How Long it Takes to Make Money Licensing Your Art
The Cash Flow Cycle of Licensing
If you haven’t licensed your art before, you may wonder how long it will take to make money. Of course, it can vary and each artist’s experience will differ. But below I have outlined the 7 basic stages that will give an idea of what to expect:
- Create the art. You or your agent show it to manufacturers.
- Celebrate! Someone is interested! Contract negotiation starts.
- Sign the contract. (Let’s assume it is January) You will get some money now IF you get an advance. In my experience, that happens about 50% of the time.
- Prepare the art. Make any requested changes or additions to your art and get everything to the manufacturer.
- Now the manufacturer does their part. They need to make sure everything is formatted and ready. Product needs to be made. It is often 6-12 months between when you give them the art and when the art is on the products, in a store.
- Product ships. The manufacturer ships the product with your art, say in January – it’s now been 12 months since signing the deal.
- Most companies pay quarterly – so you will be paid 4 times a year. At the end of the quarter, which would be March, they start to do royalty reports and generally have to have them in the mail within 30 days – so by April 30th. You should have your first royalty check by the first week in May.
As you can see by this example, it can take some time to get the money flowing. Sometimes things move faster but I want you to prepare for this type of time line. If you understand it going into it, you are less likely to get frustrated and give up. Once you have things in the licensing pipeline, you start to get very excited at the end of each quarter and watch for the mail carrier or just go for a Fake ID!
Some artists will buck this system and seem to become huge overnight. It is easy to become a little envious. One of my clients once told me that in her experience, it is the artists with slow and steady growth that do really well in the long run, many who are overnight successes lose their appeal to consumers just as fast.