Money Talks, BullHockey Walks (Weeding out the Not-so-Serious)

Money Talks, BullHockey Walks (Weeding out the Not-so-Serious)

Drew and Maria in Studio

Drew and Maria in Studio

The following is an excerpt from a chapter in my forthcoming book titled The Brophy Principles – A Brutally Honest Business Guide for Creative Types:

We get crazy proposals almost daily,  from people who want  to use Drew’s art and fame to help sell their products.  And that’s our job – to make things look cool.

I know that many a good deal can be a diamond in the rough, so I make it a point to entertain every idea, even the ones that sound downright stupid.

The problem, however, is that some of these proposals come from people who don’t have capital ($$).  They want to hang out, talk to Drew for hours about their new venture, and pick his brain for ideas.  Then they disappear.  Drew would rather be painting.


Harsh Lesson Learned – the unpaid Bill:  In our younger years, Drew took a commissioned job from Abercrombie and Fitch.  He worked on this project with the art director for a week.  Then they changed their campaign mid-stream and disappeared.  And they didn’t pay Drew’s bill.  Harsh lesson learned, and we never made that mistake again.  We always get a deposit now.

MONEY TALKS, Bullsh*t Walks When you require a deposit up front, you weed out the serious client from the not-so-serious.  The serious client will pay, and the not-so-serious client will walk away.  And be glad that they did.

Don’t worry about losing a client over requiring a deposit.  If they really want it, they’ll pay it.  If they aren’t willing to pay it, then they don’t have a commitment to the project.  And if there’s no commitment, then why should you waste your time?

Beware of the One who Blows Smoke up Your Keester: One Newport Beach business owner met with Drew and me to discuss licensing.  He was movie-star good looking and pulled up in a convertible Mercedes.  He blabbed for 90 minutes about how successful his company was, and how he wanted to use Drew’s art for his sunglass cleaners and how they would be retailed in over 2,000 stores.  He was investing $50,000 into the marketing of this venture, and he’s already put about a half a million dollars into the development of it.

I followed up with a deal memo outlining the license.  It’s standard to require an advance up front equal to 25% of the first two years projected royalties.  I only asked for $5,000 up front.  Oops, he didn’t have the money.  Would we do it without an advance, he asked.   Mr. Newport Beach guy, where did that $50,000 in marketing go overnight?

After one too many time-wasters, we’ve developed our own Principals to hedge against wasting our time and money on people who aren’t serious about business:

  • Don’t extend credit – unless you’re a bank. I’m not running a bank, so it’s absolute policy that a deposit of 50% is due up front before we start.  The remaining balance is due at the time the painting or project is delivered.  For licensing, we typically get an advance of $5,000 – $20,000 up front (depending on the size of the deal).
  • All Deposits are Non-Refundable:  The advances and deposits are non-refundable.  This is because once the work’s done, it’s done.  We can’t un-do it.  With commissioned paintings, they are typically painted to the customer’s specifications, and usually cannot be resold (especially if you had Drew paint your dog Spike in the painting.)
  • Creative Meetings are Held After a Deposit is Received:  I realize that many artists are working on their own, and so you’ll have to modify this rule a little.  But for us, I let clients know that they can meet with Drew for a creative meeting after we nail down what they want and their deposit is received.  What if they aren’t sure what they want?  Read the next one:
  • Consultation Fee is Charged for a Meeting:  For clients who need Drew to help design a campaign or their storefront, or some other project that isn’t yet determined, the way to weed out the serious from not-so serious is through charging a consultation fee (starts at $300).  It’s payable before the meeting, and it’s credit that goes towards the project once we nail it down.  If the project doesn’t go forward, than we at least got paid for Drew’s 2 hour meeting giving them ideas for their project.

Now I’m sounding hard-nosed, and maybe not a lot of artists are getting inundated with time-wasters like we are.  But believe me, after you realize that your children missed having dinner with their daddy (or mommy) because some guy was wasting your time, you start to get tough!

(Caveat:  When I’m trying to sell someone on our ideas, of course, we will have creative meetings to get them off the fence and into signing a deal.)

There are many great people to work with out there:  Know this and trust in this.  You don’t have to do business with someone you can’t trust or count on.

