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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Children Changing Careers p10: Clare Bowes Photo

Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

Welcome to part 10 of the blog series 'Children Changing Careers' - A series for parents who have pulled off a career change after having children.

This week's post features Clare from Clare Bowes Photo.

Here is her career changing story...
Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

Tell me about your life, background and career before children? 

Before I had my two boys I was working as Deputy Picture Editor at heat magazine - a pretty exciting role as it was my job to organise the celebrity photoshoots - this meant booking photographers, stylists, hair & make-up artists as well as liasing with the talent's PR's, attending the shoots and often directing them. I got to work with some incredibly talented people and met loads of interesting celebrities, tonnes of music and soap stars (Danny Dyer) being one that stands out, to actual heroes (was very excited to meet Simon Pegg being a huge "Spaced" fan) to intimidating Lords (Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Sugar!)

Did you return to your job/position after your maternity? 

My job at heat was pretty full on, and I knew it would be a struggle to fit it into less than 5 days, so when I asked if I could go back part time I wasn't surprised when my request was declined. As the role was so demanding I don't think it would have been fair to anyone, not to me or my child, nor the Picture team or magazine as a whole.
I did go back on a freelance basis, picking up work around Xmas when they put a double issue out so need more hands on deck. My little boy was about 17 months old by then, and straight after Xmas I picked up 3 days a week freelancing on another weekly magazine picture desk, which continued until I had my second little boy at the end of 2013.

What were your reasons for leaving your previous career?

After having my second little boy we decided we wanted to be closer to family so left London and moved back North to Newcastle - when the little one was 3 months old! We'd loved living in London, and it was so sad to leave, but unfortunately magazine work does not pay mega-bucks, and had I returned to work at that point literally all my earnings would have been spent on childcare. So during my second maternity leave I started thinking about what to do next...
Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

Tell me about your new career now?

I was enjoying being a full time Mum on second maternity leave and adapting to the slower pace of life in the North East, but still, I felt I needed to do something for myself. As I'd started off with a degree in photography, combined with all my shoot experience and the fact that my life now revolved around my kids (pretty cute subjects to practice on!) it seemed like an obvious choice to go down the child photography route... While house hunting up here I'd seen some studio portraits hanging on a wall which had been extremely expensive and yet the owner wasn't totally happy with them, or the companies' heavy handed marketing tactics, so I decided to offer something a bit different: Family, baby and children's photo shoots which were more "child-led" where I come to the clients house or we go out and about on location - completely informal, lots more fun, resulting in beautifully natural pictures at a much more reasonable price!

Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careersClare Bowes Photo, children changing careersClare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

So much had changed since I'd left Uni though - the digital revolution for one!! So now I had to re-teach myself all about digital cameras and the magic of photoshop! I'd always been a bit anti social-media but now I was learning about how to market via Facebook and instagram, and I even built my own website! I started off by shooting family and friends, and building slowly. I launched Clare Bowes Photo last summer and it's going from strength to strength, ironically I've just come back from a weekend shooting in London (4 shoots over 3 days) - it's just like being back at heat, except it's babies instead of celebrities that are the subjects!
Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

As well as taking pictures - which is my main focus - I also run a little shop on folksy called LOVE + HYGGE. I've always made stuff but when my first little boy was born I wanted quite a specific mobile for him and couldn't find what I was after - so I made it! All my friends had babies around the same time so I made mobiles or bunting and personalised cards for them too, they were so popular I decided to pop them on folksy and I still sell through there but a lot of customers now come to me direct for repeat orders. The baby vest cards and personalised mobiles are particularly popular.

Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careersClare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

I have had to take a significant pay cut and I couldn't have done this without having an extremely supportive partner, but both these businesses are just starting really, I could do so much more with them but I'm thinking long-term and hopefully this will be a good foundation to build on when my youngest goes to school.

Talk me through an average day for you now? How much has your life changed?

What hasn't changed!! When I think back to even five years ago when I was working full time in a swanky office in Covent Garden at a high profile magazine to how life is now the difference is pretty extreme. Life now revolves around dropping off and picking up my four year old from school, making his packed lunches, getting him to swimming lessons on time and I seem to spend a lot of time doing washing! My two year old goes to a childminder 3 mornings a week and that's when I can get some work done. As the majority of my family shoots are at weekends I can spend the time in the office editing those pictures. Even when I'm not shooting or editing there's always loads of stuff to be getting on with, from website maintenance to doing a bit of social media marketing to liasing with clients about possible future shoots.
Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

What is the best and worst thing about your new career?

There are lots of great plus points to having this kind of creative portfolio career... I guess the main one is working flexibly around my children and getting to bring them up myself. Striking the right balance is a pretty hard thing to do for working mothers but that's what I'm striving for. I didn't anticipate the worst thing but there are times when it can get pretty lonely. It was so lovely working on a fast paced picture desk with good friends. I really miss that office buzz and banter... now when I'm editing pictures alone in my office I listen to Desert Island Discs which is brilliant but not quite the same!

Is there anything you miss about your previous career/life before children?

I didn't always appreciate it at the time but my previous career in magazines was pretty special, it was a fun office to work in and I got to go to some amazing events: Premieres in Leicester Square, and backstage shoots at awards shows like the TV Baftas, soap awards and National TV Awards - stressful but fun! I met and worked with some incredibly inspiring, talented people, many of whom are still close friends, so I miss them most really.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to do what you have done?

I'm not sure I'm in a position to give advice yet as am still just finding my own feet and feel like I'm only just starting! I guess it's just common sense though - have a think about what your priorities are, what you really love doing, what you're good at, and if doing those things make a viable business then go for it! It was easy for me as I didn't have a job to jump from, and I also couldn't have done this without the support of my other half, both financially and emotionally!

Clare Bowes Photo, children changing careers

Read previous posts in the series:

Children Changing Careers - p1: Emma from Little Hotdog Watson

Children Changing Careers - p2: Alexandra from Tendre Deal

Children Changing Careers - p3: Dani from Deluxe Blooms

Children Changing Careers - p4: Bonnie from BON LDN

Children Changing Careers - p5: Vicki Psarias from Honest Mum

Children Changing Careers - p6: Karen from Two Tiny Hands

Children Changing Careers - p7: Nicola from TM(M)I

Children Changing Careers - p8: Laura from Maybimoo

Children Changing Careers - p9: Vicki from Bo & Bel

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