Art Licensing Fundamentals: Finding Buyers for Your Art | Shannon McNab | Skillshare

Art Licensing Fundamentals: Finding Buyers for Your Art

Shannon McNab, Surface Designer & Illustrator

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
8 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Understanding Your Portfolio's Potential

    • 3. Where Should You Go Looking for Companies?

    • 4. Popular Doesn’t Always Mean Perfect for You

    • 5. Searching for the Right Contact

    • 6. Knowing Who’s in Charge

    • 7. Become an Inbox Hunter

    • 8. Final Thoughts + Your Assignment

45 students are watching this class

About This Class

So far my classes have focused on giving you strategies for improving your pattern design skills, but now I’m switching gears and focusing on the business side of the industry.  Finding Buyers for Your Art delves into one of the most important components of a healthy surface design career.

Here's just a few things you'll learn in class:

  • How to describe your art (and how it helps you find buyers)
  • 6 different methods for finding companies
  • How to decide if your art is a good fit for a company
  • Common job titles to look for when searching for contacts
  • 6 ways to search for the correct contact
  • The BEST method I've found to find a contact's email address

My hope is that by the end of this class, you’ll have more confidence to search for and connect with buyers. Because at the end of the day, that’s what will help your business grow!


1. Introduction: hi there. I'm sure the McNabb and I'm surface designer and illustrator working in the San Francisco. Bigger now. So far, my classes on sculpture have focused mostly on the pattern design side of things. I'm helping you improve your skills, but that's only a small piece of being successful service designer. That's why I decided to switch gears in this class and instead of talk about the business side of things, were specifically how to find companies who want to purchase your art. Now, I've only been a surface designer for the past two years. In that time, though, research and reached out to more than 100 companies and from my efforts are secured over 20 licensing deals. And if there's anything I've learned in my brief time as a service designer, is that there's more than one right way to find potential new buyers. You just have to experiment a lot because the service is signed. Business is first and foremost a numbers game, and the truth is very few leads will pan at. In fact, you're likely to receive replies from Onley about 5 to 10% of the people you contact, so you might as well, start the process by knowing how to find the best companies out there for you and your portfolio. In this class, I'll discuss how to review your portfolio and generate a wordless about your style that will help you in your quest for finding buyers. Then we'll dive into different methods you can use to search for companies and how to decide if your heart is a good fit for that. Finally, we'll tackle the tough task. How to find the right person you need to contact the companies you're interested in working with. The hope is that the end of this class that you'll have more confidence to search for and connect with buyers because at the end of the day, that's one of the best things you can do to help your business grow. 2. Understanding Your Portfolio's Potential: before we dive head first into the process of finding cos you'd like to sell your are, too. I think it's important to first discuss your portfolio and to understand its strengths and limitations. After all, what good is it to reach out to companies? If you can't articulate what makes you and your heart special, your art should always reflect the work you hope to get and the markets you'd most like to see your designs in. Likewise, it's important to have a wide range of subject matter in a mix of both patterns and illustrations to help you broaden your reach within the markets you plan to target. For example, if you were hoping toe license your heart to the gift wrap market, you'd want to make sure you had portfolio pieces themed too big occasions like Christmas and Birthday, plus a healthy mix of non holiday designs like florals for animals and we'll gift wrap utilizes mostly patterns. You shouldn't completely omit hand lettering or spot illustrations as they could be easily used for gift bags and tags. However, if you were hoping to get work illustrating Children's books, your art would be much more focused on illustrating characters in Hamlet and less so on patterns. Of course, it's unlikely you'll make a living with art licensing. If you Onley target a single market, so it's a good idea to pick several. My best advice is to focus on creating new work and themes that aren't currently represented in your designs. So the breath of your portfolio does the work for you now. Besides the type of art you create, it's also important to have a basic understanding of your style. Doing so will make it much easier for you to find companies their best suited to your art and help you approach them with more confidence. I know many of you may be saying, Well, I don't have a style or I work in multiple styles. But the fact is, your art often speaks louder for you than you think. If you're unsure about how to describe your work, here's quick exercise that can help. First, gather