When people ask me how to start licensing art, my response is “What are your business goals for your art?” I believe you need to take a hard look at your artwork and its audience, as well as your personal desires and abilities, to determine if art licensing is right for you.
First, ask yourself these three tough questions:
Do you have evidence that your artwork is sellable?
Do you have a track record of some kind, whether from prior jobs, such as an art director or designer, juried art shows, etc.?
Do you have an audience that is definable and potentially large enough to build a business on?
If your answers are mostly “yes” keep going.
While most artists create from their own internal desire and inspiration, there are many external factors that will influence your creativity and career path in art licensing. For that reason, you need to search a bit deeper. . .
1. What motivates you to create art?
a) gaps and niches in the marketplace?
b) current trends?
c) retailers’ needs?
d) manufacturers’ specifications?
Undoubtedly you will be asked to change the color of your art, vary the design, meet deadlines, build certain types of production files and create something new for a client’s exact needs. Are you comfortable with commercial art, its demands and requirements?
2. Do you have the skills, desire and time to run a business?
What can you evaluate about your lifestyle—time restraints, personal responsibilities, educational needs, goals and priorities—that will help you determine what you can put into an art licensing business?
3. Do you have enough money to live while starting a business?
Most businesses take 1-2 or more years to be profitable; this industry is no different and varies widely by these variables: talent, sales efforts, time spent, and the economic climate!
4. Do you have the right technical abilities?
Can you provide artwork digitally, develop a web site and create sales presentations? If asked, can you make the changes required by manufacturers and create production-ready files? If not, are you willing to learn how or partner with someone who can assist you in these areas on a frequent basis?
5. Are passionate about seeing your art on products everywhere?
If you have answered a resounding “yes” to all or most of these questions, then art licensing may be a great option for you.
Of course, the first thing you must do is to learn enough about the art licensing business to make an educated guess as to whether you are interested in representing yourself or finding an agent.