Make Things Make Money: The Business of Illustration and Lettering


Lesson Info

Licensing Q&A

How does social media and sharing mess up this system? Meaning, if someone purchases only promotional rights, someone else ... This happens in photography all the time. Somebody else uses it for a use that it's not intended for. Because sharing is so easy nowadays, is there anything you do about it, or do you just trust that people are gonna do their best and when somebody grabs a photo and reuses it, or an image and reuses it, you're just out of luck? Well, it really depends on how much time you wanna invest in it, and whether or not you can afford a lawyer, really. I think it's important to be able to have access to a creative commons lawyer that specializes in working in your field, whether it's photography or digital assets or illustration, even just to have that connection, because you never know when you might run into a problem that's not associated with usage rights. Like a client doesn't pay you, right? Or someone stole your content and is trying to pass it off as their own,...

right? That's a big no-no. Now, most people do the public shaming route, right? "Oh my god, I'm on Twitter and American Apparel stole my design." What that person should have done, instead of making a big fuss about it, you should have hired a lawyer and had them pay you. Because there's value in secrecy. So if you do notice that someone's stealing your design, give them the benefit of the doubt, too. 'Cause sometimes people don't know any better. You know what I mean? So, I've had my work stolen a few times. Especially work that I've sold the usage rights to from another client, and they'll repurpose it, or they'll trace it, which is really frustrating. And I'll go ahead and I'll take the time. "Hey, I don't know if you knew this, but you actually stole my work, and I worked really hard on that. If you wanna go ahead and you wanna further your lettering education, that's something I actually offer. So I would love to have you learn from me. But I would really appreciate, from now on, you ask for my permission before you post my work. And if you are gonna trace it, that's great, I'm glad you're learning, just don't post it. 'Cause you're taking my usage rights and this could potentially turn into a lawsuit for you from my client, and I don't wanna have to see you go through that." For the most part, people are gonna be like, "Alright, I'll take it down." But there's a difference. If I'm on Twitter, "Oh my god,, whatever your username is, they stole my design, this is the original." And you make a huge fuss. What's someone gonna do? They're gonna get defensive. "Oh, no, I'm not making a profit off of it. Oh, I didn't even see it." They're gonna start lying their teeth off, 'cause they're confused, they're whatever. But if you went ahead and you took a private message, right? Don't shame them publicly on social media, 'cause maybe they didn't know any better. You don't wanna ruin someone else's brand 'cause they didn't know any better. I think everyone here has maybe stolen something, they didn't think was ... You know what I mean? They're like ... Everyone has to start somewhere, so I think it's better to just go ahead and be able to talk to them like a person, right? But if it does get ugly, you can always contact that lawyer, and hey, you can make some money from it, 'cause someone stole your design. And for the most part, the lawyers that would be helping you, they don't get paid beforehand. They get paid after you get paid from a settlement. So it doesn't cost as much as you think it does. Does that help? Okay. At what point in the proposal, or whole process, do you discuss licensing? Is it when you give them a proposal? Are those packages included then? Or is it when you're talking about the payment for the last part? Like after you've done the 50% deposit, or-- Oh, no, yeah, you definitely wanna have it in writing in your contract. So when you're going ahead and you're emailing them that quote, even before the proposal, you wanna be able to include licensing in your packages. So right now I gave an example of just using licensing, but you can use this in to addition of the amount of assets you might be getting. Remember you're talking about your pricing in terms of the value that the client is getting from it. And usage right is a huge value indicator, right? 'Cause you're literally talking about what you're allowed to have. Now I'm gonna keep saying this. A lot of clients are gonna be like, "What? You wanna charge usage rights?" But that's only because they've never heard about it. They don't have the education, so you need to be able to ... Like what I just did, be able to walk a client through the differences, and the values behind each of them. So this will require a little education on your part. Let's walk through a scenario, okay? So client reaches out to me. They want me to design a t-shirt. Okay, so I walk them through my process. I go ahead and I have that questionnaire. I'm talking to them, I'm asking more questions. I give them that quote. I give them the packages. Hey, this is how much money you can make off this shirt. Here is the usage rights. Here's the royalty rate. Now you can go ahead and you can create an article on your website that explains all this stuff in an easy way. "Hey, if you're unfamiliar with licensing, here's a great resource for you to learn more." Or I can go ahead and give you ... You guys have the link to my resource article. You could just click 'em over to me. But I would prefer if you wrote your own so they don't end up hiring me instead of you. Just saying, I want you guys to make money. I mean, I appreciate the referral, but you know. And be able to explain in an email. Now don't feel weird if your email's super long. 'Cause if it's valuable information, people will read it, right? 'Cause it's not like all of the stuff you're putting in this quote is like BS. It's all really tangible, right? That's the most important thing to a client. How much money is this gonna cost, and what am I gonna get? They're gonna read the content, alright? And when I send those quotes, and then you guys get a template of what my quotes look like in the resource kit too, you can go ahead and copy and paste it, you can steal it, I really don't care. And be able to present your idea in a way where, again, it's a choice between, "Which of these packages should I hire you for?" Versus, "Should I hire you in the first place?" Questions. Yeah, how do you track an asset? So you design 300 things a year. How do you track when the licensing is up, and expires on a specific piece that you designed for somebody? Do you use software? I usually just use calendar reminders. Just Gmail, Google Calendar, right? Set a notifi ... Oh, you have assets for a year. 'Cause I'll forget about it. It's really easy. "Hey, just letting you know that you can use this." And then when I get that notification, I'm like, "oh, cool." And I go ahead and I put it on Redbubble, or I put it on Society6. Just like when I had that project that I forgot about, and I lost all the assets for. Just be careful that you actually keep your files, like on a Dropbox folder or something, so that when the usage rights are up, you still have access to those files to repurpose them, or even possibly sell them to other clients. Now remember, the only way to get the kind of work you want is to ask for it, so if you are available for people to license your work and previous work, make that available on your website, right? Even something like, "Hey, contact me if you would like to license anything in this portfolio. There are varying use cases." Right? That's something people don't think about. You're probably not gonna ... I mean, should you be charging these prices that are on here? Or where should you start? Should you scale it like you scale your work? Or how does that work? Well, since ... Even if you are starting in your design career or your illustration career, you still spent the time to get good, right? So you're still valuable, right? So you're not selling your work right when you start. So you can still use these kinds of pricing. 