Guest blogger: Matthew Walthert
I have always loved writing and sports. In high school, I did a co-op term that allowed me to work as a reporter for my local newspaper. Later, I did some freelance work for them.
In university, I studied history, which helped me to improve both my writing and research skills. Afterward, I knew I wanted to write, and I did publish a few pieces in newspapers and academic journals, but it was not until I found Kristi’s blog that my desire actually coalesced into a plan. Actually, it is Kristi’s plan; I just filled in the blanks.
Her first piece of advice that I picked up on was to find a niche. For me, that was as a Canadian writing about Formula One racing. The sport is very Euro- and especially UK-centric. I also enjoy the challenge of explaining complicated ideas in a clear, concise fashion. And F1 is nothing if not complicated.
So, also following Kristi’s example, I set up a blog: The Parade Lap – Formula One explained (originally, the subtitle was “Formula One for beginners”, but I didn’t want to limit my audience). I also started using Twitter—not as prolifically as Kristi, but at least I was using it.
After several months of writing posts that were read by my family, some friends, and maybe a couple other people, I started looking for ways to expand my audience. I found Bleacher Report and SB Nation and read as much as I could find about them.
There was quite a lot of criticism, particularly about Bleacher Report, mostly relating to the amount of unpaid (and, at times, unprofessional) content they produced. But I was already writing for free, so that didn’t really bother me. I sent an application to Bleacher Report and was approved to start writing on their site.
After my first couple articles, I received an email from an editor asking if I wanted to join their Featured Columnist program. The “FCs” work closely with Bleacher Report editors and receive more exposure on the site in exchange for committing to writing a certain number of articles per week.
I joined and, after a few months, I was offered a paid freelance position to keep writing for their F1 page. Part of the reason for that offer is because they must think I have some talent, but it is also because of the niche I chose. There is no way I would have been able to work myself up the ranks so quickly had I chosen to write about hockey, football, or baseball, sports where Bleacher Report already has dozens of writers covering each team.
By choosing a less-popular sport (at least in the U.S.), and providing a unique perspective (most F1 writers are British), I was able to distinguish myself.
Now, I continue to work hard improving my writing skills by reading as much as I can, and by writing a lot (obviously). I am also building up my contacts in the F1 world. Bleacher Report helped me get a press credential for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal this year…something I thought I would never be able to do. Covering the race from the paddock and having the chance to interview some drivers and team personnel, as well as meeting a number of other F1 journalists, was an incredible experience.
I have also been offered a couple other freelance opportunities from people who read my work for Bleacher Report.
Hopefully I will have the chance to attend more races in the future and, eventually, I want to write a book. Thankfully, Kristi has already laid out the path to success in that area, as well.
Of course, everyone looking for a job in sports has to find their own path, leveraging their own skill sets, but Kristi provides lots of practical steps that have worked for her (and others). And as she is fond of saying, if you’re not doing it, somebody else is.