Here and there I’ll get asked how to make a webcomic. The answer is more or less:
Make a comic
Repeat steps 1 and 2 indefinitely.
Half joking aside, the most important part of starting a webcomic is being sure you’ll be able to handle whatever schedule you have in mind. Nothing kills interest faster than a hiatus, so make sure you’re able to consistently put out work. If you want to put together a really big update, then having a bunch of smaller side updates prepared is a good way to get around not posting anything at all.
It gets kind of complicated to give advice, because there are as many ways to do a webcomic as there are stories to tell. And it gets harder when people ask questions like, “how long until I’m ultra popular?” or “how long until I can make lots of money on this?” or even “how do I keep going when it feels like no one cares about it?”
Those are all valid questions, but the answers are going to be wildly varied depending on your previous web presence, your experience, the kinds of stories you’re telling, and your tenacity and persistence. While not a comic, I was thinking the other day about how Pokemon was in development for over half a decade before it got released. That’s such a long time to work on something, unsure if it’ll pay off and if anyone will care… but that’s what it takes. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to bring your visions to life.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from starting a comic who has an idea, but I do want to say: please start small. Start with something you’d be able to tackle in, say, 3 months or less. Like a 20 page story about a single idea or character. Maybe 30 if you’re feeling ambitious. Give yourself some time limits and goals, and get to work. Use this as a chance to figure out your work speed, and to figure out what’s easily achievable during a certain period of time. This is how you learn if you should do 2 pages a week, or 5. Do you like working in black and white? Or color? Figure that out.
I know a lot of people want to start off with a huge tale, their sprawling masterpiece. It’s tempting, but understand that it’s going to take several years to complete, even if you’re a quick worker. 3 pages a week is still only like 150 pages a year, which isn’t even a single volume for a lot of stories. This is why starting small is important - you might find out you like telling a bunch of small stories. Maybe you can do a large longform story later, but if you start now, you’re essentially carving away thousands of hours of your life for a single project. If you’re aware of this and still want to do it, then go for it! Just understand the time commitment you’re making.
A topic I don’t often see discussed is just how much planning goes into stories. I easily spend a couple dozen hours in any given month working out the next parts of the story and editing script. I end up with tons and tons of unused concept sketches and writing. I’ve talked about that a bit before, but it’s super important to factor in the planning hours into your month. You gotta take into account hitting a wall with the story, or with ideas, and allotting the appropriate amount of time to overcoming those hurdles. Failing to do so can lead to those readership-losing hiatuses, and art block, and lack of drive. Be responsible!
Whether via humor strips, or short tales, or years-long sagas, I would definitely suggest using comics as a means of exploring what’s important to you. I would also suggest not trying to copy what someone else is doing just because it looks popular! Your individual voice is what is going to make your work stand out. The things you care about should flow into your work. That’s what takes it from “that’s okay” to “that’s exceptional”. Sometimes you’re only going to learn what you care about by making comics. That’s okay too! The more comfortable you get using them as an extension of your voice, the better you’ll get at using that voice. It’s okay if your first works aren’t amazing - they don’t need to be. They just need to elevate your understanding of the medium so you can better communicate whatever you’re trying to get across.
Speaking of, no one’s going to care about your work if you don’t. This can really suck when you’re in the beginning stages of a comic and only have a few pages out… but it’s really important that you be doing the work because you’re into it and you enjoy it. That enjoyment will carry itself through into the pages, and into your writing. People sense apathy. Care about your work, care consistently, and you’ll definitely (eventually) find others who care, too. But really, no one can care if you give up before you even really get started! Sometimes it really does take half a decade or more of work before you get noticed by many people. Sometimes it can take even longer than a decade. That’s why it’s important that you, above all else, care about what you’re doing. You have to be the one to carry yourself through the hard times when you’re not sure if it’s worth it! Find a reason to care, if you don’t.
Or, maybe webcomics aren’t the medium for you. That’s fine, too. If you start one and then realize it’s just too much work, or you don’t have enough ideas, or whatever, then that’s totally fine. I tried starting one when I was still in highschool, and I stopped after about 5 pages. It was awful. It was Floraverse-related, but I had no real story or goal or anything. I had a vague sense of kind of what I wanted, but it was just too much boring work because I had no idea what I actually cared about yet. So, you might just not be ready to undertake a consistent commitment yet, or you might not have the right idea yet. Totally valid. But, also worth giving it a shot if you want to! You’re going to learn more about yourself either way, which is always a plus.
I’m sure there’s leagues more to say about all this, but this probably works as some food for thought for those of you pondering what it means to take the leap into comics. My advice: give it a shot, see what happens, quit if you don’t enjoy it and can’t find a way to.