This is a question that was posed for a recent Art Licensing Info Ask Call:

Other than the cost of art supplies, what are the costs of running an art licensing business? What”s essential and how and when do these costs fluctuate?

Every artist will probably answer this question a little differently but let’s look at some of the basics of the business.

  1. Art supplies, as the artist stated in the question, are definitely a cost in any art business – licensing or otherwise.
  2. Computer, scanner  and software.  Art licensing requires digital art files.  In the 8+ years that I’ve been licensing my work, I’ve sent original art to a manufacturer ONCE.  Companies expect artists to be able to deliver digital files for use in production.  Sometimes they will manipulate the art to fit their products, other times they will ask you to help.  So you need a computer and some skills.
    • MAC or PC.  Whichever you prefer. 🙂
    • Scanner.  You don’t have to pay for professional scanning but you need to be able to get professional results from your home scanner.  Without good raw digital art, it won’t work well – or sell well – on products.
    • Photoshop and/Or Illustrator.  These are the two most commonly used programs in the industry.  I would venture to guess that all artists making a living (or close to it!) in licensing have the professional versions of these programs, not the “Elements” or other versions designed for the home-hobbyist.
  3. Web Presence.  It’s essential to be online. You need email.  You need somewhere to send new companies to take a peek at your work – this could be a blog, a website, even a facebook page would work.  But you need to be there somewhere.
  4. Promotional Materials.  This can vary widely.  You might just have business cards or you might create elaborate mailings to attract attention.  Some artists send out brochures, postcards, etc.  How you market your business is up to you!
  5. Advertising.  This is optional but a way many artists keep their name in front of manufacturers.  Look at the art licensing trade magazines like License!, Total Art Licensing and Art Buyer for ways to get your art and name out there.
  6. Trade Shows.  Exhibit at trade shows (there are 4/year that are specifically for artists who license art – learn more about them).  Attend industry trade shows where the manufacturers you want to connect with will be exhibiting.  Trade shows could include things like travel costs, food, booth costs, entrance fees, etc.

Basically, art licensing is a business and can involve all the costs of running a business.  You might need an accountant or book keeper to keep track of your money, you might hire help, etc.

It is more than the cost of paint, paper and brushes but much less that buying into a franchise with can cost tens or hundreds of thousands.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed