In an earlier (and popular) Underground post I profiled niche writer Tom Gaylord – the writer who turned his lifelong passion for target air guns into a fulltime career.
Two years later, Gaylord’s writing gig has mushroomed into several lucrative new areas, and it seems the time is ripe for an update.
Those who read the original post will recall Gaylord’s advice: write about a subject you love so much, you can’t wait to get out of bed and get to work.
Not only is it a prescription for job satisfaction, but it’s not a bad route to getting paid.
In the last two years, Gaylord’s turned his domination of the adult target airgun niche into several lucrative new projects – including a co-host spot on a TV show and several lucrative product development deals.
In fact, with his American Airgunner TV show recently signed for a second season, Gaylord is now in the enviable position of refusing even high-paying jobs.
His dance card’s just too full.
Write to Your Passion, But Get Paid For It
“I’m exactly where I want to be” said the plain-talking Gaylord at the start of the interview.
“I’ve reached my work limit, I don’t “audition” for any kind of work any more, I’m getting paid for my time, and I’m doing something I want to keep doing as long as my heart is beating.”
Can you top that?
If not, read on.
First, what’s Gaylord doing right?
He’s getting paid to:
- Write airgunning’s top blog
- Produce a 2x monthly podcast (he taught himself the technology)
- Write paid articles for several sites & magazines
- Co-host a new TV show
- He signed a pair of lucrative product development deals
How has he arrived at this place?
He knows this stuff, and he loves writing about it.
If that’s not exactly the four-point formula for success you were hoping for, consider this: For several years, Gaylord has posted new blog articles five days a week (without fail).
And he does it for the fastest-growing retailer in the business (an excellent example of content marketing that you can reference in your own pitches).
Gaylord’s audience continues to grow, and and just so you know he’s hardly phoning it in, his blog posts regularly generate upwards of several hundred comments – an astonishing number given the tiny airgun market.
In addition to all the writing projects outlined in my prior article, the past year has seen him signing several paid product development deals – and moving from the online world into a TV host spot.
In other words, he’s still doing exactly what he wants.
And yes, he’s making more money at it then ever.
While it’s common for successful bloggers to steer themselves into other channels, Gaylord wasn’t necessarily looking for the television show which has transformed his working life.
And while the TV show has been well received in its first season (the Sportsmen’s Channel just signed for a second season), Gaylord notes the ride hasn’t been wholly smooth.
“Between the travel and the workload, I discovered what my limits were. Now I have to make sure I don’t make myself sick again.”
Still, the TV exposure promises to raise Gaylord’s profile even higher among not just the airgunning world, but the larger sporting markets. In terms of building a personal brand, a TV show is not a bad route – and the affable Gaylord comes across as so likable and passionate, you can’t help but see a big future in video (whether broadcast or online).
In what Gaylord calls “another lobe” of his work are his new product development deals.
He recently signed two deals which see him helping a pair of industry leaders fine-tune – and even revolutionize – their product lines.
While modesty – and a pair of NDAs – limit what Gaylord’s willing to reveal, it’s largely true to suggest Gaylord was at the foundation of one American airgun company’s recent introduction of three world-beating products.
They’re revolutionizing a market, and because nothing succeeds like success, Gaylord’s stock has risen to the point where several other manufacturers are willing to pay him to talk turkey.
I don’t care what market you play in; that’s an enviable position.
OK, So How Does He Do It?
Rather than repeat everything Gaylord said in my earlier profile, let me reprint a quote from the earlier article summarizing Gaylord’s approach, and then I’ll get down to the nitty gritty:
Still, it’s not hard to see what matters to him — the first words out of Gaylord’s mouth were: “Most important is to write about the things you love doing.”
Gaylord’s writing style is conversational, and not intimidating or pedantic.
“I see my role as more an educator than salesman” he said, and his straightforward style of writing reflects it. He’s been writing about airguns for almost two decades, and expects to “continue doing so until I drop.”
How does he generate so much copy for so many venues?
“You should write about the things you love so much that you can’t wait to write the next post or article.”
With that in mind, Gaylord’s approach to growing his online presence beyond the online world involves nothing particularly high tech or glamorous.
Instead, Gaylord makes it a point to know everything there is to know about his industry (see blockquote above), and then pitches his ideas to those in a position to make a difference.
When one company invited several airgun writers to a show & tell, Gaylord went armed with a specific product pitch, including marketing information he’d picked up at an industry breakfast a couple years prior.
Simply put, it worked. And it lead to one of his product development deals.
It’s a recurring tactic for Gaylord, who only founded his extremely popular (and paid) blog because he pitched the idea a top online retailer – a pitch that came complete with costs and revenue potential.
“Don’t Be Afraid to Fail.”
Diving headfirst into new areas is a recurring theme for Gaylord, who used to publish a printed airgun “newsletter” that ultimately failed when the Internet picked up steam.
“Sure, you sometimes make bad decision, but don’t be afraid to fail” he said.
“You need to fail to learn, and if you’re one of those people who has to ask three other people what they should do, you’re simply going to prolong the learning process.”
And while his stock is definitely on the rise, Gaylord’s not afraid to admit he made mistakes even in the midst of his most-successful year.
The TV show – which required frequent travel to New York (Gaylord lives in Texas) – was a new situation for him, and he didn’t strike a deal that served him particularly well.
That’s been rectified for the upcoming season, but Gaylord – in opposition to a lot of what you hear spouted on the Internet about writers giving away the farm – is very clear on the idea of giving too much away.
“You’ve got to be very careful not to give too much away,” Gaylord said.
“As a writer in a particular market, over time you develop an experience base that should make you valuable. There’s a tendency to give that knowledge away in order to get in the game.”
“Don’t do that.”
Where Are You Going?
While Tom Gaylord’s niche is small and unusual, the product and television deals have put him in a place so ideal, he can’t imagine anything better.
“At 62, I’m finally in the place I wish I was at when I was 40” he said.
“I’m turning down work, I don’t audition for anything, and I’ll happily keep doing this work as long as my heart keeps beating.”
Keep writing (and pitching, and thinking, and failing…), Tom Chandler.
UPDATE: Gaylord’s year-end post displays the kind of specific, boots-on-the-ground thought leadership that allows him to charge for product development ideas. Worth a look.