Many artists are keen on licensing their work because it generates more income for one piece than you can by just selling the original or prints. But when you're first starting out as an artist, before your name is known, it can be tough to get seen by manufacturers and companies who license art. Here are my favorite ways to demonstrate interest in licensing so you can land your first contract.
Always See Myself in Nature - Ev McTaggart
Mention it on your website.
This sounds easy, but have you checked to make sure you've done it? I've looked at hundreds of artist websites that are missing this crucial element of their site. If a company comes across your site and loves their work but they can't immediately tell if you're interested in licensing, they will close your site. They're too busy to contact you only to find out that you don't license your art. Make it easy for them.
There are two best ways to do this. Either have a navigation tab that says Licensing and takes them to a page with some basic details on how to contact you and images you're interested in licensing out, or just have a quick note on your contact and about pages that says "for licensing inquiries, contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org".
Art by Ksusha Scott
Attend a licensing show.
If you want licensing to be a big part of your business model, you'll have to go further than just making it easy for people stumbling across your site. The most effective thing you can do is attend a licensing show. These trade shows are a chance to connect directly with people who are specifically there to find new artists.
There are some downsides to licensing shows, though. They're expensive and time consuming. And worst, some companies won't sign you until they see you at the same show multiple years in a row. It's a strange industry practice, but it pretty much stems from wanting to make sure you're serious about licensing. You may not make the money back from the shows you attend for a couple years, depending on how quickly you sign with companies and whether or not they pay an advance.
Sheildings Garden - Sophie Penstone
This is something we often forget, but you probably already know companies who license art for their products (like Anthropologie and Ikea). And you can do a little research to find more of these companies and even some manufacturers who make the products and then sell them to companies who will sell the products to the public. Make a list of the ones that would really fit with your style of art.
Then start pitching them. "Pitch" might sound scary, but really you're just telling them you exist and showing them how your work would help them make more sales. That's their bottom line, so always play into making them more money. I recommend writing your first pitch to a company you care less about, just to get one out of the way and settle your nerves down. The more you do it, the easier it will get!
In the grand scheme of your art business, these three tricks are actually much easier than selling your art online directly to customers. I find that starting your business with a couple licensing deals can be a great income boost while you're trying to get the rest of your revenue streams flowing.
What companies do you know off the top of your head who are licensing art for their products? Share them with us in the comments.
If you want more help with licensing, Laura's got plenty of tricks up her sleeve. Laura C. George is a business consultant for artists, arming them with the knowledge they need to create a career that supports them emotionally and financially. You can grab her free video, The Art of Pricing Art, or follow along on her blog for more business advice just for artists.