The Hobbyist Guide to Webcomics (Being Selfish 101)

I don’t need to remind you that I’ve been doing webcomics as a side gig – mainly for fun and practice, and also to share my stories with folks who dig my style and subject matter. This article is geared towards the average joe who is trying to get better at creating webcomics, and don’t really have aspirations of becoming the next biggest thing in comics online.

Have a seat, and let’s talk shop.

The Relaxed Approach

I’m going to assume that you’re one of those folks who aren’t in it for the glory or for the green. I think that’s absolutely fantastic that you’re excited to tell stories to the masses and looking for no reward or return – just knowing that you’re entertaining someone out there is good enough for you, right?

I wish that were true. Deep down, everyone has that little dream where your comic will get noticed by someone of importance in the industry, pass it along to their peers like it was a hidden gem, praise it, and then all of a sudden it would catch on like wildfire and spread virally to all corners of the Internet, where people come knocking down your door with cash in hand to buy your work, and you could quit your day job and retire at 30 and so on.

Keep dreaming. You could carve out a niche for yourself and be self-sustaining, but be realistic – it takes years of hard work and persistence to earn that type of notoriety and success. If you don’t have the time to put into it, maybe you should consider doing it for a different purpose – for yourself.

This is where the relaxed approach comes in. You take your time to craft a story that is well-written and lends itself well to being drawn in sequential format. You let it marinate for a while, then come back to it and rework and tweak the piece until it is just right – much like a stew.

Mmm. Stew.





Then you thumbnail your sketches and work it out in a dummy format to get the right flow. Perhaps you’re looking for a different way to display your visuals and create a style of storytelling – just like a director of a movie. You can tell the differences between Guy Ritchie, Christopher Nolan, Brian dePalma and Francis Ford Coppola because they sought different ways of presenting the subject matter on camera. You can do the same on paper – find out what your signature storytelling style is and put it to some creative visuals – but take the time to craft it. Genius is something that can’t be rushed.

Develop an art style that is comfortable and complements what you’re doing. Don’t try and force a cartoony style into a serious, dark story – the juxtaposition may not be right, and you risk discrediting all the hard work put into the storyline. Make all of these pieces work together – story, visual flow from event to event and then art style.

Notice that I left out a strict schedule? There’s no “write 5 scripts for the week, then do all of your pencils, followed by your inks, then colors and dialogue then post to your website, create a blog post” and OH MY GOD… so much stress….

Do it when it’s convenient for you, not when it’s forced. You’ll find when you’re relaxed, the best ideas are easy to manipulate into the stories you want to tell. Working under the gun over an extended period of time can lead to some half-assed work. We don’t need that. This is one advantage the hobbyist has over the creator that feels obliged to post on a set schedule.

Take your time and do it right. If you’re going to work on a schedule (because some people NEED schedules in order to feel productive) then try this:

  1. Conceptualize your story
  2. Write a rough outline
  3. Let it sit for a few days
  4. Come back to the outline and rework it
  5. Develop some characters
  6. Develop the world they inhabit
  7. Develop their backgrounds
  8. Visualize some of the scenes
  9. Thumbnail these scenes
  10. Take a break and come back to it (you may need this step to solve problems)
  11. Finalize your scripts and dialogue
  12. Assemble your scenes into a full story and adjust how they flow
  13. Begin the process of rendering your work
  14. Complete work
  15. Post your work
  16. Tell a few people (or a lot of people) about your work

It seems like a lot of work, but its a pretty laid back approach. No deadlines, no stress, just complete works to entertain and fulfil your creative desires.

Don’t Stray From the Path

It’s very easy to be tempted into making your work something that you can pump out on a regular basis in order to keep the masses satisfied and interested. This is good if you’re a cartoonist and can rip out a series of strips. If you feel inclined, the transition might be as harsh. But if you’re doing a longform, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of extra work and stress because you’ve put yourself on a strict deadline.

The point was to keep this light and easy – so get those thoughts of disappointing others and obligations to your fans out of your head. This may sound selfish, but the key to being a successful creator who does these things as a hobby and feels fulfilled creatively is to be selfish and block out all the responsibility that comes with providing content for the masses.

If there was a pecking order for distributing content when you’re a hobbyist, it goes like this:

I know this completely goes against what you’re taught if you are to be a successful cartoonist, illustrator, etc. But you’re not doing it for the fortune and fame, remember – you’re doing this as an expression of you and your abilities. That’s where you’re going to show the most pride, and learn the most from your peers. If you don’t want this to turn into a day job, and enjoy the freedom of creating without the shackles of financial need and consumer obligation, then take it easy and go at a comfortable pace.