your 10 favorite pieces from your portfolio. Look at them all individually and then together as a group. Next printout the pdf titled Portfolio Style Guide found in the your project section of this class, or take a blank piece of paper and jot down any trends you notice between your designs, whether it's color, texture, shading, lying, quality subject matter. Except I bet you that after 10 to 20 minutes of examining them, you'll find at least one connective Fred between Then think about the words that you feel best. Describe your work and write them all down. I've included a short, wordless in the pdf. If you're having trouble coming up with your own from your notes and word list, you should be able to come up with a good phrase or two to uniquely describe your work to potential clients. For example, the current phrase I used to represent my heart is sweet, yet sophisticated. It's extremely short, but it gives someone a very clear idea of the type of work and create. 3. Where Should You Go Looking for Companies?: there's an endless supply of companies that need art for their products, but it could be really tough to find them, especially in for new to the industry. Of course, there the big names we've all heard of, like Target Land of Nod anthropology for Hallmark. But what about the countless other smaller businesses? How do you go about signing them? Good news is, there's lots of different ways you can find companies. Here's just a few different methods I personally used to find the names and Web sites of potential buyers. GOOGLE SEARCH This may be the easiest method, but it can also be the most time consuming and often hit or miss on the results. You'll get typically more descriptive you are, the better your search results will be. So instead of just typing in wall art, type something more specific, like watercolor holiday while art. If you're not sure what descriptors to use to narrow your search, simply review the wordless you created when defining your style from video to and use one or more of those words product research, shopping head to your favorite store and browse the products you'd like to see your art on Then, when you come across a product that resonates with you and your art style, pick it up and look for the company information, which you can usually find on the back or bottom of the product or on the U P C label. I find it helpful to snap a quick photo of the company's information on my phone for me to reference later. But you could also keep a running list on your phone or in a notebook. I find this method is something that works in tandem with other methods and shouldn't be your main resource for finding companies. Social media shoutouts Chances are you follow lots of other surface designers on instagram , and I'm sure you've seen post from them. Occasionally sharing a product there are is featured on usually tag with the company who's selling it well the next time that happens, take a B and dropped down the company's name. Or, better yet, use Instagram's saved feature and start a collection of post featuring company products. Here's how you do it first. Find the little flag just below the right hand side of the photo. You'd like to save and press and hold it until it brings up the safe to screen. Next, press the plus sign in the right corner, an entitled collection, Something you Remember easily, like companies or STE. Businesses and Preston. Once you've created the collection, it will show up in the safe to screen the next time you go to save an image. And if you'd like to view the entire collection of safe images, you first have to be on your INSTAGRAM profile page from there, pressed the navigation icon in the top right corner, then press saved and finally click on the collection Artist and agents websites. I bet you viewed your fair share of designers websites and peruse their beautiful work. But how often do you read their about page? If you didn't before, here's a big reason you should. Now, many artists about page includes a list of companies they've worked with, which makes them an incredible resource to you. This is one of my absolute favorite ways to find companies because it means that the companies listed already worked with independent artists and not just an in house design team. Treat show exhibitor lists as part of a trade shows marketing efforts. They usually published the entire exhibitor list to help entice buyers to attend the show. But those exhibitor lists can be incredibly useful to you now. I'm not talking about trade shows like Sir Tex, where you would be the exhibitor I'm talking about. Trade shows like the national stationery show or the Atlanta Give Show, where the company's you want to work with are exhibiting. Most shows have hundreds, if not thousands, of exhibitors. So just like Google search, this method can be incredibly time consuming. However, if you set aside a few days once or twice a year to sift through an upcoming trade shows Exhibitor List, the payoff could be well worth the effort. Exhibiting Ed, a trade show I know the time and financial investment to exhibit at a trade show like Sir Tex or Blueprint is high, but it has been the single most helpful method I've used to find new companies. During my most recent show at Surtax in 2018 I've met with roughly 50 different companies at my booth Now, to put that into perspective, remember in