Joe Tree is the founder and CEO of, a rapidly-growing community of everyday people who take and share one picture a day.

1. The Paper Boy

My working life began rudely at the age of 13 with an early morning paper round. I only took the job to save some spending money for an impending summer in the USA, but there was little left to bank after I’d fed my fledgling smoking habit. In the end I think my poor mum gave me £200 for the trip, most of which I spent on a skateboard the minute I landed. (A 1986 Santa Cruz Jeff Kendall – man, it was sweet.)

2. The Trainee Sound Engineer

After reaching a mutual agreement with my school deputy head (I hated the place and he hated me), I left aged 16 and spent about a week plucking up enough courage to call a family friend who owned a recording studio, to ask for an extended period of work experience. Despite my nervous mumblings, he said yes. The receptionist left three months after I started, making way for a proper paid job –on condition I added phone answering and bookkeeping to my tea-making duties.

Our work was mainly TV and radio ads, with the odd folk album thrown in for balance. It was an amazing period I’ll never forget. I picked up more skills and learned more about life in those two years than I did during my entire secondary education, and I got to meet Spike Milligan. And Jesse Rae.

3. The Film & TV Technician

My ultimate failing in the recording industry was a complete lack of musical ability. So at the age of 18 and with two years of real life under my belt, I left for a one-year HNC in Film & TV at Napier Poly. The end of my course coincided with the department’s only technician leaving and, in a moment of desperation, the head lecturer offered me the job.

This gave me my first decent wage, and access to some of the most cutting-edge digital imaging hardware and software in the world. Macromind (who became Macromedia and were eventually bought by Adobe) sponsored the department too, giving me free access to their entire suite of software. So by day I helped students edit on S-VHS, by night I immersed myself in Photoshop, Director, and all sorts of other still barely heard of stuff.

4. The Digital Imager

In 1994, I was snapped up by a fashion photographer making a bold move into the world of digital photography. He gave me a job, sixty grand to spend on computers, scanners and printers, then threw work in front of me from clients like Pink Floyd and Vivienne Westwood. The enterprise was a roaring failure, but it was there I met Graham, who I’ve been in business with ever since.

5. The Entrepreneur

In 1995 Graham and I started a digital agency called Rocket, focused on providing heavyweight digital imaging technology and expertise to Scotland’s advertising and design agencies.

The first version of Netscape was released a few months after Rocket’s launch and we started getting very excited about the Internet. We built our first (if not the first) database-driven website in 1996, and stayed just ahead of the curve as our whole industry gradually turned digital over the next decade. It was that foresight which helped us survive while many of the behemoths we were working for bit the dust.

Blipfoto was borne out of Rocket and is where I now devote every ounce of energy. It’s already grown from a personal project into a pet company project into a BAFTA award-wining global daily photo sharing community and, now, a business in its own right. We serve more than 200,000 visitors a month from 163 countries, but still consider ourselves embryonic. The future’s huge and it’s all still ahead of me.


We’ve asked professionals in creative industries what jobs they have had in the past to get their foot through the door (or at least pay the rent). For more in the “My First 5 Jobs” series look here.