The journey that ensued when I decided to buy a new house was a bit more of a hurricane than a whirlwind. I knew on an intellectual level what was in store for me. Not only did I have to sell my current house, deal with the financial loan hurdles of being self-employed, pack, and move, but I had to make sure that I could keep all the components of my multi-faceted business running - and that included figuring out what to do with one of my most important business assets - my home studio! I invite you to join me in my journey as my new studio comes to life - I have a lot to share! I certainly learned a lot, laughed a lot, and yeah, I will admit it - I might have cried more than a few times during the process!
The Research - Decisions, Decisions.
A major decision I had to make right away was about how to handle my recording space (and studio) in the new house. Should I tear down my current studio and take it to the new house, buy a prefabricated studio, or build a custom studio?
I did some quick research and decided to consult with one of my most trusted audio engineers, George Whittam, to get some much-needed advice. George played a large part in helping my father and I upgrade my Irvine booth to its very best and get amazing sound from it. And it truly sounded awesome - as a matter of fact, It sounded so good that multiple audio engineers commented on its quality. George mentioned the pros and cons of tearing down my booth and trying to rebuild it in the new house. To do it right, I should hire professionals that would properly deconstruct and then reconstruct once I was in the new house. This would not be a small cost because of the work and precision needed to keep track of everything to put it back together again. It was too big to move on its own without disassembly, and would not fit through my door. I was also on the second floor! Also, there was a big risk that it wouldn't sound the same once it was in the new house.
Timing was everything at this point. We had not even put our house on the market yet. I still needed to work in the studio every day and we would have to explain what this was to potential buyers once we put it on the market. (Oh and of course I got a boatload of work during this time - I am NOT complaining though!) I had to keep the booth up as long as possible so I could work and make money to put into my new move. ACK! All of a sudden, all of these moving expenses crept up!
The thought of tearing down my booth made me downright emotional. I LOVED it so! It had served me well for over 12 years, and best of all, it was built by my amazing Dad with a whole lotta LOVE. It was so much more than just 4 walls and some sound treatment. It was symbolic of trusting in myself and my abilities to build my business after making the hard decision to leave my full-time job and pursue voiceover. When I asked my father if he would help, he immediately showed up, hammer in hand, no questions asked. His love and support empowered me with the confidence to carve out my own way. Every time I stepped into that booth, I could feel the love, and it warmed my heart for every performance. I have so many wonderful memories of directed sessions, conferences, podcasts, and friendships that resulted from time in that booth. That booth was a real part of me, and who I am as a voice actor today.
After talking with George, I decided I would research prefabricated booth options. I decided on a Studio Bricks One booth and even went so far as to get an official quote. I was excited as I had worked in one before and liked both the look and sound of it. The fact that it would be assembled relatively easily was also very attractive. However, I was frustrated that I couldn't get a solid shipping date - it was coming from Spain. Oh, and there was that timing thing again - We hadn't sold our house yet, and we didn't have a secure closing date on our new house as it was being built brand new. I really couldn't secure a date - and how would I record in the meantime?
A Booth that ticks all the boxes
I then decided to reach out to yet another one of my trusted friends and audio engineer extraordinaire - Tim Tippets. I mentioned that I had felt a custom booth build would be cost-prohibitive - and that it would inherently be too integrated into the structure of the new house and would affect future resale value. (We were moving to an over 55+ community and I just didn't see a built-in studio being desirable for most people in that age group.) Upon hearing my concerns, Tim said, “Not a problem. I can build you a booth that ticks all the boxes”.
My heart skipped a beat. The opportunity to expand my recording space and also make it camera-ready for the many webinars I hosted, filled me with excitement. It was as if, all of a sudden, I gave myself permission to pamper myself and finally have the studio I had always wanted! I immediately jumped on his offer and together we came up with a plan. I would take detailed photos of my house as it was being built that included measurements of the space. When the house was finished, Tim would travel to LA to build my custom booth. SQUEEEEEEEEE! I was overjoyed.
Fast forward to a lot of work getting our house ready to put on the market, including staging it - which would require a lot of our current furniture to be moved - somewhere else. I knew right away the challenges of selling a house, buying and moving into a new house, and keeping all of my business plates spinning were going to require some creative solutions. I still had VO clients that needed broadcast-quality audio delivered quickly, coaching clients that would need my undivided attention, as well as a podcast to record and publish weekly. Challenging to say the least.
After a whole lot of work, we were finally ready! We had 3 Open Houses over the first 3 weekends. This meant we had to leave the house (and take 3 cats with us!) and book a hotel room - and let our realtor explain what the booth was in the room :). I also had to leave when people came in to look at the house during the week! Ack. Once we started showing the house, most people assumed the carpet underneath the booth was a totally different color than the rest of the carpet - and of course, this was always a strong negotiating point away from our asking price, since we couldn't move the booth easily.
Fortunately, we sold after 17 days on the market (YAY!!!) in October of 2019, and at that point, I had to make hard decisions about selling the booth, when and how to deconstruct the booth, and how I would record and work after that. Thankfully, I was fortunate to quickly find my booth a new owner who would love it almost as much as I did (which was actually important to me). Since our new house wasn't going to be ready until the following March, we arranged to rent back our home hoping we could rent until then, but the new owners would only negotiate for 2 months since they wanted to be in by the holidays. Ok, deep breath - now what?
At this point, we had the majority of our packed things stored in the garage and now needed to get storage units and find a place to live until our new house would be finished. We originally thought of moving to a furnished apartment (I didn't want to move my furniture multiple times) but there were no apartments that were furnished, would accept 3 cats, and would rent to us for only 2 months. So we decided to try a hotel, but I was pretty nervous that we would be living in one room for two months with 3 unhappy animals, but I was prepared to do it. We made tentative reservations with an Extended-stay hotel but we were less than happy with the room we were able to secure. We pressed on.
As I was selling the last of our furniture that would not fit in the new house, my buyer asked where I was thinking of staying until my new house was built. I mentioned we were frustrated trying to find a place that would work for us with the cats and with me needing to work from home. As it turned out, she happened to be a local realtor and mentioned that she had a great furnished condo rental nearby! It was a 3 bedroom condo and wouldn't cost us much more than the hotel - we were so happy! BTW, thinking there would be an easy approval process for renting a furnished condo + cat insurance for two months proved to be quite false. I felt like we were buying a second house! But finally, the paperwork went through and we had a place to live for 2 months - now we just needed the new house to be finished on time!
In the meantime, we had two months to finalize our packing and move our stuff into storage. I waited until the very last possible minute to deconstruct my original booth for its new owner. We hired professionals so that we could video and document the process for re-assembly in the future for the new owner. Prior to this, I made sure that my last recording in my booth was a very personal note of gratitude and love to my father for being such a big part of my life and my voiceover career. Yup, I shed few tears during that recording.
Once my booth was down and picked up by the new owner, I was able to secure one of those "box" booths that sat on top of my temporary work table to work any gigs that came in. Let me be frank here, people. Not the most fun doing long format narration jobs, or really any jobs that required more than 10 minutes at the mic. I won't disclose the manufacturer because I have tried multiple vendors, and ALL of the tabletop studios perform poorly for any substantial amount of long format work in my opinion. I was miserable. I had to crane my neck to get into the right position, it was BOXY sounding, and it was HOT. There was NO way I could do this for the next two months until I had my new home. I started looking for better solutions.
Thankfully the right solution presented itself at just the right time. My dear friends George Whittam and Rick Wasserman had just finished developing their new product, the Tri-Booth. I called George right away and secured a trial of one of the booths. I was excited since I needed space and to be quite honest, I was sold when it had George and Rick's name on it. I mean, it HAD to be awesome! We made plans to have it delivered to our new rental once we got there.
Move to the Rental
Fast forward to two days before Christmas. Time to move into our rental until our new house was finished! We packed up and said goodbye to our first Cali home, excited for our next chapter. Not so sure how excited the kitties were but I was happy we were moving to a place that had lots of room for them to explore! I just needed them to behave themselves so I wouldn't owe for any house damage! :)
George and Rick came over and set up their amazing compact portable booth solution, the Tri-Booth. I’ve documented the whole setup and sound quality in a previous blog. Make sure to check it out for the full scoop plus sound bytes and more pics. But I just have to say again how amazing this product is. And how much I truly love it. It allowed me to provide quality audio to my clients without any hassle. And I loved it so much, I ended up buying it. It is now an essential part of my travel rig.
Another critical component to my success during this transition time was consistent ipDTL connectivity. I knew that whatever my internet situation was, (and my speed at the rental was definitely not as fast as the fiber as in my last house) I would be able to rely on a clear stable connection with ipDTL. Kudos to Kevin Leach for such great reliable connectivity. Knowing that I would be able to function with excellence during this transition time gave me the peace of mind to now address my new office and recording environment.
During my time at the rental, Tim Tippets and I started planning the design of the booth. It was a great time, as I could go to the new house site and get Tim photos of the house construction to make our design easier, knowing where the barebones of the electrical, HVAC, and Internet connections were going to be.
I felt like I took hundreds of photos to send to Tim. I probably did. But during the process, I came to realize that because Tim was such a true pro, and was custom building my booth, I could choose any room in the house without sacrificing quality. Of course, I chose the room with the most windows because I love light. Typically, windows don’t make for good sound isolation, but Tim assured me that he was up to the task.
Since this was a new house, I wanted to make absolutely sure that I had enough electrical, lighting, and internet connections for my new space! I made sure to have outlets placed on every wall, as well as multiple separate hardwired Ethernet jacks for my Internet. You just can't have enough hardwired connections - they are the fastest connections (much faster than WiFi) and are necessary if you want to work with your clients reliably. I also made sure that we were able to have a fiber Internet connection in the area where we moved. I cannot tell you how valuable a reliable and speedy Internet connection is for your business. Do what you need to ensure you have the best possible connection!
The Big Move!
Finally, the big day was here to close on our new house, say goodbye to our rental, and finally, make the big and last move to our new house! Whew! It was a long and stressful journey, but we made it! I was elated. And PROUD.
I had accomplished everything I had set out to accomplish, while still being able to run my business successfully. Now just a few more days and Tim would be here to build my most amazing booth!
We got to work unpacking. I did actually take off a week to move. (Just in case you thought I was completely insane :) I happily set up my Tri-booth upstairs in the loft and made it my temporary office until we could complete the studio. Again, I was so very grateful to have a temporary studio that I truly felt comfortable with. Now I was in two locations with this booth and am happy to say that I had the same great sound. I was happy, and my clients were happy!
Now, where did I put those towels? I'm sure they were here in this box....
Next up...My New Studio Journey Part 2: The Build
Much love and Keep on rockin' your health and your biz!
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.