The 2009 SURTEX Show marked my 6th spring exhibiting my art and pursuing licensing as a business. When I walked into my first booth at the Licensing International Expo in 2004, I was so nervous I wasn’t sure I would make it through the day. Would my art be well received or would I have flown across the entire country and spent thousands of dollars to sit alone in my booth? Self-doubt, nerves, excited anticipation mark the beginning of most shows although now the confidence factor is big and self-doubt a fleeting thought I have learned to kick to the curb.

During these years, we’ve had quite an interesting economy. The stock market has plummeted, stores have closed, huge companies that last year seemed untouchable face closing their doors. But you can’t watch the news and sit in a state of fear. Life must go on and business is still being conducted. Many artists who have been licensing their art for 10, 15 and 20 years are lamenting the changes in the way business is done and the size of royalty checks. But we are in the CURRENT economy, not that of 15 years ago. So how do you work TODAY?

So after my 6th show, I thought I’d share six bits of wisdom that have kept me moving forward.

  1. Be true to your art…
    Don’t try and be something you aren’t artistically. Know what you are good at, what you love and what seems to “flow” for you. Trying to be the next isn’t the way to go… be the next YOU!
  2. Watch your pennies…
    I think Benjamin Franklin was on to something. Being in business doesn’t have to mean being in big debt. Yes, you will need to invest in your business when you are starting but manage your investments. Do you need a website that costs thousands to have someone design when you are starting? No. Get a free blog to show some of your work and style and grow as your business grows.
  3. Watch your time…
    How are you spending your time? Be sure to check yourself occasionally. As you work on art, or marketing or other things around the studio ask yourself, “Is this activity going to bring in income or am I avoiding something else I should be doing?” It is amazing how the mind can make you decide something is urgent when what you are really doing is avoiding something hard or scary.
  4. Keep a positive attitude…
    Ever notice how people who always expect bad things to happen seem to get just that? One drama after another. So keep your mind focused on where you want to go and celebrate every step along the way. There are so many small successes along the path of building a business, don’t belittle them. Get good feedback about your work? Sit and pat yourself on the back for a few minutes. Be your own best cheerleader and you will have a lot more fun and stay inspired.
  5. Stay in touch with the market…
    Licensing your art is creating art for commercial purposes. Your art is used to sell someone else’s product. So you do need to balance your own creative vision with what is selling in the stores. Keep your eyes open for what you see on the shelves, in magazines, etc.
  6. Have fun…
    Even though Ben Franklin was onto something with the pennies, I’m not as hip to the saying, “It wouldn’t be called work if it was fun.” Hogwash! If you are in business for yourself, why shouldn’t you enjoy it? Life is short, work is a big part of it, so make it something you love. Yes, there are parts of running a business that you don’t like. But guess what? Your ‘yuck’ jobs will be someone else’s fun job. As you grow, outsource the things you dislike – I give you permission.

Here’s to your creative success – Tara