Q&A with Lilla

question of the dayWALL

It’s Friday so it must be time for Lilla’s popular Q&A column, with questions from the previous class of Make Art That Sells. You can see what a wide variety of topics are covered – and you might even find the answer to that burning question you have been wanting to ask! We will be sharing a host of questions and answers over the next few Fridays so stay tuned!

Q) If you do know artists whose main income is licensing, how long have they been in the field and what’s an average number of licenses that one might need to have their income mainly from licensing?

Lilla: There is no average number of licenses that they need. They have been in the field for a number of years. It takes time to build up, just as it does for any business that you would start, whether it’s a shop or an internet business.

Most of my artists work in many or most of the 10 markets that I teach in Make Art That Sells. Therefore, they are able to bring in a very nice income with licensing deals, book illustration, and editorial/advertising work for example. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you must allow time to build up your business, but the cool part is you can never be fired from your job, and you can keep growing and make all your own decisions regarding the direction of your own career. Yay! I totally supported myself including paying my entire apartment rent and studio rent in New York City by drawing pictures for almost a decade, and then in New England until I became an agent. Did I work hard? Yes? Was it awesome? Yes! After being an illustrator, I morphed into being an agent, then I launched my own craft jewelry line, then wrote a book, followed by creating this very e-course with the brilliant Beth! I personally love a lot of freedom and career control, and I bet you do, too. This course will give you what you need to know and will help you make your work the best it can be for each market. And guess what? It gets so much easier as you go, because one thing leads to the next. But remember, great art sells, and that is why you are here!

Q) Do you have any advice on finding out what style and medium works best for each person and how to figure out which style to develop?

Lilla: Wow, I love that question. I wish I could create some brain wave electrode magic device to do so! The answer is found in your gut. When you use paint, do you love it or hate it? When you smush around pastels are you in heaven or find it irritating? That’s why art is about the search to find your truest passions. When I’m excited about something I know I’m on track. I feel it in my body. Mediation and yoga are helpful in this regard. Our culture teaches us the opposite of this, so don’t feel badly if this is initially hard to do. It gets much easier with practice.  In fact, when a child is passionate about art, that is how I measure talent.

Q) If you sell/license a design can you use the same icons in other designs for that same market or do you always have to change them a little bit?

Lilla: You must change them up. You can’t sell the same designs to competitors in the same market. If in doubt, show the two to your clients and see what they have to say. Get their opinion. Over time you’ll get a feel for it.

Q) Is there variation across the different markets in terms of financial return? I don’t mean just in terms of fee per design, but do particular markets buy more designs? And do top designers command higher fees?

Lilla: Top designers do command higher fees. As you get busier, you can increase your fees. I don’t know if I have an answer for which markets pay the best. Cards don’t pay much per card, but you can often sell lots of cards to a client if they like your style. If you hit it right with apparel, then you can sell a lot to those folks, etc. All of our artists work in a number of markets and that’s how they make a living. It takes time to build up you client list so know that this is not a get rich quick game.

Q) For those of us who are still developing our styles and are not yet working as freelancers, the path from ‘here’ to ‘there’ can seem a little overwhelming. Can you outline a sort of “action plan” of steps for getting started (after doing lots of artwork, of course)?

I go into this in more detail in Make Art That Sells (MATS) Part A but in a nutshell, you would first reflect upon all that you’ve learned. What are you most excited about? What art did you do the most successfully in class? You would continue to make more pieces until you have a number of strong pieces. You put them on your website and do e-mailings to art directors at companies. Also review the info from each MATS week about how to get work in that market, and use this as a basis for an action plan.


Got your own questions for Lilla? Join us for the next round of Make Art That Sells. Class begins March 31.

Book your spot here!


  • Hi Lilla, when are you going to have Bootcamp again?

    March 14, 2014
    • Hi Sigga – there won’t be another until 2015!

      March 18, 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *