021: How a Photographer Built an Online Business, One Relationship at a Time [Podcast]
At 19 years old, David Molnar had plans of what he thought his future would look like. But in one moment, a horrible accident turned his world upside down. His college athletic scholarship and dream of being a pilot were gone forever. Now, he had to figure out what to do next.David thought he had it all figured out, but the accident showed him how quickly things can change, which is always the case in life. We are never quite as in control as we think.
The unexpected twist in David’s story, though, held an important opportunity.
Instead of getting angry at the world (which was a struggle), he chose to focus on what he could do. As a result, he found his true calling, which not only introduced him to the love of his life but led to one of the fastest-growing online platforms I’ve ever seen.
In this episode of The Portfolio Life, we talk about how tragedies can be turned into dreams, how serving others is the best way to get what you want, and why building an online business is something anybody can do.
David also shares specific steps he took to create explosive growth in his email list — over 12,000 people in three months — and how you can do the same.
Listen to the interview
To listen to the show, click the player below.
Endurance is essential to building anything
After spending a decade traveling the world as a successful celebrity and wedding photographer, David was ready for a change. He wanted more time to focus on his family and the freedom as an artist to say no to projects he wasn’t passionate about.
But in order to do that, he was going to have to find another way of making a living.
David knew he had to shift from what he calls a “wheelbarrow business” — one where you have to trade hours for dollars — to a more automated, scalable way of working.
Initially, he found it hard to switch directions. Full of starts and stops along the way, David’s journey is one of perseverance. It took him two years to write the book he had thought about writing for a long time. But once he published it, the book was the catalyst for everything else to come.
Most people spend years making plans and talking about their goals. Not David. Once he got serious, he accomplished amazing things — growing a huge email list and launching an online business — in a matter of months.
Looking back, there were some lucky moments, but there were also unexpected setbacks. What allowed him to endure, in spite of all that, was his commitment to finish.
Three steps to building anything (plus a bonus)
So what do we learn from David’s story? A few things:
- He was prepared. He made a practice of self-education by reading blogs and books and taking online courses that could help him. He studied and prepared for his transition. He didn’t just jump into the deep end of the pool; he invested the time in learning how to run an online business.
- He was committed. He gave freely to his online community, asking questions, sharing updates, and learning how to better serve an online audience as he was building one. He made his goals and deadlines public, which created accountability that forced him to finish his book.
- He didn’t give up. As many do, David could have given up, leaving himself stuck in the cycle of an eternal work-in-progress. Instead, he did something that scared him. He shipped. He found something people wanted and shared it.
And if you want to share something important with the world (a book, an online course, a product), you’re going to have to do the same by building trust, freely giving to people, and helping others solve their problems.
That’s what David did with his book, iPhone Only Photography, and what he continues to do with his online course.
You can’t go wrong with preparation, commitment, and perseverance. They are the glue that holds anything important together. But even those aren’t enough. You’ve got to have a giving mentality. As David says about those willing to give you their attention:
Treat them like royalty.
Remember: When you focus on what you can do for others, and not on what they can do for you, a relationship is built. When tempted to hold back, be even more generous. And when you’re not sure what to do, find ways to add more value.
In the end, it’s all about relationship.
I’d love to hear from you
So tell me. What are you thinking of this podcast so far? I’ve done short episodes and longer ones, as well as Q&As and in-depth interviews. What are you liking? What could use some work? I really want to know.
And if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to subscribe to The Portfolio Life (here’s how to do that in iTunes). It’s free and easy and ensures that you don’t miss a thing.
In other news, here are some places where we can connect in person in the near future:
- Come see me in Washington. I’m going to be speaking at Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, WA September 8 and 10. While I’m there, I’ll also be hosting a public meetup. Find out more and RSVP here.
- Say hi in New Orleans. I’m going to be speaking at #FinCon 2014 September 18-20 and I’d love to meet you while I’m there. Get the details of the meetup I’m cohosting with my friend Grant Baldwin. RSVP here.
What do you need to overcome or change to reach your goals? Share in the comments.