Last year we were in discussions with Converse Shoes to do a Drew Brophy line.  Early on, it was made clear by Converse that they don’t give advances.  This was a problem for us.  And you can imagine, doing a deal with Converse was huge for us – we didn’t want to blow it.  But at the same time, I know what I know about commitment and money.  So I explained to my guy at Converse how much work on our end it will be to design the shoes, and how our business model works.  They gave it consideration, and agreed to do what they don’t normally do – give an advance of royalties up front.  Converse is an example of a company that can commit, and put their money where their mouth is.

I can’t say it enough:


Sure, there could be “POSSIBLE” royalties later, down the road, 2 years from now.  And that’s IF they do a good job of marketing and sales and creating the line.  And IF they don’t lose focus on something else, and IF they don’t go bankrupt, etc. etc.

If a potential client can’t give you a deposit, then they may never pay you anyway.  The bottom line:  Create yourself a business model that makes sense, that keeps you working on paying projects, and one that doesn’t require a collections department.

Spunk BrophyI want to see you be successful.  Please, comment below and let me know your thoughts on this!  Share your stories, happy and sad.

Spunk Brophy xxoo  (Follow me on Twitter, please!)

PS:  If you liked this post, Tweet it or Facebook it for others.

Spread the love
  • Rik Erickson
    Posted at 11:33h, 22 October

    Great advice. I re-learned some valuable lessons here!
    The same applies to my biz also…If they’re serious they’ll “Put Some Skin In The Game” otherwise you can move on to someone who PROVES that they respect your talents.


  • What to Charge for Art Licensing – Royalties Advances and Flat Fees - Maria Brophy | Maria Brophy
    Posted at 18:05h, 26 April

    […] The main reason we almost always require an Advance for Drew’s work is that it helps me to weed out the serious people from the not-so-serious. […]

  • Kimberly McSparran
    Posted at 12:04h, 03 October

    Thanks for the great article. I’ve been licensing my designs for 30 years now and still have a lot of trouble getting paid. I have been unable to find a company that will pay upfront advances, no matter how small. One company who I worked for for over ten years, but it was bought out so the management changed, would only pay me $1500, for a whole year…(they told me that was the deal they had with Hallmark, take it or leave it) no guarantee anything would go into production, AND, they wouldn’t sign my contract until they saw more of my archives, I told them we’ve had 3 meetings, and I’ve emailed you my archives for over a month. I decided NO more fishing expeditions!

    I have a problem now with a family owned business for three generations. It is hard to see a venerable institution sink, and I certainly don’t want them to go into chapter 11, but they owe me 2 quarters of royalties and have not paid me. I bugged the accountant enough to get the statements and they now owe me about $8000. I’m beside myself!!! What would you do?

    I have another client who published 10 of my paintings and went into chapter 7. I have to file a proof of claim, but don’t know what to do because I only received about 5 monthly statements in 5 years. How do I come a with reasonable figure that they owe me?
    Your support is greatly appreciated!

  • Heather
    Posted at 23:35h, 29 September

    When are you coming out with this AMAZING book??? I can’t wait! You are helping everyone out on this one! I am in a bind at the moment with a current “client to-be” (you know who they are) and just trying to get the information straight let alone a deposit is hard enough. This confirms that they really need to pay a “small” deposit especially for time spent for travel and meeting time! Like Kyle said, they are going to pay you anyways! Everyone goes through this stage at the beginning of every deal and a deposit means they take you seriously and respect you as an artist. Thanks again for helping us weed out the “bullshitters”!!!

  • kyle goodwin
    Posted at 09:11h, 29 September

    Yep—great lessons shared! I’ve spent way too much time in the past working on designs, etc. for projects that faded away and I too have learned and now I don’t even pick up my pencil until I have a deposit. What’s the big deal about paying a deposit?—The client is supposedly going to pay anyway, right??? If they won’t pay the deposit they may not ever pay anything!!
    Thanks for helping all of us!

  • Tyler
    Posted at 10:40h, 28 September

    As a web designer and graphic artist, I totally agree with your deposit thoughts. They will ALWAYS pay up front for you to do the work. And you are right, those that won’t aren’t worth your time. Great article.

Post A Comment