How to Work with An Art Licensing Agent | Ronnie Walter | Skillshare

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How to Work with An Art Licensing Agent

teacher avatar Ronnie Walter, Artist, Writer, Artist's Life Coach

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What does an Art Licensing Agent do?


    • 3.

      Should you have an Agent--or Not?


    • 4.

      Why an Agent wants YOU


    • 5.

      Finding the Right Agent


    • 6.

      The Decision Process


    • 7.

      Yikes--The Contract!


    • 8.

      Your Final Decision


    • 9.

      Frequent Questions


    • 10.

      What I know for sure...


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About This Class

“I just want to make art!"

How many times have you said that when confronted with all those irritating little business details?  If there's one thing all working artists have in common, it's that the business of making money from your art gets in the way of, well…making art!

 “I need an agent—like yesterday.”

 Wouldn't it be great if somebody else handled all that biz and marketing stuff for you?

 Agents can do that, but not everybody needs an agent.

In this class you will learn how agents work, how to decide if getting an agent is right for you, how to find the right agent and how to determine if they are a good fit for you. You’ll also learn about the artist/agent contract: what should and should not be in it so you’ll be ready to go when the time is right.

Artist, art business coach, former agent and well-known industry expert Ronnie Walter will walk you through how to find the right partner to grow your licensing business. She will show you steps and techniques that work, all delivered in her trademark friendly, supportive style.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ronnie Walter

Artist, Writer, Artist's Life Coach


Hi! I'm Ronnie Walter. I'm an artist, author and coach for creatives. I license my work on all kinds of cool products like greeting cards, fabric, giftware, books, plus 17 (and counting) coloring books for adults.

I am frequently caffeinated.

I love what I do and I particularly love teaching and coaching artists to help them move further on their journey no matter where they are! My goal is to help you calm the overwhelm feelings that are bound to come up when you are building your business, discover your unique gifts, and make a game plan where you can actually see progress! I can't wait to add more classes so you can do just that!

And I have a simple guide to Art Licensing you may find helpful as an addition to the information in some of my classes. You can learn ... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome!: Have you ever said this? I just want to make the art. I don't want to know anything about contracts. I don't want to do the business side. And by the way, where do we get one of these agents? Well, you're in the right place today because I'm going to teach a class called How to Work with an art licensing Agent High. I'm running, Walter. I'm a licensed artist. I'm a writer, and I'm also an art business coach. And I've also been an agent for 15 years. My husband, Jim Market, and I represented over 15 artists in this market, and now we help them individually through coaching. And part of that is often whether or not they should work with an agent and how to negotiate that process in my other class, how to make money with art licensing. I touched on the subject of working with an agent, but in this class we're gonna go a lot deeper into the details that you might need. Like what? An agent does what you can expect from the relationship and what they don't do. How to approach an agent, how to find the right one for you. and how to make the most of that partnership will go into details about the contracts. And we're also going to talk about why you may or may not want an agent, depending on your skills. Depending on the time in your life, it may or may not be the right decision for you. I'm not going to tell you which way to go, because it really has to be an individual decision. But I'm going to give you all the tools that you're gonna need to make this decision yourself. It will help you when you are approached by an art licensing agent or if you seek one out on your own. I would advise you to take my previous classes, how to make money with art licensing and how to develop a portfolio for out licensing. So you have a really nice broad understanding of how this business works. But now we're gonna drill down really specifically on the whole agent artist relationship. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I will answer them as quickly as I can, and I can't wait to see where you land in this world 2. What does an Art Licensing Agent do?: Okay, let's get started. Let's start with the definition of what? An art licensing agent ISS. So here we go and our licensing agent is a person or a group of people who represents your artwork to manufacturers who license artwork for their products in order to secure licensing deals on your behalf. That is the basic definition, and I'll go into a little more detail. Some agencies might be just one single person that handles a handful of artists, or it could be a larger group of agents who handle bigger groups of artists. Going one way or the other with a single agent or a group of agents is really a personal preference. And as we go further into this class, you'll start to understand what might be right for you or not. This agent represents your artwork. They represent you, of course, as the artist. But that does not mean that they represent every single thing that you do. They represent the artwork that you give to them. They represent your portfolio. If you do future work, or if you do have old work that you have not given them, they do not represent that artwork. They only represent the artwork that you give to them to represent. They show your artwork to manufacturers who are in the business of licensing artwork for their products. If you have taken my earlier classes, they had to make money in art licensing and how to develop a portfolio for art licensing. You will understand a little deeper about what this means when I use the word license. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's a royalty situation. It might be a flat fee, but I would advise you to take the earlier classes so you have a really good understanding of the terminology that I use. But in general they are. When they say they are not licensing agent, their clients are going to be manufacturers who license art for their products. So there'll be people that make things that have art on them, as opposed to editorial or gallery work or anything like that. It's really people that are in the business of putting artists artwork onto products. We will go into a whole lot of detail about how this is going to work and the expectations that you can have about this, but that's what they're doing. They're taking your artwork. They're bringing it to manufacturers. And the whole point of it is to secure licensing deals on your behalf so that you and the agent can make money. So that is the definition of a nart licensing agent. Now we're going to go into a lot more detail on the finer points of this relationship and how you would pick an art licensing agent. That's right for you. 3. Should you have an Agent--or Not?: So let's go through why you might want to have an agent. And there are a lot of reasons on the pro side of this. Will, of course, go over the con side of this. But let's start here why you might want an agent. And I hear this a lot for my coaching clients. I just really want an agent. I want someone else to do the business side for me, and that is a perfectly valid reason for doing that. But let's go through some specific reasons why you might want to have an agent representing your artwork. You are just not comfortable with the business side. Totally understandable, particularly in the beginning. It may feel really uncomfortable, and you just want someone else to do that. Maybe you're not skilled at negotiation and are not interested in learning. It is a skill that you can acquire through study and practice. But not everyone is comfortable in that situation. You might want an agent because you cannot or prefer not to travel to shows, meaning trade shows or to visit any clients. Sometimes it gets lonely in the studio. There are times when you are a solo artist, and you feel like I don't know if I'm doing this right. I need someone else to bounce the ideas off off. I need a partner in growing this business, my one an agent, because you value their contribution, they will bring more to the table than you can by yourself. And that's just an extra added bonus to having an agent is that they have another set of ears and eyes to the business, and you can really grow through their contribution. You also might want an agent if you have had success in another arena, and they have the connections that you do not say, You have a very successful art business that doesn't involve licensing, and that's not your forte. Maybe you have an active Etsy shop or you're a gallery artist, and you want someone who can just come in and handle the licensing side of things. So you do not have to learn a whole new skill set to start licensing your art. You can do what you do well and bring in the right partner to help you grow the licensing side of things, and you might just want an agent because you just want to make the art, and that is a totally valid reason for exploring whether or not you should have an agent. Because frankly, if you don't have an agent, you will have less time to do our work. And you don't want to be distracted by the business side. Totally valid. And just one more thing. Whether you go with an agent or you don't go with an agent, there's always going to be a business side, so you have to get your head around that idea. So let's talk about why you might not want an agent. And here are some reasons why you might be better on your own. You are comfortable with the business aspects of your career and are not afraid to go and secure your own licensing deals. You might be better off on your own if you have a hard time giving up some of the control. Whenever you bring in any kind of partner to your business, you have to realize that you can't control every aspect of how your agent runs their business, and you have to trust that if you have made the right decision that the methods that they use are right for you and for the business. You might be better off on your own if you feel resentful when sharing the revenue. And that happens. You