Turn Your Comic Book/ Creative Skills Into A Lucrative Business – PART I
By: Dr. Sheena C. Howard
Want to turn your comic book skills into a lucrative business? Deciding to turn a creative pursuit or even a hobby into a profitable business may be easier than you think. You just need to think like a business as opposed to a “starving artist”. It is very possible for someone with skills in the comics space to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit in order to become financially successful. The first thing you need to do is think of yourself as a business and then get the proper entrepreneurship tools and resources as soon as possible (I recommend a list of creative entrepreneurship tools HERE).
Here are my 5 tips on how to turn your comic book and creative skills into a lucrative business (second 5 tips will be released on this blog at a later date, so stay tuned). If you’re creating comics as a writer, artist, producer, editor, etc you can implement the following ideas in order to turn your passion into income. If you are in the comics industry in any aspect, use these techniques to monetize what you are doing and start generating income that is actually scalable. By the way, once you start making money, get an accountant and create an LLC for your business. Let’s show you how to start making some serious money first. Each of the following will come with a difficulty level rating from 1 to 5, with 1 being easy and 5 being more difficult. In addition, for some, I’ll give you at least one or two “pro-tips” to consider. I’ve used all of these strategies myself and I am always willing to coach you through these, should you have questions. You can book a creative coaching/ strategy call with me at anytime HERE. Speaking of coaching – 😊…
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1. Comics/ Creative Coaching
Getting into coaching might sound scary. We all suffer from imposter syndrome at one time or another. However, I am surprised at the sheer number of comics and creative folks who have major expertise but no way to share that expertise on a larger scale. Whether you have been in the field for years or you are just getting started, you can coach anyone who you have more knowledge than. You do not need to have worked with a major label to “prove” yourself or have a massive following. There are lots of people who want to break into the comics space, understand the basics of comics (and more) but they don’t know who to go to for advice. You can charge a small fee if you feel you don’t have a significant level of expertise or a higher fee if you have major credentials and qualifications. Has anyone ever said “I want to pick your brain”? If so, start charging for the picking! It is as easy as creating a calendly.com account and letting people know about your coaching service. Joe Illidge, former editor of the Batman line, just launched his coaching service and I know I am excited to book him asap! Just because you charge a coaching fee, doesn’t mean you have to stop giving out free advice either. I give free advice all the time to people who reach out, but there is a limit to the advice I give because that advice involves labor. And you should be compensated for your labor.
Pro Tip: Start publishing comics/ creative work, grow your social media following, create a compelling brand that guides your success, grow your fan base and then launch your coaching service to the world. Need help? Click HERE.
The level of difficulty and entry into this strategy is rated a 2 (it’s extremely easy to set up, but you do want to have the confidence to launch and share your expertise, also you have to promote your service to a fanbase).
2. Traditional Publishing
I highly recommend traditional publishing – because it pays. The reason self-publishing isnt on this list is not because I don’t believe it can make creatives money but because making money self-publishing is difficult. Also, I assume the target audience of this blog, already has experienced self-publishing or has researched it in some way, shape or form. There are a lot of stories online about creators and authors who have made thousands self-publishing but they are typically the exceptions, not the rule (In my humble experience). It is very possible to be a paid self-published creative and/or author, however I know way more self-published creators who haven’t been able to quit their day job. Typically, a self-published author will only sell about 250 books (and earns less than 100 dollars). I don’t want you to get caught up in the hype of success stories online and then feel down when your self-published book launch didn’t go the way you thought it would after so much hard work. Why not do both – publishing with a publisher and self-publish? See which one you like best – maybe you like both and you will do both. Maybe you find one more beneficial than the other. There are no hard fast rules to this. In my personal experience, publishing with a variety of publishers has been way more financially rewarding than self-publishing (whether its work-for-hire in comics or nonfiction books with smaller publishers). Depending on the publisher, the type of book and the contract you negotiate you will get annual royalty payouts, paid upfront and/or your book will reach a larger audience without you having to pay the costs of marketing.
