Are You An Artrepreneur? Take Our 20-Question Quiz and Find Out!

1 09 2016

artrepreneur slideYou have probably seen it before: ARTIST + ENTREPRENEUR = ARTREPRENEUR. This got me thinking a lot about all of the creative people who want to earn a good living from their artistic endeavors. Maybe you are currently a part-time artrepreneur or haven’t yet made the leap. Perhaps you are still creating art, design, animation, or characters for a company that has clients and customers.

There are so many similarities between entrepreneurs and artists, and here are just a few:

  • Both groups just ooze passion. You really don’t choose to be an artist; you are created as one. It’s what you do and are!
  • Artists and entrepreneurs are compelled to push boundaries in all creative directions. It doesn’t even occur to them not to keep experimenting, trying, and testing.
  • Both artists and entrepreneurs have to find and walk their own paths to success. There is no established career path or road map.
  • Since there is no set career path or definitive road map for either artists or entrepreneurs, both must learn from other like-minded people through education and networking.
  • Artists and entrepreneurs, when first beginning their careers, are both required to compromise what they want to meet the market demands and find success. It is only after you have proven your viability to the objective working world, or have enough equity and market share for your art or brand, that you can venture off and lead the way into your own new areas. Anything else is a day-dream.

Is it any wonder the name ‘artrepreneur’ is catching on?

Today there is a lot of desire, pressure and respect put on becoming your own boss, having your own business and being your own agent. It is rapidly becoming a necessity. And, Of course, as with everything, there are pros and cons.

On the positive side, art licensing is one of the few areas where you can actually agent yourself and build a successful business. Unlike, for example, in the children’s book publishing industry, an author or artist is encouraged not to represent or agent themselves. As an artrepreneur, you are in control of your own destiny, yet it comes with a price.

On the negative side, which isn’t always negative, the price is that being an artrepreneur means having to do it all yourself. You are responsible for your own marketing, sales, production, warehousing, accounting, and distribution of everything you create, as well as having to continually motivate yourself every step of the way.

Remember, for the most part, artrepreneurialism is being ‘positioned’ as an opportunity, one that has its roots in the new information age. But in reality, it is more of a necessity, since everyone understands that today no one can count on someone else to give them a job.

Most artrepreneurs are artists and serial entrepreneurs in the same body. They have the talent of an artist and the mind and motivation of a business person. They create businesses with their creativity either sequentially, one after another, or simultaneously, several at the same time. To be an art licensor is truly the definition of ‘serial artrepreneur,’ you are creating business deals, and signing contracts, with multiple manufacturers at the same time. This is what it’s all about.

One of the great things, a good licensing contract allows you to do is to ‘slice and dice’ the rights for one piece of art into various product categories and create entire product lines with several manufacturers using the same piece of art, design or character over and over again. Licensing is also one of the best revenue generators that has no real financial cap, since it creates royalties based on usage of the art, rather than being paid per piece or based on your hourly efforts.

Artrepreneurs often need to create art licensing collections, while also illustrating books and magazines, or creating graphic design work, teaching, doing gallery shows, drawing cartoons, and animating characters, in order to generate the multiple channels of revenue needed to build a good income. It is challenging, but worth it to make a living doing what you love.

The number of artrepreneurs has grown exponentially since the new millennium. The competition is fierce. The unmotivated quickly drop away.

The most significant factor in the success of the new artrepreneur is the Internet tools which have become readily available, allowing one to create, promote, sell, and deliver directly to businesses and the end-user. Today you can reach your potential customers both at a speed, and on a scale, that in the past was only in the sphere of the bigger corporations which earlier had nearly monopoly on marketing and distribution. Those who learn and use these tools have the best chance of success.

So if you haven’t in the past thought of yourself as an artrepreneur, now’s the time to get on board and make your mark. One thing about being an entrepreneur…artistic or any kind…is that you need to develop certain skill sets in order to be successful. And if you don’t currently possess them, then you need to study and learn them. I suggest you answer these 20-questions to see what skills you have and those which still need developing. You can answer with a lengthy paragraph or simply a quick ‘agree, disagree or needs improvement’ note-to-self. But you need to be completely honest.

1. I have a strong overall drive to succeed.
2. I have determination to tackle problems.
3. I can prosper in a ‘gray’ environment, where there are more questions than answers.
4. I take responsibility for my own actions, including successes and failures.
5. In the beginning, I am willing my art to meet the needs of the market.
6. I willingly do the tasks necessary to succeed.
7. I can persevere in hard times and quickly recover.
8. I convincingly communicate with others, whether clients, vendors, bankers, freelancers or manufacturers.
9. I believe that I can solve whatever problems arise.
10. I deal with others with honesty and integrity.
11. I value and utilize the management and control systems necessary to run a business.
12. I have the ability to anticipate and troubleshoot problems.
13. I can connect with others and build strategic relationships.
14. I can scan the marketplace and assess potential needs and gaps.
15. I provide for my own emotional needs and know how to find the support I do need.
16. I believe that I have the finances required to support myself and others who depend on me.
17. I have or can get the finances to get the training and help I need from experts along the way to achieve my goals.
18. I have a basis for making effective, profitable business decisions.
19. I can pick the right people to help execute my vision.
20. I can identify the biggest obstacle in starting my own company, whether it’s knowing where to begin, finances, training or fear of failure.