think I want an agent? And then all of a sudden, you realize agents make money and you start to feel resentful that they are making money and you start to feel like, Hey, I did more work than they did or whatever that scenario might look like if you have ever felt that way. You really want to give this a big think of whether that's going to rear its head for you? If you are an independent sort who wants to call your own shots, you might be better off on your own that you don't have to stop and think about how someone else is gonna handle this or any of those scenarios. You can just say I'm going to do it the way I want to do it, and that's that. And you have to be okay with doing less heart if it means you get to keep 100% of your royalties and fees. There are only 24 hours in a day. There is only so much time you can spend doing your art. And if you're willing to give up some of that time to make the deals, hey, then you get to keep 100% of the royalties. But you will not have as much time to do artwork if you were doing the whole thing together . And that's OK with some people because again, as an artist myself, I know I can't do our 24 7 I have to do some other things, and sometimes it's kind of fun to make your own deals because you may drone deals. It feels really successful. And then you get to keep all of that money yourself. So it might be a good time to sit down and review these slides and look honestly at yourself, maybe journal a little bit about where do you sit in this? Are you better on your own? Preferred? Have a partner? Are you going to see it is collaborative effort and really look at that really seriously. We're going to continue with a whole lot more information, so hang on, kids 4. Why an Agent wants YOU: And now the flip side of the question. Why would an agent want you? Okay, first and foremost, your art is marketable. It's the whole deal, and they need to know that you have a strong, ready to go portfolio with enough depths for their range of clients and product categories . They want to know going in that even though there might be some tweaks to your portfolio and you will continue to develop your look and your voice in your vision that they straight out of the box can really get ahold of some of their clients and say, You have got to see this new artist that I am representing that is the whole key to that. The other reason they want you is that you do not compete with another artist that they represent. This is a big reason why, even though your artwork may be fantastic for this market, that they may pass on you. It's not fair to that other artist, and I'm sure you would feel the same way if you were that artist to say Oh well, they brought someone in that does things exactly like I do. They also want you because in some way you have demonstrated that you will continue to produce that you have ideas that keep coming in your conversations that you will have with potential agents, which we will go through later about what are your plans? How often do you want toe put out new art that that will be a big part of that conversation ? Another reason they want you is that you have at least started to build a following and or a platform for your art, that you have some social media presence, that you have people that pre like you, that either you have success in other areas that you could bring along to your licensing program. But again we will go into detail about that. But they want to know that you are out there and have started to have that conversation with the potential audience. They also want to know that you have a good reputation. You're easy to work with and are open to critique and feedback. Ah, lot of that will be revealed as you have further conversations with them. They want to know that they're working with someone who will view this as a partnership and that you were in it for the long haul. And why would an agent not want you? Well, you might just be premature in the development of your portfolio. You're just not ready. They may look at it and just say, This is a great start. You're not ready. There's not enough work here. It's not right for my market. They may encourage you to get back to them when you are further along in the process. Another reason they would not want to work with you is because you have not indicated that you will contribute new work consistently. When you sign with an agent, it's very long haul. They want to know that you are going to continue to come up with new ideas, that you will continue to contribute because every time they see a new client, they want to be able to say, Oh, look what she's working on now that's so interesting. So they want to know that you are going to be there for the long haul, and the last reason they may not want to work with you is because they tell you that they're not adding new artists right now. And that may very well be true, particularly in the smaller agencies. They may feel like they want to keep a small stable of artists, adding Another one would add more time and stress that they don't really have in their life right then. And they want to keep it really tight. Fair enough. That is a perfectly valid reason to me to keep their stable of artists small. However, here's a little secret I know about agents because I was one. If they see a portfolio come across to them, that's really interesting. That looks very marketable to them. And they know they could pick up the phone and talk to five or six or 10 different manufacturers about this fabulous artists that they just came across. They will all of a sudden find room for you. Agents really want to get work out there. They want to have a reason to contact their clients, and if they think that you're ready to G O and it's all systems go for you, they will add you. Even if they have said I'm not adding new artists right now. It's kind of like when someone says I'm not really dating right now and then you see them out with someone the next night. Whatever saying that they're not adding new artists right now. Maybe a soft way to tell you that they're not interested in you or they're just not adding new artists right now. You just have to take them at their word. 5. Finding the Right Agent: So where do you start? Well, just like everything. You start with research, you can just Google art licensing agents and you will find a list immediately at your fingertips. And I will also add some links to the resource section of this class. But what you want to dio is agency by agency. Look at their website, get an idea of who they are, how maney artists they represent, what kind of work they do. Read their bios and do your research just like you would with any other kind of business partner. So review their website. You're gonna get all kinds of information from there, and they're going to be agency. You'll look and go. That doesn't seem like the right fit for me or the mix of artists is just not up my alley. And so you will eliminate some of the people from your list and the ones that you do find interesting to you reach out to them very simply with a short email and a sample of your work and a link to your website. If you have one, it can be super simple, very friendly. Hey, you know I'm Jane Smith. I do whimsical watercolors, and I'm reaching out to you because I'm looking for representation. Very, very simple, particularly in larger agencies. They may have procedures that they go through where a group of people will look at artists at the same time and decide whether or not it's someone they want to reach out to. So if they have submission guidelines, all the better because you know that they are a looking for artists and be well, actually, look at what you're sending them. 6. The Decision Process: Okay, so you have reached out to a selection of agencies that you have determined might be right for you. What happens next? So here are various scenarios that could happen to you. One. You might not hear anything, and that's too bad. Um, when we were an agent, we tried our best to keep up with artists requests and try to get back to people. But I know there are times that it slipped through the cracks. So if that