How to move from London (and survive)
People often ask me why I moved from London to Southampton. The answer is quite unexciting.
I was subletting an apartment and the summer tenancy was up. The occupant was moving back to London and I had to leave. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to take a break from the city and come home, to Southampton, for a short time.
That was two and a half years ago.
So what was it about Southampton that made me decide to set up home here?
Well, for one, I could afford to. London, for all its merits, isn't especially accessible to first-time, self-employed, buyers.
The other reason? My business.
Before I moved to Southampton I didn't think sustaining a career as a freelance copywriter (outside of London) would be possible. Far less so on this seaside coast. But, I was wrong. Very wrong in fact. And I don't mind admitting it.
Flash forward two years and I'm still working full time as a freelance copywriter. In fact, I'm busier than ever.
So what was it that turned everything around?
I was determined to make it work. I had a mortgage to pay so failing wasn't an option. Plus writing was (is) something I love. I can never see myself doing anything else. Nor would I want to.
If you're in a similar position, torn between the bright lights of London and starting anew. Or feeling like civilisation stops the second you enter the M25, then this post is for you.
Believe me, life outside the city isn't so scary. Or for that matter so bad.
Having been a London defector myself - and survived - here are my 4 top tips for moving an established business outside of the capital.
1. Believe you can do it
When I left London people genuinely thought I'd lost my mind. Some of them still do. People will do or say ANYTHING to get you to start doubting your decisions. But, that's something you simply can't allow yourself to do.
If you're going to undertake a huge lifestyle change, leave behind everything you know and love, and gamble on a better future, you have to believe you're doing the right thing. Ignore the naysayers and just go for it. To hell with what anyone else thinks. I believed I could make this move work for me. And there was no one that would stand in my way or convince me otherwise.
2. Connect with the community
When growing your business in a new location, you have to connect with local stakeholders that can help you.
After giving my website a quick spruce up I Googled design agencies, marketing agencies and ad agencies based in Southampton and wider Hampshire. The searches threw back more hits than I imagined. Southampton is an area rich with creative talent. But, very few copywriters are based here. I sent emails to every agency I found and almost everyone asked to meet me. Most have also given me work since.
In short, your catchment is your cash flow. Be sure to become part of the community you're joining.
3. Tell EVERYONE what it is you do
When you're freelance, work comes in all sorts of ways. I get a lot of enquiries on my website. And repeat business from clients and referrals. But, I've also picked up work through less conventional means. Simply by telling people what it is I do.
One of my biggest repeat clients (who I've worked with for two years) came through a friend. Another, from a Tinder date. That one has led to repeat work for 18 months. I also exchanged business cards with a woman in a shop. And introduced myself to a business owner I recognised from a magazine article.
The moral of the story? Speak up. Frequently. Tell everyone what it is you do. No matter who they are or where you meet. You never know where it might lead.
4. Set your prices accordingly
Some freelance copywriters I know in London charge £600 a day. In fact the average day rate is about £400. While I would never dream of asking so much for an honest days work, my rates are a little lower in Southampton then they were in London.
The cost of living here is so much cheaper than in the capital. So when I moved I adjusted my rates accordingly. Bringing them down to a level reflects the market I now operate in.
For some people, taking what's essentially a "pay cut" might not appeal. But, when everything around you costs less, why do you need to earn more?
Be sensible with your pricing. Judge it accordingly and don't be afraid to drop your rates. It doesn't devalue your services. It just makes good business sense.