Artists ARE built for business


(You can read or listen to today’s post!)

“It’s a great time to be an artist.” This is not the first time I have said this and it won’t be the last.

It’s an even better time to be an artist and a business person. It’s a glorious time to be creative, value your creativity and leverage your smarts especially when you encounter people that think…

…artists are not built for business.

I have a lot of fun things to share from my trip to NYC, speaking at Surtex and walking the Stationery Show.
But first I want to address a prevailing attitude that popped up several times while encountering people who were not artists.

I am not sure if this attitude is more prevalent in art licensing since signing a contract with a manufacturer is like signing a mini prenup or because of the mass rush of artists to enter this arena.  It is time to dissect it and as a community correct it.

For starters, art licensing can be complicated, this is an area where you do need to untangle a lot of “what if’s”…what if this company goes under, is sold with my outstanding products on the shelves? You need measures in place to protect yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn everything you need to know before signing on the dotted line! But that also means….

You should not be sticking your head in the sand to claim, “I just want to be creative.” This is where the old Dr. Phil quote rings true, “You teach people how to treat you.” If the business side of ANY industry is treating you like you are less than brilliant, smart, able to make wise decisions that is because you are letting them.
Make the decision to STOP that right now.

Tweet: Value yourself and other people will value you.

If you don’t value yourself (hey, it happens) call a life coach, therapist or your best friend today and  let’s get that straightened out!

Comb over every aspect of the business you are in and LEARN it. I know you have it in you because I encounter it every day at Smart Creative Women. Everything is figure-outable (Marie Forleo.) The women I interview are just like everyone else! They have had to push up their sleeves and be creative in a business sense as well as aesthetically.

So at some level the (not evil) people making this assumption have run into creatives who simply are not up for the challenge of decision making and taking responsibility for, and valuing their own work. They meet enough of them (and this number could be as low as 2 or 3) and then the assumption begins.  Let’s work as a team together to change all these assumptions! When sell your art to someone who in turns sells the item your art is on, you are partners and partners respect each other. If you are partnering with someone who does not value you or thinks you are easily replaced, do yourself a BIG favor and break up now because to quote the movie, “He’s just not that into you.”

The flip side:
The attitude that artists are inherently not equipped for business is OLD FASHIONED and there are plenty of old fashioned businesses stuck in prehistoric (pre internet) models of making money. There are A LOT of ways to make it as a creative person,  licensing is NOT the Holy Grail. More and more artists are turing DOWN business because they are actually making more income going directly to the consumer and they don’t see why they should make time and the effort to use their earning power for less than they are worth. It really needs to be a win win for everyone and some business people are a little surprised to realize that.

This is where we all come in to educate anyone who under estimates your value. Business involves transactions, you hold the power to make the transaction beneficial for you.


Stand on your own two feet AND stand your ground. Your creativity took a lifetime to master and you are still actively working that muscle and that has value.

I saw so many artists collaborating at Surtex! They came from all over the world (with FABULOUS ART) and managed to get it together to share booths, arrange travel and coordinate effective branding as groups. I cannot begin to tell you what a feat that is! Good, good and more goodness. It was SO incredible to see their ideas and creativity flow.

Now take it to the next level, form mastermind groups with each other. Thoughtfully invest in each other as artists and human beings on the planet and figure out how you can market and monetize your creativity either collectively or simply by bouncing ideas off each other. Was there possible a product idea of your OWN hidden in your marketing efforts? I saw a few!

What ever you do, don’t wait around to be picked.

There is power in picking yourself first and owning what you do.

Don’t put all your eggs in the basket hoping that the perfect deal is going to be a game changer for your entire career. Every decision you make for yourself no matter what the size, is a step the right direction. Figure out a way to bring $ in the door today and don’t despise small beginnings because they lead to great ideas. Cultivate your own business ideas, invest in yourself.

To quote my wise taxi driver, “Business is nothing more than a transaction.” You make them everyday. You’ve got this. Artist are built for business and it is a great time to be an artist.


Below are a list fabulous women who are creative and built for business that I got to reconnect with! For me, this trip was also about catching up with real LIVE people. When I interview someone I always want the continuation of their story, it was so great to catch up with people I had interviewed and with people I have YET to interview!

Lisa Congdon and Clay Wash, dynamo duo. Interview with Lisa here.

Cat Seto, I just love her. If I lived in SFO, I would have coffee with her every week. Interview with Cat here.

Sugar Paper, never get tried of their sweet spirits and chic ideas. Interview with Chelsea here.

Matrick and Eve, Interview with Allison here.

Stephanie Ryan, always makes me laugh. Interview with her here.

Bella Pillar, so sweet and hip. Interview with her here.

Mary Beth Freet from Pink Light Studios (what a cutie!) Interview here.

Heather Davulcu from April Heather Art! She is always so good about me calling her April!) Interview here.

Suzanne Cruise, art agent-shared a panel with her. Interview here.

The team from Ideaologie, ground smarts and know how. Interview here.

Marty from MHS Licensing, pulls no punches, knows the BIZ! Interview here.

Susan January, such a looker! She know greeting cards! Interview with her here.

Tara Reed, always optimistic! Interview with her here.

Kathy Davis, Big business, kind lady! Love her! Interview here.

Jennifer Nelson, her enthusiasm simply bubbles over, in business that is a good thing! Interview here.

Sheila Meehan, up to all sorts of new stuff!  Interview here.

Emily McDowell, rocking the world and TV! Interview here.

Needed to hug but didn’t, sob! Margo Tantau, interview here.

Cori Dantini, OMG! One the the first women I tortured for an interview! She is still as hilarious as ever! Interview here.


Ok, when I started making this list I have NO idea it would be so long!! Even with this list, I missed some people I wanted to connect with. I love Smart Cookies in the business of creativity! (I may have hit up Laduree while I was in NYC)



  • Monica, I love this post and cannot wait to listen to all the other interviews. As we are doing our Surtex follow-ups this is so important to remember! I was hoping to have a chance to meet you at Surtex because I wanted to tell you in person that one of your other posts inspired me to "Try something new" leading me to a whole new pattern collection based on that something new. I love listening to your podcasts while working at my computer.

  • Great article. One suggestion, if you love macarons, hit up my friend's two locations she owns with her husband. Macaron Parlour. Bacon Maple? Fleur de Sel? She has them, both traditional and unusual flavours.

  • hey Monica! have you had the macarons at Ellie's in downcity Providence? we need to do coffee there & catch up.
    Love your posts!

    • Monica Lee says:

      No! I need to try them and YES, we need to catch up! having a party in June for women and fun!! Will send you info, until then cookies!

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