Creating Your Own Opportunities

opportunityAt the height of the recession in 2008, I was laid off from my video editing job of eight years.

Up until that point, I had it made. I earned a very comfortable $72k a year salary living in Los Angeles, had a huge office with state of the art equipment, an amazing boss, and great benefits.

Since full time work in my field was scarce at the time, I started freelancing. While I had a great severance package for six months, and a couple large freelancing jobs in the beginning, what mostly happened over the next four years was me blowing through my savings, not budgeting, not networking enough, not improving my skills as a video editor, and not creating my own opportunities.

The good ol’ days are over. I’m not even sure when they ended “officially,” but if you think you will stay in one job, or even one career your whole life, and get too comfortable just phoning your work in and collecting a paycheck, then you are missing out on some incredible opportunities.


Multiple Streams of Income

With freelancing it’s almost always feast or famine. At the time of the feast it can be difficult to do things like side jobs, or to set yourself up for passive income, because of lack of time. That’s why it’s important to set up these things or work on them during downtime, or during “the famine.

Now I realize a lot of you might be full time employees or students, but you never know when your situation might change unexpectedly, and having several sources of income can be very helpful.

There are a lot of different ways you can work on side income/side jobs/or passive income:

Freelancing: If you work full time or are a student, find out what skills you could put to good use. Are you good with drawing? Then start creating art to sell on Etsy, or create graphics for websites and blogs.

The same thing if you are a good writer or editor. There are so many websites out there like Elance, Guru, or even Craigslist that look for freelancers.

I started freelance writing after I created my own blog, and realized I could make a little extra money staff writing for other blogs.

Virtual Assistant/Errand Runner/Handyman/Driver: Sites like TaskRabbit take bids on jobs from everything like rides to the airport, party help, hanging holiday decorations, cleaning, helping people move, etc. It takes a while to get set up and established on these sites, but once you do, you can take jobs whenever you get free time, which for me tends to be in the summer when my video editing work slows down.

The bonus for taking these types of jobs is that it leads to what everybody should be doing regardless of their employment status, which is networking. You never know when you might be picking someone up from the airport that might be in the same field as you. You’d be surprised what a small world this is!

It also gives you a chance to work on socializing skills if you’re like me and have a tendency to be on the shy side.

I’ve been a TaskRabbit for about a year, and have made a lot of great connections through various assignments.



Like I mentioned before, take every opportunity to network, regardless if you’re in that comfy job which you love and think you’ll be at forever.

That was one of my biggest mistakes as a full time employee. I got complacent about networking, so by the time I really needed to have contacts when I was laid off, I hardly had any!

It’s a good idea to set up some kind of database using a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all your contacts.

What do they do? Who do they work for? How did you meet them? It’s OK to get business cards, but how often have you misplaced them? And just putting the info in your cell phone leaves out key details about the context of the relationship.

It’s a good idea to drop a line (a simple email will do) to your contacts at least a couple times a year.

Dear _______, I’m _____ and we met through our mutual friend ______ at the (company name) Christmas party. I just wanted to touch base with you to see if you’d be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee sometime? I’d love to hear more about the work you do at your company.

This is why having some sort of database is very helpful.

I also think it’s a good idea for everyone, and I mean everyone to have a basic website which contains your resume, examples of your work (if that pertains), and testimonials.

You can set up a basic website with little to no cost these days, so there is no excuse not to have one. If you don’t know where to start then I highly recommend WordPress. Also keep up your LinkedIn profile, and utilize social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to network.


Keep Up With Your Field’s Job Skills

This is another area where I completely dropped the ball when I was working full time. Because I was only required to work with one or two types of software in my editing job, I got lazy and never took advantage of employee educational discounts, or even free training.

Now when I look for video editing related work, most companies require far more software skills than I possess and should have to make myself more employable.

If you plan on staying in your field and being successful, it’s imperative to stay on the cutting edge, at least as much as your budget permits.

All of this stuff I learned the hard way. The good news is you can learn from my mistakes, and do all of this now instead of later when it may be too late or more difficult.


How are you currently creating your own opportunities? 

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  1. says

    There are tons of opportunities everywhere, you just have to open your eyes a bit more. Networking is very important, most of my jobs were found just telling people what I do and asking if they need me.

  2. says

    I think I always created my own opportunities! It doesn’t stop with my career either! I tend to look situations as problems /opportunities and come up with a solution. A couple months ago, I was offered a guest lecture at a university and took the opportunity. It is now leading my career in a different direction.

  3. says

    I tend to forget about networking. I know that I should be doing more than I do, but I just have a hard time doing it. I really like talking to and getting to know new people, but I guess I just don’t want to go out of my way to do it. I’ll have to work on that!

    • says

      It’s something I need to focus on more too. It’s easy to live in your own little bubble and not get out there, but the only person it hurts in the end is me if my work dries up and I don’t have enough people to keep in touch with. Hopefully you can ramp up this skill soon!

  4. says

    Tonya, great advice. It is far too easy to become content with the life we are living, without preparing ourselves for the future. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Personally, I am about to take a career risk for the benefit of my future self and my future career. I’m creating my own opportunity to propel me in the right direction and out of this slump!

  5. says

    I used to only think about diversification with my investing, but never with my income. Then I started reading finance blogs, and realized I needed to at multiple streams of income so I am balanced on the incoming and outgoing. It’s worked out well, and I have multiple avenues of income online, as well as a job as a tax accountant, all on top of my good full-time job. I feel much more secure knowing that I can bring in some cash money outside of the 9 to 5. :)

    • says

      I think that on top of a 9-5 is the best of both worlds. I really wish I would have explored that more when I was working full time. At the time I just wanted to put in my hours and be done. My laziness in that dept got me nowhere. The good news it’s never too late to start. Glad to hear about all your successes!

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