We present a comprehensive study of Er(trensal) single-ion magnets deposited in ultrahigh vacuum onto metallic surfaces. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy reveals that the molecular structure is preserved after sublimation, and that the molecules are physisorbed on Au(111) while they are chemisorbed on a Ni thin film on 0(100) single-crystalline surfaces. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) measurements performed on Au(111) samples covered with molecular monolayers held at temperatures down to 4 K suggest that the easy axes of the strongly anisotropic molecules are randomly oriented. Furthermore XMCD indicates a weak antiferromagnetic exchange coupling between the single-ion magnets and the ferromagnetic Ni/Cu(100) substrate. For the latter case, spin-Hamiltonian fits to the XMCD M(H) suggest a significant structural distortion of the molecules. Scanning tunneling microscopy reveals that the molecules are mobile on Au(111) at room temperature, whereas they are more strongly attached on Ni/Cu(100). X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy results provide evidence for the chemical bonding between Er(trensal) molecules and the Ni substrate. Density functional theory calculations support these findings and, in addition, reveal the most stable adsorption configuration on Ni/Cu(100) as well as the Ni-Er exchange path. Our study suggests that the magnetic moment of Er(trensal) can be stabilized via suppression of quantum tunneling of magnetization by exchange coupling to the Ni surface atoms. Moreover, it opens up pathways toward optical addressing of surface-deposited single-ion magnets.