I’ve talked about the “cash flow cycle of licensing” many times – how long it takes to make money licensing your art but I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the life cycle of the art.

It used to be (so I’m told because it was before my time) that art that was licensed would continue to be on products and earning royalties for several years.  These days it’s more often “once and done”.  Even many best selling products will be replaced the next year so the store has something “new” to offer.

Consumers want “new”.  So the stores what “new”.   Then the manufacturers want “new”.  Guess what we, as artists, have to do?  You got it, keep creating new art, more art, new variations on a theme… if you can create quickly and become an art collection creation machine, you can do well in licensing.


This shortened life cycle for products is both good and bad for artists.

  • GOOD:  If you don’t get a deal, the next deal will be right around the corner!  When companies have to refresh art quickly, it means they need more art more often.
  • BAD:  You have to have many more deals today to make the same money people did 10-15 years ago.  This is because the quantities of products being produced has gone down significantly AND the length of the deal is shorter.


Understanding the realities of art licensing today – and deciding if you want to participate or not – is important.

If you can create quickly, have computer skills to change colors or layouts upon request, enjoy coming up with new ways to do the same theme time and time again… this might be for you!

The way to make money in art licensing is when you can create collections that multiple people want to license for a variety of products. Work once, get paid by many.  But know that you won’t get paid by each for years on end.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed