“The most important expectations for life are your own…” an Interview With Don Boyd
The following is a partial transcript of our interview with Don given via phone. It has been lightly edited for clarity but other than that is straight from the horse’s mouth. All photos used throughout the interview are Donal Boyd originals used with permission. Don’t steal, folks.
About a year ago, Donal Boyd quit his job as a Chemical Engineer in Boston and moved to Iceland to pursue his photography business full-time. He’s now based in Iceland permanently and operates an international photography and social media consultant business, which brings him to all corners of the world. Check out his site here for more information.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Don. Can you start by telling us about yourself and what it is that you do with your life right now?
Right now, I’m mixing freelance photography with conservation. Obviously, I left engineering to pursue my passion for photography and connecting and interacting with other people. Right now, my big thing is focusing on how I can use my social media following that I’ve amassed over the past year to promote the conservation of wildlife. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, but there were a whole bunch of things that I had to do before I could get here.
People always ask me, “How did you get to where you are?”, and this is my first point of advice. I did a lot of things that I had to do first, and I didn’t just jump into them. I spoke to the right people and I asked the right questions. How do you know what the right questions are? You have to take a risk. It’s a little mix of taking a risk and not knowing what those questions are and figuring them out along the way.
So, now I’m where I am because I learned from a lot of people by taking a risk. And mixing this conservation aspect of photography has been a long process but I have learned a lot of stuff along the way.
Absolutely, so what would you say is that initial risk, or multiple risks, that you took?
It started with not knowing if I would be able to make any money. I only had saved up enough money in engineering to sustain myself for, say 6–8 months. If I didn’t make enough money to go beyond that in the beginning, I kind of had a contingency plan, too…
…At the same time, my goals were always changing, too. I was meeting people along the way. For any entrepreneur, don’t be afraid of changing what your goals are, all the time. If someone asks you what your goal is today, and if I ask you in three months what your goal is; if it’s the same, I’d say you’re doing something wrong. Your goals should always be changing.
You’ve always had a passion for photography, but what would you say tipped you into saying, “Okay, let me go do this full-time”?
I guess, realizing that the most important expectations for life are your own. No matter what you think everyone else in your family, your parents, your friends might expect. You love them, but at the end of the day, your expectations are the most important.
You should have high expectations for yourself and once you realize that those are the most important, you might realize that you expect yourself to be a conservationist, an educator, or a person that gives back to the community; instead of being an engineer or being a person in finance working at a bank because other people expect you to do that or because you went to school for that. You should realize that your own expectations are the most important thing.
That was really powerful. So, obviously, I would say that’s not a common way to think for a lot of people. What do you think holds most people back from having that type of mindset?
I think the stigma of not doing what everyone else is doing; the stigma of you not owning a car or having a permanent place to live. But that wears away. Things started happening, for me at least, then everyone else’s expectations changed. The expectations of “you should have been an engineer” changed to “you should have done this before”.
Definitely. So what would you say was the most difficult part in getting to where you are today?
It was definitely figuring out how to get jobs, how to market myself and how to connect with other people…Without connecting with other people then you might as well not even try to start…Seek out the network.
That is honestly the biggest thing. Really the biggest thing. You need to have a network of people before you start. You need to grow the network while you’re doing it. You need to learn to rely on those other people as well.
I think that speaks to the idea that there is a network for any industry. I think that is so true. If you want to do something entrepreneurial you might’ve had an excuse 30 years ago, but there is really no excuse anymore. Because there are, like you said, places to post your work, places to network, to meet people, to get your name out there, that we didn’t have access to 10, never mind 30 years ago.
I mean, never has there been a time in history that you could access, relate and connect with so many people.
So what would you say that is next for you on your adventure list, or in terms of growing the reach of what you’re doing?
I mean, from this point forward it is trying to network with larger companies. But at first, I could never reach out to companies like Sony or DJI, like big companies. Just because I didn’t have a body of work built up. But I would still always send them proposals.
So I guess the next thing is, for anyone that is an entrepreneur, is to accept that you will not get an answer, or get a “no” for an answer, but it is always best to propose something than to not at all. So the biggest thing in the beginning was I sent out so many proposals, say I’d send out 100 emails, I might get 5 replies. Now, after a year, I send out 20 emails and I get 20 replies back.
But in the beginning, it was a lot of trying to figure out and craft how I would propose something and picking up smaller projects that would lead to bigger projects and realizing that it doesn’t happen overnight…
No such thing as an overnight success, right?
Unless you go viral.
A huge thank you to Donal Boyd for giving of his time and sharing his wisdom…all the way from Hawaii.