A commonly asked question I get from artists is: “Will you represent me?” Or, “How do I find an agent to represent me?”
My quick answer is this: Consider representing yourself. It’s tricky to find someone GOOD to represent your work. Any agent willing to represent you without requiring money from you up front is inexperienced. You are better off representing yourself until you can afford to pay someone to manage your business.
Here’s how it works with agents: A good representative will be responsible to help you get sales, put the sale together, deal with the contracts (in some cases), and do the follow up, make sure payments are made, and help with marketing your name and art.
Agents Pay: Agents keep anywhere from 25% – 50% (depending on your deal with them). However, to get a sale, it could take the agent up to 100 hours of prospecting and phone calling and footwork. So, many agents will charge money up front (anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000 per month) so that they aren’t working for free, in the event that your art doesn’t sell. In this case, unless the agent is super-connected, you may be better off paying a salary to a manager.
Warning: Agents that charge up front can be a risk. Be sure to get references and confirm that they are connected to possible clients and they are experienced and straight up. Otherwise, you could be throwing your money away. There are some great agents out there, but there are some hustlers, too. Do your “vetting” before giving your money away!
My personal experience as an artist’s agent has been humbling, as I learned, after about 3 years, that I couldn’t make a good living representing other artists without monies up front (and most artists aren’t willing to pay up front).
I started out representing Drew Brophy almost 10 years ago. Since then, Drew has become known as the top licensed surf artist in history, he has over 30 licensees that pay him to use his art on their products, and he is well respected in the art world. Now, being Drew’s wife and CEO of our company, Son of the Sea, we retain 100% of his earnings (and then we both get paid out of that).
We were so successful with Drew, that when other artists started asking me to represent them, I said, “why not”? So about 6 years ago I started representing other artists, charging only 30% of the earnings from what I sold. This didn’t work out as a good deal for me, as I’ll explain below.
Right now, I’m not taking on any new artists, and I’m cutting back on the work I do for the current artists that I work with.
And here’s why: I don’t like working for free! Now, don’t get me wrong, I do make some money off of SOME of the artists I work with, when I get them a deal that’s over $10,000. However, most deals are $1,000 or so, which means I get $300 or so, which means after all the hours that I put in to put it together, I’ve earned about $15.00 an hour. Not good pay for someone highly educated and talented and knowledgable, like myself. So I’ve cut back and I’m focusing entirely on Drew Brophy, where my company keeps 100% rather than 30%!
My advice to any artist looking for representation: First put in the time and represent yourself. Get better educated on sales, on how galleries work, on the business of art. Read good blogs and websites for artists, like www.artbizcoach.com, and don’t be afraid to spend money on art consultants, which is actually a lot cheaper than paying an agent or manager.
Consultants charge by the hour. They are great to use for specific questions or problems, as well as to help you plan your marketing and sales strategies. I highly recommend Alyson Stanfield, a consultant that I’ve hired in the past to help us with tricky deals. She’s great and extremely knowledgable on galleries, museums, most aspects of the business of art (except licensing). Consultants typically charge anywhere from $100 on up per hour, and are usually worth every penny - you’ll save yourself years of research using consultants.
So go on, represent yourself! You can, just take baby steps and keep learning by reading books and blogs and articles and using consultants. Once you get to the point where you can afford a manager, hire one.
I want you to be successful! Keep reading these posts, and let me know what you think.
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“The most common money-related mistake artists make is a reluctance to invest in their own careers.” Carol Michels
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