Fair warning: there is a little tough love in this post.  If you aren’t in the mood, stop reading. 🙂

Oh the movies of my youth… or early adulthood as is the case with A Few Good Men.  Crazy thing happened… as I sat down to find a video to share, this scene popped in my head and seemed fitting.  I found the clip on YouTube and turned the volume on on my computer (I don’t like it making noise normally – one of my quirks!).  Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson start talking and my son yells in from the other room – “hey! I’m just about to turn that on – it’s coming on tv.”  How’s that for synchronicity?

He asked why I was watching it and I told him it was for a blog post.  So here it is…

I’ve been getting quite a few questions in my inbox lately… and I’m sorry but especially this time of year, right before SURTEX, I can’t answer them all.  I wish you would put your questions into the hat for the next Ask Call – you can always see what’s coming up at www.AskAboutArtLicensing.com… but that’s a side point.  Anyway, back to the questions.

There are many artists upset about the cost of trade shows.  Upset that it isn’t quick and easy to connect with manufacturers and start making big money over night… I’m a little upset that there seem to be so many people who think this should be free and easy.  So this video clip came to mind – Jack Nicholson thinks the military and civilians can’t handle the truth and I’m beginning to wonder if the average artist can handle the truth about what it takes to make it in art licensing.

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Can you handle the truth about art licensing?  You have to invest in yourself and your business to make it in this industry.

Did you know that if you want to own a McDonald’s you have to have at least $500,000 in personal assets to even be considered?  Want to make donuts?  You need $250,000 liquid assets and a net worth of at least $500,000 for Dunkin’ Donuts to consider you.  I could go on but you get the idea… it costs money to start a business and these examples should make art licensing look dirt cheap!

Trade Shows – yup!  They cost money.  And they cost more than a few hundred dollars.  Exhibiting at a trade show is an investment in your business – you should be ready to exhibit before writing the check but if you feel that you are, you need to invest in yourself and see what happens and not email me complaining about the costs.  I have been writing my checks, I’ve been learning my lessons… just like everyone else.  It’s a process – some will succeed, others won’t.  It’s up to you to figure out if you can make it happen.

Software – again, yup!  Costs money.  Artists who are working in this industry have commercial software.  I don’t know of any that are making a living with Photoshop Elements – artists in business are using the Creative Suite version.  Or Illustrator – those are the two most common programs and I would say they are standards that manufacturers expect.

Website – you need to be online.  Thankfully this is a smaller dollar item – register a domain, use a blog, you can usually have an online presence for $100-200 per year and you can get creative there too.

Art Supplies – whatever you use to create you need to get somehow.  I don’t know of any Art Banks, like Food Banks, so you will need to spend money on your art supplies.

I think I’ve more than made my point.  This is a business and you need to treat it as such.  It is so discouraging to see and hear artists unwilling to invest in themselves and see if they can make it with their creativity.  Instead they complain and want everything to be free.  Sorry – it’s not.

A few other “truths” while I’m on a roll…

• It isn’t fast money.  Even if you get a deal shortly after you look into licensing, it takes time before you see the money come in.

• It is competitive.  There are a lot of artists trying to license their art.  More people know and are talking about, more artists are being displaced from other jobs and giving this a shot (I know of more than a handful who previously worked for manufacturers but are now on the artist side of the business)… you have to bring your A-Game as my dad likes to say.

• Not everyone will be successful.  Just because your friends like your art doesn’t mean it’s a fit for licensing.  (And, by the way, NEVER say that to an agent or manufacturer – it makes a less-than-flattering first impression)  Art for licensing is art for commercial purposes – will it help sell products and is it as good as or better than the rest of the choices the manufacturers have?  (Go back a point if you missed it – it is competitive.)

• Only you can decide if you want to take action.  You can talk about it for years.  You can get tons of opinions.   But in the end, until you show your art to someone who can license it and see what feedback you get, you just won’t know.  No one is going to do it for you.

• This is hard work.  and long work… and lonely work.  Most of us work alone in our homes.  The internet has made it a lot easier to connect with others and feel a sense of community but overall – you are on your own.  It’s up to you to motivate and get the work done…

Now, I’m going to go back to preparing for SURTEX…

A show for which I will be flying across the country, staying in a hotel in Manhattan, bringing products and art and my iPads for my booth which I am paying for.  I invest in this show every spring  because it is a key component in building my business.

If you are going too – see you soon!  If you are exhibiting – may you meet great companies that are a good fit for your art.  If you are taking classes – I’ll be teaching The Basics of Art Licensing – Part 2 with agent Alicia Dauber of Licensing Liaison on Sunday so maybe I’ll see you there.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed