Image courtesy HowStuffWorks A plush doll and two comic books based on Scott Kurtz's Web comic "PvP"

HowStuffWorks 2008

Making Money with Web Comics

Not many Web cartoonists are able to support themselves on cartooning alone. Most Web comics are available for free. Cartoonists might find it challenging to convince potential readers to pay for a Web comic -- why spend money on something you may not like when there are thousands of free comics on the Web?

Here are a few ways cartoonists can make money from their work:

  • Donation buttons: Some cartoonists include a way for readers to donate money to the artist. In general, this isn't a very reliable way to earn revenue.
  • Web advertising: Artists can sell advertising space on their Web pages. Google AdSense is a popular choice since the service uses Google's search algorithm to determine the advertising that best fits with the content of the page. But Web advertising revenue depends on readers clicking on the ads. While it can be a nice supplement to income, most Web cartoonists won't make enough from advertising to support themselves.
  • Selling original art: Web cartoonists like Dave Kellett, creator of "Sheldon," offer readers the chance to buy the original artwork for every strip. Kellett hand-inks and letters all of his comic strips, so a buyer will receive the hand-drawn original version of his or her favorite strip.
  • Merchandising: One way to make the big bucks is to land a lucrative merchandising deal. Cartoonists can make money selling shirts, stickers, toys and plush dolls based on their strips.
  • Getting into print: Ironically, one of the best ways a Web cartoonist can make money is to sell printed collections of his or her work. This usually requires partnering with an established publishing company. Some Web cartoonists will include new material in printed works as a way of encouraging Web readers to pick up the collection.

Web cartoonists can also make money through appearances at comic conventions. Conventions range in size from small groups of a few hundred attendees to massive gatherings numbering more than 50,000 people. Many of these conventions include an area where fans can meet their favorite artists. Some artists supplement their income by selling original sketches to fans.  

The great thing about Web comics is that the sky's the limit. Cartoonists can tackle any subject that interests them. Their work can be dramatic or humorous. They can choose to follow established comic formats or try something new and innovative. And with a lot of hard work (and a little luck), they can even make a living doing what they love.

To learn more about Web comics and other topics, check out the links on the next page.