Do you love cars? Are you a fantastic creative writer? If so, you are ideally suited to becoming a motoring journalist. A motoring journalist writes about cars for a living, usually for automotive magazines and websites, but an experienced and respected writer could move on to newspapers, television, and even books.
As a career, it does not require heaps of qualifications and industry connections. All you need is a love of cars, a compelling writing style, and the motivation to put the work in and get your name out there. If you are thinking about pursuing a career writing about cars, the following article is a comprehensive guide to becoming an automotive journalist.
What are the benefits?
Automotive journalism is the dream career for anyone who is obsessed with cars. You will be around cars constantly, meeting the biggest names in the industry, and trying out the newest models. A successful car writer spends their time traveling the world and going on long road trips in shiny new cars, all planned and paid for by their employer. Of course, when you’re just starting out, it won’t be that glamorous. It’s a crowded market place, and you will most likely start off pitching your own copy to magazines or working to tight deadlines in a publisher’s office.
One of the main benefits of this line of work is flexibility. You can either work in house for an automotive publication or go freelance, selling your content creation services to the highest bidder. This gives you the freedom to work anywhere in the world and fit your career around your lifestyle. It also means that when you’re just starting out and building a portfolio, you can schedule your writing around other paid work to keep you afloat.
What will you be writing?
As a car writer, there is a vast range of topics you could be writing about. One day you might be writing car reviews or press releases to promote a new model, and the next you could be writing lighthearted, snappy, Buzzfeed-style content such as 10 Best Cars for Winter Driving or 15 People You Oughta Know in the New Renault Traffic Sport Industry. You could be creating content about car technology, trade shows, maintenance, industry news, buying tips, or collectibles. The options are endless, and it all depends on your personal preferences and the style and content of the magazines you work for.
What do you need to succeed?
One of the great things about motoring journalism is that you don’t have to be highly-qualified. While having a degree in journalism may increase your chances of success, the most important things you need to succeed are extensive knowledge of the motoring industry and excellent writing abilities. It’s not enough to just love cars, because if you can’t write compellingly about them, you will struggle to have your writing commissioned. No one wants to read flat, monotonous descriptions of cars. It is a competitive industry, so you will need to work hard to get your name out there and establish industry credibility. Creating fantastic content is obviously the best way to do this, but you can boost your chances for success by networking with important people in the industry and staying constantly up to date with motoring trends and developments.
Who is your audience?
Cars are a big deal in the United States, so you have the potential to get a huge number of eyes on your work. The single most popular auto magazine in the US has a reach of nearly 20 million people alone, so combined with the vast number of additional publications, the numbers are too large to even think about. As well as writing for magazine readers, your audience may also include collectors, buyers, dealers, mechanics, and motorsports fans. Different magazines target slightly different readerships and demographics, but in general, you will be targeting people between the ages of 20 and 50, most of whom, but by no means all, are male.
How do you submit your work?
When working in house, you will work to the deadlines and standards of your employer, but if you are a freelance writer, you have a lot more freedom and flexibility. When it comes to submitting your work, you will need to have a comprehensive list of all the publications that accept freelance submissions and build a good relationship with each. These magazines will have submissions guidelines on their website, including guidance on the type, format, and length of content they accept. When pitching, ensure you stick to this advice and meet all deadlines provided, otherwise you risk damaging your relationship with the publication and losing a potential income stream.
When pitching, you will have a greater chance of success if you align your article with the style and content of the specific publication, rather than sending a generic pitch across the board. Check to see if the magazine has an editorial calendar that outlines the themes and topics of upcoming editions, and tailor your writing specifically towards these. If you have photos that you can include with your submission, your chances will increase dramatically.
How much can you earn?
This is no doubt the question you’ve been waiting for. It is entirely possible to carve out a successful, highly-paid career as a motoring journalist, but it takes time and commitment. As a car writer, rates vary massively, and you will likely be paid according to the length of the article. Currently, the average pay for articles is between 45 and 75 cents per word, or between $200 and $800 per feature. For full-time writers, the average salary in the US is $44,000 a year.
The more you keep at it, and the more well known you become, the more work you will be offered. By establishing yourself as a household name in the motoring journalism industry, you can progress in your career and enjoy all the benefits that come with writing about cars for a living. By being motivated, hard-working, and talented, you will be out on the open road testing out new models in no time.