It's the year of my high school reunion this year, and 10 years ago is when this path really starts. Senior year was the year that I decided to make the most of my opportunities. I was shy, focused on academics and kept to my close group of friends. To change, that year I joined the football team, dragon boat team, and became the photographer for the Ultimate team. I had saved up $1000 at my minimum wage summer job to purchase a Nikon D40x (which I still have) with the 18-55mm kit lens.
That camera did more than take photos, it made connections. When university started, that camera made connections that turned into friendships. I'd carry a camera with me 24/7. I offered to take photos for school clubs and I'd post the photos on Facebook. As people tagged each other and engaged, I grew my network. People I met had heard of me because their friends had been tagged in one of my photos. Over the years at university, my name slowly got out.
Unexpectedly, I made long-term connections with people that were mostly from the business faculty. I stayed consistent with taking photos for a select few clubs at school. Eventually, these business students graduated and started their careers. Some had the opportunity to hire a photographer, others suggested me to their colleagues or bosses. They called on me because of the connection and consistency I'd built up.
My success has come almost entirely from referrals. I don't spend much money on marketing or do any cold calling. Play the long game and don't treat people transactionally.
The saying goes "It's not what you know. It's who you know." I think it's more about "Who knows you." Your reputation precedes and goes much further than who you can reach out to.