happened to you with my agency, I'm just going to profusely apologize right now. They might send you a note back saying, Thank you so much, but not right for us. They could send you a note that says, We love your work, but we'd like to see more of it. And at that point, you will send the more just like they asked, they might send you a note that says, We love your work. We wanna have a further conversation with you. Can we set up a phone call or they will just pick up the phone and call you if you've given them the phone number and you need to be prepared to be ready to have that conversation if indeed they do. But you're taking this class so you will be prepared. And who knows? They might email you a contract and hope that you sign immediately. As flattering as it is to get a contract in your email, I want you to slow down and make sure that this is the right relationship for you. Before you even start to look at that contract, let's just revisit this idea. If you don't hear back from them, you can assume that they aren't interested and you just move on to the next person on your list. That is one option for you. I do know that there are times when it's an oversight or timing is an issue, or an agent just isn't ready to make a decision yet, so you don't hear back from them. Well, I would give it a week or two because people are busy. I would just send an email a week or two later, and with a simple Hi, I'm just checking back with you about representation. I sent my portfolio to you last Thursday. Do you have any feedback for me? I look forward to a further conversation sincerely your name very simple, and you may or may not get a response from that. If you don't get a response from your second email, I would just presume that they are not interested. And you could move on to the rest of the people that you have selected on your list. So several things that could happen when they have reached out to you and said We are interested in having a further conversation. You may have a couple of emails back and forth where the agent will explain how they work in the basic terms of their contract. Of course, they're going to tell you how much they love you and think that you would be awesome with their agency and you'll make a whole bunch of money, which may very well be true. So you're gonna have anemia? I'll exchange possibly after a couple of emails. You'll probably move on to a phone call or a Skype conversation. If you have not already, and you need to be prepared with questions. Remember, this is a relationship, and you want to know answers to your questions. Please don't be so excited about an agent wanting you that you'll just agree to whatever they do, because they might not be right for you. And there are other agents or you just decide not to have an agent at all. Be prepared with questions, and I have a few for you. When you go through these questions. Just remember that not all of these things have the same white. Nor will each one of them be as important to you as it would be to another artist. So let's go through the questions that you might want to ask an agent that has said Yes, I'd like to have a conversation with you. Okay, you're gonna ask things like, Will I be working with you or an associate? Particularly in a bigger agency? Maybe the person's reaching out to you is the principal of the company. But you will be handed off to another agent who's gonna work with you on the day to day, which is fine. There's no problem with that. You just want to make sure that you know that going in and that you have a comfort level with the associate. So if that is indeed how it's gonna work, you will want to eventually have a conversation with that associate, so you know that you two are on the same page as well. You want to know how often you will hear from the agent? Different artists have different comfort levels about this. There are artists that want very regular conversations, and some are in the no news is good news camp. Just call me when you get work and we're good. That's up to you. You want to know what kind of product categories that they think you're a good fit for. So if you think you want to do fabric and gift wrap and gift bags and they come in and say we think you'd be awesome with for plush toys and coffee mugs, you want to get an idea of what in general, they think your work would be best in. You want to have that conversation so that you know that if there are certain categories that you are interested in, that they also can envision your work on the categories that are important to you, you want to ask the agent if there are product categories that they're stronger in than in others. If you want to go one way, and they're all about something else. It might not be a good fit for you. You want to ask them something along the lines of what is the best thing that you conduce to be successful with them. For them, it might be behind really need you to build your social media platform or bring me new artwork every single month. Get a little more specific for them of asking them. What is the best thing you can do to be successful with them? These next questions are related. How often do you want to see new work and how much new are you expecting in a given year? Do they expect a new collection every month? Do they expect 10 new collections a year? You want to get an idea of what they're looking for? You'll also want to ask them how much time they think it will take to see results. This is a very big question, and in some ways it is unanswerable because they're not going to take you on. If they don't think that you have appeal to their clients, their current clients right now, but depending on production schedules and seasons, it may take a while for them to see results from their efforts. Um, we'll go into that little deeper detail later, but it can be a long process to get from. I have an agent. I have given them my portfolio. They're going to show it to manufacturers and then the manufacturers air going to produce it. Of course, they might show it to the first manufacturer, and that manufacturer says, Oh my gosh, that's exactly what we were looking for. Let's get this in the production schedule right now and then six months. You have a royalty check. Oh, and by the way, that's a really unlikely scenario. Generally, these things take a while to build, and it's easily six months to a year before you start to see results of your agents efforts . The next thing you wanted now is well, give me feedback on my portfolio and art style. Initially, most agents will work with you to tweak your portfolio to get it to the right place for manufacturers to look at it in a way that they can make a decision. However, agents are not in the art training business. They're not going to take your raw materials and teach you how to put it into a portfolio that is not the business they are in. They will always give you feedback when they come back from a show or if they've had meetings. You want to know? Hey, what happened? How did it go? What did they think of my artwork? Is there any feedback you can give me? And some artists need that more than others. Others air. Hey, this is my artwork. That's what it looks like and so be it. If they don't like it, that's fine. Others may want to improve it or change the colors or something, depending on the feedback that they get from the manufacturers and from the agent. The other question you will want to ask is, Which shows do you attend or if you attend any shows? There are agents that do not attend shows because they have a very active back and forth with their core clients, and they don't feel the need to go to the shows. If it's important for you to be represented at a show, then you want to make sure that you signed with an agent that goes to shows and exhibits that shows if that's important to you, you need to know the answer to this question. Now you may have other questions, but just know that in this initial conversation with you and an agent, you want to know as much as you can so that you can feel comfortable making a decision. And the reason is, once you sign with an agent, this will be legally