A little over six years ago, I was sitting at my desk job as an in-house designer for a local newspaper. I had dreams of painting patterns, seeing my art on products, and running my own creative business full-time.
I had been adding to my savings for over year, took a business plan class, and was SO ready to leave my job and jump into a whole new world of full-time entrepreneurship.
Little did I know that just six months after leaving my day job, I would see my very first artwork licensed onto a greeting card. And that was just the beginning!
I had no idea that licensing my art would become such an important part of my business over the last six years. I’ve worked with over 50 different clients since then, and have seen my art on products like fabric collections, dog collars, tea towels, dresses, scarves, stationery, and even more. I’ve been able to work with clients like Uncommon Goods, Birchbox, Anthropologie, and more.
And licensing has also worked to expand the reach of other parts of my business, like growing my online shop to new customers who find my art on products elsewhere!
So, how did I do it? Today I’m going to share what I think were the three biggest factors to finding success with art licensing. I’ve never worked with an art agent, and have handled this business entirely myself (pssst… I think you can, too!)
And if you’re ready for more, scroll to the bottom of this post for a FREE download for 7 additional tips!
Tip 1: Share Your Work
The bulk of your work in getting your first clients will be sharing about your art consistently. It’s hard to get clients if they’ve never heard about or seen your work.
Even if you don’t feel that your work is “ready” to share with the world, I’m always talking with my students about going for it and sharing it right now anyway!
You’re going to share your work in three main avenues: online through social media, online through your website, and online through direct emails where you are pitching your work to potential clients.
Pitch my work, whaaat?! This is where you will take things into your own hands. Find that art director’s email address and email them. Make sure you look for any submission guidelines on their website. I know it’s scary, but just try it out. This a reminder that the deals don’t always come to you – you have to be proactive and doing this will help you stand out!
Does pitching yourself seem overwhelming? Read my tips here for how to get past that fear of putting yourself out there.
Tip 2: Develop Your Unique Style
It will be easier for you to get those licensing clients if you have been consistently working on your craft and refining your signature style. You don’t necessarily have to paint the same thing over and over in the same style, but find a process that sets you apart from the thousands of artists out there.
Do you focus on neutral palettes, minimalism, and simple graphic patterns? Or do you create bright and cheery floral paintings full of texture? Find something that feels like you, and that you are passionate about creating. Your passion will shine through.
It’s important that it feels genuine to you, and is not heavily inspired by someone else’s work. Mimicking someone else will only do the opposite of what you’re intending. We want you to express your own unique vision, and the right clients for you who will love THAT special style of yours are out there!
Want more help? Read my blog post here for more on signature style development.
Tip 3: Present Yourself Professionally Online
Choose a business name (it can be your own name!) and stick to it across all platforms. Set up your social media accounts with that name so you are ready to share your work.
Have a basic website to direct potential clients to; it doesn’t have to be fancy but should have some samples of your work, and an about page so that they can get to know you.
It’s also key to have a contact form or a clearly displayed email address so they can reach you.
If you’re just getting started with making your own website, read my blog post here for more suggestions on which platform to choose.
Bonus Tip: Be Yourself in Every Step
Doing these three foundational steps will help you stand out among all of the artists who are excited to see their work on products. But work through everything with your own unique perspective in mind: you absolutely do not have to follow the path or direction of someone else’s journey. Even mine! I am simply here to share my perspective and help guide you along the way.
Share your work in a way that feels genuine to you, create a website that you love to browse, and a style of art that you are passionate about. It’s so important that we are all being true to ourselves as artists and business owners.