You have no idea how long I have waited to be able to say that.
For as long as I can remember, as soon as career options came into the conversation, my goal has been to 'be my own boss' as a freelancer in the automotive world.
As someone that is still relatively new to the world of freelancing, I was disappointed to find there was very little in the way of people showing the 'true' side of freelancing. Trust me, it isn't all no-holds-barred car launches and expensive lunches.
Therefore, I want to tell the truth about freelancing: The highs and the lows, the good and the bad, I want to show the reality of being a freelancer in the automotive world.
Along the way, I want to invite other freelancers to discuss their journeys. I truly believe that this world of self-employment is a wonderful one, and I want to share as many no-holds-barred stories as possible along the way, whether about my own journey, or about others.
So, how exactly did I end up here? Well, this is my story...
First, a little background.
As far back as my A-levels (which were nearly 7 years ago) I was always obsessed with the goal of someday working in this industry. As one of the first in my year to get my 'ticket to freedom' in the form of my driving license, I set about visiting car shows across the south of England in my trusty little first car; A 1.4l, base-spec Mk4 Golf.
I'd always had a love for photography, so it was natural that this would entwine itself with my newfound passion for cars, and so I set myself on the path to becoming an automotive photographer.
Fast-forward a few years, and at university I started putting that plan into action. I set myself up a website, bought a domain, created business cards, and set about pitching myself to various magazines and outlets.
Naturally, being an unknown name without much in the way of a portfolio, I didn't have a queue of potential clients battering down my inbox with offers of employment. Undeterred, I continued to shoot at - mostly modified - car shows, where I slowly managed to get some private shoots under my belt, and even made some money in the process. I was starting to feel like a 'proper' photographer!
My first 'real' client:
My 'big break' came in the form of some unintended networking. I did a shoot for a family friend who was a detailer, who happened to be taking care of a number of cars that were being sold through a well-known auction company, Historics Auctions at Brooklands. This led to further work with Historics, who turned into my first 'real' client. I was still in full-time education at this point, but it was an important milestone nonetheless.
Alongside this, I was also beginning to 'flex' my writing muscles. I had started writing up features to go along with the cars that I shot for my old blog/site called ExhaustedPhotography, which led to my work being picked up by SoScene, a startup modified car magazine.
While this was a number of years ago now, writing pieces for SoScene showed me that I was not a 'one-trick pony' - now I was looking for work as both a writer and a photographer, which seemed to open far more doors for me.
Sadly upon leaving university, real life got in the way. This meant getting a 'proper' full-time job, moving out and relocating. While I enjoyed my time as a property photographer, I knew it was only temporary - I was determined to 'make the jump' and pursue my dream career (as cheesy as that sounds.)
Laying the foundations:
In January 2020, I met the editor of Drive.co.uk in a chance encounter through my old job. After a brief chat, I left him a business card and parted with the open-ended proposition of potentially getting a shot at being a motoring journalist. The next thing I know, we're making arrangements for a press car to be delivered to me - my first press car: Look at me, I'm officially a journalist!
Sadly, after a few cars, lockdown 1.0 hit us here in the UK, putting life as we know it on hold. I went on furlough, and decided to start writing some more to fill the time until the world opened up again.
Making the jump:
Flash-forward to mid-2020. I was back to work, and although I had already been working occasionally as a freelancer 'on the side' I wasn't earning any real money. However, I realised that the potential and opportunity to do it full-time was there. This, coupled with an increasing dissatisfaction in my full-time job after lockdown gave me plenty of thinking time, led me to realise I could go freelance. It was actually happening!
Therefore, I did the math, did the math a few more times, and realised going freelance, full-time, as a self-employed photographer/journalist would work. Probably. So, amidst the worst economic crisis I can remember in my lifetime, I quit my nice, secure job, and went down the rabbit hole of going freelance.
"Oh my god, what have I done?"
That was my reaction when I woke up the next morning. As someone that has a habit of panicking unnecessarily, of course I was going to worry.
However, I soon realised it was pointless worrying; It was done. I had 4 weeks to get my sh*t together, and make a plan. So, that's exactly what I did. I worked out how to build a business, how to track expenses and invoices, how to brand myself, and gave my website a thorough refresh. I told myself that I've got this, and jumped into the world of self-employment head-first.
Remember that luck I was talking about earlier? Well, it seems like a little of that came into play. But, with a touch of luck, plenty of planning, and a truck load of determination and hard work; I'm still here nearly half a year later. I'm still freelance, and I'm still giving my all to make this dream career work.
Things haven't always been easy - and I'll speak more about that in future blog posts - but I'm still kicking. Going into 2021, the future looks bright despite the current circumstances.
Here's hoping the future holds more wonderful clients, more shoots, and far more high-octane adventures.
Work with me:
Naturally, it would be wrong of me not to end this with a plug for my own services. It is my blog, after all!
So, if you're looking for an automotive photographer, writer, journalist or editor, why not drop me a message? I'd love to hear from you. And, with 2021 just getting started, why not set yourself up for the year ahead?
This article formed the first part of a series documenting the reality of being a freelancer in the automotive industry. If you have questions you want answering, people you want me to interview, or just want to give me some feedback, I'd love to hear from you.