How an artist making pennies in royalties built a thriving business with his family

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Nate was the only boy in a family of all girls. Which meant he had a chance to spend lots of time with his dad, who worked at home.

Greg, Nate’s dad, worked at home from the time his children were little.

“I remember,” Greg’s youngest daughter Kylie recalls, “when I was six years old, going to a friend’s house and seeing her dad come home from work at 6:30 PM and it was so hard for me to grasp that her dad was gone all day and he wasn’t just home all day hanging out.”

In some ways, Greg was living the dream. He was an artist. Working from home. And his art was actually selling.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

But the biggest challenge Greg has always faced is obscurity.

And along with lack of recognition, comes lack of funds.

So Greg found himself, early on, making only pennies on the dollar to license his artwork.


Note: today’s post is all about episode 2 of our new podcast, Freelance to Founder. For more detail and the complete story, you can listen to Greg’s episode below (or on iTunes or Pocket Casts.)

You'll also enjoy this episode of our new podcast...


“I remember looking at royalty reports when I was 12 and … seeing how my dad got compensated and … being like ‘Dad, why don’t you do this all on your own?’ And he would always…create this ‘huge monster’ and it was a better deal to do it the way he’d been doing it.”

But eventually, Greg left the giant national publisher (who’s now out of business) who was licensing his work.

So he started a publishing company of his own.

Unfortunately, Greg followed what he had learned from his national publisher—and built the wrong kind of business. One that wasn’t reflective of just one artist.

This is where Nate enters the picture in the business.

Early on, Nate worked in the business owned by Greg and Nate’s uncle. But early on, he talked to his uncle and convinced them to come up with an entry-level position.

Nate could tell his dad was getting stressed. He had stopped painting all the time. He had a huge payroll looming over him each month.

And it didn’t make any sense to Nate that his dad wasn’t making the most out of everyone in the company.

After all, his art is what made this business work.

“There was just so much excess that it started making me sick because I didn’t look at it being excess. I looked at it as … affecting my dad.”

So Nate started wondering… “can we do the same thing with less?”

And years later, Greg, Nate, and their family are running a highly successful, exciting, growing art company.

To hear the full story of how they did it, listen to this week’s episode of our first-ever podcast, Freelance to Founder.

You can also listen to the entire first season of Freelance to Founder on our website, in iTunes, or through Pocket Casts.

Photo credit Greg Olsen & Deseret Book Company.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

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  1. Preston, I always knew you would amount to something. Great blog and article. Thanks! Vicki Nye