The keys to success in art licensing are similar to the keys to success in other businesses with a few exceptions.  Here are what I believe to be the keys to success – in no particular order.

Key #1: Create art… and lots of it.

If you don’t create art – constantly create art – and art that is a fit for products and licensing, then, well… you don’t need anymore keys.  This is the GOLDEN RULE key – without it, you won’t go far in trying to license your art.  To learn more about the types of art that work well in licensing, go read the post: How do I know if my art is a good fit for licensing?

Key #2: Listen, learn, adapt, innovate.

Creating volumes of art isn’t enough – it has to be the kind of art manufacturers are looking for.  The most successful artists in licensing are astute listeners – they ask questions, see what is changing in the market and work to meet the needs of their clients – the retailers or manufacturers who license art.  Learn what they want, adapt your art, your techniques (while still being uniquely YOU of course!) to meet their needs.  Be innovative when and where you can – in how you connect, communicate, create and deliver your product – which is your art.

Key #3: Be flexible.

Your art’s purpose is to help sell product.  You are a partner with the manufacturer to create the best possible art/product mix to make consumers open their wallets.  You need to be flexible and willing to change your art when needed to meet their needs.  This goes along with key #2…

Key #4: Be unique.

Don’t be a “me too” artist – copying the style or techniques that you see another artist successfully licensing.  You will be known as a copycat and risk some infringement issues… every artist brings a unique perspective to the table, figure out how you can offer something uniquely YOU to the art licensing industry.

Key #5: Be persistent & resilient.

This isn’t an easy business.  It takes time, persistence and a thick skin.  You will hear “no” … a lot.  Sometimes you will hear nothing which can become worse than “no”… you feel ignored.  Just know the decision makers are busier than ever – most don’t mean to be rude, they simply don’t have the time to reply to everyone.  If that will consume you, anger you and get you down – this might not be the business for you.

Key #6: Be professional.

Art licensing is a business.  You will be dealing with business people – their job is to make profits for their company.  Some are creative, some need lots of help from you.  Some you will love, others you won’t.  But you are running a business, they are running a business – act professionally.  Don’t sign contracts without understanding them just because you are desperate to get a deal – that hurts all of us in the industry and certainly you.  Have the knowledge you need to build a successful business. (Learn more about contracts from the eBook: How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts)

Key #7: Build relationships.

While having great art is crucial, so is building relationships with manufacturers.  Believe it or not – there are always several art choices that will work.  Your relationships can help you better understand how to create art that works well for a particular client’s process and also have them come to you when they need something instead of sending out art requests to hundreds of artists.  This is a relationship business – you don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but it will never hurt your business to work on the relationships!

Key #8: Be yourself.

Don’t create a brand image or persona for yourself that isn’t aligned with who you really are.  In this day and age, you will certainly be found out.  Look at what happened to Tiger Woods and Thomas Kinkade – major disconnects.  I’ve been asked to work with friends on pretty edgy projects for teens and have turned them down because the art, language and look really aren’t aligned with who I am or the business I have built for myself.  I don’t want to create disconnects in my business for a chance at a buck.  Learn more about this from Paul Brent in his teleseminar replay: Brand Yourself for Success in Art Licensing.

Here’s to your creative success –

Tara Reed