Since starting Scott Perry Magic and becoming a professional magician I have dreamed of living in London, a city on constant simmer ready to bring to the boil at the drop of a hat. A city where people discover themselves, where entrepreneurs run the gauntlet and artists are free to experiment. Recently, my dream became a reality but the reality is that the dream artists and entrepreneurs dream, is really more like a nightmare. This article is a warning and opportunity to learn from my mistakes for any budding entrepreneurs or fellow artists.
When writing my first business plan and sitting down with my mentor to discuss how I was going to find business as a magician 4 years ago it was evident that I would need to move somewhere more happening than sleepy Sleaford tucked away in Lincolnshire. A beautiful part of the UK that’s close to my heart but a place renowned for flowers, sausages and farming. Not exactly my target market for the country’s finest magic. For a long time, while the business was growing I debated whether to move to Manchester or London. Manchester, a city I had little experience of but research showed a thriving events and entertainment culture with a slightly lower living cost than London. But London, the “big smoke” where billion pound deals are signed, where milestones are reached and crafts are honed. It was an easy decision but simply a matter of money.
After all of my successes as a magician, performing on national television, being on the front cover of magazines, performing for royalty, celebrities, working on marketing campaigns I decided it was time and in September 2015 I moved back to north London, where I was born. With enthusiasm and excitement I made the transition and before I knew it was cold calling businesses, arranging meetings, calling in favours from friends and doing all that I could to enjoy my London social life, too. I was working amazing events like Drapers annual fashion awards with Joanna Lumley, NYE at a private club in Soho, events for Top Right Group and Invest In Futures with HRH Prince Charles.
It didn’t take long for the realisation to set in that this wasn’t enough to cover my extortionate outgoings. A big portion of which was for a dismal room with no lock in a shit heap house infested with black mould shared with 3 other people, yet it was still a relatively good rental price for the size and location of the house. I needed to make more money and fast if I was going to survive in London so I do what any entrepreneur does, evaluates the situation and formulates a plan. Each event I’m hired for takes several hours of my time including travel, my craft requires some hours of practice and development each week and the back end of the business requires several hours per week too. That leaves me with 2-4 days available each week depending on how busy I am as a magician.
I thought about a part time job, which a CV will almost never get you in London because, IF it get’s to the right person a friend of someone who works there already has an interview. As I have my 50mpg car in London maybe I could twilight as an Uber driver? Turns out Uber are poncing off of their poor drivers. I sure as hell wasn’t going to sign up to a number of entertainment agency lists because that’s not my vision for Scott Perry Magic and, well, because I don’t belong on a list with other magicians. So I decided I was going to start creating more video content to share on social media in the hope that the shareability would raise more awareness of my services in the London market.
Herein lies the problem with that genius idea. That black mould infested house I previously mentioned, it had given me severe dermatitis on my hands. I went to events with plasters all over my hands, impairing my ability to perform sleight of hand and when I was at home trying to work on captivating video content I instead had to apply various creams to my hands up to 5 times a day. After visits to three different doctors the most viable solution suggested was to move house. This was unthinkable. I had dreamed of this for years and I was stuck in a fixed term tenancy so I spent hundreds of pounds on creams and powered through the best I could. After several months of being stuck in the vicious circle of applying lotion, putting gloves not, not being able to use my phone or practice I started to wonder what I was going to do.
I return to Lincolnshire for 4 weeks over Christmas, spending time with my family, working at events I had been hired for in the area and enjoying the holiday season. My hands improve! This could be the turning point successful entrepreneurs talk about where success starts to come from struggle! I return to London eager to pitch my ideas and start creating but within 1 week my hands deteriorate. Not only this, there are disagreements with my housemates. The London living costs to sales ratio is not looking good at this point but I continue to plow money in to socialising and networking with new people. Let me interject here with a piece of advice, people in London (generally speaking) couldn’t give two shits unless you’re helping them look good or make them more money. In hindsight, perhaps this money would have been better used paying for an advert or promoting content. I’ll never know.
Precisely 8 months after I moved to London I moved out. Don’t get me wrong, while living there I met some really great people whom I still speak to and do business with. I gained the support of the Toucan network and worked some amazing events. Not to mention meeting someone whom I love beyond words, but, London is a playground for the rich. The people, the real people who are still able to live in London are desperate. They are not happy people. For any magicians, performers, artists, entrepreneurs reading this who are starting out or looking to move to London for the next level, my advice is don’t. Don’t move to London until you have to. What London offers in opportunity it spews ten fold in disparity, greed, hate and desperateness. Besides, it has never been easier to travel so keep building where you are for a little while longer.