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Become a Working Artist

Lesson 18 of 22

Tips for Breaking into Art Licensing - Part 1


Become a Working Artist

Lesson 18 of 22

Tips for Breaking into Art Licensing - Part 1


Lesson Info

Tips for Breaking into Art Licensing - Part 1

We're going to get into life and saying, um, again a super fun topic for me. Um, this is actually some of my designs that have been licensed land of nod here in the upper left some tea towels for polk head oh, the one for land of nod with this animal print for a kid's room was something I was commissioned to do. Um the one in the middle, um we're existing designs pattern designs that poquito licensed upper right corners one toe in the bottom left r wallpaper designs that I did for hiking in west that I think I spoke about yesterday that were commissioned middle one another kid's betting set for land of nod that I was commissioned to dio and bottom right is one of the repeats that I did for cloud nine fabrics that came out a couple of years ago. I have lots of other examples, but these are just a few of them, so licensing is a term we use to describe the agreement that takes place when you sell the right to a company to use your art on their products got it often licensing happens becau...

se a company contacts you because they've seen something that you've made, whether it's ah repeat pattern or a stand alone piece and they are interested in using it so some artists spend their entire careers just creating work that they promote that's license able they create the work first and then they hope that somebody buys it. I do a little bit of that, especially when I create repeat patterns. I put them in my portfolio and hope that ah, fabric company buys them or somebody wants to put them on something. So for this reason it could be a great income stream for people who are interested in decorative imagery and a great form of passive income. Meaning you make the work, and then the money comes to you afterwards over and over, especially if the product of the fabric of the wallpaper, whatever does well in the market. So does anyone know what I mean by passive income? So passive income basically means that you make something and that making that thing that pattern, that piece of artwork might take you some time. But then it gets put on something and you make a percentage of the sales. So you just you make that thing. But then you sit back and you can make large amounts of money if the product or the book or whatever you have the licensing deal for does well, so and then you have little effort required to maintain it. So it happens passively as opposed to the kind of work we were just talking about, where you get paid a flat fee to do something once and then it appears on this thing but then you're not necessarily making any money from it afterwards so happens for things that need surface embellishment like wallpaper station fabric that kind of thing paid royalties so we're going to get into that now and um to help me talk about the ins and outs of licensing I've invited today betty cortez who I actually met um I was at this co working space in san francisco which I love called make sure society and I was working there one day and that he was doing office hours which she at the time at least was offering to people who are interested in getting some feedback on their work and whether or not it was ready for licensing and I overheard her in a conversation with a couple of people and I was like, who is this woman she knows a lot and then so I said to my friend who's staying there who's that and she said that's bessie corgis and she does this to hear her hurt you know? And so I looked her up and and then when I was writing artie shortly thereafter I decided I wanted to interview her for the licensing segment of my book and I'm going to read to you her bio which will tell you a little bit more about her background and experience okay, so let's welcome betsey up now all right? Well let's see all right, I'm gonna tell you a little bit more about her while she's sitting here she is the founder and principal of february thirteen creative a san francisco agencies specialising in art brand management betsy and her husband chuck a lawyer work with artists on business development, licensing programs, client relations, project management, product development and more. They provide comprehensive support for established artists and also work with emerging artists who seek targeted advice about art licensing, so keep that in mind they're clients include katy daisy, who I referenced yesterday kelly, ray robert's, troy litton and susan black. Betty gave a fabulous and informative interview and our ink about our licensing, which I encourage all of you to read in addition to what we're about to talk about so welcome thank you so much and we have also become good friends since we met a couple of years ago, and I'm so excited to have her here, so we're gonna sort of run through. We talked on the phone obviously before we're sitting down here and we talked about what are all those points of pain or confusion or mystery for people around aren't licensing that we hear most often, so we came up with a list of I don't know seven or eight things maybe maybe more I can't remember that we're going to run through and talk about and discuss together and hopefully that will answer most of your questions, but then if there's time after we have our conversation, we'll take questions so as we're talking, write your questions down and, um, and we'll go from there, okay? All right, betsy, this is the first one, and I talked about this a little bit when I was talking about ellis illustration it's a very different approach to making art than when you're making art for yourself. You have to understand it's commercial, so say more about that, yeah, it's e think that I come out this actually from really personal experience when I am got into life, our licensing myself, really coming to terms with my relationship with products and realizing to be perfectly honest, I'm not a person who does a lot of shopping, and I have sometimes kind of ambivalent feelings about products, and whereas other people absolutely love shopping, they love looking through catalogues and on dh, and can really make that connection between seeing their art on those kinds of products and getting stoked about that. So I think that is and it's, your art is going to be used teo adorn other another company's products to make that other brands products really saying and sell right, so it is, it is very commercial, and I think you know, it's it's