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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Art Licensing Editorial: Why, Where & How to Network

If you have read articles about licensing art, you probably heard that networking is an excellent way to gain visibility. That is because art licensing is a business of relationships as are most businesses'. As you build your relationships with artists, agents, consultants, manufacturer owners and art/licensing directors, retailers, etc., you are promoting yourself and your art, learning important information about art licensing by asking questions, and make connections that may lead to referrals and possible future opportunities. Read the following to find out where and how to network in the art licensing industry.

Where to Network
Social networking via the Internet
– Facebook
For information about Facebook, read "How To: Use Facebook for Professional Networking"

– Google Plus
Learn about Google Plus by reading "How to Use Google Plus for Professional Networking [10 Smart Ways]"

– Linkedin groups
Once you belong to Linkedin and create your profile, you can join some of the art licensing groups such as Art of Licensing, Greeting Card, Stationery & Gift Industry Gurus, Licensing Commercial Art, and International Licensing Industry Mercandisers' Association (LIMA). For ways to use Linkedin read, "Linkedin 101 | How to Effectively use Linkedin as a Networking Hub"

• Trade and Licensing Shows
Either walking or exhibiting at trade shows are excellent ways to meet manufacturer art/licensing directors face-to-face. Artists that work with art directors say that meeting in person to discuss design ideas and plan future projects are much easier and more satisfying than via email or by phone.

– Attend wholesale trade shows such as the Atlanta Gift Show that is held twice a year. For information about trade shows, read "Art Licensing: Why Walk Wholesale Trade Shows?"

– Attend or exhibit at art licensing shows such as Surtex in New York each May and Licensing Expo in Las Vegas each June.

• Retail stores
Questioning small gift shop owners and managers is a good place to find information about what type of art sells best on product and why the retailer carries certain manufacturer products. Especially during the off season or the quiet part of the day, many store owners and managers are more than willing to discuss products and the artist's work they carry. I have also learned a lot from retailers about manufacturer reps, product delivery, product quality, and minimum product requirements. All this information is useful when creating designs and choosing what manufacturer to approach for licensing consideration.

• Licensing show seminars
Introducing yourself to attendees and exchanging business cards while waiting for a seminar to start and approaching the seminar presenters after the seminar is another way to start a relationship. It can be followed-up with a short email to continue the relationship.

• Receptions
Local art show receptions and receptions at wholesale trade shows that are often sponsored by manufacturers are other networking opportunities.

• Art associations
Search the internet, local art schools, colleges or adult education that offers art classes or the chamber of commerce to see if there are any local art and design associations or groups where you can network and share information.

• Local Art Licensing support groups

Support groups are excellent ways to network and share information. There are at least three art licensing support groups in the U.S.; in the Denver Colorado area, in the San Francisco California area and in the Kingston New Hampshire area. To find out how to form your own support group read "Start an Art Licensing Support Group" by Kate Harper.

But for many artists it is VERY difficult to network. If artists are shy or introverts or both, phoning, emailing, and meeting strangers are too uncomfortable. In researching for this article, I found out that being shy is different from being an introvert. Shy people are afraid of rejection, sounding stupid, think they have nothing important to say, and have no idea what to say to strangers. A shy person does not necessarily want to be alone but is afraid to interact with people they do not know. However, an introvert prefers time alone and gets emotionally drained after spending a lot of time with others. According to statistics there are about 25% introverts and 50% shy Americans.

How to Network
There are ways to overcome shyness and the most important is to be prepared with elevator speeches (short 30 second introductory remarks) about yourself and your art and be willing to ask questions. For more information to combat shyness, read the following articles in no particular order.

• "The Networking Disconnect" (Why you should network.)
• "How to Network: 12 Tips for Shy People"
• "How to Create People Networking Skills"
• "5 Networking Tips For People Who Hate Networking"
• "24 networking tips that actually work"

Using Elevator Speeches
Below are articles on how to create and use elevator speeches and some examples. Note: If you are exhibiting at Surtex or Licensing Expo, make sure you read Tara Reed's article "Elevator Speech" ready for the SURTEX 2013 show?"

• "How to Craft Your Elevator Speech - for Artists"
• "The Elevator Speech" (with examples)
• "Elevator Speech Do's and Don'ts"
• "Sample Elevator Speeches" (examples that are interesting, not boring, but maybe a little over the top)
• "Writing an Elevator Speech for Photographers" (example on attempts and final version).
• "Do you have an "Elevator Speech" ready for the SURTEX 2013 show?" by Tara Reed (with examples)

So if you want to gain visibility of your art and learn more about art licensing, step outside your comfort zone and start networking! I am a shy person but no one is aware of it when they meet me because over the years I have learned to put on my social hat when I go out in public. I use to dread making cold-calls or meeting manufacturers at trade shows until I found out about memorizing elevator speeches. Being prepared on what to say made all the difference. Now I actually look forward to meeting people that I do not know. And I found that I can even handle rejections and brush-offs that occur occasionally. After all, it is just part of the business that I am passionate about :)

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.


  1. once again, great info...a little less clueless, thanks

  2. (My comment disappeared so I'm writing it again - hope it doesn't come out in duplicate!)

    Thank you, Joan - I'm hoping to enter the world of licensing sometime before my 70th birthday in June and I've been so grateful to find your blog, packed full of wonderful, useful information!

    Must admit that, as an introvert, networking isn't my favourite way to spend time so I'll set aside some time to follow your 'tip' links!