7 Tips for Success with Art Licensing

By Steff Metal in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

In my last couple of articles, I’ve been talking about the world of art licensing and how you, as an artist, can get your work on to items like t-shirts, mugs, homewares, linen, skateboards. . . and so much more.

And it’s all very well to learn about how art licensing works, but how do you actually become a successful licensed artist?

Well, like everything else in life, it comes down partly to luck—having a strong portfolio and being in the right place at the right time. But luck is borne of hard work, and today I want to give you some tips to help you stand out from the crowd when you place your portfolio in front of the people who will decide if your art is the right fit for their business.

Here are some broad guidelines for achieving success with a licensing deal:

1. Build your brand as an artist.

Create a name for yourself and present your work professionally. Market your work locally and gauge if there is interest and demand for your designs in your city or region before trying for something bigger. You could also experiment with other mediums to increase your range of offerings.

Survey your existing buyers and target market and think about other ways you could present your work to them. Would they be more likely to by certain items if your artwork was on it?

2. Present your work professionally.

Create a portfolio with a wide range of images or designs which clearly demonstrate how your work looks on the products you are proposing your artwork be used on. Do mock ups of t-shirts, clothing, footwear, surfboards etc. . . show that you have carefully considered how your artwork will enhance a range of products and best show off your designs.

3. Make your pitch relatable.

Carefully choose the companies you approach. It is essential that your artwork fits their product and target market. Think about the end user—does your product appeal to them and their lifestyle? (Graphical urban designs, for example, won’t fly in a conservative “homeware” brand targeted at affluent housewives).

Just as you would for a job application, make every approach tailored to the company you are targeting.

4. Do your research

Know the clientele of the company(s) you are approaching. Does your artwork fit the medium (clothing, surfboards, etc) and does it relate to their clients?

If you were the director of this company, would you get excited about the work you’re presenting? Will your artwork extend the reach of their product to increase their sales?

5. Price your work according to your experience.

Be competitive with your pricing but don’t undersell yourself. It may help to talk to other licensed artists to get a guage for the expected price.

6. Always seek legal advice.

Be sure to only agree to licensing your work with limited rights. Don’t sign anything without visiting your lawyer first. Take steps to protect your copyright. Remember you are not parting with copyright, only limited rights for reproduction of your images.

7. Carefully consider any offer.

Decide whether to accept a flat-fee or royalty agreement. This depends on the distribution and quantity of the product your work is featured on.

Licensing your art may never happen, but you can’t know if you don’t try! Don’t get too wound up over whether you succeed or not. . . focus instead on the new skills you’re learning and the fun of pursuing your art career.

Good luck!


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