the intro video when I mentioned how surface design is a numbers game and that you're likely Onley hear back from about 10% of those you contact. Well, think about how many weeks and months you'd have to dedicate to researching and contacting 500 different companies just so you might get a response from approximately 50 of them. That's probably the easiest way for me to illustrate why I think Trey shows are still the absolute best way to get your art in front of the people that matter. Now. I know that exhibiting isn't always possible for everyone, especially if you're at the beginning of your services. I am journey, and that's why I thought it was important to detail several other methods in this video to help you get started. However, if exhibiting at a trade show is something you're considering in the future, I have a Siris on my blob dedicated to sharing my experiences as an exhibitor. At Sir Tex, you can find a link to the Siri's, along with additional links you may find helpful in the class. Resource is pdf, found under the Your Project tab of this class 4. Popular Doesn’t Always Mean Perfect for You: I hope the last video give you some great ideas. But before you go hunting for companies to pursue, there's one other thing we need to discuss, and that's whether or not your art it's with the company's you want to work with if you approach a company that you love. But the range of products feature a very different type of art than yours. You likely be wasting both their time and yours. For example, I absolutely love the urban bohemian feel of anthropology. It's a wonderful store to visit from inspiration, and it would be amazing to see my designs on their product. But as a stated in video to My designs are sweet yet sophisticated, which means my portfolio is focused primarily on graphic and playful patterns, hand lettering and charming characters. So even though I'm a huge fan of anthropology, the likelihood that my style would fit any of their products is pretty slim, and I'd be wasting my time to approach them with my current portfolio. So how do you go about deciding whether or not you and your art within it? Well, there's two different things I like to look for in a company's website that helps me decide first and foremost eyebrows their products, both saying mostly on the markets I'm currently interested in. Then, as I'm scrolling through a catalogue or a Web page of their products, I asked myself whether I could see my art fitting in seamlessly with the others on the page . It's important to note here that your style should be similar but not identical to the designs they already offer, which can be quite the tightrope to walk and does take some time and experience to figure out. But after scrolling it for a few pages, I can usually make a decision. And if it's a yes, I move on to test number two. Next thing I like to do is read the company's about or our story page is It gives me a glimpse into the company's values and insights into how they do business. It may seem like a small thing, but it's a really quick and easy way to help decide if it's a company you'd like to work with. 5. Searching for the Right Contact: If Onley we lived in a world where art directors and buyers always publicly share their contact information, wouldn't that be incredible? I would certainly make our job a bit easier. Unfortunately, that world doesn't exist, so it's up to us as surface designers to hunt that information down on all the process of doing so is not as easy as it is searching for companies. It's sometimes not as difficult as we think, either. The trick is to know where to look. Here are six ways I've successfully found the right company Contact ranked from least to most successful company website. This works best with small to medium sized businesses, as you can sometimes find the names of the head of each department somewhere in the about US section of their website. And since you're going to be browsing the company's website anyway, this is an easy first tactic to try. On one occasion, it even found the email address for the art director on the company's contact page. So, while you're at it, take a few minutes and go digging on their website to see what you can find. Google Search. Yeah, good old Google is not to be underestimated when looking for a company contact. Usually it's best to start with the most popular designed titles I mentioned in Video. Five. Simply start your search by typing in art director, followed by the company's name. Usually, if there any names to be found, they'll be visible on the first or second page of results. So don't waste your time scrolling past that. If you come up empty, try one of the less common design titles. This strategy can be hit or miss, but I found several correct contacts after the occasional Google search, calling the company directly again. This is a tactic which works best with small to medium companies. When it's much easier to find the phone number of their corporate office than with large companies, you'll need to make sure to find the correct number, which most likely can be found on their contact page. Once you found it, you can give him a call. You should start the conversation with an extremely brief introduction about yourself, followed by kindly asking them if they can direct you to the correct person in charge of purchasing art. If you're unsure