People & Hats: A Business Lesson

In Marketing, Self-Promotion, News & Stuff, Pep Talks by David6 Comments


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.

The lessons?

Lesson A
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.

Lesson B
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.


  1. Hey David,

    I haven’t commented here recently, but I’m always been here, hanging in the wings, feeling the breeze off your whirlwind of travel and books. I really appreciated this article, because it helps underscore for me something I’m realizing as I take that bold, scary step into being my own boss. The fact is, in order to succeed, you just need to use common sense. If you want to earn more clients, treat the ones you’ve got with dignity and respect. If you want better search rankings in Google, write good content that would be of interest to your proposed audience. I’m finding that no matter what anyone says about SEO, PR, and various other forms of snake oil, that it actually comes down to having, and using, common sense.

    And I love the title too, so whimsical, yet serious. Well done, and it’s nice to see pictures in the posts again, they’re always a welcome treat.


  2. Ditto on the title :).
    I think that way too often, in this time of digital networks and social media, people overlook the power of real human connection. I think more than ever, there is a need for a “more human” business approach.
    Congrats on your gig!

  3. I love the photo, David. -so amazing from an airplane window with an iPhone.

    Passion, purpose and vision are essential for a well-defined brand. I think you experience genuine connections because you are authentic, because you’re clear about who you are and what you are about.

    Thanks for this great post, there are several business lessons here.

  4. David,
    This is an excellent post. I could not agree more with what you say, but know I do not employ this as much as I should. Thank you for the reminder and instilling the motivation in me. Can’t wait to get the book!

  5. Mr. DuChemin,
    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy this post. I am just trying to break into photography on the side and it is very helpful to hear the wisdom of those who are DOING it now. Thanks for taking your time to help. Who knows, maybe one day I can help back.
    Gratefully reading,
    Clayton Pearlstein

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