Solopreneur Profile: A Pet Painter DONE

freelance pet photographer
Erica holding up one of her incredible recent pet portraits. Photo courtesy of Erica Eriksdotter

Every week, here at Lance, we’re going to introduce you to a different solopreneur around the country (and sometimes the world). We hope their stories inspire you whether you’re new to working for yourself or are considering different creative outlets after years of freelancing. 

This week, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to an old friend from my DC days, Erica Eriksdotter. She’s a Swedish-born, but still Washington, DC-based artist. Her works are largely commissioned as gifts – and she has an incredible talent for capturing very sentimental moments and pet friends.  

Profession(s): A fine arts painter at Studio Eriksdotter  and professional juggler of 1.5 year old son.

Home Hub(s): Reston, VA (part of Metro DC)

Favorite expression or euphemism:

“Eff it, it’ll work.” In regards to taking chances and braving all sorts of situations!

How do you describe what you do?

I bring joy through color. I sold my first painting at the age of 10 in Sweden (where I was born and raised) and have had the honor of helping customers all over the world since – capturing pet loves on canvas and turning bridal bouquets into modern keepsakes. I work off of photos to make detailed paintings which have become popular gifts to give in celebration of a birthday, anniversary or “just because”. Today, I live outside of DC with my husband (also a creative), our son who is 1.5 years old and our two cats (who often “help” me in the studio).

While my art is modern, the profession is not and I work the same way as the old masters did – one brushstroke at a time. Each painting takes roughly 40 hours to paint and prices depend on the size of the canvas, not the complexity or amount of details.

With a commission, it starts with a customer’s desire to want something unique and ends with a painting that has more meaning, backstory, layers of culture, depth and generational mileage than maybe anything else in their home. Because I work so closely with a client along the way, there are no surprises. Many of my clients are moved to tears when they unwrap their paintings.

What does your “everyday” look like?

For many years, I had two full-time jobs (climbing the corporate ladder by day and painting by night), and today is really no different. I work every minute of the day either as a mom or painter or both. I try to seize every moment: I’m writing this during nap time, and may answer an email right after playing with legos, and tonight after bedtime I’ll work on a commission in my in-home studio. And somewhere in the middle of all this, I try to squeeze in time with my husband, rest, snuggles with my cats – and am always striving, always, again and again, for more balance. It’s all part of the daily as a solopreneur, right?!

In terms of the work I do “everyday” it’s not actually painting. Because unlike the old masters, there’s a lot of other aspects to my business that need tending to, especially since this is an online business. I do a lot of marketing outreach (which can be sharing behind-the-scenes photos or videos on social media, advertisement, newsletter, etc.), customer research to understand how my customers think and feel and where they are on the customer journey, editing photos of my art, analyzing discovery data, working on my website, bookkeeping or shopping supplies.

Who is a current role model to you? Why?

I’m always inspired by compassionate female thought leaders who pave their own way with big open hearts. Those with a greater understanding that nurturing yourself leads to elevating consciousness in your community and the world. People like Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon Doyle, Gabby Bernstein and Marie Forleo who also run socially conscious companies and constantly assist and inspire, and rise up for social change and follow their hearts instead of the old society’s checklist.

This is one of the reasons why I started my Studio Eriksdotter Presents Fika podcast, to talk to people who inspire me. This is also why Studio Eriksdotter is a socially conscious company. I help where I can, by donating commissions to silent auctions benefitting people in need, giving funds to animal rescue organizations, and supporting other entrepreneurs via kiva.org.

Where do you go – online or off – to develop your skills?

Because I’m a self-taught 3rd generation painter, my ‘skills’ come naturally to me, so I let them do their thing. I focus on honing my business skills and study the people mentioned above. I’ve benefitted from taking Marie Forleo’s B-School for example. I also do meet-ups with my marketing and communications network to stay on point, and stay connected with other solopreneurs for that extra boost of a sense of belonging and community.

The skills I need to really develop more of, however, are self-care and becoming a student of another art (versus always being a master of the current one). These are two important ingredients in continuing to evolve the flow of creative energy. Sometimes a bubble bath will have to do for self-care, and I’m currently teaching myself how to hand sew a large quilt – maybe not the smartest thing since I need to rest my hands from painting, but it’s what my heart was craving so I gave in.

What’s the best financial advice you ever got?

Growing up, I received two pieces of advice from my parents that have stayed with me:

1) “Do what you love doing and the money will follow,” which I love because it gave me the permission to follow my dreams and taught me the importance of loving what you do; and,

2) “Never put yourself in a situation where you go to bed worrying about money”. I still worry about money sometimes and where the next commission will come from, but I don’t lose sleep over it – because “eff it, it’ll work out”. Just don’t limit your freedom by having too many expenses though, it’ll in turn limit your risk-taking capacity (which is need to do to follow our dreams) and suffocates the creative ability. This is general advice that has meant the world to me as I’ve grown my business and my own family has grown.

What do you wish you knew or understood more about your finances?

