Martin Moore: Taking the Leap, from Side Hustle to Dream Gig

I met Martin Moore Martin Moore  at a networking event and when he shared his story of career transformation with me, I knew my readers would want to hear about how he did it. Moore transformed his career at age 37 from auto mechanic to content developer for Koss Headphones. In this role, he shoots and edits all commercials and photos for Koss and manages their social media, blog, email, marketing campaigns (print and digital), and website UI/UX. He also leads Koss’ new Ambassador Program. Moore and I talked about what inspired him to change careers, what got him interested in content development, how he made the transition from side hustle to full-time gig, and his best career advice for others wanting to transform their careers.

Wendy Terwelp: What inspired you to make your career transition, and what age were you?

Martin Moore: My favorite quote is by actress Mae West, who said: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Every day when I wake up, I try to approach the day with that mantra. To make every day count.

I’ve always been two things, a creator and an entertainer. Whether it was doing magic when I was a kid, playing music as a young adult or photography and filmmaking today; creating, making, entertaining people… that is what I love, that is what completes me.

Up until this past year, creating has never been a career for me. At best it’s been a side hustle, at worst an unattainable dream. Every time I looked at my life, where I was and where I wanted to be, there was this huge dichotomy between my reality and my dreams. Every time I thought about taking a chance on perusing my dream of doing photography and video full time, I would be so afraid at the thought of failing, that I would never take the chance.

Around 2014, when I was 34, my career as an auto mechanic was failing. Epiphany is the only word I can use to describe the feeling the rushed through me. I finally reached the point where I wasn’t afraid anymore. I asked myself, “Why are you constantly afraid of failing at trying to do something you love, when you can just as easily fail at doing something you don’t love?” Which, as it turns out, was my current situation at the time.

So, to answer the question “What inspired me to change my career?” The tangible possibility that I could leave my shitty job as an auto mechanic and do what I really loved for a living.

Martin Moore Milwaukee Vlogger Photographer Koss Headphones

Terwelp: How were you able to transition from mechanic to content developer and brand evangelist for Koss while you were working full time?

Moore: Work. Work. Work. And work.

Now this is a super cliché answer, but there is a reason why it’s the same answer anyone who’s ever accomplished anything gives, because it’s true. For me, going from an Auto Mechanic to Content Developer for Koss Headphones was a drastic career change. I cannot convey in words how drastically different every aspect of my career life is now.

In 1997 when I was 17, I started changing oil at Jiffy Lube. In 1999, after one year of college, I dropped out to start working for Honda as a technician. I spent the next 20 years working a job I was good at, I enjoyed, and most importantly made good money doing.

As the car industry started changing, so did my career as a technician. The culture became frustrating. I was making less and less money. But worst of all, I was watching my pride for what I did slowly evaporate. I hated working on cars, and it was around 2014 when I looked myself in the mirror and said, “You’ve got two choices, get out now while you still can or keep working a job you hate until you’re 64.”

Martin Moore Milwaukee Vlogger Photographer Koss Headphones

“I don’t have to tell anyone who has changed careers, started a business or followed their dream, that in doing so, it tests everything you ever thought you knew about yourself.”—Martin Moore

So, it was around 2014 when I decided I was done. I wanted to shoot photos and make videos for a living. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I just knew that I would.

For the next three years, 365 days a year, my life went as followed:

  • Wake up at 5:30 a.m.
  • Get downtown by 6:30 a.m. to record beginning of vlog (vlog is a video blog)
  • Start day job at 8:00 a.m.
  • Change out of work clothes on lunch break record middle of vlog
  • Change back into work clothes, work until 5:00 p.m.
  • Go back downtown by 5:30 p.m. finish recording vlog
  • Get home by 7:00 p.m.
  • Edit vlog until 1:30 a.m. and upload
  • Wake up at 5:30 and repeat.

At the same time, I ran my photography/video business shooting weddings, events, and commercial work. I went to meetings, networking events, and was actively social networking — all while working my 50-hour a week auto mechanic gig. I didn’t have a day off. I didn’t have weekends. When I went on vacation I was vlogging and editing.

