A quick shot taken with my iPhone on the way to Tampa last week to spend time with Scott Kelby and the gang – a trip which in fact would also brilliantly illustrate the sermon below. Mostly I just included it to make up for some of the posts with no images from last week.
I spent the weekend with one of my closest friends and his family; a rare chance to see them afforded me by a speaking gig for the government. And there’s a lesson or two in here that I think are worth unpacking, if only for myself. So let me set the stage for you and tell you this was a great gig. I flew an hour to get there, presented 2 ninety minute presentations for 2 wonderful crowds, was paid very well, and then had a nice chat with my client about doing it a couple more times before the year is over. I really enjoyed myself, enjoyed this client more than most, and got paid – did I mention this? – very well compared to a day of shooting.
How did this come about? Glad you asked. My friend is as close to me as a brother. He’s a fan too. And when one of his co-workers told him she was going to Kathmandu during a period I would be there, Troy told me I should connect. We did, had a lovely afternoon and some chai overlooking the Boudha stupa in Kathmandu and we parted ways, she to the orphanage she was volunteering at, and I to my work. A couple months later we both returned to our lives in Canada and she put me in touch with a friend of hers who uses speakers a couple times a year. It was a good fit and one thing led to another. I spoke about my journey and told my story. I showed a lot of photographs.
Conversations Lead To Opportunities. For all the clever talk about marketing and positioning and branding and quarterly mailers, hands down the most powerful marketing tool I have is one fan or friend telling another person about me and seeing where the connections occur. It’s not magic and it isn’t leveraging friendships to make a buck. It’s genuine connections and openness to every opportunity that comes your way. You can’t control it, and have no idea where it will lead, but at the risk of sounding repetitive – the single best thing I ever do for my business is to love, respect, and make time for people.
Explore your full set of skills and passions. These days many journalists are finding that they need to diversify into multi-media to keep working, but they aren’t the only ones. Making a life in photography isn’t just taking photographs. Selling prints isn’t taking photographs, but many photographers make money that way. Teaching technique or writing articles isn’t making images but it’s a good way to remain in the community and industry you love while still making a living. And public speaking, in my case to government employees about my unique journey and the power of vision to change a life, isn’t making images either – but I love it. I’m good at it. It pays bills. And it – here’s where it loops around – introduces me to more people and more opportunities. Sure, you’ll wear a number of hats – that’s a given – but the more intentionally you wear those hats and don’t ignore any of them, the more intentionally you can find work that only a photographer with that combination of hats can do.
Within a few months I’ll be announcing my next book, and without giving it all away it’s a book that discusses making a life and a living in photography – this stuff is at the heart of it. People want steps and formulas, checklists for success, but those don’t exist because at the beginning and end of it all is one person talking to, and serving, another person. The ways in which we find each other and connect are endless. But it begins with knowing what you love and what you’re good at, then opening yourself to every opportunity that comes your way and seeing where it leads.