After 20 years of teaching and training hundreds of artrepreneurs, I know that the successful ones all have passion, confidence, self-discipline and a great willingness to learn. I know that you can do anything that you truly want to do. If it is indeed becoming an artrepreneur, then go for it!  Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.


Licensing Expo Recap and Mastering the Next Steps

14 06 2015

AAL Booth C13 at Licensing ExpoFrom set-up to break-down, the Licensing Expo delivered on its promise of bringing together worldwide brands, creators, artists, retailers and manufacturers to build business partnerships. We shared information daily from exhibitors and attendees in our blog…both from the Art+Design Zone, but also up-n-coming character properties.

Direction at Licensing Expo is so important!

Direction at Licensing Expo is so important!

I heard from many people, there was plenty of traffic and the leads were excellent.  I don’t think Licensing Expo has posted their ‘official’ attendance count yet, but the first day was pretty strong and the second day was even stronger with, of course, the inevitable slower third day. But for the Resource Center it never slowed down. We were still taking appointments even as the Booth was being demolished around us.

What a wonderful whirlwind. As Licensing Expo’s Art+Design Resource Center, we gave away 30+ free consultations, to exhibitors and attendees alike, as a part of our services. We also gave one of our new video classes and our 80+ free Minicourses to everyone, charged cell phones and laptops, printed urgent papers, and handed out bottled water to the thirsty.

Carlos Neville moved from the Art + Design Zone, closer to Characters, with his Pop the Balloon.

Carlos Neville moved from the Art + Design Zone, closer to Characters, with his Pop the Balloon.

Everyone participating in the Expo seemed to be very excited about the variety of prospects. While many artists mentioned they couldn’t get meetings with their ‘A’ list potential manufacturers, I heard later that several persistent artists caught their attention and managed to get those exciting appointments after all.

Joan Marie Celebrates Art in her first booth.

Joan Marie Celebrates Art in her first booth at Licensing Expo. She joins those who will be back in 2016.

Two hot topics throughout the Licensing Expo event were global exposure and digital media. Manufacturers from around the world met with artists and new properties and every corner of Asia was especially well represented at the Expo. All properties, new and evergreen, are seriously considering how they will gain and maintain exposure in this new digital world. And today it’s not just about exposure and the numbers, it’s all about ‘engagement.’

Debra Valencia and I catch up in her beautiful booth, designed as a brand concept store.

Debra Valencia and I catch up in her beautiful booth, designed as a brand concept store.

Engagement is how your audience will choose to interact with you and your brand. Also, who will help bring your products and brands into the limelight. Whether an artist or a property, there is a big trend in utilizing celebrities to increase exposure. Strategic alliances are well and good, as long as you have engagement once the audience grows. While this may not seem relevant to those of you who are new to art licensing, specifically, it does relate. Many new artists are turning to manufacturing some items on their own to develop their ‘following.’ Then online marketing and sales efforts will build your audience and strong sales numbers will absolutely impress manufacturers. It gives you something to leverage.



There was also a great deal of chatter about artists, designers and new properties getting high-level leads with companies the exhibitor didn’t expect! Each freely admitted they were in product categories they had never even considered would be interested. Exposure to so many types of properties and product categories at Licensing Expo is always an eye-opener and fuels broader business goals and plans.

Of course I heard complaints too, such as, ‘There is no room for new artists or properties.’ ‘How can we get anywhere when it’s all about the big-guys?’ ‘You need TV before you can do licensing.’ Or ‘You need publishing before you can get TV.’ But I was witness to several artists and properties who made great strides by being well prepared and really understanding what media players and manufacturers would want from a ‘newbie’ in the industry. Let’s see if they can stay the course and keep moving forward.

So now the final results for everyone is in the hands of our attention to detail and follow-up.

Mark Lubratt  and his Mom Linda spoke to many prospective   partners about Zoonicorns and will be attending Licensing Expo in 2016.

Mark Lubratt and his Mom Linda spoke to many prospective partners about Zoonicorns and will be attending Licensing Expo in 2016.


