The title might sound selfish, but I hope I can give some tips for those who want to make it.
It happened so on a Sunday morning in early March, 2014 that I got a phone call from my immediate employer that the non-existent contract with our mutual employer had just been terminated, so I no longer needed to show up at the local barracks to carry on with our EFL course. I had some other gigs at hand, since I had tried to diversify as much as I could - being self-employed -, so I wasn’t panicking. Nevertheless I lost my main income three months before our settlement was due to end, but most paychecks still had to be coming in, so there was I, with loads of free time, waiting for my money.
I made a decision that I was really going for it this time. Five years before I started writing about car stuff. Looked for some smaller websites who were eager to push daily content on their front page, but lacked the manpower. It was a VW-tuners’ site, and I really didn’t know much about the so-called ‘Cult Style’, but I loved how these cars looked, so I dug into it. They were happy to post my pieces, there were really good comments coming in, when only a few months later I got a mail from the editor of a VW-magazine that he loved my style and offered me a seasonal gig, which meant that I would write a piece each month, or edit something to fit the magazine’s image. I got total creative control, they didn’t change anything.
So that was great, but that was only a small amount of pocket money each month, but it was de facto a professional assignment. During that time I also had a one-off excursion in another glossy-page magazine of hot rod theme, my interview with my pictures about a 1956 Ford F-100 on six pages. That’s a piece I’m still very proud of, but funnily it’s not something I show around all the time as a reference, as it is preceded by an extensive photoshoot of pornstar Mya Diamond on a motorbike on the pages - resulting in some raised eyebrows and funny looks.
Years and jobs went by, I even moved to England and crashed the only car I knew and had, moved back and started my own business of teaching, offering a flexibility no one else could, joining in a new, nationwide program of teaching English as a foreign language, and I was the only guy many miles around who could do this any time, all the time, full time.
I got to travel around quite a lot, going from one gig to another. The peak was when I was working for five different companies on five different spots at the same time. Talk about a busy calendar.
So now I had this phone call, and the biggest one of the courses was terminated, with two others running out. I had a bit of reserves and all the time I wanted, thus came the idea to make a very serious attempt in journalism once more.
I fired up my Kinja account once again and probed to create meaningful, original content and generally do something that other people don’t do often. So apart from digging up the Internet to find interesting stories of the past, the best means to make the content happen is to go to the people who have the stories. Then it got really interesting, and I had never known for a second that I would be talking to people who - in many ways - were my personal heroes, or turned out to be one.
That is how the story of the Commodore 64 gamer/programmer making OutRun’s conversion came about, or the guy who has been building his own LMP1-H and Formula 1 car. I mean, how many people did you talk to who were doing such thing? I certainly hadn’t, but there’s no magic to it: you just contact and ask them. That’s really it!
Or there was the guy, who was racing vintage F1 cars, previously ridden by Sir Jack Brabham himself.
Do you know how James Hunt or Ari Vatanen would sound like if you talked to them? Because their respective sons definitely sound like their old men. How did I get into hunting sponsorship and racing opportunities globally for Freddie Hunt? I don’t know, it just happened. But then again, it just needs a few e-mails and a little persuasion to get some serious business people talk to you.
Or when I was running after the whole national media to help make an international racing series’ event happen at the Hungaroring. The race didn’t happen, but a party hosted by David Hasselhoff did and sold out.
And it was then I got the call from an upstart magazine that finally someone recognized my work and offered a paying gig. Mind that, all that stuff I described above, I did it for free. Not even free, I paid to do it, ramping up my phone bill and travelling costs.
You know, it’s an enormous thing these days if you get paid for what you love doing. It’s not a glamorous job. I sit in front of my computer, I read stuff, I write stuff, but it’s about a topic I love and I get paid. I’m not driving test cars (yet), I haven’t had a car since I crashed mine over two years ago, my licence has expired as well.
But the ‘cool car journalism’ what you see on e.g. /Drive or Chris Harris’ work is really just the end of the funnel, there’s awful amount of ‘boring’ stuff going into it. It’s great to drive exciting cars and get paid, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious work to make an enjoyable product you can comment on.
So, I guess what I’m saying at the end of the day is that, actually, it is indeed hip to be square. Even working yourself to the doorway of your dreams is a big grace, stepping through it is another one, making it exactly the way you imagined is just the prize, because there are levels of happiness.
That was 2014, see you in 2015, at the Monte Carlo rally first.