I Redesigned My Art Business And Am On Track To Open My Own Studio

Published: February 28th, 2024
Justin Erickson
Justin Erickson Art
from Vancouver
started January 2017
Discover what tools Justin recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Justin recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hey, I’m Justin Erickson and I’m a freelance Illustrator and Graphic Designer. You might remember me from my first interview with Starter Story. On Developing A Career As An Independent Artist And Graphic Designer

I run a small creative business out of my home office called Justin Erickson Art. I provide a variety of visual identity design services to fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Between projects, I create and sell my original artwork, art prints, lapel pins, cards, and other merch.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

Since the last time we spoke a few things have happened for the business.

I spent a considerable amount of time refocusing the brand in an attempt to increase traffic to my website, improve client acquisition, and move away from social media as my primary lead generator. This led to a complete refresh of Justin Erickson Art's visual identity and a new SEO strategy.

To accompany the rebrand, I invested a considerable amount of time and money into building a brand new website for Justin Erickson Art. Most of that time went into updating the look of the site and rebuilding my SEO strategy.


Unfortunately, because of these changes, I recorded a loss of $952.67

Which isn’t terrible! If I had sold a larger painting or gotten another commissioned project or two I would have earned more than I had spent. 2023 was the first year I didn’t turn a profit since 2018.

We are approaching six months since the changes were finished, and I'm only just now starting to see the results. Commission requests are up around 130% since this time last year but merchandise sales are down 45% in comparison to the first quarter of last year.

I also had my most successful product launch to date. This past holiday season I dropped a new set of holiday cards “A String of Lights 2nd Edition.” Preorders launched alongside a social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook. I made $560.00 between November 15th, 2023, and December 20th, 2023 on that single product. Pretty proud of myself for that.


What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

I learned the hard way that web development is not my cup of tea.

As part of my rebrand, I decided to teach myself the basics of coding and build my own website. I thought I would hit two birds with one stone. Learn a new skill I could offer as a service, and practice by building my own website.

Oh man was I wrong! The whole process was a slog. Tinkering around the back end of my website I’d end up crashing the site altogether. A few times it was down for days. Finding solutions was not a quick YouTube tutorial or google search away. Sure it felt good when things worked or I fixed an error I introduced but it didn’t make up for a lost time, or lost revenue.

Needless to say, website design is not a new service I provide and in the future, I will be hiring a professional to do it for me.

You won't grow until you become comfortable with failure. It’s a large part of the entrepreneurial journey.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

As entrepreneurs, I know we are hardwired to be jacks of all trades. Sometimes that benefits us a great deal. I love the hands-on approach and learning new skills, but if I'm being honest, I need to stop trying to do everything myself!

I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with recognizing when It is appropriate to attempt something myself or when I should go and ask for help. If the website has taught me anything it’s to recognize that if it feels overwhelming to the point of becoming unmotivating, it’s time to consider hiring a professional to handle it.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

This year I have a few short-term goals on the go.

Expanding my line of products is a large focus for this year. I’m hoping to launch four new lapel pins in time for next holiday season, and a new line of everyday greeting cards. So far I have a few sketches ready, and a general concept for the cards.

I’m working towards illustrating my own deck of tarot cards. There are 78 individual cards so I’m expecting it to take a few years to complete. For this year my goal is to finish two suits in the minor arcana. That's 28 illustrations in total. If you want to follow along you can find me on Instagram @ justinerickson


If everything goes to plan within the next five years I hope to open my own gallery. It’s on track, I have the business plan mostly finished, and the branding and visual identity are coming together nicely. Next on the list, I’ll be researching the different neighborhoods I’d like to operate in, and the best way to apply for a small business loan. It’s pretty exciting!

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

This is a tough one! I think I’m going to have to say “Extra Bold” by Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Tobias, and Josh Halstead.

It forced me to examine the way I was taught design, and how my education was predominantly Eurocentric, misogynistic, and racist. It was an enlightening read. Since finishing the book I have actively sought out artists and designers of many different cultures, and identities to learn and find inspiration from.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

You won't grow until you become comfortable with failure. It’s a large part of the entrepreneurial journey. Trust me you will mess up, and you will mess up a lot, especially in the beginning!

Not every product or idea is going to perform in the way you think it will. Allow yourself the space to feel disappointed. Get it out of your system but don’t allow it to discourage you. You’ll become stagnant if you allow a failure to hold you back from adjusting and trying again.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!