binding relationship, and you need to be reasonably confident that you are placing your trust in the right relationship. No pressure, right? But remember, when you sign, you're legally responsible for whatever you sign for. So this is why I'm telling you to slow down, understand who you're getting involved with and really feel comfortable with the decision that you are going to make. 7. Yikes--The Contract!: Okay, We are now going to start talking about contracts. So if I were you, I would go get myself a big hot cup of coffee and sit back for this one because there's going to be a lot of information. I won't try to scare you. And this is not going to be every single thing that you will ever have to know about contracts. I'm gonna hit the highlights so that you really understand really about how the relationship works. So are you ready to have a coffee? Because I have mine. So, like I said, I'm gonna go through the contract highlights between you and an agent. This is after you have said, Yeah, this is interesting. We look like we could work together. So let me see your contract. You know, at any point in the conversation with an agent, you can always say, Hey, how about if you send me a contract that I can review so that there are no surprises later and just about every agent is going to say Sure, I'd be happy to send the contract. So let's get started. The first thing you might see in your contract is how long the contract lasts. That is called the term, and it will also explain whether or not their automatic renewals the term that you will have with your agent is from the day that you sign the agreement with each other, the contract until the day it ends, you might have a three year contract with this agent. If everything's going fine and no one stops the contract at the end of the term, it will just automatically renew until such time as you decide to go your separate ways. A licensing agency, contract and agency artist contract is going to be from one year to three years for its initial term. Now, personally, I think one year is a little short because of what we discussed in the last lesson. Things take a long time to develop. It takes a long time to get into people's production schedules, and it may take your agent at least a year to secure your first deal. And so you want to feel like both of you have enough time to develop those relationships, to develop your portfolio in such a way that it's really market ready and so one year is really too short. That is not enough time for everyone to perform. Often in these contracts. If it's a three year contract, there will be some sort of clause in the contract. And I like this kind of a clause that says, If indeed no licenses have been secured on your behalf by your agent within a certain amount of time, say, 18 months, then you can both walk away from the contract. But it has to be spelled out in your contract. So if a certain amount of time has gone by and you say, Wow, you haven't gotten me any deals will say, You know what? This is not working. Let's get out of this instead of holding you to the entire three year term basically a performance clause in there that says, If indeed there is no signed licence within 18 months, then you both go your separate ways. I like that stopping point in there, and then you're not tied to each other for the three years if you feel like it's not working. Oh wow. That was a lot of information for just the first part of this lesson. So I apologize for that. But aren't you glad you got the coffee when you did. Okay, The second thing you're gonna want it now is what is the amount of the agency commission? That's a really important thing that you want to know. They get paid and you want to know how much that is going in. You want to know how and when it will be paid? This would be a good time to explain how you get paid for the deals that the agency gets on your behalf. Here's what happens. The agent is out getting you deals with manufacturer. They come back and say, We've got a deal. This is the royalty, right? You go through the deal, we'll talk about that later. Here's how this works. And really, I have said in general so many times in this class because there are variables on these things. But I'll say it again. In general, this is how this works. Once the royalties or the fees are paid by the manufacturers, they normally are paid directly to the agent. At that point, the agent will pay you from the agency minus their commission. Do you understand that the check has come from the manufacturer to the agency, and the agency will take their commission and send you the remainder. Some agents pay when a check comes from a manufacturer. 30 days later, they will write you a check minus their commission. Some agents bank up all of the royalties and pay you quarterly. Some agents will pay you monthly for whatever has come in in the previous month. It's important for you to understand when you could expect to check from them. Normally, your agency will have some structure as far as how they will pay you. But that is how you are paid. You don't have to write a check for your agency commission that will come off the top of that check. That's how it works. You also will want to know who pays for what. Not all agents charge for things like shows, marketing materials and travel, and some do. It depends on the Range Off Commission that they take people to take. A smaller commission may expect you to participate in the expenses for shows, marketing materials and travel. But you need to understand that, and you need to know what those expenses might look like. So you will ask them. So in a typical year, how much do your artists end up paying for the expenses that you charge for very important that you know what number you do not want to be surprised by that. So spell out who pays for what. There will also be in your contract something called an indemnification clause, and that states that you are the legal copyright holder of any working sent to them, and you will hold them harmless in case of any dispute. That means you are signing this legal document that says, the artwork that I give you is mine. I am the copyright holder. No one else has any rights to this artwork that I am giving you. And if indeed there is a problem with my copyright, I am not going to hold you responsible for that situation. These are my copyrights. This is my original artwork, so there's no funny stuff going on later on for the agent to be in the middle of. It's funny so many parts of a contractor about what happens when you all break up. So you want to have details about how and why the contract can be terminated like we talked about earlier. They haven't secured a contract for you within a certain amount of time, typically a year to 18 months. If that happens and it does, it's a way to just say, you know what, Thanks so much for your efforts, but this didn't work, and we're moving on. No words. You want to know that the contract can be terminated if they go out of business or they declare bankruptcy. If either of those situations happens, you want that contract ended so that you can go out and find another agent. If they go out of business or declare bankruptcy and and you don't have that clause in there, you could be tied to that contract. Theoretically, they could have a hold on future royalties from you because you are technically still under contract with them. So make sure that that a clause like that is in your contract. The other reason you could terminate a contract is because they fail to pay you in a timely manner. Based on the terms of the contract. You can always pull that card if you are not getting paid in the way it was stated in your contract you can say. Listen, you are not fulfilling your side of the contract. I would like to terminate this contract based on this. So you want to make sure that those kinds of things are in your contract. Here are more details about the break up clause. If you do end up deciding, OK, we're breaking up now. These are the things that you want to know about. You will want to spell out which clients are protected from you, contacting them without