During an interview with Tom Racine at Tall Tale Features, I was asked what I would tell other webcartoonists who are just starting out. I didn’t really have much of an answer. I eventually responded, in regards to the inner workings of web design: “If you’re not sure, don’t do it.”
Now I still feel that’s sound advice, but I think I can offer a little more. So with that in mind, here’s a list of things I’ve learned after doing a webcomic for a year:
You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s OK. I told myself this when I gave up on submitting comic strips to syndicates and decided to take a stab at webcomics. Unfortunately, I had no knowledge of how to do a webcomic. I did my best to learn the technical aspects of webcomics but I knew mistakes were unavoidable. The best thing to do is accept it and learn from what mistakes you will inevitably make. The “pre-forgiveness” I gave myself helped keep me calm during moments of crisis.
If you hate drawing your comic: STOP! I drew a different webcomic before the one I’m currently working on. It was a cute idea but after a hundred strips, I was sick of it. It became increasingly difficult to write for and just wasn’t fun to work on. But I kept working on it because I felt I had to. Drawing a webcomic is a job, and it is work, but it shouldn’t be a grueling chore. I eventually stopped drawing that first comic and gave myself a couple of weeks to reevaluate the strip and see if I could come up with a better idea. Thankfully, I found a much better strip that feels more natural to write and draw. I had to draw the wrong strip to realize what the right strip was.
Make a least one meeting with a copyright / trademark lawyer. At some point, once you feel you got a handle on your comic and it’s cast of characters, go find a lawyer and make sure your comic is not infringing on someone’s already established property. The lawyer I saw charged $100 just for a meeting but it was money well spent. I learned a lot. You don’t want to get hit with a cease & desist letter from a company with deeper pockets than yours.
Free time WILL be sacrificed. I used to see my friends every Tuesday night. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now not everyone will have to give up as much. And to be honest, if I worked a little harder on the weekends I could probably see them more often, but then I’d lose my weekends. No matter what I do, I’m gonna lose some free time. You have to really want to draw a webcomic. Don’t go into this thinking you can still do ALL the fun things you used to do. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
That’s all I can think of right now. I’ve learned more but those are the big ones; the important stuff I think all beginning cartoonists should know and keep in mind. If you’re a webcartoonist, please comment on the things you’d tell folks just starting out. I’m sure I can learn a thing or two as well.