Licensing your artwork is a wonderful way to make extra income as an artist. The work has already been created so wouldn’t you want to take the opportunity to see your work as prints or on other products besides the canvas. Licensing your artwork to websites such as art.com, Imagekind.com, and cafepress.com allow your work to be seen by a wider audience than you can possibly do alone. These services are typically print on demand which means you do not have to have the money to pay for prints beforehand and hope they sale. While some companies offer better markups and profit margins, the exposure alone can be worth the fees you pay when your work sells to a company who is advertising your work for free. Licensing your artwork not only offers an opportunity for income while you sleep, commissioned art pieces from clients who like your style, it can also lead to calls from licensees who want to put your art on their products.
Licensing is a big business and licensees are always looking for the next hot thing. Licensing comes in the form of prints, home décor, car decals, and anything else you can think of. This is your potential to create a brand for you artwork and share your work with a much wider audience than those who are attending your art shows alone.
Companies are always looking for themes or patterns of artwork that can be used on a wide range of products. As a fine artist, I understand thinking of your art on a commercial level is not ideal, but it is a great way to get your works enjoyed by more than one person. The wonderful aspect about licensing your work is you do not have to be a well-known artist; you just need to a good artist that has work a licensee wants to reproduce on a product.
So now that I have even more of your attention, let’s discuss on how to protect your brand and your work.
Copyrighting Your Work
Any reputable manufacturer will not want to license your artwork and sign a contract with you if you do not own the official copyright to your art. Copyrighting individual pieces can get expensive but the good thing is you are able to copyright a series of work even if it isn’t technically a collection. The copyrighting process can be time-consuming, which means anywhere from 6-8 months. It is a good idea to make it a business habit to copyright your artwork so when those licensing opportunities present themselves, the copyright will not hold up a negotiated contract.
Technically speaking in the US, you are automatically granted the copyright of any piece you create, but registering the copyright means the your ownership of the work is a matter of public record, which makes it much easier to defend your rights. If licensing your work is an income stream you are thinking of doing, protecting your work and registering your copyright will make it much easier to bring a lawsuit of copyright infringement against the person who stole your work. For more information about copyright your work, visit the US Copyright Office FAQ page.
I’m Ready To License! What Are The Next Steps?
1. Understand Who You Are as an Artist
Before you start submitting and pitching companies, it is a good idea to understand what your goals are and whom you are selling to. Your genre of artwork will best determine which companies and market is the best to contact. The clearer you are about which would fit best for licensed deals, the more focused you will be on finding the best manufacturer to work with.
2. Create Collections of Artwork
When presenting your art to manufacturers, it is really important to give the manufacturer an idea of what your style, your brand, and your work is. When manufacturers are searching for licensing opportunities, the more examples of your artwork you can provide, the higher the chance of manufacturers realizing how your art can make their products sell more. These collections of artwork don’t necessarily need to be a collection of a series, they need to be works that compliment each other well and are in the same theme. Themes would consist of Everyday, Seasonal, Holiday, Special Occasions (birthday, graduation), and Niche Themes/Lifestyle to name a few.
3. Make the Call
The third step to getting a licensing deal is to call and ask how the manufacturer likes to have new art pitched to them. The receptionist is the first line of communication to the big wigs that make the decisions and I bet this is not the first time someone has asked her this question. Once you have the directions on how to pitch the companies, write a brief and thoughtful introduction letter of yourself and be sure to include why you feel your artwork fits their brand. In business, it is all about creating win-win opportunities so show the company how they benefit by working with you. It is a good idea to offer links to your artwork and not as attachments because these emails may be marked as spam.
4. It is All in The Follow Up
Sales are not made on the first contact. It can take at least 7 contacts before someone will yes to a sale. This means it is crucial to create a list and schedule of companies you will and have contacted. Set reminders in your calendar 2-4 weeks after your first contact/email and see if they received your email. It is important to remember, you are not bothering them. Following up with companies shows how serious you are about working with the company. Creating a systematic plan will help you get the licensing deal you have been dreaming of.
5. Create a Style Guide/Mock-Up Catalog
Either create a catalog/style guide or hire someone to create a professional catalog/style guide of the 10-12 pieces of artwork (minimum) of the various products you feel your art would look great on. Creating a catalog will help create a clear image for the licensees of how your artwork will look on their products. You can create a downloadable PDF file, a password protected website portfolio, or an online portfolio.
6. Don’t Wait For A Deal, License the Work Yourself
There are many websites available today that allow you to license your artwork. Each company has their fees, so it is really important you understand how each company works and how to protect your work. Some great websites to get started today are imagekind.com, cafepress.com, art.com, zazzle.com, and istockphoto.com.
Licensing your work is an amazing way to create extra income and endless opportunities with your art. If you have any questions about licensing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so you can get started today.