Interview: Petra Eriksson on Illustration, a Solid Daily Routine, and Getting Paid as a Freelancer

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Petra Eriksson is a Swedish freelancer illustrator and designer living in Spain (via many other wonderful places!), working with gorgeously bright colours to create images of people and the world around them. We had a lovely long chat about being a freelancer, her solid daily routine, and keeping your mind sharp throughout the day. Check out Petra's Instagram to see some more of her bold and bright art, and the places some of it has been featured.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Petra! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, do you want to tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Petra Eriksson:
I’m an illustrator, artist, and graphic designer from Sweden, currently based in Barcelona. I come from a background in fine art but moved into the field of graphic design and illustration. I used to live in Malta and Berlin but have now been living in Barcelona for the past year. For many years I did freelance assignments beside my regular design job but for the past 8 months I’ve been freelancing full-time. I’m really enjoying freelance life. Obviously it has its ups and downs, but I love the flexibility and the chance to get to work with a wide range of clients within different sectors. 

Magic & Musings:
I love Malta! What a lovely background.
If you could describe your art style in three words, what would they be?

Petra Eriksson:
Colorful, graphic and inviting.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into art? What first drew you to the field? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? 

Petra Eriksson:
I’m one of those people who has always been creating something visual. As a kid I was always drawing and as soon as I could start focusing my studies more on art and design, that’s what I did. After three years of upper-secondary school with art as my focus area I decided to spend two years at a small fine art school in Stockholm where I got the chance to refine my technical skills. When graduating from that school I felt a bit lost about what I wanted to do, I felt like I had lost the feeling for what I liked visually and didn’t feel the same kind of passion for art any more. I had applied to a bunch of other art schools but didn’t get accepted (probably a lot due to my own insecurity of my style at that point) and decided to take a break from it all. A year later I started studying illustration instead which lead me on to studying graphic design for two years, a decision that I’m very happy about today. 


Magic & Musings:
Did you have to find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence when you first started displaying your art?

Petra Eriksson:
Not in general. Sometimes I’ve felt bad when I’ve in school had to present some kind of project that I’m not really happy with myself, but usually when it comes to the point of putting the piece out for a more public visibility I’ve reached a level of being happy with it. At that point I’m more excited than nervous to hear what people think about it. I know that everyone will not like what I do, and I wouldn’t want that either, but putting something out there for other people to see is something that I feel drives me forward, it makes me refine my art and try new things to see how it affects not only me but the viewer as well. 

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your work, what are you the proudest of and why?

Petra Eriksson:
Hard question! I’m working on a book project right now that I think is going to turn out very well, unfortunately I can’t say much about that project at this stage. Another project I feel very proud of is the atlas I created as my graduation project from design school. I only had about two months to complete it so it was a bit rushed and it definitely has a lot of flaws in it, but at that point it was my biggest project so far and I felt like during the process of creating it a lot of pieces fell into place about how I want to work and with what kind of projects. 


Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Petra Eriksson:
It is a very interesting question and something that I talk to quite a lot of people around me about as well, especially since many of them are freelancers of some kind just as me. 

I think I have my routine and my preferred settings pretty much nailed down, though it depends a bit on what kind of work I do. First of all, I hardly ever listen to anything while I work, I just can’t, even if I’m just drawing something simple I find that it usually clouds my mind more than inspire me. Music is something I use when I walk to shut out other noises around me and help me process my thoughts but while working I prefer things to be pretty quiet. 

