As I was starting out in my career I faced a dilemma:
I needed proof to show clients so they would want to work with me. Photos, videos, press articles - you name it. I needed to be able to show future clients something that would help them say “Hey, this guy looks legit! Maybe we should work with him, too.”
The only problem was I needed the right kind of gigs to get those photos and videos. I instinctively realized that if I kept using photos from my early gigs then I would continue to get those kinds of gigs. In order to get where I wanted to be, I needed something new.
It felt insurmountable. How could I possibly convince the necessary people to work with me if I didn’t have any work to show them? How could I possibly create a sustainable career out of nothing? I knew where I wanted to be and I knew I was good enough - I just didn’t know how to get there.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, an opportunity fell into my lap. A client, whom I had worked for previously, referred me to a company out of state. A month later I was boarding a plane and on my way to their event. I didn’t know it at the time, but that trip was about to change everything.
Most of the time I’m traveling I don’t always know what I’m getting myself into. Gigs can be big or small, in beautiful, sprawling theaters or multi-purpose rooms. My entertainment fits everywhere so you learn to lower your expectations and make the most of each opportunity. The goal isn’t to fit the show into as exciting a venue as possible; it’s to make the show as exciting as possible no matter the location.
So I approached this trip cautiously. I assumed it was just another standard gig. I had no idea I was walking into a massive conference in a beautiful resort…but that’s exactly what it was.
I did my sound check and confidently told everyone that everything was in place. In my head, though, I was giving myself a pep talk. “This is what you’ve been waiting for! You deserve this! This is why you’ve been working so hard!”
I tried to channel my nerves into adrenaline. Every thing I’d worked on had been building to that moment and it was time to prove I belonged there. I took the stage, did one of the best shows in my life, and walked offstage to a big standing ovation.
I was on cloud nine!
Surely my performance was going to lead me to more gigs. Surely everyone there needed entertainment, too, and now that they had seen me the calls would start pouring in. This was my moment!
But that’s not what happened.
The truth is, the gig itself didn’t lead to any more work. The show was great but the attendees weren’t future clients, they were just at the conference for their respective companies. They weren’t looking for new entertainment.
Instead, something even better happened. As I left the show room I went around a corner and saw a giant TV screen in the main lobby. A slideshow was playing on the screen, different photos and moments from the conference so far.
“Cool!” I thought, “Maybe someone got a decent photo of me.”
And then I saw it. The most epic, beautiful, stunning photo I could possibly have. The event photographer had captured my show in all its glory and it looked amazing!
That one photo became the face of the brand. It was on every page of my website, included with all of my materials, and even on the back of my business card for awhile. I finally had a way to convince clients in my chosen markets to work for me. I finally had some proof!
I always thought that I would need hundreds of photos and videos to get where I wanted to be. The thought of having to build such a large portfolio of work had seemed impossible. But it didn’t take hundreds or dozens or several.
It just took one.
That one photo opened so many doors for me. New clients, new shows, new agents, new opportunities. I can trace a direct line from where I am now back to that show and that incredible image.
Recently I did an overhaul on my site and updated a lot of my pictures. It was finally time for me to replace that photo with something new. But I couldn’t help getting a little nostalgic remembering how crucial that image was to my early progress as an entrepreneur and entertainer.
Everything that seems impossible can be broken down to its simplest parts. Anything that seems too challenging begins with one single step forward.
Training for a race? You just have to take the first step.
Starting a new business? Do one thing that needs to be done. Then another. And another.
Trying to learn a new skill? Start with one thing.
No matter what you’re doing, start small and keep it simple. And when you do get that big opportunity take advantage of that moment. When something big happens for you, be ready and never look back.
I’m proof that it just takes one thing. One word, one step, one idea, one photo.
It just takes one.