Can You Turn Your Indie Cartoon Into a Career?
One of the reasons that so many people are reluctant to start their own blogs and websites is because they think those blogs and sites have to be text based. It’s true, that’s how blogs started out: written text pixelated on a website that was updated as close to every day as possible. Sometimes someone might include a photo or other type of graphic but, for the most part, these blogs were text-based. It is also true that those days are long over.
Today a blog can be pretty much anything you need or want it to be. Allie Brosh, for example, rose to fame by creating blog posts that were primarily based on images she’d made in Microsoft Paint. Sure, sometimes there was text, but it was really the pictures she drew that told the story. Blogs can also be video based (some call this vlogging). YouTube has made it possible for thousands of people to communicate with the world via video. Hank and John Green, for example, rose to fame via their Vlogbrothers channel. Blogs can even be in spoken form, delivered as a podcast. That’s how Marc Maron rebuilt his career.
You can even blog with cartoons and animation now…or haven’t you heard of HomeStar Runner?
That’s right, hopeful animators: you, too, can build an entire (and profitable) career around the cartoons you’ve created in your free time. Here’s how to do it.
Self-Taught is Just the Beginning
We tend to hold the self taught as geniuses and motivators, but guess what: it’s perfectly okay to take the classroom route as well. What matters isn’t how the trade is learned, but that it is learned at all. Plus, the classroom is a great place to test all sorts of different types of software without having to actually buy it (or have a system that can run it). Getting an education in animation can also be done as a focused study in a relatively short period of time through one of the many 3D animation colleges.
It’s also worth noting that, like in most fields, while being self taught makes you seem cool, actually having a formal animation education makes you more employable.
Publishing Your Work
If you want to be a full time indie animator, you have to publish your projects. Don’t wait for the perfect idea to come along. Start with something simple and small and build your portfolio over time. If you simply wait for the perfect idea to come along, you’ll never actually publish anything.
The best way to get started, of course, is to independently publish your animations via blog format. Blogging is a great way to begin because people expect bloggers to start small and improve over time. That’s half the fun of following a blogger–watching her develop her craft and her voice over time. Blogging also gives you wiggle room to experiment with new ideas and techniques without worrying that you’re going to tank your entire career before it gets off the ground.
Added Bonus: publishing your animations to YouTube is a lot cheaper than trying to come up with the money for enough server space to host your video files.
Self promotion always feels a little bit icky. This is a common theme among bloggers, vloggers, animators, podcasters, etc. The icky truth is, though, that if you don’t tell people you exist, it is unlikely that anybody will ever see your work. The YouTube aggregator will only get you so far. You’re going to need to start emailing your friends and family, set up your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat) and start sending your messages out into the world. Alice Lee wrote a great post about how to do this without feeling like you’ve sold out.
Monetization is a key part of turning any creative hobby into a creative livelihood. There are a lot of ways to monetize your content. The simplest form is with some sort of tip jar, which allows people to donate as often or as rarely as they like. YouTube has a built in feature for this called Fan Funding if you don’t want to mess with PayPal.
One of the best and most popular methods of monetization these days is Patreon, which allows you to crowdfund your projects either by individual product or on a continuing monthly basis. If you notice that your tip jar is getting some repeat business, setting up a Patreon can be a great way to turn your hobby into a career.
The point is: it’s possible. Blogging has come a long way. It doesn’t just have to be words on a page, it can be cartoon, video, spoken word or even image based.