Instagram has to be my favourite of all the social media channels. Since childhood I’ve always loved taking and looking at photographs, something that has stayed within me into adulthood. Of course, mine is just a small hobby but Instagram has some really great work by brilliant photographers; and it was here I was first introduced to the woman behind our next Career Story, that of Katie Lister.
I instantly liked her work on Instagram and then I saw her post about her career story. A few messages later and I’m delighted to be able to share Katie’s story outlining her career change from an auditor to a family photographer. Katie speaks of some of the challenges she’s faced and overcome and talks candidly about the pressures of self-employment. I’m sure, like all our contributors, you’ll love her career story and find plenty of inspiration if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into self employment or considering following your dream.
“I often get asked how I flipped my career from accountancy to Surrey family photography. It’s hard to imagine now but I didn’t always run my own business, in fact far from it. If anyone is thinking of taking the leap from an office job to being self employed here is a little bit about my own personal journey. I hope it gives you some inspiration to go for it!
My first career
After university I joined the graduate programme at a Big 4 accounting firm where I spent the next ten years as an auditor. It was an amazing grad scheme – studying for my qualifications, working hard and playing hard. I travelled the world, met some friends for life in my colleagues, and even spent five years working in Australia.
After doing the job for ten years it became clear to me that I needed something that didn’t require working seventy hour weeks and which was more emotionally fulfilling.
When I moved to Melbourne I bought my first entry-level SLR camera and went on a few photography courses. I started to take photos of friends’ children and it was a real lightbulb moment. The photos generated an amazing emotional response and that was something I wasn’t seeing in my day job. I realised that becoming a photographer would give me a career that made other people feel happy too. So I started my photography business at the weekends while still working in accounting.
The impact of motherhood
As soon as I had my first daughter, Sienna, I knew that the corporate world wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t want to put her into full-time childcare so I could sit at a desk all day. I had already started my own business and motherhood gave me the excuse to leave my day job. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to take the leap otherwise.
I was lucky that my husband was fully supportive of my decision and that we could manage on one regular income while I established my Surrey photography business. Having children gave me a reason to do something I love, not just something I felt I should do.
The reality of self employment
I love working for myself but as with any career, there are good and bad points. The flexibility of self-employment allows me to prioritise my children which is hugely important to me. On top of that, I get to choose my work so I continue to do things that make me happy. I plan to keep growing my business with more family and newborn photography in Surrey as well as more nursery shoots. All things that give me a huge smile while I’m taking and editing photos.
On the flip side, it’s very easy to let life get in the way of working which means that work often gets done in the evenings. From a financial perspective, I don’t earn as much as I used to and I don’t have a guaranteed income but that is a compromise I am happy with. I also don’t have colleagues any more, which can get a bit lonely sometimes… if I’m extra chatty at school pick up it’s probably because I haven’t spoken to anyone all day!
If you’re thinking of taking the leap into freelance or self-employment I would say that fortune favours the brave. If you can plan for the financial impact of it, it can really mean the end of being on that corporate treadmill. I’ve now photographed well over 500 children, and I love my job as much as the day I started it.”
You can find out more about Katie here: