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Monetizing Artistic Skills: How to Make Money Online with Your Cartoons

Many cartoonists have tried to earn cash online through YouTube in the late 2000s and found the hard way that the platform isn’t too friendly with creators. While YouTube still provides them with a wider reach for new audience, YouTube isn’t the best monetization option for cartoonists. Today, more and more money-making options are becoming available to cartoonists worldwide, and they could earn straight from the comforts of their own studio.

What do Cyanide & Happiness (a group of artists), The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman), Awkward Yeti (Nick Seluk), Planet Prudence (Prudence Geerts), Fowl Language (Brian Gordon) and other successful cartoonists have in common? They treated their artwork as a business and have earned through multiple income streams by doing what they love – create web comics and one-off cartoons.

If you have a talent in comics and are wondering how to monetize your passion, here are several tried-and-tested ways to turn it into a full-blown, money-making online business:

1)  Create a website and earn side hustle with greeting cards and stock or clipart sites – The first thing most of these artists did were create their own websites. Next was to bring in traffic and readers, which can take a bit of time depending on your invested effort. During this time, you’ll need to create as much content as possible for your site.

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Unfortunately, building a website doesn’t convert to money instantly. This is especially true since many artists with a newly-built site only rely on ads like AdSense for income.

So if you’re in need of cash at the early stages of your website, you can earn money online with part-time gigs like creating greeting cards for Oatmeal Studios, or direct client work. For something more passive, join online stock art companies like iStockphotos.com or CartoonStock.com where you can display your cartoons, retain copyright, but still earn cash from licensing them.

2) Sell an eBook/book – Making a book or eBook would take time, but it is one of the most effective ways of earning from cartoons, especially for those who don’t have much capital except for their talents. Artists can either find one-off projects and sell copyright of their work for a client’s book, or host the eBook and self-license to earn money from royalty fees. You can also submit your eBook to Amazon and other eBook marketplaces.

eBooks have been widely accepted in recent years and they cost much less than good old traditional books, so selling your artwork through eBooks allow you to connect to a wider audience and gather new followers without having to worry about publishing, and other processes involved in traditional book marketing.

3) Join Print On-Demand (PoD) Sites – The cool thing about today’s internet is that it allows individuals with no brick-and-mortar stores or plenty of cash to create and sell products that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Print On-Demand sites are great for cartoonists because they have their artwork frame, sold and delivered without the hassles of finding suppliers, shipping the items or finding buyers.

4) Sell Merchandise – This is where real money is made. For those without capital, print-on-demand sites would allow you to add your artwork and let customers choose which product to have it printed. These can be anything from clothes, caps, mugs, bags, posters, and more. If you reach the point where you have the financial freedom to find manufacturers and suppliers for your planned merchandises, then sell your merchandise directly from your site. This way, you’ll be able to keep 100% of the profit instead of just receiving royalties from PoD sites.

5) Seek Sponsors – If your cartoons are reaching more and more people every day and you’re building up a fan base, one of the easiest ways to sustain your business is to seek sponsorship. Pantreon was created solely for this purpose – to support an artist of your choosing on a monthly basis in exchange for some rewards. The rewards can be anything from early access to cartoons, character recommendations, free wallpaper monthly, exclusive daily cartoons, and other exclusives that the artist decides to offer.

6) Crowd-fund Your Work – Kickstarter isn’t just about the quirky product you won’t find anywhere else. With Kickstarter, cartoonists can crowd-fund their entire project, whether it’s for a new book, a plush toy of your famous characters, a board game based on your comics, or more.

You’d be surprised at the amount of support you can gather from Kickstarter. Like Pantreon, Kickstarter supporters choose a pledge amount based on the rewards they want. Artists have the freedom to dictate pledge amounts and rewards for every Kickstarter campaign they host.

The Bottom Line

If you’re serious about cashing in with your cartoons, make sure to hire an agent once you’ve made enough money. This is important if you’re planning to spread your income both online and offline.

Those new in the business could learn a thing or two by reading interviews of successful cartoonists. It’s never too late to shift careers and go back to your passion of creating funny, inspirational, controversial, or even heart-warming cartoons. Just look at The Oatmeal’s Matthew Inman, who was one of the co-founders of now-legendary SEOMoz and quit the SEO biz completely in 2009 to build his website. Look at where he is now.

As I mentioned earlier, the key to succeeding as a cartoonist online is to consider your art as a business. Of course, don’t let money-making be your priority – your art should still come first at all times. But having a business plan and goals won’t hurt either.

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