Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you’re a motorsports aficionado. I’ll also take the leap and assume that if you’re not a racer yourself, or directly involved in motorsports, you aspire to be. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a burning passion for drag racing – we can’t get enough of it! Chances are that the idea of somehow earning side money through racing (wouldn’t it be cool to make enough money from racing to pay for your racing?), or perhaps even the possibility of turning your passion for motorsports into your livelihood has crossed your mind at some point.
While there are few sportsman drag racers in history that have actually earned a sustainable living exclusively by driving a race car (and I’d argue that the number of drivers who actually “race for living” has gone from few to essentially zero in the last decade), there are numerous opportunities to profit within and around our sport. Whether it’s through marketing partnership (sponsorship, if you will), building a business around your racing (selling parts, building engines, painting, etc.), promoting events, or finding employment within the racing and performance industry, the point is that there are real opportunities if you’re serious about dedicating your working life to the sport that you love.
I’ve been living this dream my entire adult life. I can honestly say that I’ve never held a job outside of the racing industry (in high school, I did work briefly at an automotive repair shop… that was owned by a fellow racer who let me come in and sweep the floors!). I haven’t had a “real job” in more than 15 years. I am effectively living the dream!
If you’ve got a similar dream, the obvious question is: Where to start? Whether you’re looking to build awareness and partnership around your racing team, establish the groundwork for a successful enterprise within the racing industry, or simply looking for quality employment in the racing aftermarket, the first step is to actively and consciously build your own brand.
The broad idea is this: work to build your circle of influence. A circle of influence is a group of people who respect you, and more importantly, who trust you. These may be fellow racers. Perhaps they’re race fans. Maybe it’s a mixture of both. The idea, regardless of your overarching goal, is to first develop this circle of influence. Then, either establish a relationship with a marketing partner (sponsor) and/or start offering products or services through your business. In either case you’re standing (and speaking) for a business and products and/or services that you love, depend on yourself, and trust.
Then merge the two. Assuming that you have enough positive equity built up within your circle of influence, the loyal following that you’ve cultivated essentially gives you permission to sell to them. When you do it right, it’s an easy sell. You’re promoting a product or service that you believe in, to people who you think like you do, and who have a need for the product or service that you’re endorsing! In the end, everyone wins.
Sounds simple in theory, right? But how do we go about building the trust of that circle of influence? When I came up, it was all about shameless self-promotion! Before the age of social media and information, if I didn’t toot my own horn, it’s rare that anyone else would. Thankfully, the days of shameless self-promotion have passed – it’s no longer the recipe (so stop telling everyone how much you win… they don’t care). Today, thanks to the popularity and availability of social media, everyone has a voice – which can be good and bad. The positive: it’s easier to express yourself. The negative: it’s harder to be heard. There are a lot of competing voices, and a relatively small audience.
While social media can and should be a key ingredient to building your brand, it’s not the only ingredient; and I’d argue that it’s not the most important. In this day and age, you need a website: it’s an platform on which you don’t have to compete for attention, you control the content, and can utilize a variety of different resources to share your message. And there are a ton of useful tools for driving traffic. Social media is one. Podcasting is another. Blogging can be a great tool. So can speaking, writing, and creating video content. I’m also a big fan of email marketing. The point is to connect with your audience (your circle of influence) and drive them to something that wholly portrays your image (your website). But the question remains: how do I connect with “my” people?
That part is admittedly tricky, but it’s not unattainable. If I can do it, you can do it! In this day and age, it’s all about consistent contact and finding a balance in your presentation. It’s about finding the balance between being truly authentic and being over-the-top polarizing. In essence, you want to be interesting and honest (hint: if you’re honest, it’s typically interesting) by saying what you mean – openly and uniquely – without alienating your entire audience. It’s about striking a balance between authority (ultimately, you want to be viewed as an expert in your field), and vulnerability (because no one has it all figured out). It’s about walking the line between accessibility and trying to be all things to all people (another hint: you can’t! By trying, you’re either going to be of little service to anyone because you’re spread too thin, or completely burnt out to the point that this thing you had a passion for becomes no fun at all… Or both!).
What I’ve described sounds somewhat akin to walking a tightrope. That’s hyperbole. Don’t allow this to be intimidating. The truth is that you’ve got to start somewhere. And, if you’re anything like me you’re going to mess it up. 15+ years later, I still mess it up on a regular basis. Thankfully, few mistakes are fatal. We learn, we iterate, and we do our best to improve.
If this abbreviated and admittedly vague explanation has your wheels turning… If you’re serious about launching (or growing) your side hustle and/or full-fledged racing business, watch our new webinar where I share the three steps to making money in and around racing.