10, oops, 17, Things You Need to Learn to Make It in Art Licensing

It started with 10, but then there was this… and that… and soon what you see. In no particular order:
 1. Content expires. You need to rewrite, redo and refresh. Constantly.
2. Customer acquisition is both the hardest and the most important thing you will do. Customers make a career.
3. Even your best customers will wilt and eventually fade away without attention. Nurture them.
4. Passion and innovation are worthless without good execution.
5. Marketing is a solutions process that encompasses the product, placement, price and promotion. Anything less is simply advertising.
6. How you did it yesterday is irrelevant, how you do it tomorrow will be different. Look for insight into what is successful today.
7. Every business relationship you have is predicated upon making saleable product and not upon the advancement of your career or brand.
8. Often licensed products don’t get made, or don’t sell well and are cancelled, so you need to accept that with a shrug and a smile and have your next idea ready.
9. Art directors have many excellent artists to choose from and will pick the ones that are easiest to work with.
10. The market is a filter. If you cannot get traction in the marketplace you need to be open to change. Kick your ego to the curb and listen to what the outside world is telling you.
11. Your customer knows their product capabilities, markets and end user far better than you do. Trust in their judgment.
12. You need to be all in. This means sparing no time or effort to master your craft, paying for the best software, investing in trade shows and travel. Halfway in won’t cut it.
13. Selling is an essential skill and if you are not good at it, or won’t take the time to learn the skill, then you need to find someone to do it for you.
14. The message often trumps the art. Economics trumps both. If the licensee cannot make and sell the product at a profit they won’t be interested.
15. Know thy customer: provide the right art for the right people. No one spends more than a few seconds on something that is not right for them.
16. There is a balance between being true to your art and doing what you want, and creating only for the customer needs and ignoring your muse. Too much of one will make you unhappy, and too much of the other will keep you poor.
17. The majority of what you create for licensing will never be licensed, so you need to create constantly and keep feeding it into the pipeline.
Anything to add?
6 replies
  1. Susan January
    Susan January says:

    Great post Jim. You provide such great insight for artists; but you nailed the manufacturer’s perspective as well. Thanks for thinking of ALL of us who are part of the Surtex experience year after year!


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