This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy (intro). Read the previous ones to get the full picture: part 1 Get Personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email, part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, part 8 Sales Conversations, and part 9 Commissions.
I see A LOT of artists missing an important revenue stream to help sustain their businesses and bring in a solid amount of almost-passive income: licensing.
LICENSING IS LIKE RENTING YOUR ART OUT, WITH SOME RULES, TO MANUFACTURERS WHO CREATE PRODUCTS EN MASSE.
What happens once you’ve set up a licensing deal, typically – though some deals have their own parameters and it’s up to you whether you want to accept them or not – is that you receive a lump sum when you sign the contract (usually around $2,000) to tide you over while the products are being manufactured.
Once the products are ready, you often get the opportunity to approve or reject them based on quality, and then the products get sold to retailers – from mom and pop shops in small towns to Target stores internationally, depending on who the manufacturer usually works with.
Then you get a quarterly check in the mail or deposit in your bank account for the agreed royalty rate on the products sold the previous quarter.
THAT MEANS THAT ONCE YOU’VE APPROVED THE PRODUCTS, YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING!
Seriously. Just get your check in the mail and review the income reports they send to ensure you’re getting paid accurately.
That’s the type of income that most artists are missing.
AND IT’S THE TYPE OF INCOME THAT’S LEAVING MANY ARTISTS BROKE WITHOUT IT.
Now, I don’t want to sensationalize it. There are downsides and licensing isn’t the perfect fit for every artist.
But if you can set up some art licensing deals for work that you’ve already created, they will bring in some consistent income and help leverage your time since you won’t have to create new art for each deal and the manufacturer and retailers will do all the marketing for you.
What I really want to talk about here today is how licensing fits into your art business amid all the other things you do.
So I’m not going to get into more about what licensing is, how it works, and how you can avoid the pitfalls. If you want to learn that, you’ll love my course Artistic License. It will teach you everything you need to know about art licensing before you get your first (or next) deal.
WHEN YOU HAVE LICENSING AS A REVENUE STREAM, YOU HAVE OPTIONS FOR WHAT YOUR BUSINESS LOOKS LIKE.
You could change the way you create so that you are creating work intended for licensing, like Tracey English. That would mean working with deadlines and being expected to churn out new work with each season, but would come with a paycheck to match and strong business relationships you can rely on.
Or you could license all your old and sold work. That would mean committing to a lot of upfront time to find the right deals and get your art to the manufacturers, but then the money would come in without much work for a while.
Or you could license a piece or two here and there. That would mean you don’t make a lot of money from licensing, but you don’t put much work into it either and still get a nice monetary reward every so often.
Each of these methods works, but they affect your business differently.
If you’re creating work just for licensing, you won’t have as much time to be creating and marketing your original art, commissions, or prints.
If you’re only licensing a couple pieces, it’s not going to be bringing in much money so you’ll have to focus a lot of time and energy on marketing your original art, commissions, and prints.
SEE WHAT I MEAN?
It’s very important to map out all the things you want to do with your business into proper marketing and revenue plans (not to pitch two courses in one post, but I’m going to do it anyway – if you need help creating these plans you should totally take my The Artist’s Business Plan course) so that the pieces of the puzzle work together.
That way you aren’t thinking, “Gee, I’m going to go all in on this licensing thing and establish myself as a surface pattern designer, while also making a ton of money teaching classes online and selling 10 pieces of original art each month directly to customers.”
BECAUSE MOST ARTISTS DO NOT HAVE THE TIME TO PROPERLY AND EFFECTIVELY DO ALL THREE OF THOSE THINGS AT ONCE.
But until you actually lay it out on paper and recognize what you’re expecting yourself to be able to accomplish, you’re honestly thinking that’s going to work for you – and worse, that if it doesn’t that must mean you’re a failure and/or a terrible artist.
And it’s not just time-logistics. You also have to look at the money, honey.
Most artists I work with have never mapped out how they’ll get to their goal income. And actually, many of them don’t even have a goal income. If you do nothing else today after reading this article, pretty please set a goal income for yourself and assign parts of that income to different things you sell in your business.
IT WILL HELP YOU NOTICE REALLY QUICKLY IF YOU HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
For instance, if your goal is $100,000 a year and your paintings average $200, you would have to sell 500 paintings a year if that’s the only way you’re making money.
But stick a few licensing deals in there, and maybe you’re only looking at 450 paintings a year – still remarkably high, so maybe you also start offering prints and you raise your prices because you can’t imagine how you’d reach 450 customers in a year.
Or perhaps you’re in that same situation and you’re really good at making sales and you regularly make 100 sales in a year right now (and you know you could be doing loads more marketing to raise that) so you decide that you probably could reach 400-500 customers in a year, but you’d like some licensing deals to help whether dry season and ensure some of your income.
So this is about designing your business like you would make a sketch before painting in oils or how you would test paint colors before committing your whole living room to a shade that might make your couch look dingy.
STOP FLYING BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS AND START DESIGNING YOUR BUSINESS.
Licensing can help take the pressure off some of your other revenue streams and it works for most styles of 2D art.
If you think you’re ready to learn how to find and negotiate a great licensing deal, I’d really love to have you in Artistic License. But if you’re not ready, you’ll still love this video introducing you to art licensing, some of the industry lingo and a few things to consider when looking for manufacturers.
This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy. To get the full picture, make sure you read the introduction, part 1 get personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email,part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, part 8 Sales Conversations, and part 9 Commissions.