Since hitting the 4 YR mark, which I referenced in my last post, I’ve been doing a bit of reflection. (
all most of this was brought on by a conversation with my best friend, Amy, over a glass of wine and delicious food on Saturday night.)
This will require a little bit of a rewind…
(Please keep in mind the thoughts in the below paragraph are only my view point, not an actual representation of the field.)
I stumbled upon art licensing.
While receiving my degree in illustration, no one taught me about it, or mentioned that it was an option, or even a career. When I first discovered it 4 years ago, it seemed like a majority of artists in the licensing field had an incredible design career, and then reached a point where they decided to do something for themselves. For example, I would read multiple stories like,
“I just couldn’t find anything cute for my kids, so I decided to do it for myself…”
By the age of 24, still very young in the design world, I was the Art Director for a product manufacturing company that made napkins. About a year into my job, the company wanted to start an everyday line of napkins for things like birthdays, holidays, and girly get togethers. I had lots of ideas for designs to start out this new line, but the company decided to license a collection of new designs from an outside artist. That was the first time I heard of “licensing” art and paying someone for it.
I immediately spent all my time looking up everything I possibly could about this “art licensing” and finding out: who does it? how they do it? what it’s like? how does someone get into that field? are their artists I like out there? are there things I’ve seen or own that have been licensed? etc. I was enamored with the idea that my art could be put on a multitude of products, my name would be on those products AND of course I would get paid for it! Something clicked in my mind, this was what I had been looking for.
So we developed the new line. I stood by quietly, my brain swirling with ideas that I thought my friends and I would surely buy… I would draw on blank sample napkins all day, every day. And lucky me, at a certain point, it was time to update our line and the company decided I had some good ideas and we would use them! I was so excited! MY name would appear on a product, it was something I’d always wanted. (This is actually where I learned my first lesson in art licensing the hard way. Sign a contract first or you’ll get screwed. More on that subject some other time.) I created a bunch of ©Lezlee Elliott napkins that were fantastic!!!! WHAT!?!? Everybody loved them, and over the 6 months we noticed that my designs consistently made an appearance in the top selling designs for each month. This was great news! It means I had solid proof that my ideas were likable and people PAID FOR them! This was a whole new world for me.
Eventually, the company gained lots of interest and everything seemed like it was moving in this amazing direction, when suddenly we had interest from a much bigger company to BUY us. It was an opportunity to work with a major manufacturer on a much larger scale, it was like our dreams for this company were coming true! Throughout this process of proposals and numbers my coworkers and I, which Amy happened to be one of, came to the realization that this purchase may not actually happen and we needed a Plan B like asap. That’s when I decided art licensing might be next for me. This is when the Chili’s meeting happened and I began developing a small portfolio.
Jump to the end already, the company did not get purchased and corporate thought it was a good decision to let me go.
to conserve money??? The job market was in a major recession, I was now almost 26, and my choice was either find another job or make art licensing a reality. I made the leap. Well… I guess I was pushed, but I decided now was as good a time as ever.
Fast forward to Saturday…
In the beginning, my goal was just about being successful at art licensing. That was enough for me! I mean I’d made the leap to be my own boss, and I was going to “take over the world” as a licensed artist and I was super excited. And now, 4 years later, I’m actually starting to achieve some of those goals, so as my best friend Amy asked me on Saturday, “what’s next?”
My initial response?
FREAK OUT: What do you mean what’s next??!!?!? I just got here, to where I’ve been working so hard to get for the last 4 years??? How do you expect me to have a “next”?? I don’t know if I’m like most people, but I didn’t think about the part after you achieve your goals. But, she made a valid point…
“if your only goal is to get to where you are, you’ll never go any further.”
She’s right. Damnit. I’d made an initial leap, and was content just where I’d landed. I was achieving the goals I had set for myself 4 years ago… and had not one single thought past that. I made the leap most people don’t even attempt to make and that was enough for me. But was it?
Most people I know, and myself, have big dreams, but at what point do you define them as actual steps to take towards achieving that dream? Organizing what has to happen in which order and with what information to take the next step. It’s a difficult thing to do if you’ve never tried. And at this point, I was confronted with a question that I was not prepared to answer.
But in true best friend fashion, Amy was there to help me answer it. We wound up talking for hours about where I really wanted to go, how I could actually get there, what small steps and big leaps would need to be taken, who’s support I would require, etc. It was an eye opening, mind bending, juices flowing type conversation… and by the end my freak out turned into a proactive plan to “take over the world.”
I’ve taken one leap already, and it’s been amazing. Soon it’ll be time to take another one, and I’ll still be just as nervous and terrified as the first one, but I know it’ll be worth it. And after that leap? I know what comes next.
How about you?
This post is dedicated to my two best friends, Amy and Liz.