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.

021: David Molnar: How Intentionality, Determination, and Heart Built His Business One Relationship at a Time [Podcast]
Photo Credit: Digital Explorer via Compfight cc
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.

You can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

For more on how David implemented these steps that helped him build an online business, check out the full episode of the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher (be sure to leave a review if you haven’t already done so). And to download a free copy of his book, iPhone Only Photography: Shooting Essentials, visit his website (this is an exclusive offer just for my readers and listeners).

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.

Special Announcement: My online course Tribe Writers is currently open for registration. This is the online course to help you discover your unique voice, find the audience your words deserve, and build a powerful platform that will get you published. It’s only available a few times a year, and registration closes this week. Learn more about it here.

What do you need to overcome or change to reach your goals? Share in the comments.

44 thoughts on “021: How a Photographer Built an Online Business, One Relationship at a Time [Podcast]

  1. That was an awesome podcast! I listened to it while editing photos, (and realized that I must be really stupid.) I have an email list with more than 4300 people..I am just not doing anything with it. Thanks for the motivation! I have some work to do 😉

      1. Yeah, just need to do something with it! I’m going to check out some of your photos today.

          1. I did look at your work, and shared your fb page with my friends. You are very good, I particularly like the way you capture people, and make them look awesome. Looking forward to learn more from you. THANK YOU SO MUCH!
            All the best,

  2. That was great, very inspirational! Thing that holds me back the most is my low self confidence. Often times, I lack that can do attitude.

    1. Are you wanting to write? Look for low hanging fruit, like newsletters. Establish a relationship with a newsletter creator. Start out writing short articles. Take time to let the article rest and then edit. Maybe attend a writing workshop to boost your confidence. Read, read, read!

    2. Thanks @write_anya:disqus! I’m glad to hear it was inspiring for you. I love what Jeff says about being a writer. You don’t need to wait till someone proclaims you as a writer… you just need to write.

  3. Great interview. Not only valuable for writing, but online business strategy as well.
    I write books as well that contain my cartoons and art and some writing. I used CreateSpace of Amazon to publish them. But I’ve been learning more and more about e-books. Why did you make the choice of going with an e-book exclusively? I’d love to know.

            1. @nakedpastor:disqus @jeffgoins:disqus Thanks for your kinds words! As per your “e-book” question, I thought about this a lot. I do plan on offer a print version and selling on amazon and iBooks eventually. But for the initial launch I wanted to keep 97% of the revenue generated because all the buyers would be people I’m sending from my list. I didn’t want to give away 50% to amazon? (with digital downloads by the megabyte) My eBook is also design intensive and a PDF was the best way to keep all the design in tact. Lastly, I didn’t print a copy because I knew the content would only be current for a few months and I want to be able to keep it as updated as possible. I do plan on doing a print version after iPhone 6 and iOS 8 comes out 🙂 Hope this helps. Feel free to email me and we can chat more.

  4. I can’t believe you’re going to be in Spokane . . . and I’m going to miss you!!!! I have hunter education class the night of your meet-up with my 10yr. old son . . . it’s been on the calendar for months and I truly cannot miss it — any chance for a daytime gathering?

  5. Thank you for the summary of this interview. I don’t like podcasts but I started to listen to this one because I was also in a car accident that prevented me from continuing my career. I began an online magazine 1.5 years ago and I love it! It’s not making money yet, but it is beginning to provide opportunities-and that’s what I want. This podcast was too long and I didn’t stick around to here how he boosted his business. I do not have a product to sell, but I’m sharing ideas that might help people. The magazine has its own team of volunteers that help out at a variety of events. I’m doing what David is doing. I can only believe this will all work out eventually.

      1. You wrestled in high school? An accident turned you into a camera wielding hipster? I knew we had a lot in common growing up on the Outer Banks, but there is so much more to the story!

  6. Leanne from Make Creativity Pay suggested this as a great interview, and she was right. Really interesting to hear an in-depth story, especially one which is so inspiring – it can’t have been easy to switch like that after the accident, and you managed to turn it into something amazing. Thanks for sharing so personally.

  7. This was a great interview, and a true testament to David’s spirit and stick-to-itiveness! I have had to overcome the need to do everything at once as I build my business. I am still working toward that goal, but have learned to pace myself somewhat. We are always a work in progress!

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