compensating the agency and how long that lasts. Let me explain that depending on where you are in the break up phase, your agent should have been doing a fair amount of work to get you in front of manufacturers. They may have gone to shows they may have traveled to visit them, spent money on marketing materials, etcetera. So it makes sense that for a certain amount of time after you break up, they're protected from you going after these clients without them getting some sort of compensation. How this looks will depend on your agent. It might pay for 12 months after the end of your agreement. For that 12 months, Any work that you get from clients that they have designated. You need to share that revenue with them if it's based on the efforts that they made. If you contact the clients on this list and you bring them new work that the agent has never seen, that's all new work. But if you end up making a deal on anything that the agent has shown, anything the agent has had meetings with them about, had conversations about, then you owe some compensation to your agent. It's just one of those things that might make your eye twitch a little bit. But your agent has done a lot of work opening that door for you, and they should be compensated for that. The second thing is, if you have current licenses in place that your agent has secured for you, your agent will be compensated for the remainder of the time on those contracts. Let me give you an example. Say, your agent placed a license for you for coffee mugs, say a set of four coffee mugs, and that contract with that manufacturer for your coffee mugs is a three year contract, and two years into that manufacturing contract, you decide or your agent decides that you don't want to work together anymore. Those coffee mugs air still generating royalties for another year after you and your agent have parted ways. So your agent will continue to get royalties for that specific contract for one more year until that contract runs out and they will earn their commission on that contract. These days can tend to get a little mushy, but you just have to remember that there's a reason you had that coffee monk license in the first place. And that is because that agent secured that for you. And so they should be paid for the remainder of that contract and a few more things at the minimum. Make sure that these points are in the contract for your protection, and there may be some other things in the contract as well. I should have said this in the beginning, but I'm saying it now. You need to have an attorney, particularly one who is well versed in art licensing. You know, you want to have a working knowledge of what this contract looks like, and there may be some other things that you're unsure of. Get help. Do not think you can figure this out on your own unless you happen to go to art school and law school, which most of us did not. Also remember that everything is negotiable. If you don't like something, you can always have that conversation. It doesn't mean you're going to get it. But you can negotiate anything in any contract at any time before it signed that IHS and back to the signing. You are responsible for anything you sign, so make sure you understand it. This is not the time to pull the but I'm just a artist card. You're responsible for anything you sign, so make sure you understand it and again get help in the early days of this because it will help you so much in the long run. And, yes, that was exhausting. Have you finished your copy yet? 8. Your Final Decision: Okay, So how do you make this decision and trust me, it's kind of a big one. So you have had conversations with an agent or several agents. You have looked at their website. You have done a little research on the artists that they represent. You get an idea of who they are and what they're about. You have reviewed their contract and feel like it's fair and you understand all the points to it. And so you are moving toward a decision. You have decided? Yes, indeed. I do want an agent. So you may be having these conversations with several agents and looking at contracts at the same time. Take your time. There is no rush. They will be there when you make your decision. So take your time to do this. Like I said, it is a legally binding contract, and you need to feel comfortable with where you are and what you have decided. Another thing you can do if you're still feel a little on the fence is to talk to some of their artists. As we all know, artists are not that hard to find. So if you see their list of artists and maybe you know some of them. Or maybe you don't and you could reach out to them through social media or send an email through their website and just say, Hey, I'm considering X Y Z agency and wonder if you might spend a couple minutes with me. Have a few questions ready for them. See what they have to say about the agent and their relationship with them. Agents should be fine with you having that conversation with their artists. They should have nothing to hide. It shouldn't be awkward for anyone to have that conversation. Obviously, you want to respect that artist time in that process. And keep in mind that what one artist likes or doesn't like about an agent or how they do business doesn't necessarily mean that that will be a problem for you. People have different comfort zones. Just because they don't like something about that agent doesn't mean that that will bother you. However, if you keep hearing the same red flags that you know would bother you, then seriously think about your decision. If you know that, that's just going to drive you crazy or if there's something about it that do you just keep hearing over and over? That's probably not the right agent for you. The other thing that artists often do when they're considering an agent is an artist will ask who their clients are, who the agent works with client wise. And here's the thing about that. The main thing that agents have in their hip pocket is their access to clients. They have access to the decision makers in the licensing world. They may not be open to sharing their client list with you for a couple of reasons. One is they worked really hard to get those names and access to those people. Also, they want to protect their clients. They don't want to open the door to every artist who wants to talk to them, because sometimes there's a reason those are directors want to remain a little more hidden . And so they are protecting their clients, and they don't know you. These agents don't know you. They don't know if you're just collecting names so that you can go after these clients for yourself and never use an agent yourself. So if you ask an agent, so who do you work with? You might hear something like we worked with fabric manufacturers. We work in stationary. They make you view categories, but they may not give you specific names of clients, and that's just the way it ISS. So don't be surprised or insulted if they don't say, Oh, I work with Mary Sue over a Peabody fabric company. They will probably not be that open to you and tell you those things. And that's just throw it ISS. And remember, just because an agent wants you doesn't mean you want them, and vice versa. You may want to be with an agency of specific agency, and you think that if you're not with that agency, your entire career will be over. There may be another agent who is just a good for you, if not better, than your dream agent. This is a decision that has to be made thoughtfully, and with all of the information that I have given you in this class, which is a lot. I know you're going to have to absorb this, but it's kind of like dating. Just because somebody wants to go out with you doesn't mean you have to go out with them or that you want to go out with them, so just keep that in mind. Just because they think you're fabulous doesn't mean you think they're fabulous. In other words, make your decision based on all of the factors that we have discussed, and not by the fact that that agent wants you really badly. So how do you know if it's a good fit? Like with any relationship? There is an element of risk. You are