The title sounds like a book and perhaps it should be written. A lot of people say it's impossible to make a living as a pro flatlander. One rider who's consistently proving this statement wrong is Terry Adams. How does he do it? How did he get to the top? Was it luck?
....Welcome to part 1 of a series of flatland "examinations," where we will discuss the positives and negatives of the flatland game. The purpose of these interviews is to evaluate what works and what doesn't work in flatland and think about new paths to take in the future. There is no one correct answer or one correct path to success. Look, listen, and learn...then make your path!
Terry Adams is one of my best friends. I've seen him rise up from a small country town with no sponsors to be an international ambassador of flatland bmx and Red Bull athlete. Always on his hustle, Terry's found a way to make a living as a pro flatlander. If you're out there struggling or just want to know what steps to take to do something with your riding career, check it out...
FM: So how long have you been making a living as a pro flatlander?
TA: After I won my first Pro contest in 2002. I quit my job at the local bike shop. 1st place was $3,500 and that was way more than I had in the bank at that time. So I thought to myself, Why work? After that contest I started picking up sponsors that wanted to support me financially. That's pretty much the story in a nut shell.
FM: As far as picking up sponsors, did it happen automatically or did you have to go out and get them?
TA: Some Of the sponsors I really pushed for and some kind of fell in place. After I realized it was possible to keep companies stoked on me through all the media coverage, I really started pursuing that side of things.
FM: In today’s market, how much do you have to hustle to get new sponsors, if at all?
TA: You really need to show you them you are getting out there. I send out my travel schedule all the way back from 2007, my online coverage , # of twitters followers, face book friends, and even my blog updates to show them how much I am getting out there on a monthly basis, Then its up to them to see if I am a fit for their company.
FM: What advice would you give to riders who are achieving a high level of riding, but are just now trying to develop their “professional career” and get sponsored?
TA: Representing a brand is much more than being a great rider. You need to be a likable guy that is willing to put in the extra work to build a good relationship with the company. Something as simple as bringing extra shirts to pass out, keeping fresh stickers on your bike, and even keeping the companies up-to-date are all things that make a true professional. The list goes on, and on, and on.....
Always promoting...free Raising Canes shirts everybody!
FM: One time you had to go to work in the paper mill. Talk about that for moment. Why did you have to get a job?
TA: At that time the company that was supporting me financially had stopped paying me. I sent them an e-mail after 1 week of working at that "paper mill" and said "Please re-consider your decision because I really want to pursue BMX as my job or I am going to go back to school." They believed me and supported me for many years after that. I am very thankful to have had the support from all my sponsors through my career.
Terry Adams going back to school......
FM: Where does the majority of your money come from? Shows, contests, sponsor salaries?
TA: Its pretty much split between all that. I try to do as much as I can to keep everything in motion.
Not only does Terry clock dollars, he also clocks Euros with Matt Wilhelm (on right)...
FM: Out of the split which one holds the biggest percentage for you?
TA:Every year it's different. Thanks to Red Bull, I do a ton of extra appearances every year so that really helps out a lot.
A flatland demo can be done just about anywhere. +1 for flat!
FM: Seems like being a successful pro flatlander takes more than just being able to do hard tricks. Are some other skills/tasks are involved?
TA: Keeping this life going is much more than learning new tricks and taking some wins at the contest. My year is spent keeping my sponsors updated, Coming up with different ways to promote them, traveling for appearances, helping with product design, and of course keeping my body in shape.
FM: When you say keeping your sponsors updated, what does that entail?
TA: I email them on a weekly basis with all my updated travel schedules, media links, and ideas so they know I am out there working. I feel like its my job to keep them up to date on what I have going on.
FM: You say you have to come up with different ways to promote your sponsors. What sort of things have you come up with to promote them?
TA: I have came up with crazy video ideas, bike give aways, twitter contest, doing my own movie, coming up with wild photo shoot ideas, Crazy TV appearances, and even showing up at different events to showcase my skills. All I constantly do is try to think up new ways to keep my self in front the media outlets. There's so many ways to shoot a video or photo so its rad to bring something original to the table. I really enjoy this part about being a professional rider.
FM: How do contests play a role in your career as a pro flatlander?
TA: It pushes me to stay on top of my game. In some cases some of my sponsors are monitoring my contest placing. Of-course that's not all they are looking at but it's awesome to go there and do well. In return it creates online coverage, tv coverage, and print coverage that gets passed around to all the BMX media outlets. So to say they play an important role would be an understatement.
FM: After winning the Jomo Pro (first stop of the flatland world circuit) and given the importance of contests in your career, you will not be at the next round of the Flatland World Circuit in Singapore, why did you choose not to attend all the stops?
TA: I set some career goals at the beginning of the year and in the contest section of the goals I wanted to win 3 contest for 2011. After I hit that number I really became focused on other goals I needed to accomplish. The # 1 reason I am not hitting those final events is I have a 1 month college tour for Red Bull going on so my energy & focus will definitely not be contest training during those dates.
FM: You are sponsored by companies that have BMX flatland specific products as well as companies that have no direct connection with BMX or flatland. Talk about how products that have no direct connection with BMX flatland factor into the mix.
TA: Not all the companies I ride for produce BMX products. Red Bull, Raising Canes Chicken Fingers, and Pro Skins performance bands are companies that have nothing to do with flatland. In my eyes, as long as the athlete/rider can get the sport in the media enough to show impressions for that company. It does not matter how big or small "flatland" is, if you put it in front of enough eye balls, it becomes a very marketable thing.
Chicken and Flatland.... you know what it is!
FM: If other riders out there want to think about getting sponsors that are outside of BMX, how would you advise to initially approach these companies?
TA:You can present them with a proposal of what your asking for & what you can do for them. I always make sure they realize I can be huge asset to their company with all the tours, events, and media coverage I produce in a 12 month period.
FM: Do you have a resume or a set of materials on hand?
TA: I always present them with my upcoming travel schedule , updated career highlights, and past travel/events from the past 3 or 4 years. My goal is to show them I have been on the move for many years and have no intention of slowing down.
FM: Are you a member of any agencies that will get you auditions for commercials?
TA: Yes, I have a sports agency that I work with. They are great because they have the connections to other companies outside BMX.
"I got goals to accomplish....." A hustler's job is never done.
FM: Getting sponsored and making a full living in flatland doesn’t happen overnight, in fact it’s an ongoing process that never stops. I know you have a “goal” system that you use to keep progressing. Explain how you set your goals, how often you set new goals, and what happens if you don’t achieve a specific goal.
TA: At the beginning of every year I set a list goals for my riding. In that list I set a bunch of goals for contest, media coverage, TV appearances, and even tricks. At the end of the year I go over those goals and see how much I accomplished. I know it sounds a little crazy, but doing this has helped me achieve a ton of things. If I come up a bit short on some of the goals I set, I simply re evaluate the the situation and make "an action plan" to get it done the following year.
FM:How often do you look at your list of goals for the year?
TA: Any time I have some downtime. I will look them over to see whats up. Also I always tend to put a goals in there that I know I can I accomplish. That way I can get motivated along the way..
If you would like to know more about the life and times of Terry Adams check out his full length documentary below.