worth taking some time to kind of get in touch with your own inner consumer and and really understanding what resonates with you and where you would like to see your art within the wider world of products yeah, so understand its commercial this isn't about you this is about the company that you're working for and if that's okay with you it's a great place for you if that's not okay with you something to consider all right, this is an important one. A lot of people think they can make it in the world of art licensing from the get go. But we've talked about this a lot a lot of the artists who are actually doing well now in the art licensing world um started off by just doing their own thing and building their own brand, which we've been talking about a lot here, by the way let's see if you haven't yesterday at the end of the day we talked for an hour and a half about branding. So why is this important to build your own grand first? Um I think that it actually I mean, ultimately the reason I like to look at it this way is I think that it makes you stronger as a licensing partner, I think that when you have taken the time to really build your own brand on your own following your own fans and even your own customers through an etsy shop or something similar to that that you're you're creating a platform, which then is like an extra added asset to the licensee, the the company that's licensing your artwork. So in other words, people see you have a following, you have a fan base that might even make companies might even the more likely tow want to bring you want because they know you're going to bring in additional customers for the product. Precisely. Yeah, I think it also just helps you with that question of which companies do you want to be licensed licensing to a lot of times when you're just getting started, somebody might approach you with a licensing deal and sometimes it's so exciting like that cachet of the company or just the idea of having your art on a particular product is so overwhelming that you just say yes, and then you might get a little bit farther kind of down the line and realize like that decision really didn't jive precisely with where I wanted to take my art and my brand. So it's, just another question that I think is worth spending time on upfront and really again getting in touch with with your values and why you're doing your art and what you want your art to be saying. About you and about what you believe and want to promote out there in the world, right, and spending time with that we were talking to about this idea of having a very distinct voice, um, in your work, um, and that actually building that not just your brand, but as part of that your unique voice through your artwork is something that is really going to increase the chances that companies will reach out to you because there's going to be recognisable, they're going to see that you have this thing that you have developed, that other people who they introduce you to will also be excited about it, okay talked about this a little bit earlier, but really important to talk about just one revenue stream important to diversify? Yes, and I think you were just speaking about this earlier that it can take a really long time to build a decent income stream through licensing, not only because you're working on a royalty basis and royalties, quite frankly, can be rather small, you know, they might just be two to three hundred dollars a quarter or something like that if you just have one greeting card or something like that out there, so you're really wanting to get your wanting to be prolific, you're wanting to get a lot of art. Out there and then when you sign a license agreement it can sometimes take a year or possibly even longer before the products out there in the market and your and then like another bit of a lag before royalties start coming your way um so it takes time to build and I mean that's the main sort of practical reason I think for teo just be one of a number of things that you're doing but you know, I think if you find over time and I'm sure there are artists who have found themselves in this position who have become successful licensing artists that it really is the main thing that they get khun due and they enjoy it the most and they're making enough money I think at that point you can cut out everything else if that's what you want to do but it's probably smart in the beginning too not I'll put all your eggs in licensing basket yeah and I'll be honest to that that the artists that I have worked with over the years both in my current businesses and our brand manager and as an art director it's actually pretty rare for for licensing to be a primary component of their income stream a lot of them have something else that's really really driving in revenue to their business whether it's you know teaching courses writing books on etsy shop even so again think of it just as one component all right, educate yourself. What is there to know? What do you need to educate yourself about? Well, I think this is ah, great, really great start this class that you're doing. Andi, I think that we're so fortunate today with all of the information that's available to us when I started in our licensing was actually I was an art director. I was in a house with a greeting card company and was my first exposure to art licensing and most of it we did through agents, we agents represented artists who were available for licensing, and we went through the agents, there was no internet there. Well, the internet was just beginning there. There was no facebook, there weren't blog's or even anything like that, just the idea of having your own personal portfolio online on dh, the fact that you could do that almost for free was unusually revolutionary. Yeah, it was really, really amazing. So we're all very lucky that we have all of this information and all of these resource is at our fingertips now, and I think it is definitely important to kind of dive in and learn about that, I would say. Practically speaking, one thing that really kind of distinguishes licensing as a potential income stream for your business from some of these other things you've talked about is that the contract is a fairly big deal and it's pretty comprehensive, and you will be well served to have a really good sense of what basic licensing terms are in an agreement, what fair terms look like really, for both sides to so you do want to protect yourself and and keep your opportunities open, because licensing again, success and licensing is all about leveraging, you know, one particular piece of artwork for as many different