Now everyone has to sort and make decisions about how to follow-up with each and every person they met.  We have two classes this week to help you with these processes.  One is our FREE Ask J’net Q&A, in which I’ll focus on ‘After the Trade Show Questions.’  Feel free to ask about things: you saw at the Licensing Expo; that maybe didn’t make sense for you as a first-timer; which you are still confused about; and how to make the most of your time there through your strategic follow-up.  Ask any questions important to you right now and put them on your registration form. This Ask J’net Q&A is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16th at 10:00 am PDT / 1:00 pm EDT (you will receive your Classroom Access Information at least one-hour before the class). Register Here.

Art+Design Zone Action

Art+Design Zone Action

Sales & Trade Show Follow-Through Techniques

You won’t want to miss Sales & Trade Show Follow-Through Techniques. on Thursday, June 18th at 10:00 am PDT / 1:00 pm EDT. This live phone event will be 1.5 hours and the cost is $75. After your purchase, you can attend live or after the event you will receive … an audio (MP3) file, 60+ page PowerPoint presentation (PDF format) and video link to watch the entire class at your convenience. We know everyone has a different way of learning, so we offer more ways to learn than other training events in the licensing industry.

This class has 3 parts which cover the 1) Organization of your follow-up, how exactly to 2) Follow Through carefully and accurately on your leads and 3) Sales Techniques that will close the deal and grow your business. You may place your questions on the registration form, and they will be answered during the live event.

The training will focus on characteristics of licensing sales which you won’t find in a traditional sales class. You will receive your Classroom Access information the evening before the class, June 17th, via email. Register Here.

Hope you can join me for one or both of the classes this week! Please share all this information with those who might want to attend the Expo next year or learn about our business. Thanks.

Licensing Expo Opens Today With Fresh, New Art + Design Properties

9 06 2015

Humming with Berry-Bruce S.-Darker

We know many artists and creators are visiting the Licensing Expo, and Sue Einersen has opened a new art licensing agency called Vivid Art Agency.  She currently represents one diva artist, and I don’t use that name lightly as Judith Lynn is in fact a world-famous opera singer turned licensed artist. Watch the interview to learn more, or if you are walking Licensing Expo visit Booth H16.  You will see how her music impacts her creativity and art.  

Otter Olympics 2-28


J. Pierce

P1018754_cc_largeJ. Pierce likes to paint outside the lines. A 25-year-old contemporary fine artist, J. Pierce urban appeal and explosive color has gained him a national and international following from athletes to celebrities. Licensing footwear, luggage, and greeting cards, among other products for upwards of four years, this is J. Pierce’s second year at the Licensing Expo. You can find him in Booth B17, where he’s painting a special request Angry Birds piece.





Blue Fish Designs

Blue Fish PhotoThis is Blue Fish Designs first Licensing Expo. A prolific set of artists and illustrators, Blue Fish Designs created new art for the show in just 3-weeks! Fun and fresh illustrations with giant personality, Nidhi Wadhwa and Namrata Dwivedi started as illustrators and designers for books, working with publishers like Scholastic. Today, Blue Fish designs everything from games and toys to animation and surface packing. Simply put, their specialized team of illustrators, designers and coloring specialists can design “anything and everything.” You will find them in Booth E24.


Heartfelt Art Licensing Lessons- An Interview with Joan Marie

13 02 2015

DotHeartFor my valentine to everyone, I wanted to share this story of Joan Marie, a vivacious artist who is re-launching her art licensing business this year. Having great success early in her licensing career, 20+ years ago, only to have the business plummet, has taught this artist a few heartfelt lessons.

J’net Q: How did you get into the licensing business?
Joan Marie A: Mary Engelbreit inspired me. Watching her business flourish was very exciting. Then I began to see the bigger picture and it really intrigued me.

Q: You have a fine art background, is that right?
A: Yes, my undergraduate degree was from Washington University in St. Louis and my MFA was from both University of South Florida, in Tampa, and Lindenwood University in St. Louis.

Q: How did you get your first deals and what kinds of licensing have you done?Joan Marie
A: I researched companies by going shopping and by attending some national conventions to find the best companies to work with. I wrote down tons of names. Then I would call them to see if they were interested in working with a freelance artist. If they were interested, I sent them a hardcopy of my portfolio with 10-20 images. And I got rejected a lot. When the company that was to be my first licensee called, they first offered me a flat rate. I had been so excited to get their call, then my heart dropped. I told them, I can’t work that way, I must have a royalty. And the manufacturer said they don’t work on a royalty basis. So we both hung up. At the time, I was pretty desperate and I paced and fought myself NOT to call them back. Then he called me back about 4 hours later…and they offered me a royalty. Next I had to create the contract, which I did, through a volunteer organization that offered legal services to ‘starving artists.’ From there I followed the same procedure to get more deals, and really persisted. It took a long time to get going. Then my art sold very well for about 10 years on apparel, stationery, back-to-school and gift items. I had one cat design that sold over 1.5 million t-shirt transfers, which was amazing. And creating 2 lines of collectible plates with The Hamilton Collection was such an exciting time of national recognition. But all of a sudden the public totally stopped buying kittens and unicorns; the market was really saturated with the themes I had painted.bird in flight

Q: What is your favorite part of doing art licensing?
A: Knowing your art can add a smile, some excitement, and warm someone’s heart while using everyday products. It just feels like crazy fun to me. It makes me so happy. I think this is a sign that I am in the right business. “Life is supposed to be FUN!”…and that’s how it feels to be in this industry.

