Licensing might not sound that sexy to you, but I bet making a whole bunch of money does. And, licensing can help get you there. You don’t have to be a starving artist in order to enjoy and feel passionate about your work. You can make money, afford health insurance, and have a retirement plan all while loving what you do. That’s the power of licensing for creative entrepreneurs.“Licensing” is a term that gets thrown around a lot but many creative entrepreneurs struggle to understand exactly what it is. Licensing is what allows you to make money on your works by selling the rights to others. When you know what you’re doing, this can be a huge benefit for you. But, when you move forward without really understanding what you’re signing and giving away, you’ll probably regret it later down the road.
In this episode, you will learn:
● The difference between licensor and licensee (don’t worry, you’re not the only one that gets stuck on this)
● The key terms that you need to understand in a licensing agreement
● How the Copyright cake works (Did someone say cake?!)
● What you can license
● What you need to know about royalties
● Why you need to protect your work before worrying about licensing
● When you need to register your trademark
For more information, listen to:
● Episode 10: Copyrights vs. Trademarks
Resources to check out
Places to license your work yourself
“You have a copyright cake. And, when you create something, you have the whole cake. What’s cool about it is it’s yours. Because you created it, you have all these different options of how you can slice the cake.”
“When someone talks about selling rights, they’re talking about licensing.”
“If you have not taken the step to protect your work, either through copyright or trademark, then when you get to the step that you want a license, it’s going to be a little tricky. You’re going to be in a weaker bargaining position because whoever your counterpart is on the other side, your licensee, who is supposed to be paying for the right to use your things… but if you have not taken steps to protect what you have, then why frankly do they have to pay you? Sometimes they don’t… That’s not a good position to be in.”
“You don’t have anything to license unless you’ve protected your name.”
“If you are getting into this game, make sure you develop a portfolio, that you have some collections that will coordinate, that go together and that that’s what you’re offering to whoever it is that you want to work with.”
“There’s also the option for you to license things yourself. There are some platforms where you can license your own work and have print on demand options for people to put your artwork and content on their products that they’re interested in.”
“If you have a work of yours that’s doing well that you think has a lot of commercial appeal or is starting to get a lot of attraction, please, please, please register the copyright to that work.”
“If they are asking to have the exclusive rights to your content, to your work, then that means you can no longer sell. If you’re giving them all the pieces of your copyright cake, you don’t have any pieces left. Look down at your cake pan; it’s empty. Now they have all those pieces which mean they can make all the money or, this is the awful or, they can sit on it. They can do nothing. And, that’s why you really need to make sure you’re looking at your contract closely to see are you giving them exclusive rights.”
“Remember, every single term in a contract can be negotiated.”
“Here’s the thing that a lot of people need to understand, you don’t start getting your royalty checks— you will not see magic money coming into your bank account, to your mailbox— until you have paid back or earned back all of the percentages of whatever the advance was.”
“Do your research, do your homework, make a good pitch.”
Steps to Licensing
1. Do your research
You want to do an intellectual property audit. You can work with an IP attorney, like me, that knows how to take a look at your portfolio and brand to see what you need to do to protect it right now. Remember, you don’t have anything to license or franchise if you haven’t protected it first.
2. Know your market
Before you start approaching people, make sure you understand what they are looking for. You don’t want to waste time approaching someone that doesn’t sell the items that you have. Take time to talk to people that are working with licensing. You can even work with a licensing agent in the field to help you with this step.
If you aren’t a self-starter that is comfortable making calls and inquiries, and striking up conversations with people out in public, you might be better off working with an agent.
3. Make the pitch
People are lazy, so you want to make working with you as easy as possible. Think about the perspective of the other person. What questions will they have? What challenges will they spot? The more you prepare and plan for these things, the easier it will be in the long run.
Remember that most companies aren’t going to have a single decision-maker. There will be multiple people that have to agree on it. The following can help you get that contract you’re after:
● Create a collection – Anytime you’re going to approach someone, you’re going to want to have a collection of items. Usually, just a one-off product isn’t going to be enough. It’s not going to be worth the hassle of setting up the contract, creating samples, determining payments, and all the back and forth between the two parties for just one item or piece of work. Develop a portfolio of similar works that go together that you can offer.
● Create a mockup – You can create a mockup or plan of what you want the end product to look like. It’s going to be easier for people to see what it looks like to work with you. These don’t have to be high-resolution images, just something to let people get a feel.
4. Follow up and be persistent
People are busy. If you want to make this happen, it’s your job to follow-up with people. Connect with them through social media. LinkedIn is a great place to find the person at a company that you should be in contact with. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they received your emails or voicemails. Find out if they have questions and if they’re interested. Don’t cross the line into obnoxious, just stay connected.