product products as you possibly can again, to maximize your income stream there. So knowing the terms within a licensing agreement that are specific to that particular point is really helpful again, the pricing and ethical guidelines, as you mentioned, it's, a great book for getting familiar with basic licensing terms and there's a sample license agreement in there, I would say, um, knowing how to market yourself, I'm in all of the things that you've been talking about in this class r r k, yeah, let's, hone in on one of the points he just made, and that is this idea that you can leverage one piece of art or one small collection of art for lots of different things and the way tio make the most of that potential is to make sure that your contracts allow you to do that. And so on the one end you have a company who might want to buy a designer a collection of designs and have that exclusively be theirs for everything on the face of the earth foreign time infinitum, you know, on the other end of the spectrum, they might just want it for greeting cards for us distribution or something like that. And then if, on the one hand you signed a contract that allows one company to use it for only specific purposes in specific markets, you could potentially license that same artwork for, um, party dick or or other thanks back. Yeah, whatever, pillows, apparel, whatever. Do you see what you're saying? And your contract and what rights you're agreeing to let a company have determines whether or not you can also allow other companies to use the states, you could make a lot of money off of one design if you're able to license it just several companies for different purposes. That's precisely, right? Yeah, and kind of related to that. One thing that it's worth getting in place when you're getting started with this is a system for keeping track of your individual artworks where they're licensed, how long the term is any kind of x extra exclusivity that might be not obvious when you're trying to remember things on dh spur of the moment like it just basically a spreadsheet or some sort of a quick reference where you can look up your artwork and make sure that it's available and, yeah, it's unhelpful to do that ahead of time, actually, because it can actually get pretty confusing if, once you have a number of licenses out there, it's true, and if you don't have an agent or somebody who keeps track of that for you, when any licensing agent will keep track of your rights on a particular piece of artwork, it's really good idea to yet develop a google spreadsheet or make a spreadsheet and excel and really keep track of what you've already sold the rights to. So if somebody contacts you and this will end up happening, because you'll notice that as you become established, certain imagery becomes very popular and a lot of different companies may be interested in it. And if they are companies that produce different kinds of products and you haven't given one company carte blanche, you can actually license it for different purposes, all right, practice and get comfortable with negotiation. Yes, so let me just take the axe with, um it is negotiation can be scary, it's even with a big part of our license, it's pretty big yeah, and if you if you're representing yourself this is definitely something that you're gonna want teo establish some comfort with and trust me you know, even artists and you know who have a lot of experience with this still feel little apprehensive, intimidated by licensing or by the licensing negotiation phase. So again, this gets back to that idea of really knowing yourself, knowing your brand, knowing what your values are knowing where you want your work knowing really being able tio place thiss particular opportunity at your doorstep within that broader context so that you can evaluate the terms of the deal and the opportunity more kind of rationally instead of emotionally so I mean a good business deal is going to benefit both sides so you definitely want to have some sense for for fairness, which is something that you know you'll develop in it really helps just to approach it with an open mind and curiosity talked to your potential licensee potential licensing partner about about their business about you know, about the products about, you know, really shows some interest in enthusiasm and and I think most important is simply to not be afraid to ask questions a lot of artists are afraid that by asking questions they're going to kill the deal on guy really um just for strongly encourage you to you need to do it respectfully, obviously and you don't want him keep coming back to town. Just one more question. Just more and more question. You want to try to take time up front to really think about what all of your questions are to read through the agreement carefully and note everything. But don't be afraid to ask those questions. Um and yeah, yeah, I think that's great. A couple of books that we talked about you well, so again, pricing and ethical guidelines is great for just kind of understanding the rudimentary principles of a licensing deal. But there's there's a guy who writes about negotiation, who I absolutely love. His name is william ury. You are? Why on dh? The book that I first read is called the power of a positive no, um and but he wrote one or two before that. Have the word yes, in the title. The power of a positive no sounds like it's about killing the deal, but actually it's not at all. It's it's really about again, it's, about kind of like knowing knowing what you value, he talks about the about about a good deal kind of starts with your own. Yes, your yes to what you want and what's important to you are, by the way, going to talk about that very topic next great, yes, really great on dh then in the middle, it's, kind of like I think of it as a no sandwich. So it's yes, no, yes, no is is kind of what you're non negotiables are. And I think that when I'm advising clients around a deal, we try to kian to that pretty early on so that, you know, from the get go like just what really matters to you and what you're willing to kind of, like. Put your foot in the ground about. And then yes is is kind of like, how can we make this work for both of us, like our yacht for both sides, like, really, really knowing the full scope of the deal and how everyone stands to benefit from it, you want you want to get to yes, most likely if you're entering into a conversation with somebody, so if you don't want to compromise too much and they have precise, like a little, but it's always going to involve compromise? Uh, yeah, so be open to that. Be ready for that.

