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.

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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 #11

27 10 2011

Never stop marketing yourself

Marketing isn’t a part-time effort. If you have read any entrepreneurial books lately, this should come as no surprise. It’s probably the number one thing that stops people from opening up their own business. You have to market yourself—all the time.

Oh, did I hear you say that’s what you want an agent for?  I hear this comment very often. The problem is that if you don’t think you are not cut out for marketing, think again about being an entrepreneur of any kind. I mean, how will you get an agent if you don’t market yourself to them? How will you stay on top of your agent, once you have one, if you don’t understand how your agent does their job? How will you know the agent is doing the best job possible, if you don’t understand the industry and how marketing your art to manufacturers actually works? How will you sell the agent on your latest collection?

Agent or not, you need to educate yourself on the ways to market yourself to your primary and secondary target audiences; that’s marketing talk for manufacturers (#1 audience) and consumers (#2 audience).

Definitely put a plan together on how you’re going to market yourself. You need to allocate time regularly to marketing your fabulous art and product designs. Think about tradeshows; your website; manufacturers; retailers; art submissions; presentations; sales calls; social networking; publicity. These are all things you need to be thinking about, and integrating into your marketing plan.

As a guide, sales need to represent at least 60% of your time. This may be one of those deciding factors, which will help you choose whether you want an agent, or you want to do-it-yourself. If you’ve got marketing skill sets, and you can definitely divide your time between creating and marketing, then it’s much more lucrative to do it yourself. The number of artists who are choosing self-representation is really increasing. But it’s certainly not for everyoneWhether you have an agent or not…you STILL need to market yourself!





Rule #10

24 10 2011

Invest in a dynamic Art Licensing web site.

You need an Art Licensing web site that is designed to clearly communicate what you do for potential manufacturing and licensing partners. Here me clearly—your fine art or crafter website won’t work for your licensing business.

It is critical for your business to have a web site that focuses on your target audience.  In Art Licensing, that audience is your prospective licensees, the manufacturers who will license your art. The consumers who purchase your art in stores are a secondary audience.  Of course, your fans and consumers are very important, but you can create a very cluttered web site trying to appeal to more than one target audience.

Creating your web site is as important as those large four-color brochures of the past. It is truly the most crucial business communication tool you have or will create. So make sure your web site is ready for business when you are.

The overall objective is to target manufacturers in the various industries that you want to reach. Think about that and how your website can reflect that audience. Talk to them in their language and make sure you are addressing their needs. Keep it simple, easy to navigate, very functional and up to date. If you want to generate business, I can’t stress all of these points enough.

Start by showing your art in collections, and enough collections that a manufacturer can really get a sense of who you are and what you do. Manufacturers can quickly review your art and determine if they like your style, and if your designs may be a match for their company.

But think about this…it may be what you say (OR DON’T SAY) on your site that will help you win new business, or lose it on the spot. Specifically, a manufacturer is going to want to know what you can do for them.  So, you need to include specifics about your experience level and capabilities. Never include your resume and artist statement—they’re too lengthy and totally inappropriate for this type of audience.





Rule #9

20 10 2011

Create art that sells products.

The way to create income in the art licensing business is to create art that sells products. Remember that manufacturers have a business to run. They have products they are producing, and not everyone wants it in one size, shape, design, or color. Oh, we are so lucky to have the beauty and diversity of art in our world!

For manufacturers, your art can be the key to reaching a new audience, capturing a trend, expressing a sentiment and much more. They depend on you; and you depend on them. So however you create art is fine. It’s great!

What manufacturers want from you, however, has nothing to do with the passion, skills and creative process that it took to design your latest art collection. They are busy analyzing past sales and the newest production processes, while trying to predict the future.

Try to get into the manufacturer’s head. Think about your prospective business partner, the licensee, and give them something to seriously consider. Make sure you offer them a variety of artwork that can be produced with their production process, as well as themes that work for their key sales periods, giving-occasions—such as Christmas and other holidays—and collections that enhance their products’ design. My Manufacturer’s Mindset Class (now available as audio file+full presentation) is a great resource for this, and I taught it with a stationery industry, manufacturing veteran.

Just remember that the number one objective for your art licensing business is to create art that sells products. That is absolutely the only thing that will create income, assuming that making money is part of your definition of a successful business. Now since we all know there are many layers to the feeling of success, creating art that sells also needs to fit with who you are and what you’re all about. And if isn’t in sync on that level, it probably won’t have much appeal to consumers and won’t sell. In that case, it certainly won’t be worth it in the long run. Making money and not being true to yourself is never ultimately successful.





Rule #8

17 10 2011

Develop a significant licensing portfolio. 

You need a significant portfolio geared toward surface design for a variety of product categories. It is really important to have the portfolio organized before you launch into the Art Licensing arena, since you can never make another first impression.

In Art Licensing, your portfolio is going to be presented in a collection format. When we talk about a certain number of collections, keep in mind that each collection is going to have multiple pieces of art—central images, borders, patterns, and borders (or possibly some combination of them). These are the elements you and the manufacturer will choose from to pull together your product designs.

Imagine yourself walking into a mid-tier retailer during Easter season. In addition to the candy and baskets, they will have melamine and ceramic serve-ware for everyentertaining need.  Essentially the merchandiser will display small bowls, big bowls, baskets, bunny-shaped plates, large platters, pitchers and perhaps egg and bunny shaped décor items and candle holders. This is their seasonal display, or product line.

If you want to see your art on these products in the future, you are not going to create one piece of art to slap on all of those different shapes and sizes of products. You need to think about developing a cohesive collection of art—the images, borders, and patterns—that will all work together to create this product line. You need to think and prepare even more, because you need to show the manufacturer how all those artistic components work together and apply to their line of products.

It takes quite a bit of work up front to develop these types of complete collections, let alone 10-30 of them. But, frankly, the more collections you can create, and the more significant your portfolio is, the more licensing business you’ll do. There’s no doubt in my mind that the more you have to offer and the more people you contact, the more deals you’re going to get. That’s just a truism of sales.





Rule #7

10 10 2011

Get sound business advice before sound legal advice.  

This one is a little tricky. Licensing artists definitely need a good IP lawyer—that’s an Intellectual Property lawyer. But there are definitely ways of keeping expenses in check. For example, making sure you understand your business first, before you get the lawyer involved, is one great way to keep your costs down.

Every person who hires a lawyer is looking for legal advice, but few lawyers will provide business advice. First learn the business of Art Licensing through classes, coaching, blogs, articles, and by researching online. Everything you learn about the Art Licensing business is going to save you time and money in the long run.

Educating yourself about standard terms, royalties, advances, agreements, art development, approvals, product design, manufacturers, line development, production processes and retail distribution will be invaluable when it comes to creating contracts. This is because, while the lawyer can create the contract, they don’t know what business decisions are right for you (the licensor) and your business partner (the licensee).

Let me repeat that: your lawyer can create a contract, but they can’t possibly know what business decisions are right for you and the manufacturer. And every contract has a significant part of it which requires art licensing business decisions, such as the royalty rate, advance, grant of rights, territory, length of the agreement, to name a few. These are the ‘terms’ that the licensor and licensee must ‘plug’ into the contract, and they should not (generally) be recommended by your lawyer.

So back to Rule #1 of our ’20 Rules for Starting Your Art Licensing Business’—learn as much as you can about the Art Licensing business, and I recommend getting advice from licensing experts, as well as colleagues, manufacturers and fellow artists who have experience in the business. But don’t expect a lawyer to give you advice on the business terms for your contract.








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