A lot of my childhood was swept up in comics. I don’t mean superhero comics — I never really got into those — but funny strips that often contained subtle commentaries on life that flew over my youthful head. Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, and comics in that vein. Nowadays, though, a lot of great comics are being published on the web as webcomics. You might be interested in adding to the pool, but what if you want to do it full-time?
The web is full of content ranging from general humor webcomics to webcomics for geeks. Whatever your genre, whatever your niche, you will be able to find an audience as long as you write well and put yourself out there every day. So how do you make money from it? Keep reading to find out how most artists keep their bank accounts afloat with publishing their drawings.
Method #1: Web Ads
Perhaps the easiest way to make money with a webcomic is by displaying some ads on your website. Web ads have become the de facto money-making scheme for all kinds of websites these days, and since your webcomic is going to be hosted on a website, there’s no point in letting some of that web estate go to waste.
Google AdSense is the go-to option here, especially if this is your first time dealing with web ads on a site you operate. If you’re currently boycotting Google for whatever reason and AdSense isn’t an option for you, then there are AdSense alternatives that you can try as well. Either way, web ads are great because they act as passive income – once you grow a sizeable audience, web ads are like free money.
Keep in mind, however, that web ads alone won’t make you nearly enough to go full-time. Adblock extensions are killing the Internet when it comes to ad revenue, so don’t expect these to be your get-rich-quick-while-drawing scheme.
Method #2: Merchandise Sales
Musicians survive off of CD sales and concert tickets. Like music artists, webcomic artists produce a product that ends up being a promotional tool for other mechanise. Unless you charge a subscription, no one is actually paying for the webcomic itself. This means that your webcomic must become a marketing element that convinces your readers to buy other goods from you, which will be part of your survival.
What can you sell? Well, if your comic characters are loveable, you could sell anything ranging from T-shirts to mugs to posters to toys that depict those characters. You want to appeal to your fans and their love for your work. That’s why the webcomic is an advertisement. Once you have them hooked to your characters, they’ll throw their money at you.
Method #3: Print Sales
Once you have a sizeable archive of completed strips, you could pursue a publishing route that takes all of those strips and binds them into a physical book for sale. I loved reading these compilation books as a kid and people still love reading them today. They’re great for home libraries, classrooms, children’s entertainment, and even as bathroom time-passers. You’ll have to go through a publisher for this, though, unless you plan on self-publishing.
A worthy mention goes to special art sales that are sold to your fans. For example, suppose a fan requests that you draw a particular poster of a particular in a particular pose? Or what if you want to sell your original inkings to your fans? Depending on your skills and your audience, these could sell for quite a pretty penny.
Method #4: Donations
And then there’s the oldest method in the book: setting out a tip jar and hoping your readers love your comic enough to donate the cash to sustain you. The difficulty with a donation jar is that the donor doesn’t really get anything out of it. Sure, fans like to support you, but at least with merchandise and print sales, they benefit from the transaction. Donations can be hard to extract save from the most hardcore of fans.
One way to make it work would be to run an annual or semi-annual donation drive. You let your readers know that it costs money to draw, ink, and host your comics on the web. It takes away from your time that you could otherwise be spending at a “real job” so to speak. If you build a case, readers will sympathize. If you build it badly, though, you could come off as needy or desperate, which could drive away readers.
None of the four methods outlined above are sure-fire guarantees. Web ad revenue is tricky at best and, even if it stabilizes, will only offer a meager return. Merchandise and print sales require more work from you to set them up, plus you need to make your strip super loveable to convince people to buy. Donations are also a shaky source of income.
However, combine all of these together and you could make a decent living, provided your webcomic hits a large enough audience. It’ll be a tough road and it’ll take years before you make a “full-time” income from it, but artists are already doing it and so can you.
If you’re open to being a little more creative and want more ideas, you might take a look at ways to monetize a blog and try to adapt them to your webcomic. Adaptability will take you far when trying different ways of making money online.