Class Description

"This is an incredibly helpful class for anyone who feels intimidated by all the "giants" in the land of art, and wonders if it's really worth keeping trying to make money from their talent. Lisa breaks everything down into manageable steps, while not dumbing things down. Her manner is very approachable, so that you can imagine yourself doing what she does. Her generous spirit means too that she is sharing really useful stuff - not just some fluff, and keeping all the good ideas for herself!"
 - Janet and Craig Mathewson (CreativeLive Students)

An enthusiastic audience that appreciates your art is waiting for you. Join Lisa Congdon, illustrator, artist, and author of Art, Inc. for Become a Working Artist and learn everything you need to know to make a living as a fine or commercial artist.

In this class, you will find out exactly what it takes to break into the art world and reach new, diverse audiences. Lisa will show you how to:

  • Identify the characteristics that make your style unique
  • Map out the vision and goals that will drive your artistic career 
  • Navigate the fine art market and break in to it
  • Land and negotiate art licensing deals
  • Develop effective techniques for promoting your work
Every artist faces rejection and setbacks on the road to finding an appreciative and paying audience. Become a Working Artist will teach you how to navigate the inevitable disappointments and push through to build a vibrant, rewarding career in art.

Making money as an artist doesn’t have to be far-fetched dream, Lisa Congdon will show you how to make it a reality.  



I was very happy and inspired to be able to attend to this class! It helped me so much to understand which are my goals as an artist and what I need to make to make them happen. Lisa is amazing and I cannot be happier to have been part of this, thank you so much!! I am now more than inspired to create beautiful things and make the tasks I need to make to become the professional artist I aim to be. Thank you Lisa for your wonderful generosity and Creative Live for hosting and creating such a wonderful event!


This course was fantastic! The format was great and Lisa was extremely helpful, knowledgable, and engaging. I was so inspired and loved that she gave very real information and great advice. I came away with a great new plan for my business and a renewed excitement for growth. I would highly recommend this class!

Simply Stated Architecture, PC

Professionally, I am an architect, but I also dabble in some watercolors as well as wood and metal work. When I started my own architectural office, I found good resources for business information were scarce. Most of what I found applied to retail or service businesses that really did not apply to a creative professional. One of the best resources I have found has been my local art guild - The Yellow Breeches Chapter of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. I found that the painters, jewelers, potters, fiber artists, and other artists faced much more similar issues to what I was dealing with than the contractors, store owners, financial planners, insurance salesmen, and other business people that I was finding in business groups and classes. Lisa Congdon's class is the first CreativeLive course that I've taken. I had signed up for the CL email recently and Lisa's class just caught my eye. I'm glad that I took the time to sit through the sessions. A few of the segments - such as that on illustration and licensing or fine art - really did not have any practical application to my own situation. But there were items of value in pretty much all of the segments that I could take away to adapt in my own business. For someone just starting off in a creative profession, I'd highly recommend Lisa's course as a roadmap of items to keep in mind and plan for in their business. But by no means should you consider this to be a "beginner only" course. I started my business four years ago and I really wish that I had found something like this course in those first months or first year. But even after four years, I found great value in this course. The information on setting goals, actionable tasks, and the final segment on managing your success were extremely valuable and gave me many items to work into my own business in the coming weeks and months.