about how to word everything, I provided a brief cold call speech prompt, and the resource is PdF. You can print out in queues, but you'll sign in New York. Project tab of this class. If you're nervous about making the call, practice your cold call speech a couple of times. First, to get some of the nerves out, be prepared to jot down any information that give you either on your computer or a scrap of paper. Also, don't be discouraged if they're unable to provide you with any information. Is receptionists are sometimes instructed to not give out contact info linked in search, much more targeted than Google Search Lengthen can give you much more accurate results when searching for company contacts. The most useful way I found the names of art directors is by first searching for the company itself. As many companies have their own linked in profile. From the top of their profile page, you'll often find a link that says, See all employees unlinked in. If it's a smaller company, that's probably all you'll have to dio you just scroll through the search results until you find people with the correct job titles. But what about larger companies like Hallmark for example, where they have over 14,000 employees on linked in. In cases like that, it's best to use the filters at the top of your screen to help narrow your search as it can save you a lot of time and list scrolling. Simply click all filters, navigate to the industry's section, select design and then a ploy. If there's still over 10 pages to scroll through, you can always go back and try adding a location filter. Just make sure you choose the location where the main corporate headquarters is, which in hallmarks, case is Kansas City. One unfortunate downside toe LinkedIn is the limit they put searches on. If you do not have a paid a camp, which, let's be honest, most of us don't because it's incredibly expensive. The worst part. Islington hasn't publicly shared how many searches it deems too much, so you often have no way of knowing how close you are to hitting their monthly limit. To help avoid that, I suggest you limit your search is toe one or two days a month on Lee, searching for a few companies at a time submission guidelines. It's always worthwhile when visiting a company's website to search for any information they have about submitting your work. Sometimes a company will have a dedicated page detailing artist submissions, or you might find the information on their frequently asked questions or contact pages. In instances where a company provides submission information, I suggest you follow them exactly. It may mean you'll be emailing submissions at homework dot com instead of directly with an art director. But the company said those guidelines for reason so you should always follow them trade shows and they're attending lists just like one searching for companies. Trade shows are the absolute best way to find the right person to talk to, mostly because they're the people actually attending the show. And it's standard practice that when someone chats with you at your booth will usually provide you with a business card and ask for yours. This makes the process easy because not only do you have a name and title, but also their direct email address. But there's a second benefit to exhibitors of a trade show, and that's having access to the full attendees list of the show, something that's not publicly available. That the exhibitor list ISS, especially for the company's you were hoping to see during the show. But didn't you'll at least have access to the company contacts, full name and title? And depending on the show, their email address may be included as well. Again, I know not everyone is able to exhibit at a trade show, which is absolutely OK, And it's why it's not the only strategy I wanted to share. The important thing is to find the mix of tactics that work best for you when searching for the people in charge. 6. Knowing Who’s in Charge: So you've done a little research and have a nice little list of companies you'd like to contact. But now what? This is a part of the process that often trips designers up the most because finance company is the easy part. But finding the right person to contact at that company not so much, however, it's important that you dio because again you could be wasting their time and yours if they aren't the right person to talk to and the chances you'll hear back from them or lower because of it. Now there may be a few rare occasions when you'll get lucky, and that person will be nice enough to either forward your information to the crutch contact or they'll reply to you with the correct email address. But that's not something you can count on. The first step to finding the right person is knowing what types of job titles you should be looking for when searching for company contacts, and unfortunately, there's no set standard among companies. Luckily, though there are a few pretty common ones. Most often, you'll be looking for one of two job titles, either creative or our director and buyer or are fire. However, there's several other titles you may encounter, and they may not be as popular, but they're still common, and those include senior designer or designer product development business manager, an editor. You'll also occasionally see owner or president, especially in smaller companies, when the main person in charge