'Cause this is a usage right. This is the value. Now, my production prices are different because I probably have more experience than someone just starting out. But these usage rights, they're really up to you, what you feel comfortable charging. So maybe your promotional rates is something like $50. And also because you're just starting out and you have less visibility, you don't really have that much to offer, too, right? So for me, for you to give me promotional rights, I can still have access to it, but I'm still worth a lot because I have proof that my work is sellable, so I'm gonna charge $250. Just like exclusive rights. I know I can make money. I know I can go ahead and repurpose this design. So if I'm gonna give you exclusive rights, you gotta pay me out something I would make in the first week or the first month of selling this products to make it worth my while. So that I don't have to do the work and the promotion to go ahead and make money from that particular design. Alright, making sense? You guys feeling confident about charging for usage? Yes, that makes me so excited. So, if you, say, have a website and you've got all of your art on there and a portfolio, should you go about trademarking those things that are on there digitally? So I sell prints on my website, but nothing on there is clearly stated that they belong to me. How would you go about protecting your work that's just on there on display? What's in your footer? Copyrights, right? It's a copyright sign. All content and images on this website belong to your name. Right? That's why there is that little disclaimer in the footer of your website. That Copyright 2017, right? That is your copyright. Because the second you post something online, it's yours. That's your way of announcing to the world, "I made this." So that way if someone else tries to steal it from you, all you gotta do is, "Hey, I posted this on Dribbble, May 2003. You posted it three years later. I win copyright." So you could technically win in a lawsuit, in a court of law, if you needed to. Now does that cover things that you post on social media? Mmhmm. Okay, so you just post it to your website first, and it's covered, and then if you share it onto your own social media platform, still covered? Yeah, it's like double duty. It's like you're double protecting yourself. Now, if you wanna make sure no one's stealing it, there's a really good thing called Google Image, right? You can just go ahead, drag your image into Google and see how people are using it. If you find a big name brand that is using your work illegally, then you can contact them. I even know lawyers that'll do that for you, right? 'Cause they like money, just like you like money. So if they can find someone infringing on your rights, they can make a profit, and again, they normally don't charge you an upfront fee. They charge you based on their work. So they can go ahead and spend the time. It's their literal day job to look for people trying to steal your work. And then confronting the companies that can afford to pay a fine to either A) you just want them to remove it, you don't want them to use it, right? Or, "Hey, would you like to purchase rights? You can, with this amount of money." Right? If it is available for purchase. Question. Yes, basically, how do you license your work? How do you license a print? Well, licensing only comes down to the verbage that someone signs, right? It's in a contract, so you're-- Oh, so you only license it if you're selling it. You don't have to license everything you create-- Yeah, you don't have to license everything. In anticipation for selling. Mmhmm. Okay, great. Yeah, you don't have to go through the copyright office, or anything like that. But I will show you a really quick shortcut after ... Right before your question. So what's a really good way to guarantee all your work is copyright? If you publish it. So there's this awesome website called This is what I was using to print out my zines, okay? What happens if you just create one book that has a published version of everything you made that year? Automatic copyright. That will stand up in any court of law. Even if it's outside the United States. Just in case you're working with international clients. So that's the easiest and cheapest way to guarantee that you own the rights to your work. Question. Yeah, do you remind clients when the usage expires? Like, in case they want exclusive use of it again and you offer, you can license it again for another year. Or how do you do that? Well, okay so I have a follow up process with clients. So normally after I've delivered the product, I create timers for myself. So I really utilize Google Calendar quite often. And I have a month check-in, a quarterly check-in, and a yearly check-in. And if I am selling usage rights, I give myself a week, right? 'Cause I told you, how do you know when it's up? I give myself a week before it's officially up, so I can notify them if they do wanna go ahead and sell it. And sometimes people forget, right? That they don't have the usage rights. Business owners, especially art directors, creative directors. After your project, it's just one of many, right? They have a lot of other stuff going on in their lives. They might forget about it. So for you to be able to check in, "Hey, just seeing how it's going, how are you enjoying that piece of content that I made for you? Is it selling well? Do you see a need to, if you only had promotional rights, to sell it to make a profit? Are you seeing a lot of engagement with this design? Would you like to purchase?" Now you just upselled yourself. They're like, "oh, actually, we're good at this time." "Cool. Thank you so much." Alright, next quarter, "Hey, just checking in again. Is that design still profitable?" 'Cause you're checking in. If it is, that's an amazing design. It's still doing really well on their website a quarter, three months later after you turn it in. That's amazing. They might be like, "oh, well it actually is doing really well, I guess we should pay for it." Or they might be like, "oh, no we're good at this time." A year down the line, you do the same thing. It's still doing well! It's a year later, holy crap, that's a good design, right? They're definitely gonna wanna buy usage rights that further along or extend it. Or when you have that week reminder, "Hey, just a friendly reminder." I always like adding the word "friendly," just so you know I'm not like, (presenter growls) right? In my email. I use lots of happy faces and stuff too. So that way people understand I'm actually being really friendly and not rude, I promise. I'm not as sarcastic as I look. I know, I have a little edge. Everyone says that everything I say comes out sarcastically. I don't see it. (presenter laughs) But that's what they keep telling me. So usage rights, as we can see, it has a lot of value, right? And you can go ahead and you can always be upselling yourself. So I'm so glad you brought up that question. I just wanted to clarify what you said earlier about how you wait a week. What did you mean by that? I didn't really understand that part. Okay, so it's like a reminder to check in. Because you don't really know a project is successful after launch, right? 'Cause you turned it in. Who knows when they can actually launch that product or service or graphic. And to see, was it successful? 'Cause you won't know right after. So it's nice to ask. And they might wanna update their testimonial and be like, "Hey, I made $15,000 off this product that you made for me." That's very powerful as a testimonial. But that's something you might not necessarily get the day that you turn in your project. So I think it's good to check in, not only to see if you can upsell on usage rights, or hey, reminder, I'm really good at my job, remember? You wanna hire me for more stuff? Would you like to make even more money? Right? It's always a good idea. So I usually check in in a week, a quarter, and a year. Just to stay on top of mind. Do you ever increase the usage price? Always. Okay. Just like your hourly rate, it should increase. Just like apartments keep getting more expensive. Restaurants keep getting expensive. You have to be able to still afford to live and eat, right? So every year you should always be upping your ante. 'Cause again, your visibility is improving. Your worth is increasing. So every year, I'd actually recommend you guys increase your prices anywhere from 10-20%. I know that's a lot, especially if you started charging $3,000, right? So you should always be upping the ante every single year.

