How to turn your passion into a pay cheque
From drone pilot to YouTube vlogger, here’s how to live what you love, and get paid for it.
Words by Rachel Jevons
Photographers are so 20th century, darling (Ed – we still love you really!). Drone pilots are the new snappers of the sky, and probably represent the most novel of all jobs in mtb.
Eastwood Media’s Chris Davies tells us how his background in adventure photography and film-making perfectly prepared him to become an early adopter.
“When I first saw drone technology back in about 2013 I knew it was something I wanted to get into, so I went through the motions of getting a license and Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] permissions and we’ve really not looked back.”
Chris’s remit goes beyond the mtb industry: “We’re the UK Pilot Team for the drone manufacturer DJI and they give us some pretty cool work. Chasing rally cars with drones is definitely the toughest job we do but it’s a lot of fun.”
There are drawbacks though. “Doing things properly means getting permissions, writing risk assessments,” says Chris.Make sure you do it safely. Start by contacting the CAA for advice and book yourself onto a drone course.
All that fancy kit we wear… someone has to design it. So who are these people, and how do we get there? Bobby Robinson from Fox Racing Europe got into the job by riding his bike… lots. He spent three years literally shovelling coal to fund his bike habit before getting into coaching and then managing a bike shop, so he could understand the market. “Make your passion your occupation,” he says, “I shovelled coal, and now I know what colour your socks are going to be in 2020.”
In short, there’s no dedicated career path into product development, you’ve just got to want it badly enough.
The mtb industry uses social media to educate, entertain and sometimes completely bemuse us. So, how do you earn a living from it?
You start with an idea, as Seth from Seth’s Bike Hacks, explains.
“I started Seth’s Bike Hacks without any idea of how large it could grow,” he says. “Once I noticed that viewers were looking for someone to relate to — an average dude with grey beard hairs, I ran with it.”
Knowing your market is important and Seth’s marketing and web development background certainly helps.
So what advice can Seth share with us for budding vloggers? “With thousands of others vying for their spots in the industry, you may not have the luxury of choosing how you get there.” says Seth. “So follow opportunities, not dreams. You could end up with a dream job that you never dreamt of.”
You don’t have to be part of a big bike company now to make your own bikes, you just need a shed and some good ideas. From Starling Cycles to Airdrop, ARBR to Robot Bikes, one-man-band bike companies are thriving in the UK, finding niches and using their creative genius. And they are here to stay.
We asked Joe McEwan, from Starling Cycles how he got started.
“Folling a frame building course with Dave Yates, I set up in my shed as a hobby frame builder,” Joe tells us.
Several years’ hard work and one breakthrough review in a magazine later, Joe was in the enviable position of being able to give up his day job in the aerospace industry to focus on his passion full time.
It’s not all plain sailing (or riding for that matter) though, and Joe shares some of the drawbacks of being your own boss in this industry: “You can never actually turn off when you run your own company, and the livelihoods of yourself and your family depend on it!”
And a top tip for anyone wanting to pursue this dream? “I just got on and id it, but you also have to learn from your own mistakes,” Joe says.
The modern mechanic
Established and familiar, the role of mechanic is evolving to include product training, running demo fleets, and even running race teams. So, how do you go from a qualified mechanicor workling as a Saturday boy/girl in a bike shop too… well, doing all that?
“I got chatting to Whyte Bikes at the London Bike Show,” explains Neil Halcrow at Whyte Bikes, who started out as a mechanic. “They were toying with the idea of finding a product trainer, so put myself forward.”
Things didn’t stop there though. “The role has evolved, to running the northern demo fleet, running the Whyte race team and managing a sales area,” he said.
As well as hard work, dedication and no small sacrifice in terms of time away from home and sitting in traffic, Neil offers this piece of advice: “You really need to be a people person and always do what you say you’re going to do. Reputation goes a long way in this industry.”