makes all the major creative decisions to. 7. Become an Inbox Hunter: if you got lucky when searching for the right person to contact and found their email address in the process. Bravo. But chances are more often than not that all you'll have at this point is in name, which isn't of much use to you without a way to reach out to them directly. So how do you find their email address If it's not on the website and they're linked in profile or provided to you by the nice receptionists you talk Teoh. Somebody tell you to message them directly, unlinked in asking for their email address. And that sounds great in theory. But the reality is, it's extremely hard to do so there's only two ways to message someone unlinked it, and that is one. If you're already connected to them, just highly unlikely or number two. You have a paid account. So as nice as it sounds, I personally feel like messaging directly and lengthen is mostly a waste of time unless you're able to pony up almost 50 bucks a month. Instead, I'd like to introduce you to my little friend hunter hunter dot Io has a set of handy dandy tools that allows you to search for the likely email extension of company websites. The best part is they're free Plan allows you to perform 100 searches per month, which is usually way more than you'll meet. Here's how it works on their domain search page. I'll type in a company in the search bar. Let's say anthropology dot com, and you see that search brings up a lot of emails, but what you should be most interested in here is the most common email extension pattern hunter finds for you. You can usually find that right under the search bar and in this case is the initial of a person's first name, plus their last name, anthropologie dot com. It's important to note here that you're unlikely to find the exact contact information for the person you're looking for in the search results, but you can use the information to formulate an email address. So is a hypothetical say, I found out the art director of homewares Anthropology is name was Cynthia Jump. Using the information I gathered on Hunter, I could guess with a certain degree of certainty, but her email address would most likely be CJones at anthropologie dot com isn't that great . Now I do want to mention the hunter isn't always able to find an exact match to an email extension, especially for smaller companies. On occasion, it won't be able to find anything at all. However, most often I find that the search is usually bring up at least a few results and one or two likely extensions to truck. That means your first attempt sending them an introduction. Email. Make it kicked back to you is undeliverable, but at least it gives you a place to start again. The process of finding companies and the correct contact information it takes patience and a lot of trial on air. With time and practice, you will get better at hunting it down, I promise. 8. Final Thoughts + Your Assignment: Now it's time for a little pep talk. The services and industry is not an easy one to now. Eight. There's lots of trial and error involved, and lots of rejection, too. So when you don't hear back from someone you've contacted or can't even find the information at all, just know that it's normal. Every surface designer goes through the very same thing. Also, you are absolutely allowed to give yourself time in space to process the experience and even feel sad about it when you've been rejected. Just don't let it, Carol s you. And that's why I always like to think of rejection as a learning opportunity. If you can't find contact information, maybe you need to change your tactics and try a different approach. Didn't receive a reply from the nice, Emily said. Well, maybe they liked your art but are just too busy to answer back. So keep following up. Or maybe art isn't quite the right fit. So go and research new companies to contact. Just keep adapting and trying new things. And before we die right into the assignment, I first want to say thank you so much for watching. I really enjoyed making this class, and I hope you learned a lot about how to find buyers for your art, as it's one of the most integral parts of the business side of surfaces. And if you did like this class, please leave a review or give it a thumbs up. Doing so helps the class rank better in skill chairs rankings, and it allows other people to find the class much easier. Okay, now that's all settled. It's finally time to get to your site, which I broke down in two steps. Step one, Review your portfolio and fill out the portfolio style guide. PdF provided. Then take a screenshot of your 10 favorite pieces from your portfolio, post a screenshot and share with us a few words from the wordless you created to describe your work. Step two. Research five new companies and search for contact in vote. Utilizing the tips I gave you in class This step, we take you several weeks, so don't think you have to finish it all in one go. Once you're done, though, come back to your project and update it with a brief summary of what you did. I do want to note here. You do not need to provide a list of companies or contacts. You found just a brief explanation of what you learned at any successes you have. So your fellow classmates can learn from you and cheer you on again. Thank you so much for watching. I can't wait to hear all about how your company goes.