Q: “How do I get your job?” It’s the second-most-asked question every automotive journalist gets; what’s the first?
A: What’s your favourite car?
Q: I want to drive supercars!
A: People want to get into the industry dreaming of supercar road tests – this is very far from reality. When you look at publications, websites, and social media channels, the good ones cover all spheres of new vehicles.
Q: What is the job about?
A: Automotive journalists are responsible for reviewing and reporting about new cars and developments in the motor industry. They often test drive new cars, motorcycles or trucks and provide opinions to customers. Generally, they are excellent writers who have a broad knowledge of mechanics and the motor industry.
Q: Who do automotive journalists work for?
A: There is motoring content in magazines, newsletters, newspapers, websites, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, YouTube channels and broadcast media. Some journalists work for a specific organisation, others freelance and get paid per article.
Q: So, there is more than one type of motoring journalist?
A: Some journalists write very technical articles with a lot of mechanical detail; some supply fantastic photography and general information. Some write about cars, some about motorcycles, some about trucks. Some journalists only write about motorsport. It would be best if you determine what area you want to specialise in. Your future employer is not catering to what you want to achieve; they cater to their audiences.
Q: What are the working hours?
A: Staff members of all motoring platforms certainly do not work the regular 9-5 office hours. Contrary to expectation, driving a car is not what earns your keep; writing about it does. There are deadlines to meet, and when most people go home, you will still be at your keyboard late into the night.
Q: What kind of knowledge must I have?
A: The job requires a specific skill set, just like any job. Besides writing skills and mechanical knowledge, it would be advantageous to understand photography, videography and probably know your way around social media.
Q: Do I need a tertiary education?
A: We recommend that you try to study journalism at a tertiary institution.
Q: I don’t have the finances for college/university.
A: If you don’t have the funds, look for writing courses and do as many as possible. Write! Rewrite, polish and edit until it’s the best you can create. Write for your school, your community newspaper, your neighbourhood newsletter. Write for free if you have to! Keep your stories varied so you can demonstrate your passion through opinion pieces, interviews and features. Remember, there are often bursaries and scholarships you can apply for, but to do that, you need to have examples of your writing.
Q: How do I know if my writing is good enough?
A: Every writer needs to objectively, and often brutally, edit their work. It would be best if you were a good writer; good writers continuously strive to be better. Find old issues of automotive magazines and read everything. How do they put the reader in the driver’s seat? How do they voice their enthusiasm? How do they include interesting technical information? Read everything you can about the automotive industry, attend car shows, whether big or small. Pay attention to motorsport.
Q: I am not good at writing, but I still love cars. What else can I do?
A: Look through car magazines and take note of the photograph credits. Often the same names will repeatedly appear because they have honed their skills. Take a photography course and learn about composition and lighting. Learn to produce and edit videos. Do you have a voice for radio? Be creative! Many writers start as freelance journalists or create their own social media platform.
Q: How do I get my content out there?
Submit content whenever and wherever you can. Get as many publication credits as possible because this will help you provide writing samples when you are job hunting. Without a portfolio of work, you will not be able to apply for a job.
Q: I’ve submitted articles, but I am not getting published!
A: This is a competitive industry with lots of talent. Your stories may be rejected or ignored. You need to be able to take criticism from editors. It will help if you have perseverance and a genuine passion for making your dreams of becoming a motoring journalist a reality.
Q: There must be an easier way?
A: Well, the truth is, there is no easy way. There’s no single path or a right or wrong way to get into automotive journalism. It’s about your creativity and relentless pursuit of your dream.
Q: Can I start my own blog/vlog?
A: The rise of social media means that there are many bloggers, vloggers and influencers who seem to become “instant” automotive content creators. There are probably more people currently writing about and photographing cars than ever before. Doing it and doing it brilliantly are two different things.