Last night I received a call from a friend of mine who is contemplating a move. He is an independent consultant affiliated with a national organization and he’s been offered an interesting opportunity with another organization. His current position offers a higher potential cash flow (although a big payday hasn’t happened yet) and the new position offers a lower overall income potential but the cash flow is more immediate and the marketing investment is substantially less.
Then today I met with another friend of mine who has a job but is thinking about developing his own business on the side and building it up slowly.
I think both of these people are in a similar situation and have a huge opportunity that they can take advantage of. And I thought I’d write it here because I know of several other small business owners who may find themselves in the same situation at one point or another in the life of their business.
The situation is this: Both of my friends have reached a plateau in their professional lives. I don’t mean that in a bad way (the way some people use the word “plateau”). In fact, I mean it quite positively: They both have the opportunity to take on higher risk/higher paying ventures but they are momentarily accepting the lower risk/lower paying “safer bets”. Consider it an intentional or strategic plateau; a place to run on autopilot for a season.
There are a variety of reasons for choosing to run on the plateau for a while, but the bottom line is that both friends now have a relatively easy and consistent road ahead of them for the short term. It’s beneficial in some ways because it helps to reduce risk and increase time and cash flow, which are occasionally necessary in the life of the entrepreneur.
This is an exciting opportunity that I think can lead to even greater things. A plateau is a place where you can run on cruise control for a while, which gives you the opportunity to invest time and money and effort into…
When business owners/consultants/freelancers/etc. find a nice, easy gig that will sustain them for a while, it sometimes feels like the Nirvana of entrepreneurship: You get the own-your-own-business income without the sweat of marketing aggressively. That’s the plateau.
The mistake would be to just coast. To just take in the scenery. To just sit back and enjoy the ride. But I think there’s an opportunity to turn the plateau into a springboard. I think there’s an opportunity to enjoy the fact that one aspect of your professional life can run on autopilot with less risk and less time (and yes, slightly less income) while you pour your efforts strategically into another place: The future you.
Your plateau can be your springboard — the opportunity for you to market yourself very aggressively. And, because you aren’t marketing yourself aggressively to win business today, you can market yourself far more strategically… positioning yourself for where you want to be when you’ll reach the end of your plateau.
Here are a few ideas:
- Select keywords and start producing content for those keywords. Yes, you won’t reach the top of Google tomorrow but that’s okay because you don’t need to achieve that result tomorrow. You have time.
- Start building assets, content, products and services for where you want to be in 2-3 years (or whenever your plateau is going to end).
- Start networking. But remember: Network with the people that will help the future you, not the present you!
- Refine your brand so that it’s no longer expressing who you are today, but rather who you will be when you have to go back into the marketplace to get more clients.
- Revise your business plan to reflect “tomorrow’s” business.
- Build a following/subscription list/fanbase. Do it now when your business isn’t depending on it.
Chances are, you may be at the same point now or in the future, too. It usually comes with long term contracts or with employment. If taking on more work isn’t right for you, then using some of your downtime to create the “you” of tomorrow is an investment in your long-term success.