I get SO many questions about this topic and I’m sure if you’re reading this post, you’re wondering if art licensing is for you…
In the short time (about three years) that I’ve been in the business of art licensing, I’ve been asked: What is licensing? How do I price my art if a brand approaches me? How do I get into art licensing? And while it may seem a bit confusing on where to begin and what it actually is, it’s pretty simple to break down.
Definition of art licensing
Art licensing is when an artist (Licensor) and manufacturer (Licensee) come to an agreement where the artist gives permission for the manufacturer to use their work on products in exchange for payment. This payment could be an advance that goes against royalties (commission rates are typically in the 3%-10% range on wholesale price), just royalties or just a flat fee).
As I mentioned, I've been working on licensing projects for about a year now. About a year ago, I was approached by a yoga towel company, Nomadix, asking me if they could pay me a flat fee for 3 pieces of art to be used on their yoga towels. Immediately when I received this email I felt both really excited and also totally lost. I went from, “My art could be in stores and on yoga towels, how cool!” to “Wait, but what do I charge?!” real quickly. And, if you're like, “Yea! I want to know that too!”…Don't worry, I have an entire course soon that covers all of this in detail.
Long story short, I hired an agent: Julie Turkel and if you’re asking yourself, “Do I need to hire an agent in order to book licensing jobs?” No, not necessarily…but more on that in the future! The first thing we have to do is decide if licensing is for you or not…
Why licensing your art could be a fit for you
-Are you an artist? Influencer? Photographer? Basically, anyone with a “brand” can license their work. Most people when they hear the word “licensing” (myself included), they think artist and specifically surface pattern and textile work. Well, guess what? Chrissy Teigan isn’t an artist, but she had a collection of products in Target.
-Have you ever seen prints of photographs sold in places like Urban Outfitters? Someone’s gotta take the photograph, right? Sky’s the limit with this business model!
-If you have an audience built up on social media. This isn't a requirement, but it definitely helps! Go to THIS blog post to read my tips on growing your audience!
-If you have a library of art (or you're an influencer with a recognizable brand, but I'm going to shift gears and just talk the artist types). A lot of artists, photographers, etc. have piles of work that is just sitting there. Licensing allows you to get a little passive income from it!
-Licensing will allow you to take the next step in your business.
-Seeing your art on products in stores is pretty cool!
-Licensing allows you to have more freedom – instead of having to create brand new art for every client, manufacturers can select from a library of work you already have!
First steps to getting your art licensed
First things first:
Trademark, trademark, trademark. You must trademark your business in order to have anything to license. Like most creatives, the word “trademark” sends shivers down my spine, but it's something you must set up before signing contracts and get your work on products, in stores, etc.
Build and organize a library of work! This will make your life sooo much easier whether you're working with an agent or directly with a brand. If you're able to have your art prepped and categorized in files based on themes, trends, seasons, etc. then the manufacturer can look through your work with ease. This will cut down the amount of time you spend on each job as well if something is turn key!
Update that library of yours! At one point I was really not doing a great job at keeping my library up to date, and I had loads of pieces to scan and organize into my licensing library. Keep it up to date, add new ideas, etc. so you can continue to get work!
How to book licensing jobs
As I mentioned above, I work with an agent. This allows me to be hands-off in the negotiating and contract process and allows me to focus on the part I love: doing the art. Julie will take the brand presentation I have for my work and pitch it to manufacturers for me, negotiate deals, terms, exclusivity, rights, and allllll of that. And because she's been in the biz for quite a while, she already has a reputation with many established manufacturers, making it easier for me to get work. While those are all major benefits for working with an agent, it isn't for everyone.
Agents do take a percentage of your payment, so if you want to try your hand at booking licensing jobs first, here are some tips:
Do the research!
Even if you're working with an agent, this is HUGE. You've gotta know who your competition is, what's out there and what trends are in order to stay relevant and attract brands to work with. It's a competitive market out there and it requires loads of market research. Julie and I cover this in so much detail in Brand Plus Brand.
Put together a brand presentation deck (or pitch deck)
Some of the biggest jobs I've booked in my career have been from designing and putting together a pitch deck. These things are key. Before getting my first book deal with Penguin Random House, I put together a pitch deck that showcased my work, my personality and ideas for a book, and it was a huge win with the marketing department there and got me my first book deal: Everyday Watercolor!
Try out some online licensing platforms
Places like Creative Market, Society6, MyFonts, etc. are great places to get your feet wet when it comes to licensing your work! All you gotta do is set up a profile and start uploading your work! Promoting your work is important…just because you upload work to these sites, doesn't mean the people will be throwing money at you! But these sites have millions of users, so if you do some research and promotion, you can make decent money!
Licensing my artwork has taught me SO much about my brand and understanding consumers.
It's helped inform how I approach talking about my work on social media and has been a great avenue for building up passive income for me so I can focus on being a new mom and snuggling my boy. But, as you might be able to tell, it's not for everyone and it's also not as hands-off as you may think.
That's why my agent, Julie, and I have put our brains and experience together to build my next course—Brand Plus Brand.
So, if you're lost on topics like…
-How to build up an audience on social media
-Promoting your work
-Copy to write in a pitch email or deck
-Creating a brand presentation deck
-Trend forecasting and market research
…then this bad boy is for you. It's like we're opening up the minds of manufacturers and brands, and showing you what they look for, their expectations, and how to find them.
Learn more about Brand Plus Brand and how it can help rocket launch you into the world of licensing.
Is licensing in your near future? Or are you already licensing your work but think you need some help buttoning things up? Comment below and let me know what questions you may have about this subject!