Take Five: How to relocate

Written by
Sarah Trounce
Illustration by
Michael Kennedy

Whether you’re moving for a new job, embracing flexible office hours, going fully remote, or looking for a more affordable or tranquil neighbourhood — relocating can offer up an array of possibilities for how you live and how you work. But what’s it really like to settle into a new place? In this Guide we explore the steps involved in relocating as a person working in the creative industry — and the questions you need to ask before making a move. Plus, Bethany Plummer, senior designer at Baxter & Bailey and Michael C Place, founder and creative director of Studio.Build share insights and tips based on their personal experiences of upping sticks.

Sow the seed

Many urbanites, while crammed onto a packed bus or tube before or after a long day at the office, have entertained the fantasy of leaving the big city in search of a different pace of life. But does the reality of relocation live up to the dream? Bethany Plummer made the move from London to Brighton. Her interest in relocating was piqued by a rural experience during the pandemic, and culminated in a new role as senior designer at branding agency Baxter & Bailey. Bethany explains: “I had been working and living in London for the past seven years. I loved the city and the endlessly busy lifestyle and hadn’t imagined myself moving anytime soon. But just when the first lockdown came along, I ended up returning to my childhood home in Cornwall for five months. Once London started opening up again, and a return to some sort of normality was on the cards, my heart wasn’t quite in it anymore. Living by the sea in lockdown and being able to go for swims or long walks straight after work, opened my mind up to a calmer lifestyle. Saying that, I didn't want to completely disappear into the middle of nowhere. I still wanted galleries, theatres, comedy clubs and culture on my doorstep. I just needed a better balance, and most simply, a change. I didn't know it then, but Brighton seemed to be the answer.”

Identify your expectations

Get clarity on what you want and need — not just in the practical sense (housing, job, contacts and workspace if you’re freelance, local amenities, transport connections), but also in the emotional sense. What do you require to feel happy and inspired, secure and at home? Are you seeking more affordable rent or house prices? Less time spent commuting? More hours to hang out with your friends, partner, family, pets, hobbies or Mother Nature? Are you looking for new relationships? Are you hoping for a fresh injection of inspiration and creativity? Whatever you’re aiming for, it’s important to remember: a new place can only provide benefits to you if you’re able to accept the inevitable losses that also come with change. This means you have to identify what you’re willing to give up in order to access something different. You might need to say goodbye to having major cultural institutions within easy reach, or to the throngs of diverse people in the streets whenever you walk out your front door. Be realistic about what you can and can’t compromise on.

For Michael C Place, founder and creative director of Studio.Build, a brand and design studio now based in Otley in West Yorkshire, family was the first priority, and then creativity. He explains: “From a very personal perspective (and the most important) my Dad was not very well so I wanted to make sure I could spend more time with him and my family. We had been talking about moving out of London for quite a few years before we actually did it. I’m from Yorkshire and I basically wanted to come home. In terms of the studio it felt like the opportunity was right for the move. The North of England is really soaring now with so much potential. It was and is really exciting to be back here.” For Bethany, an organic approach was key: “To be honest, I had absolutely no expectations. I hadn’t planned the move, or even built it into any sort of life plan. It was spontaneous, and in a way I think that’s why it’s worked out. By removing the pressure, I just went with the flow and because of this, I think I’ve enjoyed and appreciated it even more.”

Do your research

Once you’ve done your soul searching, it’s time to get your boots on the ground. Like Michael, you may be returning home, or you might be interested in exploring somewhere entirely new. Embrace the anticipation of the unknown. You can read up on the location (check out ‘How to Leave London’ from Hoxton Mini Press or ‘City Quitters’ from Frame for some great inspiration) — or better still, ask a local. Pester family and friends to introduce you to any of their contacts already living in your future destination. Post a call-out on social media. Most people will be thrilled to tell you about the pros and cons of the place they call home. Bethany suggests that “if the place you’re considering moving to is local enough, take a few days off during the week and spend some time exploring (and getting lost) in the city. This way you get more of a genuine feel of the place, rather than a busy weekend when it’s filled with other daytrippers.”

Michael recommends reaching out to the local design community: “Seek out other studios who are already in the place you are thinking of moving to, talk to them about the area. Most people are incredibly friendly and generous with their time. Be prepared that things are generally quieter… It took a while for us to adjust to the new pace.”

Own your decision

Whether you’re joining an existing company, setting up afresh as a studio or freelancer, or relocating your own business, you’ll want to feel confident in your decision. No secrecy, no apologies. Present your move as an exciting opportunity and others will see it that way too. Michael reflects on his studio’s shift from the capital: “We spoke to certain clients about the move and no one batted an eyelid. I firmly believe that you do not need to be in London to have a healthy creative business… We were so used to working with non-UK clients that we were already comfortable with remote meetings. Assure your clients that you are on the end of a phone line or a Zoom. And you never know… they might enjoy getting out and visiting you once you are up and running!” Bethany recommends listening to your gut and acting accordingly: “If you’re craving a change, I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s always worth taking the risk for a new opportunity rather than living with the regret that you never gave it a go.”

Find your routine

Despite the thrill of the new, there will be challenges along the way. Michael admits that “finding really good local designers can be a struggle, likewise freelance designers. I still think there is a mentality that London is the place to be if you want to be taken seriously… But I really do think this is starting to change. Since we moved out I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about moving which is really great. The design scene up here is really starting to take off which is good to see.” As a new resident in Brighton, what would Bethany recommend for a gentle transition? “Talk to strangers. Most of my pals in Brighton have come from meeting people this way. Whilst taking a dip one evening, I noticed a huge group of people in the sea together. I found out they were part of a female sea swimming group called the Salty Seabirds, and I now share lovely swims with a few of them every week — followed by the pub of course!”

You might not feel at home overnight so be patient. Bethany insists, “Give yourself time to settle in. You don’t have to immerse yourself in everything from day one. Relocating is exhausting so go easy on yourself, and hopefully you’ll have plenty of time to explore once you’ve unpacked.”

Take Five

If You Could's Journal hosts a range of useful Guides to help you navigate key decisions at every stage of your career journey. Each Guide consists of 5 simple steps, alongside advice from professionals working across the creative industry. Read more from our Take Five collection here.

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