“I think I want an agent. How do I hire one?”
“Which agent should I choose?”
“I’m just starting out and I think I’d prefer to work with an agent.”
“I hate the business side of things, so I think I will get an agent.”
I totally get it. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in the studio alternating their time between creating amazing artwork, leisurely drinking hot cups of coffee and cashing royalty checks while your agent runs around the world getting you gigs that you could have only dreamed of a few years ago?
(Hey! I want one of those!)
Screeeeechhh! (That’s that needle on the record sound for those of you who remember those things.)
It’s a new world out there, kids and “hiring an agent” is easier said than done. Maybe you’ve noticed that there are a lot of artists out there. Some of them are reaaaally good. Everyone once in a while I hear of an agent looking for artists, but generally they have their pick of the litter, so to speak.
A few years ago, I heard a prominent licensing agent say that they don’t consider any artist with less than 150 pieces of artwork. Now, that’s a lot of art! Personally, I think that is not necessarily true–but you do have to have a large enough body of work so that the agent can hit the ground running.
Most agents are looking for the following:
- Really good art that resonates with their core clients.
- Enough of a body of work that a client feels like they have a choice and so they feel comfortable that you are not a one hit wonder.
- Consistent additions to your portfolio. When Jim and I represented artists with Two Town Studios, most meetings and conversations with clients started with “So what do you have that’s new?” Something new to show always triggered an email—or if it was really spectacular—a phone call to say—“Open your email—this is really cool!” Also, if work is coming in consistently—deals will come in more consistently. That’s how the math works. You cannot wait for a show or for inspiration to strike. You have to be constantly adding work to your portfolio.
- An artist who is engaged in their career and the rest of the world through social media or other activities that can build their platform.
- An artist who is (reasonably) pleasant to work with, understands the basics of business (particularly this business) and is open to compromise and creative options when necessary.
Most agents are not looking for the following:
- A portfolio that is not well-thought out or consistent with current aesthetics.
- An artist who competes head-to head with another artist in their stable.
- An artist who is unpleasant, unappreciative or dishonest. (Hard to believe, I know!)
- An artist who thinks once they send their portfolio, they never have to be involved in the process again– except for cashing big fat royalty checks.
I think there is a “sweet spot” for when an artist is at the best stage for both them AND the agent.
- A basic understanding of the business and the market.
- A strong portfolio with a point of view and a consistent (though not boring) look.
- A clear picture of what kind of work you want and what your strong suit is—and what you plan to do about it.
So do you still want one?
Presenting your work to an agent is not that different than how you would proceed with a potential client. Do your research just like you would with any potential business partner—check out websites, LinkedIn and Google them to see if they show up in an interview or podcast. Send a simple inquiry with a brief explanation of who you are and what you do, with links to your website or other online portfolio. Have a list of questions (that are not spelled out in the agency contract) ready in case you have further conversations and take your time with the decision.
- How often will I hear from you?
- What’s the one thing I can do to ensure our success? (I’ve never asked that question but I would love to hear the answer!)
- What is it about my work that you think will resonate with your clients?
You will be signing a legally binding contract with this person, so you want to feel pretty comfortable that this is the right fit for you. Make sure you understand all the points in the contract before you sign it. If you feel rushed to sign, slow down the process to a pace that you are comfortable with. It’s kind of a big deal.
And if this is the right step for you, embrace the collaboration and the support you are gaining with the addition of an agent to your Dream Team.
And go draw another picture—your agent is waiting!
Just about every other week, I send out a quickie little update with new blog posts, upcoming classes and events, and maybe even a new cat cartoon. Just shoot me your email from the form over there on the sidebar and you’ll be updated on all the shenanigans! And thank you!