A racing driver's cheat sheet for the off-season

What to do, who to contact and how to plan

There might not be much racing on at this time of the year but that doesn’t mean you get time off from your career (why would you want that, right?).

There’s plenty you can be getting on with. Winter testing is one thing but there’s so much business and admin that comes with being a racing driver. If you race in a team then you might not have as much to do but for those of you flying solo, it’s time to start thinking like an entrepreneur.

When I was team-bossin’, this time of year was its busiest for me. It was when I would contact existing sponsors to speak about renewing for next season and I’d be hustling for new sponsors too, all while maintaining a brand, keeping social media up-to-date and preparing for a big press push at the start of the upcoming season.

Some of you might find this part harder than the racing. When you’re on track, all you need to do is focus on going quick, plus it’s exciting! Building an email list, scheduling Facebook posts and writing press releases might not give you the same thrill but it’s all this stuff that allows you to keep racing.

Build a list of people you’d like to contact regarding sponsorship

I’m going to go into more detail about how to do this at a later date but, for now, look back at old emails (personal and racing-related) and make a list of people in two columns, the first of people who have the power to give sponsorship money and in the second, people who might know someone. Your network is bigger than you might think.

Do the same with Twitter followers, Facebook friends and maybe even dust off that LinkedIn profile.

Once you’ve done this, remove anyone you don’t feel comfortable contacting or who you don’t feel you know well enough to email out of the blue. If you know these people work for interesting companies you’d like to partner with in the future, make a note of the name. You can always look for someone to make an introduction at a later date.

Build an online presence

When you’ve got more time on your hands, it’s easier to engage with people on social media. This is the best way to build your social following but you should also focus on posting content that people will want to share.

Post in-car videos from the season just gone, comment on news stories for race series you’re interested in and be sure to post plenty of pictures. You need to show potential sponsors what a powerful machine your online presence is.

It’s also important to make sure your website is up-to-date because it’s essential when it comes to generating a buzz and letting people know who you are. This will be the first port of call for anyone who is interested in working with you so it has to stand out. Take some time to crawl the pages of successful drivers (where you’d like to be) to look at what they’re doing right then look at your peer group to make sure your website is more appealing.

Network

It’s all good and well networking with people at races and events but this time of year is quiet, save for the end of season party and festive fun. Count this as time to unwind and have fun but book yourself into some real networking events too.

These are so important when it comes to meeting new people and reaching a different crowd. You never know who you might meet that may be able to help you along in your career.

Spend time researching networking events and look at the types of people who attend. Perhaps this is a good chance to make contact with the people you wrote down while building your contact list.

Speak to existing sponsors

It’s well known in the business world that it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than a new one so don’t neglect existing sponsors. It’s likely that if you’ve treated them well or have some exciting plans for next year, they’ll renew but don’t treat it as easy cash. Arrange to take each out for dinner or, at the very least, coffee to discuss the coming season.

If your contract is coming to an end then it’s down to you to sell the benefits of continuing the relationship into next season. Think of new and exciting ways to promote what your sponsors are doing. If you feel the coming season has more to offer them, don’t be afraid to ask for more in return.

Do more for your sponsors

Free weekends mean you can dedicate more time to sponsor events. Put yourself forward for speaking engagements, press events, interviews and meetings. This way sponsors are getting a full year of sponsorship for their money rather than just the months in which you race.

Train, test and develop

You should aim to be better at the beginning of next season compared to the end of the last. Use your time off to test different cars, work on your fitness and perhaps even take on some coaching. If you can get in a simulator too, fantastic! Things don’t stop just because the racing does.

Look back on your season and review your weak spots, we all have them! It might be a certain track or your starts might need work. Work on these little things to make you stronger than ever for next time out.

To-do list

Build your contact list

Everyone that might be able to sponsor you or help you find sponsors, add them to a list.

Build your online presence

That means keeping Facebook and Twitter regularly updated, doing a little bit of work on your LinkedIn profile and making sure your website is up-to-date.

Network

Look into specific networking sections, especially if there are some great speakers or people there you know you want to make contact with.

Renew with existing sponsors

If you feel you can do more, don’t be afraid to ask for more money.

Train, test, develop

Make yourself a stronger driver than you were last season.

Work on the car

Make sure it’s in tip-top condition ahead of the coming season.

Get productive

Take the time to learn the skills needed to juggle the business side of your racing career.

Work on the car

If you own your car, now is the time to get all those little jobs done to get your racer in tip-top condition for the start of the next race season. Make sure to test it too, especially if you make any bigger changes that could affect how the car handles, or you add new parts/upgrades.

Time can often be a factor for people working on race cars. While I’m going to get into productivity, planning and time management at a later date (I live for this organisational stuff), this is a good resource for now: “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy, by Tim Ferriss.

The off season might not be quite as exciting as when you’re racing but that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. It’s this time of year that paves the way for your racing in the future. Of course, you should still take time out to party (a good networking opportunity) and let your hair down, this is supposed to be fun, after all.

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