Fireside Chat - Bryan Campbell of Gear Patrol | Shifting the Gears on Freelance 3.28.17




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Imagine taking a trip to Chile. Sounds amazing, right? Now imagine renting a BMW motorcycle and riding it up the Chilean coast. Sounds kickass, right? Now imagine...wait for it....this trip is for your job. Sounds like a scam, right?

Wrong! Just ask Bryan Campbell, lead writer at Gear Patrol, who we had the pleasure of hosting and interviewing last month in New York City at our second fireside chat tour event at WeWork Bryant Park.

Gear Patrol is a men’s adventure lifestyle website where readers can learn about cars, watches and more. “We don’t have to review all the minivans and base models, we can just do the fun stuff,” Bryan said.

Here’s proof: last summer, Bryan’s work trip took him on to a big Ducati festival and on a tour of the Ducati factory. He also took a tour of the Lamborghini factory and rode shotgun with the official Lamborghini test driver who later tossed him the keys and said, “bring it back in one piece.” Seriously, how is this not a scam?

Bryan didn’t like cars as a kid. His father, who had subscriptions to Motor Trend and other car magazines, had a ‘76 Cadillac Eldorado that wasn’t running for years and Bryan compared his fear of that car to the furnace in Home Alone - it scared the crap out of him. But in order to sell the car, they had to fix it up. And that’s where the passion began.

Though Bryan never really considered writing about cars as a career. Initially, Bryan went to Rutgers University to design cars but his sculptures and drawings weren’t up to par compared to his classmates. His professor noticed he didn’t care about the class and said, “Someone once asked Bob Dylan how he got so good at guitar and he told them, ‘It’s what I do on the toilet.’ So what do you do on the toilet?” Bryan realized he was reading car magazines and that’s when he knew.

After getting his masters in automotive journalism, Bryan reluctantly took a job at a motorcycle dealership writing reviews for the website and later became a salesman, despite his hatred for the service industry. During that time, Bryan hustled and also freelanced on the side. After quitting the sales job about a year later, he took on more freelance work writing and doing photography. There are a million different ways to get into the industry but with the photography and the freelancing, Bryan gave himself two weapons to work with and could offer himself as a photographer and a writer for the same rate card.

Eventually, Bryan was offered a writing job with General Motors in Michigan. Unlike his current role where he can write his own opinion, he had to stick to a corporate PR model where the company sort of dictates your opinion for you. Despite the distance from home and lack of a voice, Bryan accepted the job and moved.

Unfortunately, after three months, the account folded and he was forced to move back. But Bryan always had his freelance work to fall back on. Through one freelance gig, Bryan was invited to the Mustang launch in California where he met James, a Maxim writer from New York over a beer and smoke break. They later met up for a beer back in New York when James told Bryan he knew of websites with open freelancing gigs. To Bryan’s confusion, James texted someone continuously during their conversation. But to Bryan’s surprise, James was getting Bryan an interview for the following week at Gear Patrol.

Freelancing, networking and building a portfolio are the backbones of Bryan’s success.

As a freelancer, Bryan sometimes wrote a piece and emailed it to a publication like the New York Times, just to get his name and work out there. His advice to aspiring writers and creatives was, of course, to freelance. “Realize that the first few gigs are almost always unpaid but it's experience. You need to keep building on that so you can increase your rate,” he said.

And it was his networking that, many times, landed him solid gigs. Bryan suggested getting out to shows. Even bloggers can register for media passes. For those looking to put out content or get noticed in this industry, the trick is to talk to PR people at stands, bring some unique work you’ve already done that’s original and not cliche.

But sometimes networking can feel awkward, right? His motto is to keep it casual. A simple, “hit me up for coffee,” can go a long way. After all, he did get a sick job whilst meeting up for a beer. There is hope!

Before speeding off to his next work trip in Palm Springs to get behind the wheel of the new Audi S4 and S5, Bryan said, “If you keep knocking on the door, someone’s going to answer.” He urged recent grads to just keep at it.