I would like to know how to utilize finances so they benefit me. I enjoy digging into my finances but have never really used my business finances as a tool for making the dollars work for me, I have even resorted back to Google Spreadsheets as my bookkeeping (gasp! hello, Lance!) because frankly, it can be overwhelming when the to-do list is already so long. And no thank you to in-person appointments with middle-aged financial planners who only want to talk retirement savings. I want the easy, quick and very reality-based discussion, please.

What do you think will be most significant development in the future of work and freelancing?

I believe more and more people are searching for ways to ignite their souls and “braving the wilderness” to become their own bosses. To take chances because they’ve outgrown society’s mold. Within that scope, people may crave going back to trades for that tactile experience. To touch and feel the work they produce, and produce something that benefits the world, seems to be more rewarding than just pursuing money (because I think we all understand that money doesn’t equal quality of life). Fewer and fewer are striving to be the VP “of this and that” or a CEO “for someone else”, especially when we can have the freedom to move and grow on our terms and in our own unique ways. I think the trends are clear that there’ll be more solopreneurs and more freelancers in the U.S. in the near future and with the (still open) internet there is no geographic limitation on where or how we work. The future is total freedom, without ever retiring.

What do you always have with you?

I would love to say my sketch book because it would be so aligned with being a painter, but funny enough, I can’t sketch to save my life! Instead, I carry my iPhone which I’d go to business on all day long and make sure my family gets inundated with my son’s every move.

If you’d like to learn more about Erica and her work, please visit her website. And as an added bonus, you can check out some videos of her painting here and here. They’re really quite relaxing.

You are always welcome to check our financial app for freelancers

5 Podcasts That Will Help Craft Your Brand Narrative DONE

freelance story narrative podcast
Listen to these podcasts whenever you’re feeling the itch to rework how you describe your business or between big projects! Photo courtesy of Neil Godding

Last week, I wrote about the business podcasts that keep solopreneurs like me motivated and learning about finance and business markets. This week I thought it’d be fun to highlight the podcasts I listen to on runs to unwind and think about storytelling. This skill of developing a narrative is so fundamental today to promoting and running a successful business.

Take a moment to think about any company that inspires you today. Two things will likely come to mind almost immediately – 1) a person within the company you know and admire and 2) a great story, whether about its origination or something that happened recently. Are you with me? Thinking about Southwest Airlines? Virgin? Toms? Patagonia? Chipotle? These can also be stories of overcoming great failure or challenges. As we look at the typical storytelling paradigm of a hero’s journey, these are often the stories that we remember the most strongly.

And these podcasts are great reminders of how to spin up and relay great story up through with from a bit of curiosity and often facilitating great interviews. Listen and take notes. You’ll want to review them later when you’re thinking about your business.

Reply All

This is a podcast led by two guys, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, about all things relating to the internet. They solve techie challenges – like cyber security hacks – and untangle obscure culturally relevant tweets and Reddit posts on a weekly basis. Not only will they keep you up on relevant cultural news, they’ll draw you into the most unique corners of the internet with their genuine curiosity, contagious laughter, and entertaining character interviews. Start with the episode about the Uber hack. It’s a series but well worth it.

2 Dope Queens

These ladies have an incredible resume from across the entertainment space. Both are comedians and actresses, Phoebe Robinson frequently writes and consulted for shows and popular culture outlets while Jessica Williams was a senior correspondent on The Daily Show. If you can catch a live show, do it. The ladies start and end every show with their own sass and random stories. That conversation is then infused with comedians and actors sharing their own stand-up routines and stories. In addition to the incredible perspective of Phoebe and Jessica, they’ve created an incredible space for a broad range of major players, minorities and up-and-comers to feel welcome and relevant speaking about race, gender, sex and the topics of today. Listen to any of these episodes to listen and think about the unique voice you have as well.

Death Sex & Money

Anna Sale is just fantastic. She has one of the empathetic interviewing voices ever.  The summary of the podcast is that it’s about “about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.” It’s that and so much more. She coaches her subjects through talking about the most vulnerable subjects and drawing you into their stories deeper than you thought possible. If you’re listening to this podcast, I hope you have Kleenex nearby or don’t mind squishing up your face with concern every-so-often.

From Our Own Correspondent

Pitched as “insight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world.” This podcast provides bite-sized tastes of what correspondents are experiencing in their lives all over the world – whether in the midst of a war in Afghanistan or trying to understand poverty in Malaysia. Within 30 minutes, you’re regularly whisked around the world with the stories and experiences behind the news we read.

Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin

His voice and his own special way of interjecting. Alec interviews “artists, policy makers and performers” in only the way he can and it makes for a regular feast. A favorite of mine remains the interview with Elaine Stritch from 2015 because of the candor and delivery that only someone in the latter part of their lives can deliver. Each interview provides a wonderful insight into the life of Alec’s subject and will make you think about the balance of your own life in terms of luck and intention. Alec has a very different style but he’s another voice forcing you to think about what it makes it so damn compelling.

Again, hope you enjoy these podcast suggestions. Next week we’ll move onto other freelancer tools and tricks of the trade by the Lance team. Until then, happy listening and I dare you not to take notes on what from these episodes you should take away to apply to your own business narrative and expression. As always, look forward to hearing about your favorite shows as well.