Licensing Your Art with Cass Deller

Jun 10, 2024
Cass Deller

Last year at the Typism Summit, we had the pleasure of hosting Cass Deller, a seasoned artist and entrepreneur, who shared her invaluable knowledge on licensing artwork.


Following her presentation, there was a great Q&A session, where she shared some practical advice about licensing your artwork.

With the next Business of Lettering Summit coming up soon, we decided to revisit the discussion and offer guidance for artists navigating the licensing world.


Cass Deller’s Licensing Journey

Cass began her journey into the creative industry with a passion for lettering and illustration. She transitioned from creating wedding stationery to surface design and then licensing.

Her initial experiences with licensing were marked by trial and error. Cass shared a notable early mistake—selling an exclusive design for $100, which she could never use again.

This experience underscored the importance of understanding the value of her work and the mechanics of licensing agreements.

Cass attributed much of her entrepreneurial spirit to her upbringing in a family that ran a hospitality business. This environment nurtured her risk-taking and business acumen. Despite her confidence in general business practices, Cass initially lacked the confidence to navigate the design industry independently.

She highlighted the importance of gaining experience through employment before venturing out as a freelancer. Working under a successful business owner gave her the practical skills and confidence to manage clients and pricing effectively.

Building a Licensing Library

Cass’s licensing library emerged organically from client demands. Initially, she responded to inquiries with a simple PDF showcasing a few patterns. Realising the potential, she created a comprehensive design library on her website, offering exclusive and non-exclusive options.

This system allowed her to monetise her existing work continuously and efficiently.

Cass highlighted the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive licenses and how each could be tailored to meet client needs.

Creative Process

Her creative process always begins with watercolour paintings. She emphasised the importance of developing a signature style that feels natural and authentic, and she prefers traditional methods, such as using paint and paper, before digitising her work.

Cass believes this tactile approach connects her deeply to her creative process. She then scans her artwork and uses Photoshop to create repeat patterns or placement prints, making the digital transition as seamless as possible. Typical licensing terms usually range from one to two years.

Cass stressed the importance of transparency with clients, especially regarding the previous use of designs. Maintaining long-term client relationships through honesty and clear communication has been crucial to her success.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the Value of Your Work: Avoid underpricing your designs. Learn from Cass’s early mistake of selling an exclusive design for just $100.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Working for an established business can provide invaluable skills and confidence before going freelance.
  • Develop a Signature Style: Focus on creating art that feels natural and authentic to you.
  • Build a Licensing Library: Create a collection of designs that can be licensed out. This can provide a continuous income stream.
  • Differentiate Between Exclusive and Non-Exclusive Licenses: Understand the implications of each. Exclusive licenses are typically more valuable, but non-exclusive licenses allow for repeated sales.
  • Maintain Transparency with Clients: Always inform clients about the previous use of designs. This builds trust and maintains long-term relationships.
  • Typical Licensing Terms: Licensing agreements usually range from one to two years. Be flexible and open to negotiation based on client needs.
  • Continuously Update Your Library: Keep your licensing library fresh with new designs to attract repeat clients and new business.
  • Be Open to Trial and Error: Don’t be afraid to try new approaches and learn from mistakes.

Cass Deller’s journey and insights offer a comprehensive guide for lettering artists interested in licensing their work.

Her emphasis on understanding the value of your designs, gaining practical experience, and building a licensing library are vital takeaways for any creative professional.

With the next Business of Lettering Summit coming up soon, jump on the waitlist for a range of free talks.

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