Name: Elle Sorridente
Job title: Self-employed artist, graphic designer and photographer
Time in current role: 2 years
Elle is an artist and photographer. Visit her website www.ellesorridente.com and follow her on Twitter @
Why did you decide to start your business?
For me the journey to starting my own business was a relatively easy decision to make. Both my parents run their businesses and growing up in an entrepreneurial household definitely made the whole thing less scary and intimidating. Not that it is actually so, but I didn’t fear or doubt my choice to go it alone.
My degree is in fine art and after graduating it was a couple of years before I wanted to make work again. I left university feeling very disillusioned with the art world and like I didn’t know how to be myself within it. After some time away, working various jobs, building my graphic design skills and trying to figure things out, I realised how much I needed to be painting.
I slowly began to sketch again and investigate other ways of working and living as an artist that didn’t require a reliance on gallery space and funding applications. I found myself much more drawn to the idea of being a painter/illustrator and setting up my own online shop alongside trying to get my work into shops and galleries.
What are the key functions of your role?
At the moment I’m pretty much flying solo in all areas. I just moved with my partner to Brighton a few months ago, so for now we’re both working from the sitting room of our flat. He also runs his own 3D design business, so although we’re working on different things for our own businesses we support each other and get the ups and downs of being completely responsible for all areas of what we do.
We’re both on a huge and constant learning curve but we’re on it together and often discover things that are useful for each other, even though we operate in very different creative fields. Also it’s always really good having another pair of eyes to hand.
Clients can be very different from project to project but my rule of thumb is whenever possible have a face-to-face meeting and ask lots of questions. The more you know the client the better equipped you are. I always follow up every meeting with a summary email to recap and make sure I haven’t missed or misunderstood anything. This is also an opportunity for clients to change details before I make a start.
Talk us through your typical working day
At 7am the alarm goes off, one of us will make coffee (strong and unadulterated) and I’m straight into my social media routine. I try and get all my promotional posts out for the day before 8am to catch all the breakfast/commuter traffic then I usually spend another half an hour checking various sights and blogs, and reposting anything interesting. Then it’s shower, breakfast, another coffee at my desk and a quick read of blogs and sites that inspire me before I crack on with whatever project I have on that day.
I like to split my week between painting and making work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – and then do all the admin, test printing and online jobs on Thursday and Friday. This is partly because I’m fresh and inspired at the beginning of the week but it also allows me to create content to put out over the rest of week.
I tend to break for lunch at around 1pm for an hour – maybe eat outside if the weather is good and then get back to work. A couple of nights a week I train capoeira so I’ll finish earlier on those days at around 6.30pm. Other days I go to the gym at about 3.30pm and then get home and work through until around 8pm when one of us will cook, then do some sketching on the sofa followed by some yoga.
For me exercise and yoga are essential. I’m a very physical person and the only way I can sit and sink into that zen-like meditative state to paint is if I’m regularly releasing a load of energy. It’s my way of grounding myself. What I do can be quite isolating and I can disappear into my own world very easily so it’s important to have things that take me outside of myself and bring me back into the real world.
Your favourite part of the job?
Painting, painting, painting. I love it. I live, eat and breathe colour and pattern, and it drives me to want to do more, be more and take on new and more challenging projects. Creativity and imagination are two things that grow the more you use them. I love the feeling of exponentially expanding my practice and my work. It’s like being fuelled by the thing you are putting all your energy into.
…and the part you could do without?
Having to do my own accounts and sometimes the endless self-promotion required when starting your own business. Promoting myself is definitely the thing that comes to me the least naturally. But like all things we dislike or struggle with, we usually learn the most in forcing ourselves to confront why we feel this way and how we can change. Being determined to succeed in your own venture is the biggest catalyst for change I could ever imagine.
How would your clients describe you in three words?
Fun, colourful, focused.
Plans for the future?
Wow, I have so many plans. I think the beauty of working in the creative industries is the massive potential for being involved in vastly different projects.
Short-term, apart from selling my work in more places both in the physical and digital world, I would like to be at a point where I can outsource my printing, as that would reclaim a lot of time to put into new work and projects.
There are also a bunch of collaborations I’d like to pursue with people in different creative fields. My partner Ben and I both decided when we set off on this crazy self-employed journey that once our businesses got to a certain point we’d take them on the road. Both of our businesses are established in a way that will allow us to work from the road, taking on new work, running workshops and collaborations, blogging and sharing our stories and adventures along the way.
Eventually I’d love to have a dedicated physical space to showcase and sell work with a bunch of likeminded artists. I’d like it to become a creative hub where people can discuss ideas, share and work on cross collaborative projects, put on shows and run workshops. But you’ve gotta walk before you can run.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
The best advice I can give is research so thoroughly you feel like an expert before you take the plunge into whatever it is you’re considering. I’m always 100% more confident if I feel like I have all the facts.
Also if you’re considering a creative career, ask yourself: ‘Can I live without doing this?’. It takes a lot of dedication and determination to work in the creative industries or to work for yourself. I never stop working, I’m always thinking about projects, promoting myself and asking myself why certain things worked well and others didn’t. But it doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do and couldn’t do anything else with my life.
It’s also really important to have things that completely take you out of that space. For me physical training is an essential way to recharge, refresh and create the energy to get everything I need done. LLY