How To Recognize When An Opportunity Is Right For You

How often does opportunity strike? Is it a once in a lifetime proposition. Is it your only hope for starting a business before it’s gone forever? Or is it something that comes again and again waiting for you to be ready for it?


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A few weeks ago I came across a post by Laura Spencer for Freelance Folder about 7 freelancing secrets for balancing work and life. One of the secrets was that you shouldn’t believe opportunities are once in a lifetime. In Laura’s words.

We freelancers put a lot of pressure on ourselves by believing that a project or product is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. We knock ourselves out to get that opportunity, believing that this is our only chance. Most of the time, these unique opportunities are not really so unique. In reality, most legitimate opportunities repeat themselves over time.

I agree, but think there’s more to the story.

Opportunity Strikes Often, but it’s Seldom the Same

I’ve mentioned wanting to build a business around WordPress themes for several years now. When I first started thinking about it, there weren’t a lot of theme shops online and the opportunity existed to build a business where limited competition was present.

That opportunity no longer exists because there are many, many theme shops around today. However, the opportunity to build a business around WordPress themes still exists and likely will as long as WordPress exists.

The general opportunity is there though some of the specifics have changed. The lack of competition is long gone. It takes new skills to work with WordPress. The market has different needs and wants. Price points have changed. However, the general opportunity to build a business around WordPress themes (or plugins) is there as it always was.

I did miss an opportunity and that was to get in on something early. That doesn’t suggest I could never build a successful theme business or that I would have been better off jumping at the earlier opportunity. It’s possible at the time:

  • My WordPress skills weren’t sufficient
  • My understanding of the market wasn’t sufficient
  • My ability to reach that market wasn’t sufficient
  • My understanding of price points wasn’t sufficient
  • My business acumen wasn’t sufficient

Any of the above could have rendered the business a failure despite the advantages the opportunity provided.

It’s possible that while getting in early would have meant fewer competitors, I might not have been ready in enough of the other aspects needed to build that business. Missing the earlier opportunity meant giving up the specific advantages it brought, but the opportunity comes around again and again bringing new advantages and difficulties with it each time it does.

My abilities grow and change over time as do the specifics of the opportunity. My probability for success will be greatest when the skills I bring to the business best align with the specific advantages and difficulties the opportunity brings to it.

Sometimes You Have to Jump on an Opportunity

Sometimes it makes sense to jump on an opportunity. A few years ago a forum I posted to was having some issues. The owners at the time showed a lack of interest and concern for the community. At one point the forum went down for a couple of weeks with little explanation and zero apology when it eventually came back online. For much of the remaining community it was a last straw that would send them away for good.

I had been the sole moderator of this forum for about a year and was ready to take a larger role in running one. With the community about to disintegrate and being ready to take charge of it, I grabbed the opportunity to build a new forum around an existing community wanting a new home.

5 years later my business forum is still growing. Had I hesitated even a few days though the opportunity to build it would have been gone. In this instance my abilities matched well with the specifics of the opportunity. Those specifics were time sensitive in that there was a limited time frame in which that community would still be a community.

Concluding Thoughts

An opportunity isn’t a guarantee of success. Many different things have to happen for a business to be successful. An opportunity provides for an easier path with one or more of those things, but rarely does it hand you instant and lasting success on its own.

When an opportunity presents itself there are a few things you should ask yourself when deciding whether or not to take it.

  • Is it time sensitive?
  • Is it unique or can it be duplicated?
  • How will conditions and context change if you wait?
  • How well do your abilities align with the specifics of the opportunity?

You should always be watching for opportunities, whether it’s for a new business or a way to improve your existing business. Just remember that opportunity doesn’t equal success. It’s a potential path to making success easier, but you have to be ready to travel down that path.

You can ready yourself by paying attention to your business and industry and everything connected to it. Understand what it will take to succeed and how well you can or can’t do those things. Recognize where an opportunity helps with the process and also what you might have to give up in accepting it.

If you aren’t ready it’s ok to let an opportunity pass. It will come along though it will take a different form and offer different advantages to help with success. You’ll also find the things you observe and pay attention tend to shape the form of the next opportunity you recognize.

The real secret to opportunity is that it’s always in front of you. The key is in recognizing what specific advantages the opportunity brings and whether or not they align well with what you can bring to the business at that time.

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