Turning your Hobby into a Career Kerry Ann Duffy Photography Case Study

As part of our hobby to career series, we caught up with Kerry Ann Duffy - a Towergate Photography Insurance customer who left her job in finance to pursue a career in photography.
Award Winning Photographer Kerry Ann DuffyKerry receiving a Perfect Wedding Award in 2014

Can you pin point the moment in your professional life when you made the firm decision to fly solo?

I had a few photography bookings while I was still working in finance. The number of bookings increased steadily and when I felt I had enough bookings for photography the following year, I knew that was the time to break away on my own. I knew then that would exceed what I would earn in the current job.

What was the greater motivation to go solo: the unhappiness in your job at the time or the happiness you knew you found in photography?

I wouldn’t say I was unhappy in my job but when you do something in your spare time that you love and you know you can make some money from that’s a big motivator to get out there and improve your working life. So I’d say I was more motivated by my enjoyment of photography.

Some potential entrepreneurs are put off by the admin aspect of starting their own business. How easy did you find it to register your company, set yourself up tax wise etc.?

I must say I did struggle with that side of it. But there are some great resources out there and after doing lots of research online to find out what I needed to do, I managed to get to grips with it. Of course it’s still not the most enjoyable aspect of running your own business but Once you get the hang of it it’s just one of those things you know you have to do.

Without giving away any trade secrets, how did you get hold of those all-important first clients?

As I’d already done some work for friends and relatives, pretty much all my business came via word of mouth. I also set up come social media profiles which were hugely useful in attracting clients. I also found social media to be an ideal way of show casing my existing work.

Did you seek any advice from family, friends, advisory services or online resources?

I had a friend who was starting out in wedding photography at the same time so we helped each other and shared business and photography tips. Again though, the internet was a great resource. I googled a lot of information and also used you tube to teach myself what I wanted to know.

Sorry but we’ve got to ask: If you had to advise a friend who’s just started their own business on insurance, what would you tell them to look for in a policy?

There’s no getting away from it – starting your own business can be risky. The best advice I can give is; think about what threatens your business/income most and buy a policy which covers all those eventualities. Don't scrimp as it might come back to bite you.

What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

Probably that I can control the hours I work. I manage my own time and decide how that time is best spent. As I mentioned earlier, the admin side of things needs to be done but managing my own time means I can focus on the fun stuff and do the admin as and when I get to it. Within reason of course!

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting out?

So, the flip side of managing your own time is that sometimes you forget that there’s time to be spent on things outside of the business. If I’m really honest with myself, I was working too much and not making enough time for my family when I first started out. It was quite a challenge to balance working hard to ensure success but also to make time for the important things and people in life.

Was it tough to get going? Did you have to make a few sacrifices in your personal life initially?

I was really lucky and it all took off much quicker than I had expected. I had to work hard and I felt guilty towards my children working all day AND all night to keep up with it all but as I’ve mentioned, you learn to get the balance right as you go along.

What do you think the most important thing to get organised at the very beginning?

A working structure. Plan your days and get up as if you are going out to work even if you are working from home. It’s also good to plan when you’re going to do some of the admin I’ve been talking about. It’s easy to put off and keep going with the good stuff but make sure you block out time in your schedule to get it done.

How did you go about getting finance to start your business?

In my case I didn’t really have any huge set up fees, I used a little overdraft but that was it. So I’m pretty fortunate in that sense. However, if you do need to seek finance from a bank, I’d recommend getting a really good business plan together to show where your income is going to come from, how you’re going to use the money and how you’re going to grow your business.

If you had to do it all over again is there anything you’d do differently?

No not really. I’d make a bit more time for my family as I alluded to earlier but aside from that I feel like things went pretty smoothly.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would be the next best thing for you to go into business with?

I’d definitely consider being a makeup artist or something involving fashion and styling. As I work with so many beautiful brides with pristine make up and lovely dresses I think I’d get along pretty well in that industry too!

Would you ever consider working for a company ever again?

Possibly if it all went wrong!

What’s next for Kerry Ann Duffy Photography? Do you have any aspirations to expand your business?

I would like to do more editorial/fashion work but other than that I would just like to continue to grow the business and keep on photographing beautiful weddings as there is nothing I would rather do more. It’s my dream job.

To see some of Kerry's photography and to find out how to hire her, visit Kerry's website or get in touch with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you escaped the rat race to take your hobby to career level? We'd love to hear from you. Email us, tweet us or get in touch on Facebook.