Collins was a member of the Labour Party between the late 1980s and early 1990s, leaving after Labour's defeat in the 1992 General Election.
In 2007, he was made patron of Thomas's Fund, a Northampton-based music therapy charity for children with life-limiting illnesses.
Collins started his career as a music journalist, writing for the NME, Vox, Select and Q (where was editor, 1995–97). He also wrote for and edited film magazine Empire in 1995. He formed a double-act with fellow music journalist Stuart Maconie, presenting the Sony Award-winning BBC Radio 1 show Collins and Maconie's Hit Parade, after forging their style on a daily comedy strand on Mark Goodier's BBC Radio 1 drivetime show, and Collins & Maconie's Movie Club on ITV.
In 1998, Collins published his first book, Still Suitable for Miners, an authorised biography of the singer-songwriter Billy Bragg. The book was updated in 2002 and again in 2007.
Collins often appeared on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 list shows, including the popular I Love the '80s programme. He stated on BBC Three's The Most Annoying TV Programmes We Love to Hate that he had appeared on 37 such list shows, and that this would be his last one. He subsequently appeared on Heroes Unmasked on BBC Three. He devoted a full chapter to the experience of appearing as a talking head on such shows in his third volume of autobiography, That's Me in the Corner, and continues to appear on similar shows (most recently, Most Shocking Christmas TV Moments on Channel 5 in December 2015).
He has written three volumes of autobiography, humorous accounts of "growing up normal" in 1970s Northampton, struggling with art school in London in the 1980s, and forging a media career in the 1980s and 1990s: Where Did It All Go Right? (2003) (a Sunday Times and Smith's bestseller), Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now (2004) and That's Me in the Corner (which draws its title from a line from the R.E.M. song Losing My Religion) published in May 2007.
He produced a regular (generally weekly) podcast, the Collings & Herrin Podcast, with comedian Richard Herring, which began in February 2008 and was named Podcast of the Week in the Times in July 2008. A hiatus from June 2011 to 4 November 2011 was due to what Herring joked was "Collins' duplicitous careerism". Herring announced that the November podcast would most likely be the last, as Collins had lost enthusiasm for it.
Collins presented a Saturday morning radio show with Josie Long on BBC Radio 6 Music between July and December 2011.
He co-wrote the first series of the sitcom Not Going Out for BBC One with Lee Mack, and co-wrote various episodes for the second, third and fourth series. The fifth was the first series he did not work on. The first series won the Rose D'Or for Best Comedy, and he and Mack won the RTS Breakthrough award.
He worked on the team-written sitcom Gates for Sky Living in 2012, and re-teamed with Simon Day (with whom he'd co-written Grass for BBC Three and BBC2 in 2003) to co-write Colin, an episode of the anthology series Common Ground on Sky Atlantic in 2013.
In recent years, Collins has moved into script editing. He was script editor on sitcoms The Persuasionists on BBC Two, Little Crackers (specifically Shappi Khorsandi's) on Sky1, the broadcast pilot of Man Down on Channel 4 (2013), two series of Badults on BBC Three (2013-2014), and the second series of Drifters for E4.
In 2014, he acted as a script consultant on The Inbetweeners 2.
Collins is currently the film editor for Radio Times. He wrote and filmed a weekly TV review column, Telly Addict, for The Guardian website, from May 2011 to April 2016. It returned in June 2016 on YouTube, now hosted and produced by UKTV.
He took over the weekly radio show Saturday Night at the Movies on classical music station Classic FM in March 2015 (from presenter and composer Howard Goodall).
Collins' first solo-written comedy, Mr Blue Sky for BBC Radio 4, starred Mark Benton and Rebecca Front and aired in May and June 2011. It was recommissioned for a second series in 2012. It focused on Harvey Easter (Benton), an eternally optimistic man in his 40s and his more realistic wife Jax (played in series two by Claire Skinner), and the rest of the family including son Robbie, daughter Charlie and grandmother Lou. Jim Bob of indie duo Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine recorded a cover of Mr Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra for the theme tune.
In the Observer, radio critic Miranda Sawyer said "this series charms" and praised Benton's "lovely" performance. The List gave it 3/5, calling it "warmly cosy". The Guardian found it "full of warm, nicely observed lines".
After its second series aired in April and May 2012 (Moira Petty in The Stage praised Benton's performance as "an essay in finely nuanced felicity"), Mr Blue Sky was not recommissioned for a third series.Still Suitable for Miners: Billy Bragg: The Authorised Biography (1998, 2002, 2007, 2013, rev. ed.), Virgin Books ISBN 9780753512456
Friends Reunited: Remarkable Real Life Stories from the Nation's Favourite Website (2003), Virgin Books ISBN 1-85227-039-X (ed.)
Where Did It All Go Right?: Growing Up Normal in the 70s (2003), Ebury Press ISBN 0-09-188667-8
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now: My Difficult Student 80s (2004), Ebury Press ISBN 0-09-189691-6
That's Me in the Corner: Adventures of an Ordinary Boy in a Celebrity World (2007) Ebury Press ISBN 0-09-189786-6
Dads (2008), Contributor, (Edited by Sarah Brown and Gil McNeil) Ebury Press ISBN 0091922720 ISBN 978-0091922726
Shouting at the Telly (2009), Contributor, (Edited by John Grindrod) Faber and Faber ISBN 0-571-24802-0 ISBN 978-0571248025
Modern Delight (2009), Contributor, Faber and Faber ISBN 0571251250 ISBN 978-0571251254
Grandparents: A Celebration (2009), Contributor, (Edited by Sarah Brown and Gil McNeil) Ebury Press ISBN 0091930782 ISBN 978-0091930783
End Of A Century: Nineties Album Reviews in Pictures (2015), Editor, SelfMadeHero ISBN 190683895X ISBN 978-1906838959
Gogglebook: The Wit and Wisdom of Gogglebox (2015), Macmillan Books ISBN 1509809309 ISBN 978-1509809301
Where Did It All Go Right?: Growing Up Normal in the 70s (2009) CD
Collings and Herrin: The Best of Earth, Wind and Fire (and Water) (2009) CD
Collings and Herrin: War and Peace, Crime and Punishment (2010) CD/DVD
Secret Dancing (2010) DVD
He is also makes appearances on the following Go Faster Stripe DVDs.Oh Fuck, I’m 40 (2008) DVD
Nine Lessons and Carols For Godless People (2009) CD
The Headmaster’s Son (2010) DVD
Hitler Moustache (2010) DVD
Christ on a Bike (2011) DVD