Katrina LIPSKA / KATS FILMS
To continue with our Mondays series we interview Kat, photographer extraordinaire and co-founder of The Inspired Stories.
Rachele: To being with why don't you tell us how you became a professional photographer.
Kat: I started taking pictures when I was about 12, just for fun. Whenever I was bored at home, I borrowed my dad’s camera and did really creative set-ups for self portraits, and then eventually started taking photos of my friends, family trips, and every kind of flower I could find in the garden. I started doing some photography jobs for free in high school but funnily enough I never considered it as a proper career choice. Then about 8 years ago I moved to London and the blogging industry was really taking off. I got a job at a creative agency and after realising I’m just not an office person, I went freelance to shoot with influencers and brands.
R: Did you become a photographer first or did you create The Inspired Stories brand first?
K: Photographer first! The Inspired Stories was born a few years later. I actually met my best friend & business partner at my old job before going freelance and also starting our own business together.
R: How do you manage to split the time between them?
K: I’m very lucky to be freelance and have a lot of control over my schedule. It’s still quite a struggle over the busy periods (like November & December) when I have lots of client shoots for holiday campaigns and we’re also extra busy with orders at The Inspired Stories, and it’s all hands on deck. During the summer I can usually relax a bit more on all fronts. Knowing that the crazy busy-ness isn’t gonna last forever usually helps!
R: How do you prioritise?
K: It is challenging! Still trying to find the right balance.
R: In the first few months of creating the brand with your co-founders, what was your number one concern?
K: We were fully shooting in the dark - we went into creating a physical product without any prior experience so there were a few concerns haha! One of my partners took out a personal loan to fund the first print run of our planners. So the number one concern was to actually sell enough copies and repay that loan as quickly as possible (which we were lucky enough to do!).
R: What about now?
K: I’d say now (almost 4 years on) we’re really interested to see how we can grow our business in the most cost-efficient way, without having to look for any outside investment. This year we also have to think about hiring someone (at least part-time) which will be a whole new ballgame as all 3 of us are crazy control freaks!
R: What about in regards to professional photography?
K: Like most freelancers, I am continuously trying to find ways to work smarter and not be as dependant on getting new jobs & new clients. Most photographers like me work on an hourly/daily rate and there’s only a certain number of hours you can possibly do. So working to make my work better and finding other streams of passive income like presets, prints, online educational content - all things that I’ve already considered and looked into, just haven’t had the time! This worldwide lockdown might be a good opportunity to get them going!
R: Overall, what would you say has been the most challenging aspect of starting your own business and working for yourself as a photographer?
K: In the beginning, I’d say the biggest challenge is just figuring out how the freelance world works and how to make it work for YOU. It’s also quite hard to put a price on your work at first, it took me a while to figure out what my hourly or date rate would be. To be honest, sometimes I still struggle with this on some projects! I want to be as flexible as possible but also not spread myself too thin. Another challenge particularly with social media is getting people to actually give you credit for your work. Sadly that’s what a lot of creatives have to deal with.
R: What about the most rewarding?
K: So much freedom! I wouldn’t change it for the world.
R: What is your number one marketing tool?
K: For my photography, it’s definitely Instagram. For The Inspired Stories, we also use Facebook to advertise.
R: How would your business strategy change if Instagram were to disappear?
K: I always wonder this myself! So many small businesses rely on Instagram. The best thing about it is the community - it’s lovely connecting with our followers and especially people who have used our planners since the beginning. If Instagram were to disappear, it’d be a lot harder to create this 'community' feeling. So I think it’s important to have your website be more than just an online shop - with some personality and content that people can enjoy for free. But I do think if Instagram disappeared, something else would take its place right away.
R: How do you slow down? Being your own boss, do you “allow” yourself the so-called chill time in pre-scheduled weekly slots or do you take each day as it comes?
K: Since I usually do some work over the weekends anyway, I like to pick a day in the week for chill time - I’m based in London and it’s nice to have a day off off during the work week as you can enjoy parks, cafes, shops, museums with a bit less people around. I also love having slow mornings so it’s very rare that I’ll schedule a shoot before 10AM! I find that if I've had a chill morning and a good sleep, no matter how busy the day gets, I’ll feel ten times less stressed at the end of the day.
R: What’s your at-home pamper / de-stress routine?
K: Long shower, then lighting a beautiful candle, takeaway dinner, a piece of dark chocolate and watching some Netflix with my boyfriend on the couch. Pretty simple. And good sleep!
R: One piece of advice you would give to people who are starting their own business?
K: You’ll always find reasons not to do something so at some point you just have to risk it and go for it! Just go for it - but make sure you’ve got a roof over your head.
R: What’s next for you and for The Inspired Stories?
K: Well, we’re in a funny time right now with the whole pandemic situation.. I’m personally really missing interacting with my clients in real life and doing photoshoots, but equally we’ve had all this extra time for new ideas for The Inspired Stories. I think we’ve got about 6 new products in the making at the moment so I’m very excited to launch these in the new few months!
Firedrill Round with Kat.
- If you had to describe yourself using three words, which would they be? Curious, open-minded, thoughtful.
- If you had to describe The Inspired Stories using three words, which would they be? Community, inspiration, thoughtful.
- What would you say is the most interesting thing about your brand? How different all 3 of us founders are! But we work really well together.
- Top skincare products? Bioderma Sensibio range and La Roche Posay Effeclar Duo.
- Top 3 items of clothing? Leather jacket, a pair of Stan Smiths, and one of my million floral dresses.
- Most treasured item of jewelry? Two engraved gold necklaces my partner gifted me.
- Favourite brunch place in London? My favourite local gem - Lowry & Baker on Portobello Road.
- Favourite scent? I like scents quite woody & sweet. For favourite fragrance I can’t choose between Byredo 'Gypsy Water' and Aerin ‘Tuberose Le Soir’.
- What's your earliest memory associated with a scent? Lily of the valley or lilac. Both scents from my childhood garden.
- Favourite travel destination? Ahh I can’t pick just one! For adventures - Australia. For chill time in paradise - the Seychelles.
- Favourite in-London escape destination? We’re blessed with so many gorgeous parks! Regent’s Park is my personal favourite.
- What does luxury mean to you? What do you indulge on? Luxury to me means treating myself in some way, something out of the ordinary. I love to indulge on nice dark chocolate, and will treat myself to a nice perfume or a candle every once in a while.