Do you have a passion for drawing and dream of turning it into your next full-time gig? Hand lettering artist and commercial illustrator Dina Rodriguez will show you how to create a career doing what you love. Dina shares lessons learned from her path to becoming a successful freelance artist–so you can grow your business without wasting your time or resources trying to get there.

In this class, Dina covers: 
  • Honing your craft through passion projects and social media 
  • How to attract clients through your online presence 
  • Three ways to make money for your business: Commercial Work , Commissions, and Products 
  • Creating a process that will get you the job every time 
  • How to charge what you're worth
She’ll provide detailed strategies, new ways to repurpose your work, and talk about planning for the future. After this class, you’ll know how to create a successful career and skip all that nasty trial-and-error.



  • Wow! This class was fantastic! Dina did a great job at providing relevant information that I can use right away. I was particularly impressed at how she was able to explain licensing and royalties, she really broke it down into easy to understand pieces. I think this course would be a great foundation for any artist/freelancer but I liked the focus on lettering and illustration. Creative Live must convince Dina to provide more classes!
  • This class is full of excellent information, and Dina did a great job covering everything from building a webpage to working with clients. She has a engaging delivery style, presented the information in a succinct and well-organized manner, and the pace of the course was perfect - not too slow! I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to start or boost their creative business - great info!
  • Awesome class! Inspired and excited to improve my business with the processes and knowledge gained. Thank you Dina!!