Every business starts as a dream and artists making a living in art licensing are no exception.

My dream started with a phone call:  “You should check out this SURTEX show – artists are showing their work to manufacturers who want to put it on products.  You should do this.”

The phone call was followed with about 5 months of reasons why I wasn’t good enough… and a persistent friend who kept telling me I could.  So we shared a booth at the Licensing Expo in 2004 to see what happened.

Now I work full time at licensing my art (and writing about the industry here and in eBooks).

So how did I – and how might you – turn the dream into dollars?

1.  Learn about art licensing and decide if it is a fit for your art and your lifestyle.  Don’t decide to do art licensing based on the dream of the huge success stories – the artists who have built multi-million dollar businesses so why can’t you too? To my way of looking at things, you should honestly consider how you will feel about the day-to-day efforts you will need to put in to get from the dream to the big bucks – and know that you might just get to getting-by bucks.  If the effort to give it a shot sounds like torture, look at other options.  There are many, many ways to make money with your art – find the one that sounds like the best fit for you.

Recently there was an article about the author of The Help – a novel made into a great movie recently released – and how her manuscript was rejected 61 times before she found a publisher.  It’s a really inspirational story but it doesn’t mean that everyone who wants to write a best-selling novel will succeed if they send their manuscript to enough publishers.  It still has to be well written, a compelling story and the author has to have a mountain of tenacity to keep on trying.  Not everyone will be able to deal with the day-to-day work of writing, revising, sending things out, getting feedback, etc.  And there is more day-to-day than there are success stories like this. (Read the full article here)

If you are new to the idea of art licensing, check out the FAQ page of this blog for basic information as well as the many resources for people new to the idea on the ArtLicensingInfo.com website.

2.  If you get past step 1 and think this sounds like a viable option for you and that you are motivated to put in the effort, it’s time to create or organize your art for licensing.  In art licensing, manufacturers usually want to see groups, or collections, of art more than stand alone pieces.

How an artist goes about creating these collections seem to fall into two categories – those who take a ‘fine art approach’ – creating painting that could be put in a frame and hung on the wall.  The type of art that easily lends itself to gallery sales, for example.  The other way is to start with icons and build to a scene or image digitally.  Art can either be done by hand or completely digitally – there are both types of artists successfully licensing their work.  Click here to read more about creating art in collections…

 3.  While you are creating art, it’s a good idea to be thinking about the types of products the art would be best suited for.  Not many kitchen textiles feature baby art and not many school fundraising companies use wine art for products sold by children.  Noticing what art is on products in stores is a great way to get your product placement juices flowing to start making a game plan of the types of companies to contact when your art is ready.

Click here to watch a video about shopping research…

4.  While you are creating art, you can also be weighing the pros and cons of doing your own marketing or working with an art licensing agent.  Do you enjoy both creating the art and doing the sales and follow-up or would you rather leave that to someone else?  Click here to download the free questionnaire – TO USE AN AGENT OR NOT TO USE AN AGENT – this 25 question assessment will give you a better idea of what will work for you.

5.  An art licensing business isn’t all about pretty pictures – it’s important to treat it like a business.  Create a plan and set goals to keep you on track.  Get organized. Build systems early on to organize your art (create a code system), your contacts and your follow-up.

If goal setting and staying focused is a challenge, you might want to consider my system – The Goal Wheel for Artists…

6.  At some point you won’t be able to do everything yourself, so get help!  When you are starting out, you can probably handle everything in order to save money.  But at some point, you will be losing money by doing your book-keeping- clerical work that is taking away from your studio time when you create the art that brings in the royalties.  Even before you can afford help, think about what someone else could do when you build your business to a point that can support outsourcing some of the work.

Maybe someone can help with your website, press releases, even some of the graphic design/layout work. Don’t think the artists making the big-bucks (the ones they write inspirational stories about) are doing everything themselves– they have employees helping this process along!

The best advice I can give anyone trying to turn a dream into a reality is to take some action – no matter how big or small – every day.

Here’s to your creative success – where ever you may find it!

– Tara Reed