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What it Takes to be an "Overnight Success"

by Valerie Young

Hillary Price, creator of the syndicated cartoon Rhymes With Orange, is clearly a success. Not only is she one of the noticeably few female cartoonists to be syndicated, but at 25 she was also the youngest woman with a syndicated daily comic strip. Ten years later, her cartoons are featured in over 100 newspapers.

After graduating from Stanford, Hillary submitted her cartoons to the San Francisco Chronicle where she says the editor was "kind enough" to routinely feature them in the Sunday Book Review/Opinion section. She also suffered through numerous rejection letters from syndication companies. Like anyone who is good at what they do, Hillary worked hard at honing her craft. She also took concrete steps to realize her dream. Despite all of this, a newspaper reporter wrote of the positive response King Features Syndicate had to Hillary’s submission, and I quote, "she got lucky." Nonsense!

I couldn’t help but wonder how many people would read that article and say, "Yeah, she was really lucky" Or, "I wish I were that lucky." Is there such a thing as being in the right place at the right time? Sure. But more often than not it is our efforts that bring us luck. Or, as the great producer and film mogul Sam Goldwyn once said, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

Reality shows like American Idol and American Inventor further reinforce the rags to riches dream. The idea of instant success is alluring. I’m no exception. When I first left my corporate job to strike out on my own, things moved painfully slow – or so it seemed. On one particularly discouraging day, I decided to document my progress over the previous year. Although no one thing resulted in any major financial success, the list of accomplishments and small successes served as a good reality check. While I was certainly no overnight success, little by little I was making progress.

For example, in the first year I signed on as a columnist for a Cape Cod newspaper. It was an unpaid gig but by getting my name and work out there led to other media opportunities. I produced six issues of my newsletter and had 50 paid subscribers, I was interviewed by two radio stations, the newsletter was featured in two local newspapers, and I landed four paid speaking gigs – all while still holding down my full time job.

The following year I negotiated with my then employer to transition from employee to consultant, was featured in the Boston Globe, Entrepreneur’s Business Start Ups magazine, and the Wall Street Journal, bought a new computer, learned a new software package that made producing the newsletter far easier, and landed more than double the number of speaking engagements as the year before.

A year later I actively courted USA Weekend magazine. After coming up with the novel idea of mailing each of the editors a box containing a planner with the words "Get a life" on the calendar, I "lucked out" when they came back and asked me to submit tips for couples on downsizing to one income living. Knowing that my company name was now going to reach millions of people was just the incentive I needed to put together one of these new fangled things called a website. That was in 1998. Eleven years and much hard work later, I earn four times what I made in my corporate job. More importantly I own my time and life.

If you hate your job as much as I did, you probably wish you could make the leap to your dream job "yesterday." But while things may seem to be moving slowly in the moment, most entrepreneurs will tell you that once they stopped to reflect on their progress they realized that things were moving relatively quickly.

That’s what happened to Rodney Washington anyway. Rodney’s day job is with a hotel in Las Angeles. Despite working full-time, here is what he’s managed to accomplish in just over a year:

Upgraded from very small point and shoot camera equipment that allows him to shoot more professional jobs

Developed a web site at where he promotes his services and sells his prints

Shot two fashion editorial lay outs and a corporate holiday event

Got signed by a new client to shoot a celebrity golf tournament this summer and to build their website, including creating a photo portfolio

Invited to go on his first press junket to photograph a resort in California wine country

Enrolled in the AWAI’s Turn Your Photos into Cash course

Found a mentor who’s showing him the ropes about shooting for stock photography, licensing his images, and how to pitch and submit his work to Art Directors for editorial jobs

Launched a monthly online journal called the "Traveling Pair" where he visits resorts, wineries and festivals and shares his memories through his camera

Began developing his own photography workshop

Had his first show at a Los Angeles coffee shop and is actively taking steps to get his images in more public spaces The biggest thing Rodney says he’s learned is that, "It’s a process and there are so many different directions I can go. I’m really learning new things everyday… [Over the past year] my learning curve has lessened tremendously."

Valerie Young may be contacted at

Profiting From into Passions® expert, Valerie Young, abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at offering resources for people who want to work at what they love. Her career change tips have been cited in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, More, Kiplinger's, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and An expert on the Impostor Syndrome (, Valerie has spoken on How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Boeing, Intel, Chrysler, IMB, P&G, Harvard University, and American Women in Radio and Television.


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