I’m usually most effective in the mornings when my head’s clear and rested. I usually work from home for a little while in the morning before heading to my co-working space. For me it’s a nice thing to get out of the apartment most days of the week and go to an office with other ppl working around me. It’s both a way for me to be part of a community and to create a clearer division between work and free time. Having that said, I’m usually only in the office between 9:30-12 but I work very effectively during these hours. At noon I almost always go to the gym to get my body moving and to get the chance to completely clear my head. I’m back home around 2pm, and then I start with checking my mail, shower, eat some lunch, and then depending on how much I have to do I might continue my break for a bit longer or dive into the ongoing project at the moment. Usually my least creative working hours are between 2-4 so I often extend my mid-day break a bit into this time or do things like answering to emails, sending invoices etc. Usually I get a little spark of energy after that and get some more creative stuff done before breaking again, maybe to head out to meet a friend or just go for a walk. Often I work again for 1-2 hours in the evening between 9 and 11 depending on how much I have to do. 

I find that this is the way I’m the most effective and have the best quality of life. I very rarely work more than 6 hours a day, but I make sure that those hours are effective and that I get a lot done in a little time. I give myself the time to process thoughts and ideas during the times when I’m away from the computer doing other things. 

Also, I really don’t mind working for a few hours during weekends, if I don’t have any client project going on I almost always feel the need to work on some personal project during these days, but I definitely don’t have the same kind of schedule then as during my normal weekdays. 


Magic & Musings:
That's a fantastic routine! I can totally see how that would help you to be productive.
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Petra Eriksson:
I try to not get stressed (even though it’s hard sometimes if you have a tight deadline but can’t come up with any good creative ideas) and to give myself a break. I often just need to stop thinking about creating stuff for a while. Usually I go the gym to just release my brain from any work-related thoughts for a while or I do something cultural/creative like going to a museum, visiting a nice book store, or go to see a movie. 

Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

Petra Eriksson:
Well, as I mentioned above I go to the gym most days because it makes me feel good (especially since I spend so much time in front of the computer otherwise). I like walking and visiting museums and exhibitions. These situations are when I get my best thinking done. Like most other people I enjoy spending time with friends and family as well, preferably at a cosy café or at someone’s terrace. The last couple of months I’ve also been part of kicking of the Barcelona version of HER Global Network which has been a great source of inspiration and a great chance to get to know a group of talented, amazing women from all around the world. 

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Petra Eriksson:
Currently I almost do all of my work digitally but I used to draw and paint a lot during my years in art school. I’ve also been working quite a lot with photography from time to time. Doing more physical things is something that I really want to get back into this year.


Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Petra Eriksson:
Social media has definitely helped me. It’s been so much easier to spread the work I do and to get recognition. Especially Instagram has been great as a self promotion tool; that’s also where most of my new clients this last year has come through. 

Magic & Musings:
If there was one thing you could want to say to the world if you knew everyone was listening, what would it be and why?

Petra Eriksson:
Remember to be kind, both to yourself and the people around you. 


Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised? 

Petra Eriksson:
Not many. I have a sketchbook for ideas and lists of everything from “things to do”, “invoices to send”, “invoices to make sure that they get paid” etc. It’s definitely not a bulletproof system but it works for now. For longer projects I usually write the deadline down in my Google Calendar but otherwise I just keep it in my head. I don’t really use any specific tools but I’m a firm believer in a clean and organized inbox, I try to keep it as empty as possible and label all of my work mails into different categories so it’s easy for me to find them. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Petra Eriksson:
I wish we would have talked a lot more at school about getting paid as a freelancer. I didn’t think about it then but afterwards I find it pretty weird that we hardly talked about freelance life at all at my school. It’s definitely tricky to figure out what to charge for different kinds of projects and since money in general can be a bit of a tricky subject it would have been great to dive into it then already and try to set some kind of standard for what you should get paid. 


Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Petra Eriksson:
I’ve read a bunch of great books this last year but if I have to nail it down to one it would be The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; everyone should read it! There are so many great films out there as well but if someone still haven’t seen Spirited Away they need to do that straight away. I know that it’s not a new film but I still feel like I need to recommend it. My recommended song of the day is 'Horses at Night' by Still Corners. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Petra Eriksson:
I’m just thankful to get the chance to share a part of my story and hopefully inspire some people along the way. You can find more of me and my works at my site or my Instagram.

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