This month we interviewed Maximilian Blair. Born in Germany, Max was raised bilingually by his German Mother and American Father. Living in a small town on the southern tip of Germany, Max took the leap into freelancing last February and works across traditional PR and communications as well as targeted copywriting and translating for brands, companies, organizations and individuals ranging from global players all the way to smaller start-ups.
Following my studies of Public Relations at the University of Gloucestershire and a year of living the personal dream of working as Snowboard Instructor in British Columbia, I combined my passion for sports and the outdoors with my professional background and worked as PR and Communications Manager in high-profile sports communications agencies in Austria and Germany before starting my own business as Freelance PR Manager, Communications Consultant, Copywriter, Translator and Event/TV Commentator.
I originally set out to start with a focus on the cycling, event and tourism industries but quickly expanded to include sports in general as well as (e-)mobility and sustainability. In fact, the last year has taken me across the world (virtually – we’re talking 2020/21 after all) with projects that included topics as diverse as e-mobility, winter sports, insurance, automotive supplies, outdoor apparel, sustainability, motorsports, fitness, football and tennis.
I’ve worked as a freelancer since February 2020. I managed to time starting my own business to perfectly coincide with the start of the pandemic and the first round of lockdowns in Europe. It’s not all doom and gloom though. The first round of lockdowns and the pause of most of my projects gave me the time to properly dive into all the legal and tax related challenges of the business which actually helped me in the long run.
I always toyed with the idea of starting my own business one day. In the end, it was a mix of opportunity, timing, and my personal situation. I had felt like I was starting to stagnate a bit in my job at the time and longed for a change of scenery and a bit more flexibility. In consequence, I quit my job and took three months off to go on a mountain bike road trip across British Columbia. Upon returning to Europe, my partner at the time started a job in a small town at the southern tip of Germany and I moved with her. I noticed that most of the companies I was interested in working for were at least a two-hour commute away and were hesitant when it came to my wishes for more flexibility regarding one or two days of home office a week (oh how the times have changed!). Always a restless soul, I contacted several people within my broader network to see if I could pick up some smaller projects on the side for the time being. To my surprise this went way better than I could have ever imagined and in the space of a few weeks I had acquired two bigger projects as well as several smaller projects and was generally met with a lot of interest. That’s when I decided to take the leap and start my own business as freelancer. One year later, I couldn’t be happier with that decision.
I was made aware of The Work Crowd in summer 2020 and quickly signed up… I honestly like the concept of connecting freelancers with companies and was pleasantly surprised by the functionality of the platform. Acquiring new business is one of the most important (and if unsuccessful, unpaid) aspects of working as a freelancer. Being free to use for freelancers, The Work Crowd is a nice tool for active as well as passive acquisitions. For me specifically, it opens my business up to a market (the UK and beyond) that I would struggle to find the time to properly cover on my own, allows me to easily acquire new projects outside of my existing network and has the potential to connect me with companies that might otherwise not be on my radar.
Outside of the first four weeks my entire work as freelancer has been during the pandemic so it’s tough for me to adequately assess the effect the pandemic has had on my business. That being said, I had originally planned to set out with a focus on events and tourism sectors and those two industries were among those that got hit the hardest. This situation led me to diversify my portfolio and business quicker than I would have probably done otherwise. The ability to quickly adapt to changing markets is one of the positive aspects of freelancing for me. The uncertainty that goes along with it, is one of the negative ones.
So far, I’ve worked on two projects through The Work Crowd – both within the general realm of sports. The first project was for a leading UK agency who in turn worked for a major international sports federation. They brought me on board to support a large global announcement with targeted media relations in the German-language DACH countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) as well as the arrangement of a long-form interview with a leading news outlet and the translation of various materials. The announcement was received exceptionally well internationally, and I was happy to contribute with scoring 80+ publications of the story across major news and general sports media in Germany, Austria and Switzerland within 48 hours of the announcement as well as a feature interview in one of Germany’s largest news outlets. The second project is currently ongoing, so I can’t say much right now.
Trust in yourself and in your network. The people and companies you have worked with or for in the past should generally know what you are capable off. They have seen your work and can give you references or referrals within their network and their current companies. It is really quite astonishing how fluid one’s network really is and what kind of opportunities can spring out of even the most unlikely places. Secondly, trust in yourself. If a company or individual talks to you about a potential project, it’s because they have a need, they can’t fulfil themselves. If you can fill that need, be confident about it and say it. You’re selling your skills to someone who needs them, so sell them. There is no reason to talk yourself down.