Six Tips for Creating a Trade Show Ready Portfolio

11 05 2016

Portfolio development and trade show planning is one of the most asked about topics in my business. Understanding how to trade show test one’s portfolio is important for artists and designers to know if their portfolio has what it takes to cut through the clutter.

Kitty Ice Cream by Joan Marie

Kitty Ice Cream by Joan Marie

There are many types of portfolios—enough to mirror the creative minds we have in this amazing licensing industry. And while everyone’s work is unique, putting together a compelling portfolio presentation to grab attention while distracted prospects are running the gamut of brain aerobics required at trade shows, is certainly a challenge.

Here are some solid techniques to maximize the effectiveness of your portfolios while attending trade shows:
1) Portfolio Size
The size of your portfolio for a show will depend greatly on how long you have been in the art licensing business, and whether the artist is participating as an exhibitor or attendee. An artist who has been in the business for 10 years with a consistent art style—who might add 5 to 10 collections a year—will probably have 100 or more collections to choose from.
Manufacturers want to see a body of work, enough to keep them interested and know the artist is committed to the business. If artists are exhibiting at a major trade event, then think in terms of presenting 20 to 30 collections in a variety of themes and developing a system to access most of any viable work. If you are walking a show, keep it light and bring your newest items and a few solid collections which you want to exploit further.

2) Portfolio Organization
Artists must make sure to organize their portfolios for a trade event by theme, since that is how manufacturers buy collections. They seek out art to fit their product line needs for everyday (including seasonal-fall, winter, spring, and summer), holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Valentines, and Easter), occasions (Birthday, Graduation, and Baby Shower) and niche themes/lifestyles (cooking, flowers, spa, sports, country chic, lodge, beach). Organizing collections in other ways will just make it more difficult for the manufacturer and is likely to frustrate them and turn them off.

3) Portfolio Review
Licensees want to see what artists have that’s new. So while an art style may interest them, new art keeps them coming back to ‘see what you’ve got.’
Creating new art for key trade shows is vital, as is sharing new collections throughout the year. Think about how many collections you will create (approximately) for the year, and plan out the releases based on trade shows you will attend. Artists should launch new collections at trade shows and plan on having other new releases following major events to keep the conversations going with potential.

4) Portfolio Flow
Portfolios should ebb and flow. Artists should add new items and take out old items regularly—that’s the way to keep it fresh! Also, they should make sure to keep their newest art at the beginning of the themed sections in their portfolio.
Artists can absolutely continue to use images and collections that were shown last year, or even from years before. However, take out designs that no longer fit the artist’s style, or are no longer ‘in style’ or ‘on trend.’ Think realistically about how long the art will be relevant in the marketplace, and, therefore, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers. If artists are trend driven, it may be one to three years. If artists are very traditional in their themes and style, then eight to 10 years would not be an unusual length of time to keep some art in their portfolios.

5) Portfolios Technology
If an artist has a booth at an upcoming show, it’s best to have duplicate copies of your portfolio for multiple viewers. In addition, make sure there are hard copies and digital versions available. It is important to put the portfolio in a tablet, phone or computer which does not require the Internet to access the images. The last thing artists want is to be dependent on the Wi-Fi in a large convention hall, hotel or conference center with spotty reception. Keep images at an appropriately high resolution for how they will be shown: 300 dpi for print portfolios and look books, and 72 dpi for electronic images.
Use touch-screen computers or tablets to make it easy for anyone to glance through a portfolio at his or her own pace (without having to learn your technology). Keep it simple. I don’t recommend attending a meeting with so much high-tech equipment and business paraphernalia—artist’s phone, tablet, computer, briefcase, and hardcopy portfolio—that they are utterly incapacitated by trying to juggle them all. Think light; think efficient (less is more).

6) Website Portfolios
While physical trade show portfolios are important, just because artists are exhibiting in a booth or attending a show, doesn’t mean that someone an artist meets with won’t quickly check-out the artist’s website. In fact, isn’t that what every artist is hoping for?
For this and many other reasons, it is important that an artist’s website be up-to-date before he or she attend a trade show. The online portfolio should include enough of the art to show a breadth of themes and the depth of an artist’s capabilities. But I don’t recommend that artists show your entire portfolio. It’s not wise or necessary to have every collection out on your site. Of course, artists should take as many precautions as possible by using a watermark on the art and copyright on each piece and/or collection. Some artists do prefer a password-protected portfolio area, especially if they have extensive work to keep organized.

Reprise: My article was written for and originally published by ‘The Licensing Book,” Spring 2015. I am happy to share it again after so many requests for information about portfolio development.  And my sincere thanks to Joan Marie for allowing me to share some of her amazing art images.

