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What You Should Know About Contracting with a Big Brand

If you’re a maker you may have dreams of contracting with a big brand. Maybe you’re trying to sell you gorgeous handmade jewelry at Anthropologie? Maybe you’re a weaver and want your wall hangings sold at Urban Outfitters! Or maybe you’re an artist like me and want to sell your paintings at West Elm. I woke up one day and found out that it happened, West Elm was selling prints of my artwork. Read the story of how one of my paintings began selling at West Elm here. However, my business and my life didn’t change that much after the fact here are the things I wish I knew and the expectations I wish I had.

First a brief disclaimer; every big company is different and may contract with your business differently than they did with mine. This is my own personal experience and am in no way saying all big businesses will treat you the same or that you will have the same results as me. This is just what I wish I knew beforehand.

What You Should Know About Contracting with a Big Brand, by Christine Olmstead , via Rising Tide Society

5 Things “I wish I knew” before contracting with a big brand

  1. That you need a lot of contracts with a lot of different big brands.
    I have big goals and big dreams. Yay me! You probably do too! Yay you! What I didn’t realize is getting one contract with West Elm wasn’t going to make me an instant big success. Many of the artists that I look up to and admire have many online contracts with many big different brands and they are further down their own different paths and that’s ok. We are all different artists with different abilities and goals. But one contract didn’t make a big dent in my goals.
  2. I couldn’t set my own price.
    This is a big one, but corporations work the way corporations work and they’re prepared to offer you one thing. There is little to no wiggle room in that and unless you’re already a big brand or manufacturer (exp. Rifle Paper company). I’m not selling thousands of prints a day and am not a manufacturer, I had no room to haggle, they would have found someone else in a snap if I didn’t take what they offered.
  3. There is very little communication.
    I guess I had some funny idea that I would get a relationship out of a big contract. That once I made it in they would know me and we could have metaphorical sleepovers and braid each other’s hair. No one from West Elm has ever braided my hair and I have never slept over (mainly cause its trespassing, but wouldn’t it be fun? 😛 ). I didn’t get some magical relationship out of the contract and actually just because West Elm sells your work once doesn’t mean they ever will again (ouch). They have a revolving door of vendors and endless amounts of people who want to be sold by them. I praise them for how willing and awesome they are at working with small businesses and no name artists and vendors. But it doesn’t mean your company and theirs are BFFL.
  4. Getting accepted to a big brand doesn’t come with champagne.
    BOOO! The world needs more celebratory champagne. I wanted and had built up in my mind the gloriousness of a big brand contract, but when I got it there were no fireworks, no chorus of angels broke out singing, and there was no champagne. I got an email asking for my bank routing number. Sweet, but it wasn’t the diamond engagement ring I imagined in my mind.
    And for my final trick, I leave you with the news that I didn’t get rich or famous. I have a tiny bit of residual income coming in and I am so thankful! I really am. But I still have to hustle, work hard, find marketing opportunities, promote, sell and generally work my buns to toast the exact same way I was before.

Those are the five things I wish I knew before contracting with a big brand. Would I try and do it again! Of course! And if that is your dream you should too! Most of all I’m thankful for the opportunity and what I’ve learned! Have you contracted with a big company and had a different experience? Or do you have more questions? I’d love to hear about! Shoot me an email at [email protected]

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