with success but that’s as far from the truth as we can get. Success in life is about individual happiness not monetary gain.

      I know plenty of IMers out there that will never achieve success no matter how much money they make because they only think of the money.

      The biggest and most rewarding successes have always come from helping others instead of yourself.

      I make my money from PPC and to me success is when I don’t loose money but I make no money from my blog yet I feel like I’m a success every time someone subscribes.

      Gordie Chase recently posted…A Secret Website That Can Create Crazy ROI For Your Image Ads (NO BS!)My Profile

  9. How long does it take to create a successful online business? Well, for me, I will say it depends on the kind of business and the enormity of the goals. Averagely, I will say a successful online businesses should take between 4-5 years to blossom!

  10. I don’t think there is really a timeline to determine how long successful business can be created online.

    My reason is that a lot of the factors that contribute to instant online success cannot be controlled.

    However, doing the basics and ensuring that the right promotions are made to meet the needs of the target audience readily helps to determine success.

  11. Well, creating a successful online business depends on the skill and experience of the entrepreneur.

    For someone without relative knowledge there would be constant struggles.

    However, if there is enough knowledge and definitive applicable skills then it becomes easier to increase chances of online success!

    So, the knowledge and skill of the entrepreneur is a huge factor for success.

  12. Business success timeline is relative but researches and data like those provided by the SBA have given entrepreneurs head start on the average period of some successful ventures.

    Nevertheless, various factors like the amount of research, hard work, skill and experience of the owner affect the success of the venture! These also affect the timing!

  13. Hey Gordie,

    I truly support the idea that it takes 3-5 years to have a successful business. The idea of having a business successful within 6 months is not too far fetched though. For someone in network marketing or affiliate marketing a successful business could be as easy as making their first sale. Another may think of success as having more money come in than they are spending to keep the business going.

    I kind of feel like success is when I can walk away and the business chugs along without me. I think of it as if I were running an offline business like a bakery. Those first years I am going to be working night and day, doing all of the tasks by myself because the business cannot afford to pay for an employees salary.

    But, as time goes on there will be someone to cover the cash register, and then someone to bake the dough in the morning and then someone to make the dough at night. Once all of the jobs are covered and the bakery can operate on its own I would call that a successful business.

    But, then again success can only be determined by the person putting in the work.
    Adam D. Mason recently posted…Begin TeachingMy Profile

  14. Hey Gordie,

    A well worded article. The point is simple and sweet.

    My question to all the readers; Do you want to be another statistic? Are you average? Are you going to base your success on the failure of others?

    I hope the answer is “NO!”. However, setting realistic goals is important too and persistence is key.

    Even if it did take 5-7 years to run a successful business like the SBA says, isn’t that better than the 40+ year plan to work for someone else?

    I think so!

    • I know that feeling very well Janice, when my blog finally started to make a profit it was shutdown by WordPress.

      That was the first lesson I learned about parking on real estate that didn’t belong to you. Just keep up your branding, stay involved and watch your numbers, you’ll be profiting in no time.

      I’m glad some of the comments helped you, thanks.

  15. The time range will vary based on the people itself. It can be 6 years but…how much time spent in one day?
    There’s person who needs 8 years because he/she only spend 2 hours/day while the person with faster time spends 15 hours/day.
    It’s also based on the existing skill. The one with website skill will have faster time to start rather than the one who have to start from zero.
    However, everything will go back to willingness.
    The bigger the willingness, whether it’s slow or fast, the success is right there waiting for you 🙂
    Ivana Dee recently posted…How to generate Your First $$$ Online?My Profile

  16. Hi Gordie,

    When people ask me ” How long does it take to create a successful online business and make good money on the internet?” I immediately start to ask them about their commitment and how serious they are about starting a real business online.

    Because building a successful online business takes commitment. Not a year or a few years will get you there. you should give it a go for at least 3-5 years

    Thanks so much,

    • Opportunity is all around us and it’s even easier to make it online now than it was before. The problem most people have is they don’t establish a real plan and wind up not taking action because of it.

      Action should be part of the plan instead of the end result. The plan should be designed with action steps. Being committed to a business idea and having a well prepared plan could enable you to succeed no matter what the time frame.

      Well that’s my opinion.

      Gordie Chase recently posted…Don’t Believe Everything You Hear About Blogging…My Profile

  17. Hello Gordie,

    I totally agree!

    I think I like the analogy of success being like an iceberg. It is really easy for people to look from the outside in and think you made it big overnight. That is true with any skill, business, or success story. People see the end result and they don’t see everything underneath.

    Success is only about 5-10% of the story. Besides that there is hard work, failures, perseverance, mini successes, planning, studying, learning, and so much more that goes into one person’s success. Like you said, Amazon took 3 years. Most people give up after 3 months (I know I feel like giving up after 3 months).

    To add to that, sometimes, the first idea isn’t the winner…sometimes it takes 2,3,4,5….20 iterations of ideas to actually get one to stick.

    That is why I love reading biographies of people like Jeff Bezos. It all comes out, the good, the bad and the ugly. Not just the fairy tale ending…

    Good Luck on all your ventures!

    Joe Wilson recently posted…My First Pop Up RestaurantMy Profile

    • You’re right success is all small percentage of the overall story.

      The problem is we sell the success narrative because that’s what sells. Most people don’t even read the back story of how it took 6 long years of 18 hour days and no family life o succeed.

      I will say never give up and if your plans not working modify it until it does.

  18. Hi Gordie,

    That is an interesting statistic about 5-7 for a successful business. Some may find that a long time but I find it actually a little encouraging.

    I am just coming back to internet marketing. In the past I probably got discouraged because I did not have reasonable goals and reasonable time frames.

    I think 5-7 years is a reasonable time frame.

    It is true what you said, some of the guru’s claimed overnight success but who know how long they were preparing by doing things like research and studying… Plus those overnight success stories aren’t realistic.

    Some people win the lottery, it doesn’t mean that just because we bought a ticket we will too.

    We need to have reasonable expectations, time frames, stay focused and take major action.

    Take care Gordie,


  19. Hi Gordie,

    As others have said in a variety of ways, success is relative. What I consider success, may not mean success to another person. To me success means being able to make a living with my online activities. Even this is relative because “a living” for me may be $100,000 a year. For someone else, “a living” may be $50,000, $300,000 or even $500,000 a year.

    So even though the SBC put an estimate of 5-7 years, this number depends on what each of us believes constitutes success.

    Thanks for your article, and thanks for giving us something to ponder as we continue our internet journey.
    Susan Woodard recently posted…Blog and Promote Affiliate ProgramsMy Profile

  20. Wow, you absolutely opened my eye.
    Today’s people want to get success right now and for free.
    People are completely in la-la-land.
    And if they don’t get it, they say “it doesn’t work”.
    I am not sure how long it takes.
    For my the definition of success would be to make enough money to replace my day job. And to do this in less hours that my day job…
    We’ll see how long it will take.