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Making a Career out of Adventure – some Questions Answered

Stealing an idea from Andy Kirkpatrick’s blog, I decided to answer this email I received in the public format of my blog. I get asked these questions a lot and hope they may help other folk. Please do add your own thoughts in the comments of any useful stuff I have missed out.

An email I received:

It seems as though there is a network of people making a life from adventure in the UK, especially around London, how do I get involved? Are there places that they hang out or events they attend? I believe expanding my network for like minded people will help me in not only work but also in personal pursuits and difficulties.

I think there are different groups of people here. There are people who make a life from adventure in the UK that you have never heard of. They are climbing guides, outdoor leaders, mountain rescue teams, forest school teachers, people doing big stuff but paying for it with normal jobs, hardcore climbers living on a pittance out of the back of vans and so on. Then there are the people you have heard of. They are either the folk doing the most eye-catching stuff in the public’s opinion (Ran Fiennes), or people who make a loud noise on the internet about what they do (me!). Some have noise and substance, some just the noise. One of my greatest personal worries in life is my slide towards the latter category as my own interesting expeditions dry up. One of the most adventurous guys I know has a wife, a baby, an office job, and lots of DIY that needs doing in his house. But he squeezes in way more time in the mountains than me – yet I have 60 times more Instagram followers because I am the self-proclaimed “Adventurer”!

In other words, think hard about who you want to be, and why. “Making a life out of adventure” comes in many formats. For every “professional adventurer” with a moody stare and a million pounds there are loads of people scraping to get by, or failing to scrape by and resorting to a proper job and adventures in the gaps.

But that is not what you asked me, is it! “How do I get involved?” was what you asked.

That depends. If you want to get involved in actually being out living adventurously then go rent a cottage in the Lake District, Snowdonia or Scotland and get out and meet the people who are living the adventurous life. In terms of paying the bills from adventure then, yes, London, is a handy place to be (though its dearth of mountains etc. causes me much anguish). Get involved with things like the Royal Geographical Society, Tales of Adventure, Escape the City, Project Awesome, Say Yes More, Explorers Connect, Secret Adventures. Join your local Microadventure Facebook group. Go hang out at these Adventure Film Festivals for a weekend. (I hear that even ugly adventurers have managed to find a girlfriend in this way – a bonus!)

Wherever you live, follow on Twitter the folk I interviewed for my Grand Adventures book – they will open your eyes to many different worlds of adventure.

  • Along a similar vein, what kind of social networking do you find most useful, and are there any tips that you found really helped you to build your lifestyle?

One day I will / might write a vast blog post on this. Figuring out social media is one of the main things that has made my choice of lifestyle possible (sit in a shed not an office, drink tea, go for runs). So do not underestimate it! But remember this above all: there is more to life than how big your social media audience is. You have already done a massive journey, so my usual caveats to this topic do not apply to you. Do something big, then worry about social media. Not the other way round.

I would say that this book is essential reading if you want to get the hang of telling stories on social media. It’s a year or two out of date which, in itself, is a useful lesson. Social media gallops on at pace! Snapchat is becoming enormous. I have however decided that I am too busy and too old to begin Snapchat. From my point of view, YouTube is key, Facebook is the most effective at generating effective calls to action (“please buy my book!”), Twitter is great for becoming “an authority in your niche” (marketing waffle, but a critical thing for you to master), and Instagram appeals to the trendy marketing folk who are on the look out for “influencers” and brand ambassadors. I put a lot of effort into blogging (on my own webpage, and a bit on Medium), but that is effort-heavy and a slow burner to build an audience. And, of course, you should be building an email list immediately. (Here’s mine – please sign up!)

  • Other than practice, are there any resources you recommend for public speaking tips?

I’ve written a blog post about this here and here. Watch lots of TED talks and Do Lectures. Go do a Pecha Kucha. Become “an authority in your niche”. Go and do hundreds, literally hundreds, of unpaid talks to school kids. If you can make them listen to you then a corporate audience or a TED audience will be a piece of cake!

  • How do you go about pricing speaking for different events?

I began by doing unpaid talks until I felt competent. Schools are the best place to do this. After each talk ask the headteacher for a reference, and for a personal recommendation to a few other schools. Once you have some momentum start charging a small fee – maybe £50 (you should charge your expenses right from the start). If nobody complains, charge the next one £100. Keep doing this until you begin to meet resistance and refusals. You are learning your market value. If someone agrees to your fee immediately make a mental note that you should quote a higher price next time! Get blooming good and you can join Bear Grylls in charging £100,000 a pop to share your holiday snaps…

  • How do you feel I could maximise on my recent media interest?

Get some screengrabs and some useful quotes. Stick them on your website. I am still milking quotes more than a decade old on my website! Then accept that today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers. In the digital world it’s even less: today’s news is forgotten tomorrow. In other words, your fame is already over! Suck it up, start again, and prepare yourself for a lifetime of the question “So, what’s next?”

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