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Q: I’m sure this is a bigger question than I think it is, but I started my webcomic in January and I think I’m doing okay with pageviews (I only update twice a week) but is there an easy number to point to to say, “At this point, you are successful?” Another webcomic friend of mine said (he heard) that at 1000 pageviews a day, you can quit your day job. I’m thinking this isn’t true, since that’s about where I’m at now. And no money, not that I’ve tried yet.
A. Whoever said that you can quit your day job at 1,000 pageviews a day is bat-shit insane.
Come on, do the math! Advertising is sold on a CPM basis. (The M stands for “thousand.”) If you get $1-2 CPM from an ad network, you’re doing pretty good. A site that generates, on average, 1,000 daily pageviews, therefore, could potentially make about thirty-to-sixty bucks by the end of the month — and that’s assuming a lot of stuff that’s unrealistic — a constant flow of traffic, a 100% fill rate, an unwavering CPM, etc.
But let’s get to the real problem… you’re looking for a Magic Number. And there just isn’t one.
That’s because success in comics isn’t only about Web traffic. It’s about Community Building and optimizing revenue streams, merchandising wisely, and a lot of other factors. If it was about simply directing traffic to your site, anybody could be successful. But it’s not. It’s about cultivating a readership that wants to support what you’re doing.
Could a webcartoonist generating 1000 daily pageviews make quit-your-day-job money? Sure, but those readers would have to have an almost religious level of dedication.
Let me put it in perspective for you. I’ve done a six-day-a-week comic since 2000. At last count, I’ve created more than 5,000 strips, panels and comic-pages. I crossed the one-thousand-daily-pageviews benchmark when I was doing Greystone Inn — somewhere around 2001 or 2002.
I quit my day job.
In 2012. Twelve years after I started.
You’ve been doing a once-a-week comic since January. You haven’t even outlasted a hockey season. You shouldn’t be looking for quit-your-day-job benchmarks. You should be trying to figure out how to convert to a three-time a week update schedule and see if you can do that with consistent quality/frequency for a year or so.
Because let me tell you from experience: Quitting your day job isn’t the finish line, it’s the starter’s pistol. Once you make that move, you’ll have to work harder than ever — or you’ll find yourself back at a day job. And it sounds all “yeah, but it’s the work that I love” and all, but that’s small potatoes when your ad revenue takes an unexpected dip, you can’t figure out why, and you were counting on that money to pay the mortgage.
“That’s not the answer I was looking for”
I know. You still want to take your comic to the next level. I get it. OK, here are two things you can do right now to improve your comic’s performance on the Web.
Read the “How To Make Webcomics” book. Read Dave’s chapter on Community Building. Then read it again. (Seriously.) And then ask yourself who your Community is. And start making plans to make your site a way that this particular Community uses to express their uniqueness to the outside world… the same way gamers flock to Penny Arcade. Right now you have a generic webcomic site. Make it a place that your Community gathers. That means focusing the topics on your blog a little tighter, too. Everything you do on that site has to reinforce your brand.
WEB SITE DESIGN
If you’re using a default Comic Press-for-WordPress set-up, you’re probably in need of some Web design improvement. Here’s a checklist:
- No wasted space at the top
- The comic placed in the most prominent position
- Navigation buttons as close as possible to the comic (not separated by a line or placed closer to the blog than the comic)
- Important links placed prominently
- Blog appears on first screen (for most screen resolutions/displays)
- At least two ads on the first-screen view
And you might as well learn time management now because when you quit your day job, this is going to become crucial. Remove the unimportant things from your life that keep you from your personal goals. Things like your family? That’s Priority One-level stuff. Watching TV probably isn’t. Same for Facebook (except in using its viral-marketing capabilities in self-promotion). Video games? Out (unless you’re doing a Penny-Arcade-style strip, of course). Everything that’s not a top priority gets the ax. The day job? That’s the last thing you get to cut. And if you can’t master that other stuff, it won’t stay cut for long.