I started this business a little over four years ago now. As one always eager for wise counsel, I often reached out to those in my network who I admired and felt were qualified or had, at least on some level, some success in what they had built or achieved.

I wasn’t long into having launched my new business (back then, referred to as Hudge Media) when I inquired a friend’s (and also, competitor’s) opinion on my question, “Here’s what I have to offer clients. What do you think would be a strong message to send them?”

Without hesitation, my colleague replied, “You have professional gear, don’t you?”

“Well, sure.”

“Well, If I were you, I’d put pictures of your [fancy and expensive] gear on your site and any kind of brochure. That’ll let people know you’re serious – that you do quality stuff.”

I politely listened and processed.

It didn’t take much processing; I didn’t agree.

I didn’t even pursue any course of action based on that recommendation.

While I believe there are many people who will be impressed with the tools someone uses, I truly think the end result has little (comparatively speaking) to do with the tools so much as the focused talent behind them.

I used to be big into recording music [at home]. There’s big bucks in the home recording industry. The existence of  huge merchants like Sweetwater, Full Compass and Guitar Center is evidence that there are no shortage of people who are interested in doing it themselves; they’ll shell out high dollar for some fantastic, lust-worthy audio recording gear. But then when it comes time to create something, there always seems to be a weak link.  Why is that?

Now before moving on, does every home recordist fall into this category? No, of course not. I have some friends and even former co-workers that have immense talent coupled with an immense amount of experience! So their recording projects would blow people away, especially considering they were produced in an upstairs spare room or the garage annex.

But the vast majority, my statistically-unsupported guess, would fall into, “I have amazing equipment but my projects are still mediocre.”

See, with those aforementioned talented artists that have managed to be prolific, they could also produce a stellar album with a $30 microphone from Radio Shack and GarageBand software for their mac.

They know how to use the tools.

So my thoughts on placing images of expensive gear on my new site, even back then, was a very neutral solution bound to receive little to no results.

Photographers are hired based on their fabulous portfolios (with beautiful people), not based on their fancy camera. You hire a contractor based on solid referrals, maybe even a question posed on your facebook status and yes, if you’re smart, you’ll check out their portfolio and what they’ve built for others. And no one chooses a family physician based on their utensils, at least the ones that everyone assumes are standard; they’re chosen based on reputation and how they’ve successfully treated others – and, let’s not forget, the word passed down to you regarding how well they listen to their patients and value what they say.

The gear and knowing how to use the gear are givens.

They should be. If someone has hired me solely based on my camera’s price tag, then they most likely don’t have an awareness of what quality work is anyway.  And similarly, they are likely to be completely unaware of the connection that we’re aimed at producing for them, connecting their audience to their own brand.

Being open to advice is a good thing. The moment you’re not open to listening to others’ experiences and suggestions, you’re setting yourself up for failure. But, you’re bound to get some profitless advice from time to time.

What do you think? Are there exceptions to this concept? An example where the tools did matter (more than the skill)?

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