From Soho to So Hot
Suggested Listening: The Lumineers – Sleep on the Floor
361 days of sunshine on average per year, a yearly average temperature of nearly 80°F (27°C) and a 74% average humidity per day. For a pasty skinned, slightly ginger-bearded sound engineer that spends most his time in a windowless basement, I will tell you that this is most definitely a climate change I am not accustomed to. Florida is called ‘The Sunshine State’ for good reason. Even when it’s a cool 90°F (32°C), the humidity puts the ‘feels like’ part of my weather app to over 100°F (nearly 38°C). Well, this is where I live now…sort of.
Welcome to my first blog (at least on this website). In a bid to make a conscious effort to write more, post more content and generally be more active with my social media and interwebbing, I shall be regularly blogging and telling the world of my adventures and experiences. No, I’m not traveling the world; I am embarking on yet another chapter of my life and traversing the bumpy road that is…starting my own company!
This, for me, is the third time moving country and career. I’m hoping it’s the last but who knows, apparently I just can’t sit still. The first time was to start my sound engineering career after university. I moved to New York from a small village in the middle of England to start an internship at a voice over studio. After 5 years gaining valuable experience but being a little fed up of renewing my visa every year I decided that I was moving back to Blighty (that means England). This time London was the goal. I grew up on the south coast of England and had never lived in London (despite most Americans assuming I’m from there) and it’s always been a childhood dream of mine to reside and work in England’s capital. With most of my New York friends thinking I was crazy to go back with very few prospects or contacts, I proved them wrong and found freelance sound design and engineering work within the first few months. This is where my career really blossomed, being exposed to amazing projects and working with some really creative people. It also proved to be quite lucrative which is always a bonus.
9 months later after completing her Master’s Degree in New York my wife joined me in London and started looking for work. Close to a year of struggling by with crappy temp jobs, she finally landed something substantial and somewhat relevant to her dream career path. A couple of years, several conversations, and a few debates on ‘The Big Smoke vs. The Big Apple’ later, The Big Apple won. There really wasn’t much of a debate though. Talk about #firstworldproblems, I’m forced to live in one of the two greatest cities in the world…boohoo.
That brings me to move number three…back to America. Now, as much as we wanted to move directly to New York logistically this would’ve been nearly impossible. Without jobs and no place to live or ship our belongings to, this just wouldn’t have worked. Enter St. Petersburg, Florida. This is where my wife is from and where my in-laws still live a.k.a free accommodation with no bills. For those that are interested, Clearwater/St. Pete is a small peninsula off the west coast of Florida on the Gulf side. Apparently the peninsula fact means the hurricanes aren’t as bad here…um, what? Hurricanes? Until moving here the only thing I had to worry about possibly killing me was heat exhaustion on the Central line at rush hour. Now I have to think about deadly spiders, snakes, alligators, mosquitos, monitor lizards, hurricanes, lightning and crazy Floridian drivers. I didn’t sign up for this!
To get back on track, as I safely write this blog from the mosquito-netted, air-conditioned, poolside sanctuary that is my new office/studio, my goal for my time in Florida is to get my company started and start building a client base and contacts in preparation for New York. It’s actually quite perfect; not having a full time job allows me to be proactive in research and networking as well as not having many overheads or bills to worry about. Plus the opportunity to dip into a pool every now and then with a fresh PBR suits me just fine.
Starting a Business
So…the American Dream:
“The ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative”.
I’m not yet a citizen but a permanent resident is close enough and I believe I have all the above to achieve my dream. I am starting my own post-production audio studio with the vision to build an entire post-production facility that caters to visual editing, grading and effects as well as audio mixing, sound design and recording. Since I my trade is in sound, I’m starting small and working with what I know at first.
I’ve wanted my own studio since I started recording the output of the TV onto cassette tape and mixing music with it when I was a kid. It’s not surprising either when I come from a family of entrepreneurs and business owners. From my Great-Grandfather owning and running a hair salon in Brixton in the 1800’s to my parents having their own marine electronics company in Southampton. “It’s in your blood” as my father explained after telling him about my plans for America. An encouraging “If I had the chance to run my own business again though, I probably wouldn’t do it” followed this. Thanks dad.
I understand this is a big endeavour and something that will not be easy but in true British form with the Queen by my side and a sprinkling of the American Dream, I believe I will be victorious. After a while at the Soho studios I was working at in London, I realised that the amount they charged per hour was about 10 times my hourly freelance rate. Now, I’m not naïve and I understand that a client is paying the higher premium for an established company with reputation, acoustically treated rooms and top-notch equipment. That all has to be paid for somehow, but the key to all that a company offers is the people. The engineers are the reason a studio strives, if they’re good enough it’s often a reason that clients come back to a studio. Reputation. Granted there are a good proportion of clients that appreciate the sushi lunches and endless free tea more than the technical labour of a sound engineer, but even then they wouldn’t come back if the final product was bad.
My point is this: If I was creating and designing audio for the biggest agencies and clients in London, I can certainly do it New York or anywhere for that matter. It’s just a question of exposing myself to the right people at the right time.
And that's exactly what I'm currently doing, calling production companies and advertising agencies, emailing distant connections and old friends. It's tedious and often disheartening work but I know from doing it every time I've sought out work that it does pay off. Most people are at least friendly enough to wish me luck if they're not interested but sometimes you get a bite and that's where business relationships are born. It's the best feeling ever. Occasionally though you will get the overly aggressive "why are you calling me? what do you want from me?". "Well, I was calling to make you money and reduce your post-production spending but I don't think I want to work with arseholes so I'll hang up now and carry on with my day". At least that's what I want to say, a polite goodbye will suffice though!
For now I'll continue exposing myself, my skills and experience to who I think are the right people. I go on the 'You have to be in it to win it' policy. So many people start a company and just expect the work to come to them but call me crazy, I like to let people know I exist.
It's going to be slow and frustrating but all I can do is keep calm and carry on.