Who's Making A Living At This?
Submitted by Scott Reed on February 21, 2007 - 13:55
I'm a little depressed this week, because I had to divert much of my time away from making webcomics to beginning new web design contract jobs, which makes up the majority of my income. I stay busy with privately commissioned comics, sporadic work for independent publishers and freelance writers, and of course my own weekly updated webcomic, Champion of A Lost Universe.
But like I mentioned, I'm depressed, because even though I love my career as a web designer, my real passion, as anyone who knows me can attest, is writing and drawing comics. I've had sporadic moments in my career as a cartoonist where I have been able to actually call it a career without cringing or shifting my eyes in barely concealed guilt or embarrassment. You can make money in comics, good money, but I'm still not convinced you can make a living in webcomics. And that's not just because I haven't been able to do it yet.
I know of 2 or 3 people out there claiming to make a decent living creating and publishing webcomics, but I've never seen any hard numbers from anyone, nor any actual business strategy that can be studied and applied in a meaningful way. I don't know if thatâ€™s due to an effort to protect one's business trade secrets or whatnot. And I'm willing to stand corrected if there are such resources out there. And yes, I understand that one model of success doesn't necessarily translate from one webcomic to the next. But by now, there should be someone who's provided some informative online resource about his or her 'secrets of success'.
Fifteen years ago, I was 21 years old and living with my parents. In the basement. I owned a lava lamp. I'm willing to admit this, because I'm not ashamed of that chapter in my life. Well, maybe the lava lamp part. Anyway, I was working very hard trying to break into comics, and I supported myself working crappy jobs, and then coming home and churning out submission samples to publishers. My parents were a little dismayed by all of this, but they were supportive to the extent that they understood I was working towards something.
Iâ€™m certain that if the Internet was around back then, I would have also been publishing a daily web comic and making more money from it than I do now. Today, I have far more responsibilities, which often hamstrings my efforts to publish webcomics on a regular basis. I don't have enough hours in the week to work on web marketing and implementing all the various web advertising strategies and models. Sometimes I'm lucky just to get the latest episode finished in time to publish by mid-week, even though my site boasts a new episode every Monday. This week, paying comic gigs and the search for future higher paying gigs outside of comics took priority. I'm okay with that, because there is more to life than publishing webcomics. I am still working toward larger goals, but my life is much different now than it was all those years ago. I have the responsibility of raising a family, which are not a burden to me, but a privilege.
But the good news is, now that I've written this out, I'm not feeling quite as depressed about missing this week's webcomic schedule. Put your violins away, please.
Ultimately, being a webcomic creator means being dedicated to a medium that has yet to come into it's own as an industry. It's still at the 'community' level one might associate with a hobby, I suppose, with a few people who have managed to break out of that region and turn it into something resembling a career. Perhaps their lifestyles are more conducive to webcomic publishing, and therein lies their true secret for success. And maybe it's not even that important to know who is making a living at this, or how. If I had been 'in it for the money', I wouldn't have dared attempt to work in comics at all.