When the first Formula E season was launched in 2014 it not only gave teams and drivers a new challenge in their careers, but for young journalists, it gave them a chance to get involved with a new motorsport series where they could be seen on a par with other journalists, with no one having previous experience in the brand-new championship. Having started her motorsport blog the year before, Katy Fairman quickly became involved in Formula E after she was invited to a FE charity event. I spoke to her about traveling the world with the series, freelance work and the success of her own website.
Katy’s love of sport stems back to her childhood with her being a fan of anything with a competitive element to it. “Put on a sport and I can become engrossed pretty quickly. I think it’s a mix of the competitiveness and just the sheer appreciation of someone who is the best at what they can do. However, for me and my relationship with sport, well it is non-existent. I just can’t find a sport that I really love playing. Maybe I need to get myself a competitive racing licence,” she told me. When it comes to motorsport, it’s Katy’s Dad that has had the biggest influence on her with him introducing her to the world or racing at a young age. “He would spend his weekends glued to the TV and as time went by, I also started to watch it with him. It sounds daft but racing is all I know now. It started as a hobby, something to get excited about on the weekends, and now as an adult I am still as obsessed as ever,” Fairman explained
As she got older, Katy began to explore the sport and the opportunities that the industry could offer her. “Discovering more and more forms of motorsport as time goes on has been the best part, there’s something out there for everyone,” she said. “Never did I, or any of my family, think that I would find myself in a career in motorsport. Since I was old enough to attend school, my dream job was to become a teacher. I had that same ambition until I was about 17 and finishing the first year of A-Levels. Then during those summer holidays, I created my motorsport blog and the rest, I guess you could say, is history.” Although she had studied English Language at school, Fairman had little experience of journalism and writing informative articles, yet with her natural talent and flair for it, she thrived on the new challenge. “It was totally new to me and I think my first ever post that wasn’t some corny introduction, was about Spa and if it had lost its appeal with these new modern F1 machines. I liked the research and being able to express an opinion that didn’t have to be cut down to suit Twitter’s character limit,” Katy told me.
Fairman and a friend had discussed starting blogs with her friend keen on blogging about her favourite beauty products. “I didn’t really have a great deal of interest in beauty but instead decided to write about something I did know plenty about – motorsport. I liked the behind-the-scenes work as well, like designing the layout of the website and creating pieces of media such as logos,” she described. As her work and website gained more exposure, Katy herself began gaining more attention with publications showing interest in her and her doing freelance work for them. “For the longest time I didn’t want to call myself a ‘freelance journalist’, mainly because I felt like such an imposter. I had been a fan for all these years and now I was referring to myself as a journalist? It sounded too professional, too serious and too advanced for what I was doing, which was basically blogging in my bedroom. However, when I started being taken on for freelance work, I really enjoyed it. It was so much simpler being freelance as you are able to almost follow a brief; a race report, a feature on the history of a race team or a basic news article,” Fairman explained.
With her unique style being both playful and informative, Katy has received many compliments over her relatively short career. Despite having written for many publications and creating different forms of articles, Fairman still finds that it’s her opinion pieces that seem to grab her audience’s attention more than others. “As someone who is self-taught, I have been the product of so many influences in the way that I write. People have told me that when they read my work, it is almost like I am writing the piece directly to them which is such a huge compliment. When writing opinionated pieces on my blog, or something from personal experience, that is when I am my happiest writing. Those are also the blogs that get the most interest which to me seems kind of ironic,” Katy told me. One of her first articles is also one of her biggest successes after Fairman’s ability was endorsed by an F1 team. “‘Why Motorsport Journalism?’ is among my most read with thousands of views – helped massively by the Sauber Formula 1 team who shared it on their Reddit page calling me one of their favourite motorsport bloggers and saying my work was ‘mesmerising’!” Katy exclaimed.
Fairman is probably best known now for her work in Formula E with her being a regular in the FE paddock. Having had an interest in the series since its creation, it was the intrigue of how the classic ideas of motorsport would combine with the new innovation of electric energy that had her hooked. “I think initially it was to do with a motor racing championship involving electric cars, it was such a polar opposite of what I experienced in championships like F1 and I was aware about the ever-increasing threat of global warming. This was new, exciting and backed by the FIA so I knew it was worth spending some time on. The drivers involved too was a huge pull, as well as locations that were promised on the calendar,” she told me. It wasn’t until midway through the first season that Katy had the chance to get more involved in the championship. “The first opportunity I had working in Formula E came when I was invited out to Monaco for a charity event. I had full access, a VIP of Formula E, and that allowed me to witness first-hand the start of something very special. The championship was still in its infancy, but it was clear it just needed a break. It is mad to think that just four years ago I was attending my very first Formula E event and even in the pitlane there was uncertainty as to whether this championship would go anywhere, now it is motorsport’s most promising series and is going from strength to strength,” she described.
Known for her fun approach to writing informative articles, this year Katy is keen to expand her work in the sport starting 2 new projects. The first of these is a new Instagram series in which she speaks to some of Formula E’s top stars in a ‘Quick Fire Questions’ interview. “Don’t get me wrong, I love asking a driver a really tough question, I wouldn’t be a very good journalist if I didn’t, but sometimes asking drivers the same questions can get dull. Quick Fire Questions came about as a bit of fun really, a chance to get to see a bit more character and personality from these drivers but also offer a light-hearted break. I really enjoy recording them and from the looks of it, the drivers enjoy them too, especially photobombing each other’s answers,” she said. Yet this isn’t her only new venture, with Fairman having launched a new podcast earlier this year. The Small Torque Podcast started as an experiment but became something that Katy quickly fell in love with. Unfortunately, due to other work commitments she hasn’t been able to publish more recently, however she has big plans! “I work full-time in digital marketing with motorsport journalism being a side hustle, so adding regular podcasts on top of that is proving difficult. I have however been booking in some really interesting guests for the next few months and should have more episodes soon. Everyone has stories, highs, lows and mistakes that they have learnt from, I want to be able to explore those on the Small Torque Podcast,” Katy explained.
Despite her successes, one of the biggest challenges for Fairman is her self-confidence. “(It’s) not so much the going up to people, that I am fine with, but more the belief in my own ability. It can be a slippery slope and finding the motivation when you feel like you are not good enough can seem impossible at times. Having the right people around me and the odd motivational quote, as well as constantly wanting to absorb and learn from as many people as I can has been a huge help. My first race as accredited media consisted of a mini breakdown in the media centre because I felt I wasn’t good enough. After a stern chat from a friend, I swatted those thoughts away and just dived in the deep end. That weekend, the 2017 Monaco ePrix, remains one of the most defining but rewarding race weekends I will probably ever experience. I still have doubts, but nothing like I used to,” she told me. Despite these challenges, working in Formula E has offered her many incredible experiences. “It’s the cars, the people, the places: I feel like the luckiest person around at every single race I attend. Particular standout moments though include getting to meet and interview some real racing legends and being present for watching history being made in front of my very eyes,” Katy said.
Katy Fairman’s journalism career started with her blogging in her bedroom. Her story surely offers hope to others in the same position as she was only a few years ago, and shows that with determination and skill, there is always room for you in your desired area. Her advice to others wanting to work in the industry would be: “make a blog, learn from your mistakes and get creative. Embrace the passion you have for what you are writing about and always want to improve on your work. I also want the most recent race weekend I attend to be my best. I think if you get comfortable in what you are doing, whether that is asking the same kind of questions or talking to the same group of people, how can you expect to learn and grow?”
Image credits: Katy Fairman