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Beyond the Booth – Top 10 Countdown – Making the Most of Your Trade Show Experience (Part 2)

22 04 2015

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.37.48 AMThis is Part 2, the conclusion, of ‘Beyond the Booth – Top 10 Countdown – Making the Most of Your Trade Show Experience’ 

5. Prepare press releases before AND after the show – This is one of the times you really need to reach out and share your business news and information. Publicity, such as those mentions or articles in magazines, blogs, newspapers, trade publications, are often more credible, believable and profitable than other types of exposure. Before the show it’s important to make sure everyone knows you will be attending, where to find you, and what you have to offer. After the show, it’s time to share the news about your accomplishments and executed deals.

4. Create a promo video – Videos are one of the most powerful and persuasive marketing tools available today. Keep in mind that a moving presentation overview draws in prospective clients, but be sure to share with them with your more detailed follow-up material when it comes to your one-on-one meetings. Try to format your videos for as many different platforms as possible. Videos can be used on booth monitors and on tablets and smartphones for impromptu presentations outside your booth, as well as in online public relations and for social media exposure. If you have a property that lends itself to an interactive demo, then go for it. By giving attendees something to do, it gives you more time to interact and discuss their needs. As you can see, your promotional videos will take on a variety of formats for different purposes. By organizing the goals and needs clearly before creating the videos, you can economize on the development of your materials.

3. Take time away from the booth – This takes preparation because you need the staffing to cover you when you step away, as well as to decide how to use your precious time. Get clear on your priorities so you can visit booths of prime prospects and competitors first. Make friends with your neighbors and take time to attend sessions where your prospects are speaking or might attend. And in general, talk to everyone to meet new people and make new friends. Whether in line for coffee, lunch, the restroom, or sitting at a training session or on the escalator…talk to the people around you. This is really the best way to take full advantage of your networking opportunities. Someone you struck up a conversation with is much more likely to stop when passing your booth on the show floor—and even if they aren’t a prospect, you never know WHO THEY KNOW. Once you have accomplished your goals, definitely take time to roam and get inspired by ideas and connections that hadn’t yet occurred to you.

2. Ask for what you are looking for – While many people might consider it too forward or rude, you will not get what you want if you don’t ask for it. This is what separates the effective business people from the ineffective ones. Write down exactly what it is you want your new contacts to know and what you are asking them to do. Make sure you relay it often and to everyone in a professional way. Again, be assertive, not aggressive. If you are unclear with yourself about what you want others to do, they will not know how to help you even when they are willing. Practice your points until you have them memorized.

1. What do YOU have to offer – This seems like a very obvious instruction, but you would be surprised how few people actually express clearly what they are offering. Remember that industry events, especially trade shows, are jam-packed with influential and busy individuals. You want to talk with everyone you can. Because you never know if they have the means to help your business in a variety of ways. And remember, common courtesy goes a long ways! You may not be as well-known as many of these folks, but you are important too. You need to be very clear about what you have to offer, so that you know exactly what you bring to the relationship. Conversations with high-ranking execs will go must smoother when you know exactly what you have to offer them. It’s important to have a realistic and dynamic vision of what you bring to the table, so that moving forward you aren’t wasting anyone’s time, including your own.

There is still time to register for ‘Marketing Your Art, Characters, Designs & New Brands through Trade Shows,‘ which begins today at 10 a.m. PDT. If you can’t attend today, you will receive an MP3 audio file and 80-page PowerPoint presentation at the conclusion of the class. For more information and to register click here.

Note: This article ran originally in the Licensing Expo Newsletter. All Art Licensing will be available at the Resource Center in the Art + Design zone Booth #C-13 where I will be reporting on deals and events, assisting attendees in navigation of the trade show, providing free expert licensing advice and supporting the Art + Design category exhibitors. Hope to see you there!





3 Character Building Tips from ‘Over the Hedge’ Cartoonist Michael Fry

11 10 2012

If you are interested in creating characters that will become household names, then you will appreciate these tips from Michael Fry, co-creator and writer of the Over the Hedge comic strip.  These are just a fraction of the practical and valuable information to be shared next week, October 15-17, as Michael and I (former Dilbert VP of Licensing) teach ‘Building Character-How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul,’ a six-hour webinar that will guide you through the intersection between art and commerce.  (To Register or Learn More)

Character Building Tips from Michael Fry:

1. Most successful characters are extensions of yourself. Both your best and worst self. The more honestly and clearly you see your strengths and flaws, the more authentic your characters will be.

2. Audiences care about characters they can relate to. But not in a generic way. Your characters should be a specific as possible. The audience will relate to those aspects that are specifically relatable to them.

3. No one cares about your character or creation as much as you do. NO ONE! Your publisher or syndicate represents many properties. You represent one. Your interests are similar. They are not the same.

