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How to position your creative business (and yourself) for success

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When asked about their success, a lot of entrepreneurs respond with, “well, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Or, “I stumbled upon the opportunity and took it.”

For the rest of us, this can be incredibly frustrating, as this isn’t the concrete answer we’re hoping for. We want steps we can follow:

  • Step 1: Go to the opportunity store (oh, and by the way, here are the directions to it)
  • Step 2: Select your favorite opportunity
  • Step 3: Reign supreme at it
  • Step 4: Be forevermore successful

Wouldn’t that be nice?

But what we get is this amorphous answer that can’t even get us to Step 1. We don’t even know where Step 1 lies from here, so we feel like we have absolutely no idea which step to take in which direction.

Opportunity is “somewhere out there.” Opportunity is “all around you.”

I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. And it’s maddening.

So I’m here today to help you nail down this opportunity thing.

I’m going to tell you up front I don’t have a road map to the opportunity store, either. I wish I did.

But from my own “aha!” moments, business successes, business failures, and business ideas that never left the drawing board, I can help you empower yourself and your business for future success.

Seeing opportunity

There are things that interest you. There are things that every time you run up against them, you think to yourself, “This could be done so much better. Someone should fix this.”

(This is opportunity knocking, folks.)

The questions is, should that someone be you?

Now much of the time, the next thought through your head is, “…But I don’t care enough to fix it.”

And that’s okay.

If you’re not passionate enough to fix it, it’s probably not the right opportunity for you.

Once in a while, you get passionate about it. You say, “I could do this so much better. No one else gets it.”

Those are the opportunities you should really put some thought into. (More on this in a moment.)

Example: Take Reliable PSD. Cofounders David and Lou reached their limit with crappy design-to-code companies. They knew they could “do it right.”

So they put some serious thought into it and built a thriving business focused on providing the excellent customer service designers crave with the high-quality websites they need to satisfy their clients.

Define risk vs. reward

Whether you’re “lucky” enough to walk into an opportunity like this or not, you won’t be prepared to evaluate opportunity if you haven’t defined what risk and reward mean to you.

The funny thing is, we do this thousands of times throughout our lives, and yet sometimes we still feel completely unqualified to define them.

  • What’s the risk vs reward of taking a new job instead of keeping your current one?
  • Of driving versus flying?
  • Of taking a day off versus putting in extra hours?
  • Of tackling a project you’re not 100% sure how to complete yet?
  • Of being 10 minutes late or really looking your best?

But when we get to opportunity, we freeze up. How would I know what “too risky” is? Is that enough reward for my risk?

Yet you’re the only one qualified to quantify these answers!

Example: Elon Musk had it made when PayPal sold. His net worth shot up to the hundreds of millions. He could’ve retired “successful” and spent the rest of his life doing whatever pleased him.

But Elon doesn’t define success that way. He’s a bit of a go-getter with a sense of purpose, so he took his earnings and sunk them into 2 of the most risky (by traditional wisdom) business ventures: private spaceflight and automobiles. Nobody in their right minds would’ve told him good opportunities existed in either industry, and even fewer would have come to the same “yes, let’s do this” conclusion.

Yet for him (and very likely only him), the reward – and the passion – outweighed the risk.

Note: Consulting with mentors, peers, business professionals, and anyone else whose advice you trust is always a wise decision in your evaluation process. But ultimately, the final answer(s) is yours.

Of course until you have a specific opportunity to evaluate, you can’t nail down the specifics. But you can nail down the process and start to trust your intuition, logic, and gut feelings.

And this is the most important part.

Create the opportunity for opportunity

So let’s say you’ve defined some basic risks and rewards, and you have a pretty solid idea of what rewards would constitute accepting higher risks.

(Congratulations! You’re starting to know yourself better than most.)

But you still haven’t found opportunity. You haven’t found that irritant that you’re passionate about.

Here’s a secret: I don’t believe anyone finds opportunity. I think we can only put ourselves in a position such that we’re ready to capitalize on opportunity when it is revealed to us.

The barrier might be our own inability to see it, or there may be some external obstacle preventing a clear view, but in my humble opinion and experience, opportunity is discovered rather than hunted.

So what can you do if, as I say, you’re not in control?

You can create the opportunity for opportunity. Here’s how:

  • Put yourself and your business in a position to accept new challenges.
  • Create a pool of resources (people, funds, other businesses) you can rely on. The bigger pool of resources you have, the more opportunities become available to you.
  • Be a resource for others in their quest for opportunity. You never know when you’ll have the ability to piggyback off another’s opportunity and both reap the rewards.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses, not just in business, but as a person. Learn to accept the hand you’re dealt and play it to the best of your ability.
  • That being said, never stop learning and growing. You can accept that you’re not a great negotiator, for example, but you can always become better than you used to be if you want to.

And perhaps the most important of them all, stay open-minded. The thing you may go on to become very successful at may not have even occurred to you yet.

In fact, tons of successful entrepreneurs didn’t start out with the end goal of being successful in the way(s) that they have.

They just put themselves in a position to accept opportunity and kept their eyes open for a good one.

Questions? Comments?

Share them below! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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Written by April Greer

Staff at

April is a freelance designer with a rare combination of creative expertise and technical savvy. She's a positive, friendly, curious being who believes the most important rule to follow is the Golden Rule. She enjoys volunteering, organic gardening and composting, reading, puzzles, video games, music, and sports.

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  1. Wow, really motivational and inspiring, especially the area of weighing the risk and reward. I believe that every venture or opportunity has its risk and reward, once the reward outwiegh the risk, go for it. Nice post, anyone that is still in doubt of an opportunity should apply this simple principle. Awesome post

    1. April Greer says:

      Thank you, Mark! 🙂 I’m so glad it hit home for you. 🙂

  2. Gabriella says:

    Great tips here on how to put yourself in a place where you can move to find ways to build your business.

  3. Wow! This is so true. Thanks for the much needed motivation.

    1. April Greer says:

      You’re so welcome, Navare!