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Monday Moment: DIY success story

Emma Grey

The first time American ‘YouTuber’ Colleen Ballinger uploaded a video of herself in character as Miranda Sings, her mum cried and thought no-one would ever take her seriously in her career (she’d recently graduated from university with a major in ‘vocal performance’). Colleen’s dad phoned and told her to take the video down.

She didn’t.

Six million social media followers later, she’s now on a world tour as a comedian and, last Thursday announced that Simon & Schuster would publish her first book in July. One day later, with the book not even available yet, she became an Amazon best seller. Not only did the book skyrocket to the top of its category—it became the third top selling book of all books on Amazon. Overnight.

But how does one become an ‘overnight success story’? Here are three things to set you on course.

The first is belief in yourself and what you’re doing, even when those closest to you can’t see it…

The second is years of hard work.

Colleen’s first ‘Miranda’ video was posted in 2008. Seven years of twice-weekly videos and social-media engagement later, she had developed such a dedicated fan base that she only had to post a three-minute video about her first book and she immediately became a best-selling author.

Her family is completely behind her now. Her brother helped write the book and her sister and parents appear in some of her videos. Sometimes people can’t see your vision at first, particularly if it’s a big departure from what they know, or from what you’ve done before. That’s when you have to be a leader.

Around the time that Miranda started posting videos, I left a 10-year career in the public service. I came from a family background where stability and loyalty are highly valued, and it was an incredibly angst-ridden decision to quit a relatively ‘secure’ career path and create something else…from scratch.

Building something like a business, or a comedy career, or anything ‘new’ takes time. The people who truly do achieve big things ‘overnight’ are rare—and I think chance often plays a large part in their success.

It’s persistence, hard work and relationship building that pays off in the end. When you’re ready to launch something or step up or take a risk, there’s no guarantee of success. You have to be okay with that uncertainty. More than that, you have to embrace it.

And as you shape and tweak what you’re doing by listening to feedback from your ‘audience’, you start to get better at it. It’s only by wading around in something new that we learn what works.

The third factor for success is FUN. If you don’t love something, you won’t stick at it. If you don’t stick at it, it won’t work.

Colleen created Miranda as an in-joke with her college friends. She didn’t set out to conquer YouTube or Amazon—that’s a by-product of doing what she loved for a few years, listening to her audience and taking risks.

When I take my daughter to Miranda’s sold-out Canberra performance in a few weeks, the teens will applaud the humour. I’ll applaud the fact that Colleen didn’t listen to her parents, and posted a second video.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock.


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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