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