The Key to Living Off of Your Webcomic

by Steve Napierski to Articles

You hear people telling you how it should be done. There are websites solely dedicated to the proper procedure. There are even books telling you how to do it. But none of these people tell you that the true key to creating a financially successful webcomic is your primary source of income.

The key to living off of webcomics is twofold. First, you need to have a popular webcomic (easily done, right?). And second, you also need to forgo the American dream. This means no house, no kids and no other large expenses (ie. expensive car, large credit card debt, etc…).

I’m not telling you that you can’t be happy. You can date. Hell, you can even have a girlfriend/boyfriend or a spouse, but I don’t recommend having both. Plus, if you want your significant other to live with you they had better be paying part of the bills. And depending on how financially successful your webcomic is they should probably be paying most of them. If not, then you’re going to need either a roommate or parents to mooch off of.

You see, most webcomic artists don’t make a whole lot of money off of their creations. Sure there are those who do (ie. Penny Arcade, Questionable Content, Least I Could Do), but they’re the exception, not the rule. I personally make a decent amount from Dueling Analogs. If I was single, had a roommate and no debt I could easily live off of what I make. But being married, having two kids, a mortgage and other financial obligations it’s just not happening anytime soon. Maybe one day, just not now.

You see, I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. Webcomic artists have no problems telling you how they created a successful webcomic. They tell you about their formula for writing and how they create their art. But nine times out of ten they forget to mention that they also live a very thrifty lifestyle to make ends meet. There’s definitely money to be made in webcomics, just keep a realistic perspective on how much.

Discussion (14)¬

  1. Trevor
    Trevor says:
    March 24, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Good advice.

  2. Tom Brazelton
    Tom Brazelton says:
    March 24, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    As a fellow web comic artist in a very similar situation as Steve, I can confirm that what he says is true.

    Far be it from me to promote the stereotype of the starving artist, but to live of your comic – or any artform, for that matter – you practically have to be one.

    And that’s fine if you don’t know the difference between Top Ramen and a New York Steak. You’ll never know what you’re missing. That’s why I think it benefits younger artists to try and make serious headway into making their comic their full time job. Because when you’re starting out in life, you’re probably going to struggle anyway. Instead of working at Burger King, you might as well spend time doing something you love.

    But for the older guys – guys with kids, car payments and mortgages? Web comics aren’t probably going to be much more than a fun hobby that occasionally lines your pockets with enough money to cover hosting and pay the up front costs of conventions and merchandise – if you’re lucky.

    That said, despite the fact I know that I’m never going to make a living off of my comic, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to make steps to improve it or put it in front of as large of an audience as possible. That’s where the books, web sites and secret formulas to success all come in. I think it’s good to get perspective from other artists and hopefully learn from their mistakes. Save yourself a lot of headaches that allow you to take the limited resources you have and dedicate them toward your art.

  3. saifrc
    saifrc says:
    March 24, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    Love the comic, Steve, and I hope you keep doing it, even if it takes a backseat to other work. Because in the end, when you have a wife/house/kids/etc., you’re right — something with the revenue potential of a *really good* webcomic (that is, not the absolute #1 webcomic) can’t pay all the bills.

    Despite the brash name, this is an awesome blog (which became an awesome book) about personal finance, one that really resonates with younger people in the working world, trying to do the things they love while also putting food on the table. Check it out:

    http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/

    I wish Dueling Analogs great success, ’cause I enjoy coming here. I hope that you’re not getting hassled by fans for not updating, or getting hassled by other webcomic artists or anything like that, because you’re doing pretty damn well for someone who has real responsibilities.

  4. MarthKoopa
    MarthKoopa says:
    March 24, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    Lol webcomics

    I get paid for doing my hobby, making video games. I’ve made half a million dollars for a crappy game I sold for $5 a download, and that’s ALL profit. Everything used was free: MSpaint, VC++2008 Express, free webhosting

  5. David Herbert
    David Herbert says:
    March 24, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    I’m glad I still live with my parents, so I have the money to make my comic bigger. Now I just need to make it popular enough to live off of.

  6. Shane
    Shane says:
    March 24, 2010 at 12:42 am #

    Well there goes my goal of buying a house and doing a comic for a living. Of course, I need to be popular first.

  7. Rosscott
    Rosscott says:
    March 24, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    Amen.

  8. DWishR
    DWishR says:
    March 24, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    If it helps out any, I’m one of those merchandise-only consumers of webcomics. I bought your original dueling analogs shirt and I have your rejected mega man villains poster. I’m really looking forward to the mr. Villains poster you’ll be selling as well. I don’t know if I’m in the minority on this or not. But if you want to maximize your earnings from me, you’ll keep releasing purchasables and maybe start selling prints. I also really want a new tshirt from you but so far none of the new ones have been quite right.

    On a side note; I must admit I was disappointed when you rereleased the original tshirt. I’d imagined I had something of a collector’s item as I watched the site grow in popularity. :]

  9. Maqqy96
    Maqqy96 says:
    March 24, 2010 at 2:33 am #

    I was very happy when my husband and I moved to Florida. Since my license to practice Massage Therapy was only valid in Ohio, I was basically unemployed. Instead of me getting another suck-tastic retail or food service job until I can get the Florida license, my husband told me to focus on my web comic. He was making enough money that we could live comfortably. As such, I’ve been able to move forward with my art and storyline. One day I’ll have to go back out into the working world, but for now, I’m enjoying it while it lasts. I’ve made almost no money off of it, but I’m having fun.

  10. Lee Almodovar
    Lee Almodovar says:
    March 24, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    It’s a hobby for me. It maintains my professional status for Comic Con and keeps me remotely out of trouble. I make about $25 a year on merch, but don’t really care. All ad revenue gets recycled right back into advertising my own webcomic. But, it keeps me happy, and I’m not trying to make my income from it.

    I have that Comp Sci degree and job (when I am employed) to pay off my massive student loan debts and car.

  11. Tom Brazelton
    Tom Brazelton says:
    March 24, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    Too bad the half million dollars MarthKoopa made from selling his video game didn’t afford him any tact.

  12. Shane
    Shane says:
    March 25, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    Also notice he is obviously reading webcomics.

  13. TheyCallMeTomu
    TheyCallMeTomu says:
    March 25, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Meh, tact is overrated anyway. I get paid for MY hobby-PLAYING video games.

    Actually, I don’t really like playing video games that much. Isn’t that just the most ironic thing? I’m more of a roleplayer myself.

  14. Stephen Wittmaak
    Stephen Wittmaak says:
    June 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    SO that's why! Aside from ya know…doing more webcomics!