They say content is king. But the truth is that viewers and readers fall in love with characters, not content. Whether it’s a novel, graphic novel, children’s book, comic strip, web comic or web animation, characters are what attract loyal fans. Join us next week and learn, as Michael puts it, “How I got two comic strips you’ve never heard of made into a prime time TV series and animated feature film.”

This is part of the Worldwide Creators’ Intensive series from All Art Licensing, where our goal is to bring you the best information and advice for creators, at really affordable prices. Check out the details here.





Awesome October Classes

24 09 2012

I’m back with an ‘Awesome October’ of classes scheduled and wanted to share it with you today. If you have animation, television, movie and product licensing dreams for your character concepts then this is your chance to learn from a fantastic businessman, creative dude and teacher, Michael Fry, who co-created Over the Hedge (with partner T.Lewis).  Michael and I are joining forces to teach ‘Building Character: How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul. ’This is the first webinar in All Art Licensing’s Worldwide Creators’ Intensive Series for Fall 2012/Winter 2013.  These courses are designed to bring top names,  highly qualified speakers, to creators around the globe.  We will specialize in providing detailed, immediately useful, information at a price nearly any artist can afford. These are always online events (webinars) so you can attend from anywhere, ask questions, and download the course and presentation soon after the live event for further study.  You never need to worry about missing one spec of valuable information. And of course, it’s time for another Free Friday, Ask J’net Q&A, so read on…there is something here for everyone.

Ask J’net Q&A – Friday, October 5, 2012 9AM PDT (12 Noon EDT)

Join me for our next, wildly popular Q&A class, where you have the opportunity to tap into my knowledge,  experience and brainpower.  This one hour class is a ‘live’ phone event where you provide the questions and I provide the answers – for FREE! Below I’ve listed just a fraction of the questions I’ve answered over the years.  So sign-up today and don’t forget to send in your questions on your registration form!

  • How do you organize a licensor’s web site to appeal to manufacturers?
  • As an artist, do I need a blog?
  • How risky is it to do spec work?
  • When signing licensing deals, should a press release be done for each company?
  • If I don’t like doing borders and patterns, can I just do stand alone images?
  • What are the traits to look for in a good manufacturing partner?
  • What design and theme trends will be seen on product this year?
  • How do I get started in art licensing?
  • What are private label products?
  • What would be the first 5 questions I ask a manufacturer, if they express interest in using my artwork for licensing?
  • How do I negotiate a royalty with a major manufacturer that wants to pay a flat fee?
  • When I copyright a “collection” of designs under one copyright, are they all covered?
  • When creating seasonal art, how far in advance are manufacturers shopping for it?
  • How can I determine if I need an agent or not?

Introduction to Art Licensing – Sponsored by the Graphic Artists Guild – Wednesday, October 10th 11:00 AM PDT (2:00 PM EDT)

A great class for those thinking about or entering the art licensing field. Learn about how art licensing works in this live webinar — which is FREE for Graphic Artists Guild Members. It will cover the fundamentals of art licensing and provide insights to help you determine where you fit into this business. I will teach the art licensing process, timelines, today’s artist requirements and challenges that are to be expected, as well as valuable information on retailers, the agent/artist relationship, and much more. If you are already a ‘Guild’ member, you can sign up on their site for free, or become a member to take advantage of other benefits and then register.  All registration for this event is being graciously handled by the Graphic Artists Guild. Awesome-thank you! Register here.

Worldwide Creators’ Intensive – Building Character: How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul

Mon-Wed, October 15 -17, 2012 (6+ hours of training—register before 9/30 and it’s only $85)

Taught by: Michael Fry, Co-Creator ‘Over the Hedge’ and Creator ‘Committed’ (Bio) and J’net Smith of All Art Licensing / DILBERT Marketer (Bio)

They say content is king. But the truth is that viewers and readers fall in love with characters, not content. Whether it’s a novel, graphic novel, comic strip, web comic or web animation, characters are what attract loyal fans and licensors. Audiences want to own and share a piece of what they love, whether it’s a T-shirt, a plush toy or a major motion picture. But how do you get your character from the page or screen to the store or theater? Build an audience and licensors will come, right? Yes, that’s part of it. But there’s more — a lot more to making sure your characters get the best shot at becoming household names.

Please join the co-creator and writer of the Over the Hedge comic strip, Michael Fry, and I for a 6 hour webinar held  over three-days that will guide you through the intersection between art and commerce to best develop and market your characters to their maximum potential. The live seminar includes an extensive downloadable audio and PowerPoint presentation that outlines each step in the process from creation, publication and brand building to promotion and licensing for television and film. You can learn more, register or see the  daily schedule for Building Character online or click here for a printed version of our Worldwide Creators’ Intensives for Fall 2012/Winter 2013.





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.








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