Fall is Here; Time to Prepare for New Growth

17 09 2015

fall-downFall is a profound time of year for me.  While the leaves of the trees are dying, in reality I know that it is simply preparing itself for renewal. I find the falling leaves a comforting and productive movement.  It feels right to clean out the cobwebs and clutter of our lives and thoughts and shed the old as we get ready for growth. So I went on the internet to look for quotes which express this inherent inspiration.  What I found was a Japanese proverb, not exactly related to autumn, but inspiring, nonetheless. The proverb is: Fall down seven times stand up eight.

So, if it feels like fall is here and you are ready for something new, but aren’t quite sure where to find it, I collected and put together these guiding principles to help you with your endeavors. These will guarantee you make the most of September through November, traditionally a very productive time period, before enjoying the holidays.  I strongly recommend you take advantage of this advice, or before you know it, Christmas and then the New Year will be here (…I mean didn’t summer just fly by? And here it is mid-September already).

Take just a few minutes and review these tips and then answer each ‘biz question,’ as honestly as possible and apply the principles directly to your business.  I am quite sure many or all of them will hit a nerve and create a new connection.

  1. Attitude is everything. – Your frame of mind affects every action (and inaction). Don’t let you’re your moods control your life, or you will be overtaken by the current and forced down stream to a destination you never intended. Only your inner force and self-determination can keep you on track and get you to your ultimate goals.
    Biz question: Is there anything I need to change about my attitude, perspective or life to improve my business? If so, what?
  1. Stay focused on your goals. – It takes belief and a strong desire to concentrate on the changes necessary to achieve success. If your goals are clear, then it is easier to stay focused.  So begin by clarifying your goals before you get so frustrated you can’t or won’t take action.  If you are unsure of the process, or the next steps required, then seek the advice you need.
    Biz question: Do you have clear and measurable goals for your business and specifically for this fall time frame?
  1. Spend time wisely. – Time, unlike money, is something that you can’t get back. So every day you want to be as fully present as possible in each task you do, as well as choose those activities with care. Make sure your time and efforts are contributing to the wonderful aspects of your life, relationships and business endeavors.  The worst thing you can do is to spend your time on auto-pilot.  There is very little joy (or productivity, for that matter) in it.
    Biz question: How can I spend my time right now to get the best results for my business, both now and in the future?
  1. Be open-minded. – You never know where the next inspiration, great idea or deal will come from. To be open-minded you need to find ways to stay mindful and aware. Take the time to explore new activities and people and be open to new influences and experiences. A closed mind, frankly, has nowhere to go.
    Biz question: Are you open-minded to the fact that you might not know where the next awesome idea, opportunity or contribution to your business may come from?Picture2
  1. Pick a path. – There are many pathways leading to your ultimate goals. But to get anywhere you need to pick one and stick with it long enough to get there.  Then along that path, there will be many obstacles of varying degrees and nature which require decisions.  One time you may feel that breaking that obstacle down, bit-by-bit, is the right answer.  In another case, going around it works fine.  And sometimes you even have to find a new path. My father used to jokingly say, “You can’t get there from here, you have to start someplace else.”  And often that’s true. If the path dead ends or goes off course, then you MUST find a new way to achieve your goals.
    Biz question: What’s keeping you from achieving your goals?  Can you identify the top five reasons in priority order?
  1. Read between the lines. – Whether you are enjoying this blog, having coffee with friends or meeting with business professionals, reading between the lines is an imperative skill. Always go deeper than the surface. What do you need to learn, know or understand about what’s happening to get the most from the experience? Everything is happening for a reason and seeking the essence and purpose of the moment may be exactly what you should be doing to find the wisdom you need.
    Biz question: Can you look beyond the obvious tasks throughout your day and find the non-apparent insights that provide guidance for your business?
  1. Never lose hope. – Hope is the energy that drives all ambition and motivation. It is an essential element in all our endeavors and losing hope is like losing your engine. You must constantly be on guard against the negative emotions that deplete hope and eventually will prevent you from succeeding. No matter what the challenge; don’t  give up.
    Biz question: Can you identify your hope and how it powers your progress in business?  If hope is waning, what can you do to refuel?
  1. Create awesome habits. – What you do today and every day will become the habits of tomorrow. It’s important to choose actions that create the right habits. Discipline yourself to create the specific habits that you need to grow.
    Biz question: What business habits would you like to create or improve upon that will help achieve your goals? (You might want to read or revisit my blog titled: “An Art Licensor’s Continuing Education” to help you think about the wide variety of topics and skills needed to build a licensing business.)
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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 #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.





Rule #6

6 10 2011

Educate yourself about retail channels.  

It is important to have a clear understanding of the types of licensed products you want your art to appear on, as well as which type of retail channels, and retailers, carry those types of products.

Art licensing doesn’t mean you need to be in Wal-Mart. And while the landscape is always changing, today there are more products featuring licensed art sold in specialty retail channels (Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, etc.), independent retailers (privately owned gift or card stores), and upscale department and chain stores (Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, etc.). And less than half of licensed art on products are sold through mass-market channels.

You need to think about where you want your product to ‘live at retail,’ and then plot your strategy for getting there. You, as the licensor (artist), need to make a decision as to where your art fits on products—what type of products, retail price points and retail channels are best for your style of art, and the brand you want to build. And when you make that decision, then you have to stick with it and be determined to make it happen.

There are a lot of manufacturers out there who will get you in department stores, but they also have distribution in drug stores, deep discounters and even ‘dollar’ stores. It’s up to you to ask about a manufacturers’ channel(s) of distribution and to come to an agreement as to where your product will be distributed.

No discussion of retail channels would be complete without the dual acknowledgement that retailers today are being held hostage by the economy, corporate mergers and price-driven consumers, while at the same time acting as the gatekeepers who hold the key to distribution (or not!) for manufacturers. This means retailers are both unusually stressed and powerful at the same time.

Regarding your art licensing business, keep in mind those retailers—whether brick and mortar, catalogs, or online e-tailers—allow or prevent the flow of products to consumers. So, they can help you reach consumers, or they can prevent your licensed products from reaching the consumers’ hands.

Today there are more and more online retailers who can take your art from production all the way to the consumer. But online sales of art licensing products are still miniscule compared to the level sold at brick and mortar retailers.

So, retailers still have the ultimate power. But years from now we may be stating something entirely different here. Understanding who the gatekeeper is—who has the power in an industry—will absolutely affect your marketing plan and how you create and manage your business.





Rule #5

3 10 2011

Understand copyrights and trademarks.

You own the copyright to your artwork the moment you create them. I encourage you to register your copyrights when you create them, or at least when you begin to use them in business.

As you build your Art Licensing business, you may also need to look into securing trademarks for your brand, art collections and characters. This blog won’t go into the detail about how to do this, but I want to be clear about telling you that the registration of your copyrights and trademarks is the only thing that provides legal ‘teeth’ to pursue and win an infringement case, should you ever need to.

The law is written in a way that states that you must protect and defend your copyrights and trademarks. It’s never done for you. Once you have registered them, it’s really your privilege and obligation, to protect and defend them.

Without registering them, you really won’t have a foot to stand on in court.  It’s a very important point to understand.

Note: If you are interested you can check out three phenomenal classes covering Copyrights, Trademarks and Contract Language, which I teach with Attorney Elizabeth Russell. You’ll appreciate the simple terminology of the Legal Ease 3-class series, yet they incorporate full explanations and thoughtful presentations designed specifically for artists looking to license their artwork.  We even teach you how to economize on the paperwork and cost so you can maximize the process of protecting your art.

Visit our website to purchase and download these classes.








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