Lot’s of comic book writers and creators have been successfully using Kickstarter to not only fund their projects but also to recoup monies spent on creating the work after they have already finished the project. Check out this interview with successful comics Kickstarter campaigners Tiana and Nia Scott (Happy Monstah) who talk about how they were able to raise 18k on Kickstarter here: https://youtu.be/Zx3DaFittQU
I’d also recommend you check out the campaigns of Greg Anderson Elysée (IS’NANA THE WERE-SPIDER). He makes over 12k with nearly every campaign he launches – view his campaign here.
You should research carefully when first starting out with crowdfunding, especially with Kickstarter, as it is a all or nothing game. Typically, if you do not reach your funding goal, then you will lose all monies from bakers. This is why new crowdfunding creatives should start low with their first or second campaigns and create a funding goal you know you can reach, but even more important than that is to do your research on best practices before getting started (My first Kickstarter campaign). Kickstarter has the added benefit of being a great marketing tool and can help to create major buzz around your project, if set up correctly. I teach creatives that Kickstarter is just as much a marketing tool as it is a project funding tool.
The level of difficulty to make this a success is a 3 (you need to research and execute this properly. Do not create a funding goal that is unrealistic.)
4. Book signings (that you don’t pay out of pocket for but that actually pay you)
Most people in comics (or authors publishing any type of book) will do book signings or show up to comic book conventions. These get expensive very fast and lots of creators end up breaking even or losing money when they table or vend. Over the course of the year or years, you can end up financially draining yourself if you aren’t careful with tabling/ book signings. That’s why you need to use a strategy to do book signings without funding them from your own pocket. There is a way. That way is corporate sponsorships OR your publisher. I will specifically focus on corporate sponsorships. That term might seem like something that only a select few can engage with but don’t let it intimidate you. Most of us who have been working in comics have had a publisher cover the cost of our table and/or travel to go to comic cons. If you haven’t, now you know that might be something to ask or request of your publisher. However, lots of us have organized our own book signings where we bought the books, paid for the venue and sold the books at our own signing. Book signings are worth it and they are exhilarating but eventually you’ll want to stop losing money doing them the way I just described. Now, again, corporate sponsors might sound scary but don’t stop reading. If you are creating comics, you most likely have built up a network. Lots of people in your network run businesses and would be happy to sponsor your event if you use the following techniques. First, partner with a non-profit to organize your event so that sponsors can donate to your book signing and get a tax-deductible write-off. This way, they will be more likely to get behind your book signing event and contribute financially, especially if you make the event free. There are a number of steps to this method that are EASY to implement. I suggest you tap into a free coaching call with me for a detailed overview on how to actually make this work – HERE.
Pro Tip: Let previous publishers, friends who have businesses and businesses that you have frequented know that you are doing a free book signing with a non-profit and that you are looking for sponsors. Connect your event to a great cause and you’ll not only be rocking and rolling with this technique, you will also be able to pay yourself and your staff for organizing and hosting the event!
The level of difficulty to make this a success is a 4.
5. Paid Speaking Engagements
I don’t think this is obvious to all comic book and creative entrepreneurs, and some might not be the public speaking type. However, I want to encourage you to embrace the fact that you have a story and ideas to share and people want to hear from you. Not only do people want to know how you create comics but they also want to know the person behind the stories they love to read – you! People buy from you, in large part, because they love the person behind the product. Therefore, a little advice on getting started with speaking engagements is in order. My top tips would be to start local. Reach out to the high school you went to or the local schools in your neighborhood. It’s okay to start speaking for free if you are a newbie, but I teach my clients to do paid speaking engagements and only to do free engagements if the event meets very strict criteria. Adding speaking engagements to your list of income drivers can be very lucrative and you can certainly make thousands of dollars consistently with some dedication, know how and perseverance. Perhaps, I will write a more detailed blog post on how exactly to get started and to generate paid speaking engagements on a consistent monthly basis – let me know in the comments, if this is something you’d be interested in learning about.
Level of difficulty for this strategy is a 3.
IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EACH OF THESE STRATEGIES, CHECK OUT MY ONLINE COURSE (COVERS EACH OF THESE IN DETAIL) – HERE.
Have a question? Want me to answer/ give advice about something specific? Head over to Twitter and Tweet me your question – I’ll answer as many as I can!
What do you want to see in Part 2 of this list? Leave a comment below.
Turn Your Comic Book/ Creative Skills Into a Lucrative Business – PART 2 Releasing Here Soon
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