While going through the questions submitted for my Ask Call last week, this one intrigued me.  I decided it would be a better blog post than question for the call since it isn’t completely about licensing – but something I imagine many have struggled with.

Here is the situation that Susan Donley of PetsPictured.com finds herself in…

Through my website, I receive a lot of one-off requests to use my pet portraits for a wide range of purposes:  from company logos to book covers to hockey shirts to charity events. In other words, they want to use my art like a stock image (except half of them are asking to use without compensation — at least they are asking, instead of stealing).

Clearly, there’s a demand for the images, so I think this could be a nice income stream if I could find a way to streamline the process of estimating licensing fees for each use, responding to the potential customer with an offer, drafting a contract, invoicing, etc. But so far, these requests take a lot of time to respond to (researching though the GAG Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines) without much pay-back.

Do you have any advice for turning these inquiries into royalties?

From my perspective, these aren’t really royalties but usage fees.  Royalties are tied to sales – you get a % based on how well a product does or doesn’t sell. In the examples above – they would be one-time uses.  The hockey team is probably printing a set number of t-shirts and not producing them over a long time frame – same with a charity event.  I haven’t done book cover art but I think artists are compensated with a flat fee more often than a percentage of sales.

My advice to Susan would be to set aside a few hours and create some systems.

  • Look at the requests you have received and decide on parameters.  Perhaps you tier your costs – $xxx for using the image on up to 50 t-shirts, a higher amount for 51-100 t-shirts, etc.  Just like stores and online service providers create price lists, do it for your artwork.
  • Also create a contract template that you can adapt to each situation.  Leave blanks to fill in their information, what they are allowed to use the art for, the time period and what they are expected to pay and do.  (DO being include your website, a copyright notification, signature, etc)
  • Have a standard invoice that is ready to be filled in.  Basically – try not to re-create the wheel with each request or you will spend too much time on these and get burnt out.

I have many systems and checklists that I use in my business.  I have a list of the many things that need to happen to pull of the monthly Ask Calls for example – when to change the websites, send emails to everyone who has signed up, post to the blog, tweet, etc.  How to organize the questions.  It’s a long list!  It took some time to create but now it saves me time each and every month so it was worth it.  And what is time?  Money.

Take a look at what you do and decide where a system or checklist might make you more efficient as well!  (Thanks for the question Susan!)

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed