BLOG: Breaking Out on Your Own

When I first came to Scotland, 12 years ago,

I knew very little English and not many prospects for immediate employment in the field I was trained in, mechanical engineering.

So, I got a job in a deli and set about doing two things, 1) learning English and 2) becoming the fastest sandwich maker the deli ever had. The former for obvious reasons and the latter because it represented a niche opportunity to make money. We were paid in tiers by the sandwich, you see. Make X amount and you’re on this tier, make X amount more and you’re on a higher tier. There seemed no reason not to make as many sandwiches per hour as humanly possible.

Fast forward nine years and I was working part-time in sound engineering and video editing. I noticed how companies who did voice over and multimedia work were both expensive and mostly based in London. These businesses would outsource the smaller projects to companies like the one I worked for, yet still charged Big Smoke prices.

This sparked another sandwich-making moment. The work was straight forward enough, I was already doing it, and there were plenty of foreign languages speakers in Glasgow to create a talent pool. In fact I was already recording many of them. I thought that, surely, delivering the same quality product at lesser prices would be attractive to anyone? I’m sure there’s a joke here about Scots and their love of savings but, really, who doesn’t want to get something for less if they can?

So, I researched the market, talked to people in related businesses and, after assessing the required finances, launched Wav Lab from the spare room in my house. Before I knew it, I was the first (and only) Scottish company to offer multilingual voice-overs, video production, multimedia creation and post-production, all under one roof. I’d found a market that was unique and a way to offer an affordable, quality service within it.

There was, of course, a worry that the reason nobody else was doing it, was because it was too risky or unprofitable. However, I felt that it was a risk worth taking. Most of the localisation businesses were based in London, but as the voiceover work was already being done in Scotland, the middleman system was both expensive for clients and – ultimately – needless.

The key to avoiding these risks was already having contacts in the business. From them I built a library of local voiceover artists which allowed me to safely test the market; starting on a small scale to see if we could compete with the established London companies, before investing more time and seeking a greater amount of funding. It was a wee leap of faith, albeit an informed one.

Slowly Wav Lab built a solid base of clients and products, initially through relationships with people in universities and old contacts in the creative industries. Business grew and it became recognised as an innovative service, winning the Deutsche Bank Creative Practice Awards for 2011, whose award money allowed me to move offices and grow.

So, what’s the one thing I know? To be successful in a creative industry business, you need to be passionate, proactive and creative in the way you identify work opportunities and the way you fill the gaps you find in the market.

Oh, and one more thing I know (I learned it from working in that deli): Whatever the business you’re in, make sure to always create a quality product and serve it with a smile.


Wav Lab specialise in developing quality multimedia content, including video localization, voice-over recording in foreign languages, sound design and post production.

Illustrated by DMSQD

  • One Thing I Know