Rule #16

22 11 2011

Your income potential is tied to how well your art ‘fits’ on a variety of products.

You may not think this topic is relevant, but it’s really a fundamental building block for a successful art licensing business.  Be careful not to narrow your target audience, or the product types on which your art works, because that will limit your income potential. So start by making sure that you have a wide variety of product types on which your art will work.

I want to clarify; we’re not talking about just slapping the art on anything. The best products, and usually the best-selling products, are those that feature well-integrated art and product design. This means that your art not only supports the product’s functionality, but does so by emotionally connecting with a consumer. An example might be an egg shaped mug and Easter egg art, so there’s really a fun dynamic going on between the product and the art. That’s a pretty simplistic example where there’s great synergy between the art and the function of the product.  Of course, there are many types of synergy that are less literal and just as connected.

One of the first challenges in creating your art licensing business is to learn to think in terms of different product categories.  Product categories are the various types of products and product lines that a manufacturer produces. Many manufacturers produce a variety of products that relate, such as stationery and greeting cards, or kitchen towels, aprons and accessories. Often when creating new collections and trying to build your business, it’s valuable to think about the products you want to be on before you create your art.

Ask yourself: How many product categories does your art fit on right now?  What product categories are really natural extensions of your art?  What product categories work really well for the themes you like to cover?  Does your art fit on gift items or stationery?  Will it also work on home and garden, or apparel? Does it work on home décor, domestic soft goods – like bedding and sheets – tabletop, or infant items?  What about men’s products and sports equipment?  You can license your art on more than 20 general product categories.

You’ve really got to think about where your art realistically fits. Remember that ultimately your revenue potential is tied to the number of product categories which you can license your art on.

Rule #15

15 11 2011

Manufacturers rarely take art ‘as is.’

It seems as long as the world has been changing, clients always want changes in the work you do.  Well, art licensing is really no different.  Manufacturers will be your clients; and they always want more art, more production help, more designs, more tweaks, and have tight deadlines.  So please don’t think this industry will be any different.

Art licensing is a very commercial industry, and I think this is why we are seeing so many artists who have successfully crossed over from advertising and graphic design. These creators are used to art direction from clients, adaptations, changes on the fly and other assorted, sordid requirements of the licensing and manufacturing worlds.

There is definitely, however, a limit on how much adapting and revising one should do, but that is another topic that I will have to address later.  Let me just say that you need to be flexible, as well as manage how much time you put into doing spec work and adapting final files.

Just know there will always be a tweak here and there; and sometimes there are big tweaks. So be prepared to make changes, and of course to fight for those changes your ‘gut’ just won’t let you make. At least, if you know this is common and to be expected, and you can handle it, then this just might be an industry for you.

Rule #14

7 11 2011

Product development and design go hand in hand.

As an art licensor, you’re creating a piece of art that potentially could be featured on hundreds of thousands, or millions of products.  Art licensing is a highly competitive and commercial business, and as it’s growing, the competition is becoming stiffer. It’s really more about creating product lines and product options for manufacturers. Your target audience is most often manufacturers, who become your licensees. Manufacturers are selling to the retailers, who make the final decision to put licensed product on store shelves, thereby making your art available to consumers.

So, if you really think about it, what you are doing is creating the design elements, which the manufacturers will place on their product. Then you’re selling the manufacturers on the idea of using your art to help grow and build their product’s exposure, their sales, and profits from retailers. While I think most manufacturers would love to design their own products, but in today’s economy they just don’t have the time or staff.  They’ve been impacted deeply by the economy and controlling costs has resulted in very lean product development, production and design staffs.

These manufacturers are depending on artists and designers more than ever to fulfill their creative needs; design their individual products, as well as complete product lines. As an art licensor, you’re not creating one image to be sold as one image; you’re creating multiple images that create a collection, which will be marketed to manufacturers for small and large product lines.

The manufacturer may create the product line, or you may be very influential in creating the product line. But the bottom line is that you want to reach those manufacturers, and team up with them to get your art on product. This means your art must be mocked up on illustrations of products, or product templates such as those available from All Art Licensing, to actually show how your art would appear and how you wish to have it produced.

It’s crucial to go this extra step so the manufacturers can envision your art on their products. Manufacturers want you to present to them the plate with the design on it, the mug with the design on it, the tablecloth with the design on it. Are you envisioning your art askew in a corner, or centered with a traditional border? What’s your vision for your art, and for your art designed on the manufacturer’s product? Let them know!

Here’s your chance to show off your ability to design products in your key licensing product categories. Make sure you keep your product design relevant.  Don’t mock up your art on an apron if you want to pitch infant wear. Your presentations need to be designed for the manufacturers you’re pitching.  So, make sure you have a clear vision to whom you’re sending the presentation out, and think about how to design your art on their product for them.

Rule #13

4 11 2011

Brand development is more than a logo.

Developing your brand is up to you and it’s more than just your logo.  Your name, or your company name, and the ‘look’ you create for your logo is a great place to start.  But you also want to be consistent with all your branding elements, such as your website, press releases, email campaigns and any marketing pieces you do. You also want your art style, your product designs, and even how you do business to be in-line with how you want consumers and manufacturers to perceive your developing brand. Every tiny element of your business contributes to building your brand image over time.

Pay attention to the details and how they all fit together. Make sure that brand elements are visually cohesive on products, throughout your website and all your marketing endeavors.  And aim to place these elements everywhere they possibly can be, as you build your business.

As your business grows, you can start negotiating brand exposure and that’s where things get exciting. At first you may just get your copyright on your products, then your brand name with a small logo in addition to your copyright. Later, you may request a picture and bio included in the manufacturer’s catalog or on their web site. From there, you may ask your agent or manufacturer to dedicate a special area at a trade show booth for your brand, or an autograph signing at an industry event to create publicity and increase sales. As your reputation and demand builds, so does your ability to leverage your success to create more branding exposure. Next thing you know, your logo may move from being a tiny spec on the bottom of the product to a more prominent position on the front of the product or label. Branding involves creating the visual esthetic as well as creating a personal experience, feelings about a person or entity, and it’s never immediate—it’s a long-term process.

Rule #12

31 10 2011

Prepare to be an entrepreneur.

Start your art licensing business by reading about and talking to successful entrepreneurs in all kinds of businesses. Most successful entrepreneurs are happy to share what they’ve learned—the good and the bad. Ask yourself if you are ready to be an entrepreneur with all the ‘hats’ you need to wear on a daily basis.

Creating and growing residual income requires a balancing act. You’ll be continually creating art to keep your portfolio fresh, maintaining a large library of art to hold manufacturers’ interest, and thinking of new ideas for your art, whether on the cutting edge of trends or on-trend. And art development is just one end of the spectrum.

On the other end of the spectrum, your responsibilities as a business owner also demand time. Time is spent to manage finances, schedules, deadlines, contracts, clients, approvals, annual plans, marketing, budgets and staying informed on industry news.

So, the entrepreneurial business model means you’re constantly marketing your art and product design, creating new art, running your business, and staying motivated. All of those things require a balancing act of skills, time and attention.

I want to clarify that even if you having an agent, you are still an entrepreneur and will have to manage a juggling act. Think about it, you don’t just hand over your business to an agent. There’s a distinctive hat you wear when you search, hire and work with your agent. And if you don’t take the time to ‘manage’ your agent, things can go awry.

Be honest with yourself about areas where your skills excel and where they are lacking.  All types of entrepreneurial skills are a must for the success of your art licensing business. Try reading some business blogs as a part of your ongoing training, such as Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Blog. I’d like to hear what other business blogs you find helpful, so I can share them with everyone.

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