Q: So how has your art changed since those earlier days?
A: My art has covered many styles over the years. Early on I was primarily realistic in my imagery using classic oil techniques. Then I went through a purely abstract phase. Today I combine the ethereal and gently romantic quality of my past realistic art with my new confident intensity. It is very exciting to express so many of life’s emotions in one work of art. My new art is bolder. It captures the high energy passions I see in life.Zebras

Q: What was your biggest hurdle to get where you are today?
A: To stop being concerned about what will sell. Instead to create art that expresses my true vision and passion for life. If your focus is on creating what will sell, you may make a survival income, but you will never discover your unique voice and say something that will truly speak to others. If it doesn’t come from your joy, or your soul, it has no chance to gain a huge following. It is also a challenge to never give up and keep going through the ups and downs in this industry. One of the best words of wisdom I have heard is: “There is a lot of room at the top.” This artist was telling me that very few artists are willing to do what it takes to get to the top, so keep the faith and keep loving the process of getting there.

DoggiesQ: How has the art licensing industry changed since you were in it 20 years ago?
A: Oh wow! BIG changes! Artists were not using computers!!! No Photoshop or email! Can you IMAGINE that??! Finding companies to submit to was so much more challenging…and OH MY!!! I felt so ALONE. We really had nowhere to turn to get help understanding the business! There were NO J’net Smiths at the end of the phone or computer to give us endless valuable information and help!!! All we had was the “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines,” which was and still is really valuable. But that’s it. And mailing hard copies of portfolios was expensive. Then learning how each company wanted their submissions was a much bigger challenge.

Q: What’s the biggest ‘from the trenches’ tip you can offer to newcomers to art licensing?
A: My advice is to learn how to use your strengths and go to others for their strengths to help you get the job done. There are so many more resources available today; it’s such a blessing. So learn who and where those resources are and get out there and use them. I need to focus and not insist on doing everything myself. Read, talk to people and get professional advice. I am thrilled to get assistance on my branding, promotions, publicity, leads and more. We are meant to help each other and not work alone like an island. That’s what I used to do. Secondly, I think you really need to have great passion for this industry, as I’ve mentioned. If that deep drive and excitement or the love of the entire process and of being in business for yourself is not there, then the challenges will surely beat you down. I would also highly recommend having some savings to invest in the start-up of your business. You have to be patient, because it takes a long time for the volume to build up and to make the kind of dollars you want.

Q: In art licensing today, what is your biggest challenge?7WsexhilSM (1)
A: Not to fall into self-doubt or fill my mind with thoughts of feeling stressed…AND to not be concerned about what will sell instead being true to what I am here to express through my art. Gaining wisdom through the years has given me the ability to step out of those old patterns. Now I say: “I believe”…“I trust”… I know in my heart that everything is going perfectly, just as it should. It’s fantastic to feel grounded and excited all at once, knowing that this is what I am here to do.

To see more of Joan Marie’s Art That Celebrates, click here to visit her website.

Many Characters Start in the Art+Design Zone

17 06 2014
J'net gets reward from her client Scooter of Brokenheart Pet Rescue

J’net gets reward from her client Scooter of Brokenheart Pet Rescue

The diversity of manufacturers walking the show never ceases to amaze me. I have a request from a manufacturer of blankets, towels and other products specifically for western, native american and other types of realistic fine art. If this is a style of art that you do, please contact me by phone or email.

And now for the video blog portion of this post. I had the opportunity to meet with one of my clients today, a multi-talented visual artist who had decided last year came to Licensing Expo for the first time–Daryl Slaton of Tails of Whimsy.

The Mighty Machines of Mackie McKeens

The Mighty Machines of Mackie McKeens

Timree Paint Studio:
Timree Gold is already rich. Her hand painting talent is tremendous. Now she shares her favorite painted designs at the Licensing Expo with examples. “I made product samples in the categories that I feel are the most appropriate for the brand. We’ve got lunch boxes, plates, cell phone cases, stationery and pillows, that are just easy examples of what you can do with the property,” said Gold.

Timree Gold's Art Licensing Collections Shine

Timree Gold’s Art Licensing Collections Shine


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