not going to know this until you're fully into this relationship, so you have to take a leap of faith. And that's why this decision has to be made thoughtfully and taking a little time to do it correctly. How do you know it's a good fit? Well, you feel comfortable with the contract terms and you understand them. There aren't a lot of huge question marks on the contract. You understand each of those points, and you're good with those. You have done your research and establish that they have a good reputation in the industry . That's your homework. That's your research, and you feel like you're styles both aesthetic and communication wise, mesh together. Now, a little point on that. Your agent does not have to love your work in order to sell it. They don't have to be a Zen enthusiastic, as your mother is on your portfolio to get deals for you. So if you're looking for someone to massage your ego, you don't necessarily look to your agent for that. Yes, they want to be able to sell it. Yes, they want to be able to be enthusiastic about why it fits into the marketplace, but they don't have to personally love it. But you should feel like they know what to do with it once they have it. Communication wise, you want to feel like you're on the same page, that you have the same dial that meshes with each other communication wise and that they're there when you need them. And they will have answered all your questions thoroughly, impatiently. They understand that this is a big decision for you. They're not going to rush that decision and they will answer the questions that you need to have answers to. That is a pretty good indicator that you're styles mesh together 9. Frequent Questions: These are questions I often get in my coaching practice from artists who are on the fence about whether or not they should have an agent. And these are things that really didn't fit into all the other lessons, but things that you need to know. So let's get started. When is the best time to hire an agent? Well, guess what? There is no exact time. It depends on you, your work and how you want to manage your business. Some people, it's best that they start straight out of the chute with an agent. They have, ah, very well formed concept. It's ready to go. They are either super busy on managing the rest of their business, and they don't have time for an agent or they don't know where to go. They don't know where to start, but it is certainly poised. This concept that they have completely ready for the marketplace and sometimes straight out of the shoot is a great place to start. It might be a good time to hire an agent when you have ah few licenses behind you. You really want to maximize the kinds of clients you could get that maybe you cannot reach on your own. You want to hire an agent because they can do things that you cannot or do not have the time for or do not have the talent for. I hear this one a lot. Can I have more than one agent? The idea being that well, if I have a bunch of people running around showing my artwork, I will make more money. I will get more licenses. But here's the deal. Most licensing agents will want to be the sole represent er of your portfolio in this market. It gets very confusing. If you have multiple agents knocking basically on the same doors to clients, it just does not work. So the answer of that would be no. Now the only exception to this. If you have an agent working exclusively to secure licensing deals, and you have an agent who is purely involved in, say, editorial or publishing deals, hopefully they stay in their lane and nothing crosses over. However, what we're finding in today's current market is editorial in publishing often has a licensing arm to it. So again it gets complicated, so having one agent is probably your best bet which is why, if you go back to my earlier advice, make this decision very carefully. Can I still work with my current clients? Often, artists will have deals that they have gotten on their own before they decided to work with an agent. These air called house accounts. When you are negotiating with an agent, you can reserve your current clients as house accounts, meaning those air yours. You will continue to maintain them. You will take care of everything on the business side of those clients. It has been my experience that sometimes an artist, after signing with an agent, will turn over the House accounts to the agent to maintain and to develop for a couple of reasons. Now the agent is never going to get paid on anything you did before you signed with them. But if they can have a better relationship with that house account, pay more attention to them than you can. It's Sometimes it's better just turn those house accounts over to your agents. It is really a personal decision which way you go on that you may decide that in the future you don't have to decide that right now and the big question. How much doesn't agent make? Most agents in the licensing arena earn between 35% and a 50% commission on the royalties or fees they secure for you. Generally, the agents on the lower end of that scale may charge you for marketing and trade shows. We discussed that earlier in the contract part of the class. You need to know exactly how much you might be charged for those expenses. So you might say, Hey, they only take 35%. I'm gonna go with them. But if you end up spending a couple of $1000 every year on trade show expenses or marketing materials or something like that, that will change your income. Generally, anyone in the 50% range is probably not going to charge you for those expenses. I do not know every deal with every agent, but it has been my experience. If you are on that higher end of the commission, you're charging far less or zero for those kinds of expenses again, get that really clear from the beginning. No surprises. And when my agent help me with my portfolio, yes, but many answers are yes, but they have an expectation that you're gonna have a solid portfolio pretty much ready to go for them to show they will help you maximize what you're showing as it will help them sign deals and that benefits both of you. And they will give you client feedback to help you improve your portfolio. As time goes on, there are rare exceptions, and I know this from my own experience that an agent will see an artist portfolio that is really not ready to G O. But the concept is so amazing, and they know they want to show it to clients. And they're very excited about getting that out in the marketplace and feels like it really hits something that's might be missing in the marketplace, that they will help you massage that into a portfolio to get you into the market. But generally that takes some time. And so when you think about what we talked about earlier about how long things take to get to market, that they really want to know that you have stuff ready to go, here's the good news. Your agent just brought you a contract for a manufacturer who wants to use your artwork on their products. So you're super excited, and then you look at the deal and you don't really like that deal. What do you do then? What if your agent brings you a deal you don't like? Okay, all is not lost. Do not panic. You always have options in this situation. The first thing is, you could reject that deal out of hand. And frankly, there are some deals that you would want to reject. It is just No, that's not what I want. That's not how this is gonna work. No, not a good deal. You can also negotiate it. Sometimes a contract might be a little wobbly, but there are things that you can push back on. You can work with it and you could negotiate it. They won't necessarily take it. But you can all always try. Generally, deals are not rejected out of hand. There is some push back, and sometimes you can make it right with each other or you go through negotiation and it's still is a stinky deal. So you move on and you can always discuss those pros and cons with your agent. Your agent may say to you I don't think this is a good deal. I think we could try a B and C and see if we could make this a good deal. But you always are the ultimate decision maker of whether