This post was originally published on the now-retired Make & Meaning blog on April 13th, 2010.

Many weeks ago I promised to write about opportunities. I specifically promised Alice, who also writes for Make and Meaning. I’d written a post on my blog in response to Diane’s M&M post about Free, and I called it That Woo Woo Money Thing. I wanted to provide a little explanation of what we fans of Free mean when we say that when you use Free in your business model, the money just seems to work out.

In my post I said this:

There’s one thing you have to do to get the money: seize (the right) opportunities when they come around. You don’t need to have an air-tight business model if you don’t want one. Free involves deliberately winging it. With a good emphasis on the deliberate AND on being comfortable winging it.

Then Alice asked about opportunities, and I said I’d write about seizing them and about things you might do to help conjure them.

Ladies of the air

"Ladies of the air" by kyz on Flickr (CC-A licensed)

So. “Opportunity” can mean very different things to different people and there are two things you should do to set yourself up to encounter one.

  1. Know what you want to achieve – your end goal. Do you want to make a certain amount of money from selling your crafts? Do you want to be interviewed in your local paper? Do you want to write for a popular blog?
  2. Keep that thing in mind every day and let it influence your decisions.

That all might seem vague, but I’ll venture a guess that for many people, knowing what you want and keeping it in mind will prove to be tremendously valuable. It’s simpler than making lists, it provides no barriers to you achieving your goals, it requires no systems or books or rules.

Also, I think some folks might not realize they haven’t actually clearly defined their goal. You may have a goal of supporting your family by selling your crafts, but that’s actually pretty vague. Do you know how much money you’d have to make each month to achieve that? Figure it out. That dollar amount is your actual goal. If you want to write for a popular blog, do you have a list of which blogs those might be? Do you consider a blog popular based on your own love for it, based on the amount of traffic it gets, based on the other blogs it keeps company with? Knowing more specifics about what your goal is will make it oodles more achievable.

Now, for keeping your goal in mind and letting it influence your decisions. If, when you wake up each morning, you remind yourself of your goal, it’ll sit there in the back of your mind all day. Not nagging you (if it nags you, smack it), but colouring your day. If your goal is to sell your crafts, that goal will sit at the back of your mind and churn quietly away on new product ideas. And whenever you have conversations or read blogs or scan the news or get alerts to events going on around town, your back-of-mind goal will be looking out for opportunities.

It might find opportunities to tell people what you’re up to (yay, word of mouth). It might find opportunities to forge new business relationships. It might find media opportunities or job postings. It might find inspiration in something seemingly unrelated but totally exciting.

I’ll give you an example.

Last week I started a new project. My goal for this project is big. I’d like it to be a source of income and I’d like that income to come from being hired to facilitate workshops. I’d also like it to be free online – I’d like everybody to be able to participate in this great-big online arts-and-crafts project whether they attend a workshop or not. I’d like to challenge people to think about crafts, art, beauty, creativity, aesthetics, and ugliness in a new way. And finally, I’d like every single person in the world to give it a shot. (Heck, if you can’t aim high, what’s the point?)

I launched the website for Mighty Ugly last Tuesday.

Before I launched it, I tweeted that I was about to do just that. A local reporter I met a few weeks ago (we then began to follow each other on Twitter – don’t knock Twitter as a great bearer of potential opportunities) asked if my idea was something she might do a story on. Now, I might have been tempted to tell her, “Mmm, not yet. Let’s see if the concept sticks.” Or, “Let’s wait to see if many people participate.” Instead I replied, “You tell me!” and I sent her the link.

Three days later, I got an email from her saying she’d be over in an hour with a cameraman. I could have said, “Wait! I won’t have time to clean my house!” Or “Wait! This is so new! What if it’s too early?!” But I knew it wasn’t too early, and I knew I could fake a clean house and still have time to adequately accessorize. My goal, after all, is for everyone in the world to explore some ugly. Starting with the local news was exactly the right start.

So. Sometimes all you need to do to conjure opportunities is to firmly shake the hand of a reporter when she introduces herself, and to stay in touch in a friendly way.

Then all you have to do to seize an opportunity is to say, “Yes! Of course you can come by in an hour” even if you’ve just gotten out of the shower, you haven’t eaten breakfast, your house is a mess and your favourite cardigan is in a pile of dirty laundry.

Not all opportunities are the right ones. To tell the difference, trust your gut!


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