Martin Moore Milwaukee Photographer Blogger Koss Headphones

 “I needed to create a brand for myself.” Martin Moore

The point to all this work was simple, I needed to create a brand for myself. “Martin Moore” needed to not just be my name, it needed to be something that was always in the back of people’s minds; so, anytime someone needed photos, or a video “Martin Moore” was the first person that popped in their head. If I could create that, it would in turn create attention for me and my business.

The biggest contributing factor to building Martin Moore as a brand was when I finally learned the art of “Not Giving A *uck.” The one thing that held me back more than anything was me being afraid to be me. Taking myself too seriously. Letting comments and feedback from trolls and haters get to me. Pretending to be something I’m not. Everyone goes through these things when they are trying to build a personal brand, and everyone who has made it to the other side will tell you the same story. As soon as they stopped caring about what other people thought and concentrated on themselves, that’s when they discovered true creative and entrepreneurship euphoria.

The end game [for building my personal brand] was to either run my own photography/video business full time or get hired by a company I loved to do the same thing.

By the spring of 2017 all my hard work paid off. After years of tasting some success, and tasting a lot of failure, Koss approached me and brought me on to create all their content. The rest as they say, is history.

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Terwelp: Did social media numbers play a big role in landing with Koss?

Moore: I’ve always concentrated on the people behind the numbers, and never the numbers themselves. By every single metric a brand measures, I am a nobody. There are golden retrievers on Instagram with more followers than me. The funny thing is, I can’t walk down the streets of Milwaukee without someone recognizing me. I am overwhelmed daily with DM’s and emails from people asking for advice, wanting to set up meeting with me or simply thanking me for inspiring them. When I go to networking events, there are lines of people waiting to talk to me; and the interesting thing is a lot of times there will be someone there with 10 times the followers standing next to me alone. So that’s what Koss saw in me, that’s what OnMilwaukee.com saw in me, and that’s what other brands and companies saw in me — my ability to produce real engagement, authentic relationships, and true influence. Koss found me from a YouTube video with 58 views. The numbers don’t matter.

Terwelp: What’s your advice for engagement?

Moore: My biggest tip for engagement: Look at social media and P2P [person-to-person] networking as a telephone not a radio. Don’t just dictate to people; create engaging content and hold conversations. Don’t just make relationships, maintain them.

Terwelp: What role did networking play in helping you make this transition happen? 

Moore: Networking was absolutely the most vital piece of the puzzle. Meeting people, getting my name out there, networking was the only way to reach people who otherwise had no clue who I was. There is nothing more valuable than word of mouth.

Wendy Terwelp Career Coach Career Transformation Martin Moore Koss Headphones

Terwelp: What was the most important thing you did to make this career transition happen?  

“Stick to my plan. Don’t pass on opportunities. Network. Work harder than everyone else.” —Martin Moore

Terwelp: What do you feel was the main benefit of transitioning from auto mechanic to content developer?  

Moore: To make sure the quote by Mae West was something I lived by, not passively consumed. To be happy.

You can listen to all the Gary Vee [Gary Vaynerchuk] podcasts you want, read books, and go to seminars, but until you find that place inside of you that motivates you to want to live your life the way you want to, the benefits of transitioning to a new career will always remain just a dream.

“Find that place inside of you that motivates you to want to live your life the way you want…” —Martin Moore

Terwelp: What advice would you recommend to others considering making a career transition?

Moore: Changing careers is scary. You’re trading comfort, competence, tenure, and stability for everything that’s the antithesis of those. We spend a third of our lives working, so if you’re one of those people who is excited for #TGIF every week because you hate your day job, you need to change that.

I’ll leave you with this: Look at that career, that job you hate as the Titanic sinking, and your dreams and goals as the shore; and in between those two points are a bunch of lifeboats. Every lifeboat is an opportunity, and every boat you get into gets you one step closer to the shore, your dream. Every opportunity you don’t take, every boat you don’t get into, there is someone right next to you, in the water, treading for their life who will gladly take your place.

Wendy Terwelp is a career transformation and networking expert who works with professionals ready to take charge of their careers and love Mondays again. Ready to rock? Let’s talk!

Photos of Martin Moore provided by Martin Moore.

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