you want to go forward with something. And the beautiful thing is, and this is why you have an agent. They're the ones that do the negotiation. You get to sit back and say, Okay, how that go. But you always make the ultimate decision whether or not you will go forward with that deal . You are to human beings and sometimes you're going to have problems. So how do you deal with it? Just like any relationship in your life? Husband, Wife, friend, Mother, Kid Communication is your friend. Don't flip out. Be very clear of what you're having a problem with. Be grown up and communicate well with this agent. If you are having any kind of problems, do not let things simmer. This is just life advice. Sorry. Every fund. This is life advice. Don't let things simmer. Be very clear. And maybe it's a simple thing that can be figured out. And if your problem is with a client This is another beautiful thing. This is why you have an agent. They can step in and smooth the waters. For both of you, this was often my role when I was an agent. If the artist had a problem with the client or the client had a problem with the artist, I could be that person in between to call the client and say, You know, this artist is having a problem with ABC. Anything I can do to help solve this same on the other side If a client called me and said , I'm really having a problem with this artist I'm not sure what to dio. I could take that information and talk to the artist, soften that blow and just say, Here's the deal and try to work out that problem. So that is a beautiful thing about having an agent is that they are between you and the client in case there are problems. But if you have a problem with the agent, you just need to be very clear about that. This is a business relationship. Just don't freak out about it. Figure out a way to say what you need to say clearly and concisely and make sure that this will work for you to make sure that you can work together 10. What I know for sure...: Okay, This is the final part of the class. This is a really big topic, but I hope I've broken it down enough. I've taken sort of the fear out of it for you. That's my goal. Anyway, let's go through the realities of this topic of finding and working with an art licensing agent. Okay, Just tell you these are not meant to bum you out, but to inform you so that you can go on your way with confidence and know what the real deal is. These are my inside secrets for you first. Okay, this will bum you out. There are more artists than agents, so agents can afford to be very selective. Ah, lot of artists say to me, I'm gonna hire an agent. I'm like, OK, well, good for you. Go go through that process, some artists are going to be fought over by several agents, and some artists are just gonna have a harder time finding one if they are interested. Because there are a lot of artists and there's a lot of good work out there right now, so just know that going in that this will be a long process and you'll probably talk to multiple agents. Which brings me to you should have more than one agent in mind when you start. Sometimes you might not click with someone and you want to have those options, particularly when you say, Oh, I really want to be with this certain agency and then you get on the phone with them when you start skyping with them and you think we don't really jive with each other. So you wanna have options. There are a lot of good agents out there, and if you are determined to have an agency relationship, you will find someone that you click with. Some agents may rep as little as a handful of artists, maybe three or four or five, and there are agencies that have hundreds of artists. Neither one is necessarily better or worse than the other. It is your comfort level. Some people would rather be in a very small group. But some of the large agencies that have dozens or hundreds of artists have huge relationships with some really big companies and companies that license a lot, so it doesn't necessarily mean that going to a large place means that you will get lost in that truffle or the with a small company that you will get all the attention that you need . It really is a personal preference. Once you get to know that agent somewhere just don't want to have an agent because they'll lose touch with clients, you will still be in contact with your clients. What often happens is the agent makes your deal. You all signed a contract with the manufacturer, and then you are basically turned over to the manufacturer that you will work with an art director or some sort of creative director to work on the actual project once the deal is signed and the agent takes a bit of a back seat at that point and steps in when needed. But you know, while you're working with the art director and getting the final artwork down and doing whatever that takes to get that product done, your agent is a theoretically getting you more work. But you will be in touch with clients, and you will still be expected to promote yourself and stay active on social media to keep yourself in front of your audience. If you have a newsletter list that you promote your work to art directors. You will probably continue to do that. If you have a social media presence, you will want to build that up. And you know, again, if you have an agent, you should have more time to pay attention to promoting yourself on social media and getting yourself out there and developing that audience, because that will help your agent. That will help your clients, and it will ultimately help you. And it's fun. As I said, there are a lot of good agents out there in the world, and I know many of them. However, there are people out there that call themselves agents, and the first thing they do is ask you for money. Yes, we will. We will represent you. And here's how it works. You send us X amount of dollars and we will put you in our group and we will promote you. That is not how in agency works. That is not how an artist agent relationship works. Nobody gets paid until a deal is made. That's the risk that the agent takes. They should not be asking you for any money upfront. The only exception to that is as we discussed, if you are going to be responsible for any of the expenses, but that would be after you sign, you should never give anyone any money before you sign a deal. And even in the case of sharing expenses, that would be unusual for them to expect money from you before you have made any. Just understand that. Be very cautious about anybody that says that, too. And, of course, like everything, this will take longer than you thought. But finding the right agent for yourself doing your upfront research on agents in general, working through what kind of person you think you want to work with working through their websites, is going to take you a while having those conversations getting feedback. All of this will take longer. And even once you signed with an agent, it's still time as we discuss, to get things rolling. So you have to be in it for the long game. This is not a get rich quick scheme. In fact, Jim and I used to joke that it was a get rich slow scheme, but if you stayed with it with the right people and the right artwork, something should happen. And finally, there's more help if you need it. I'm here for you. If you have questions as I mentioned, put those in the comments below. I will answer as many as I can. As you know, I'm a coach. You can always hire me to help you work through some of the issues that you have. But hopefully I've given you so much that right now you can do this on your own for a while . And also this is a huge topic. I have tried to give you all the aspects of the relationships between an agent and an artist. The main thing I want you to understand is that an agent artist relationship can be a really exciting growth opportunity for you. If it's the right situation, if everybody's going into it with the right attitude and the excitement of building something bigger than you can build on your own, that is the most awesome part of this. So I wish you all the best. I just can't wait to see what you do out there in the world and thank you