You’ll see that it isn’t always about screaming the loudest to be heard. Sometimes all it takes is appeasing your inner voice. You’ll find a strong connection to your work if you’re a bit more selfish at times.

Stick your fingers in your ears so you can’t hear…

Now working as a hobbyist has its pitfalls – you set yourself up for people to coax you into providing more content with less time in order to appease their need to indulge in your work. Also, you’ll attract people who simply complain that your method of content delivery doesn’t fit well with their rate of consuming it.

Remember when I said, “Too Bad, TOUGH!” ? Well it applies here in a different context – It’s too bad for those other people, because you’re doing this with one goal in mind: to tell your story in your style on your terms. Whether it takes too long, the story is too short or the comic doesn’t look appealing is irrelevant. You are the only thing that matters when it comes to hobby styled comics.

This is a vanity project, and don’t let anyone else tell you what to do with it. You have to be consistent and learn to block out the criticism and the negativity and the desire to produce more than what you feel necessary because others need to have their cravings and desires fulfilled. You do it for you – so stick plug your ears, avoid the comments, reviews and emails, and get to work.

The Takeaway

As a hobbyist, it’s really important that you realize WHY you’re doing it as much as HOW you’re doing it. In complete contrast to the folks looking to become successful, your need is only filled by doing what you want creatively, how you want to do it, and when you want to do it. By taking a relaxed approach, staying true to your goal of just you and blocking out all the surrounding noise until you’re able to move on and let your work stand on its own, you’ll lead a healthy and happy creative life as a hobby comic creator.

Who needs to be miserable fretting over Project Wonderful and merchandise sales when you’re happy producing killer content and have a social life? Think about that the next time you find yourself chained to your desk, and ask yourself if you’re really fulfilled. You may want to consider a hobby.


Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the author of the neo-noir Online Graphic Novel El Cuervo. He provides WA readers with periodic articles (like this one) to help improve their comic skillz so they can pay their bills. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @DrezzRodriguez

Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints and tagged , , .


  1. Boy, does this ever ring true. For the last year I’ve been doing two webcomics, each posting twice a week. One of them was always intended to be a 100 strip run but I’m not going to miss the self-imposed deadlines I was working under. I’ve already decided my next project is going to be on the whenever-I-decide-to-do-it timeline. I’m not a person who necessarily needs deadlines to be productive so I’m not worried about that part of it. The downside is losing some of the regular interaction with readers. I will miss that but I’ll also be getting a lot more sleep. 🙂

    • Well, you could still interact with readers. Most of the time, that is the fulfilling part of creating a webcomic. If someone gets some enjoyment from it, it was worth it.

      But it mostly has to be something that works for you and your schedule.

  2. I think there should be more posts like this. Now, I do keep to a schedule, because I definitely need the deadlines to keep myself moving forward instead of rewriting my beginning every time I learn something new. And I do what I can for free to promote my comic, because I do have readers, they can give me money if I’m producing something of value to them, and $5 in Project Wonderful revenue will definitely buy me lunch somewhere.

    But you know what? Graphic design is what I went to school for, I’m good at it, I have excellent clients and plenty of work to do, and I love it. So when I read posts about artists who want to quit their miserable day job so their comic can one day pay all their bills, I feel like I’m not doing it right or something. Thanks for giving me some validation that I don’t have to want to work for Disney or be the next internet sensation in order to make a good comic.

    • I may have to make this a regular column then – I know there are other hobbyist webcomic creators out there – but the internet is full of people hoping to make it in this biz.

      I’m posting as someone who is doing it for the sake of doing it – not for anything else. It looks like there should be more of a look into the minds of folks who aren’t trying to make it as a pro.

  3. I sort of fell into webcomics as a hobby in 2008 when the Bitstrips service launched. I found I enjoyed making comics, and wanted to go further with doing my own art. I had given up drawing in college, but wanted to re-devolop and improve my remaining skills.

    I ended up using Bitstrips to do a weekly comic for for about 2 years, and transitioned that into a hand rendered strip for another 6 months. In the meantime I was also working on developing some things for myself, but found the weekly deadline for the Major Spoilers obligation left me with little time to work on my own projects.

    I wasn’t enjoying myself, and wanted to work on something more personal. Since that transition, I’ve been working on a strip that I’m hoping to launch in the new year, and have struggled with whether to do it as just a hobby or something more.

    I’ve settled on doing it as a hobby, at my own pace and for my own fulfillment. I want it to be as good as I can make it, but I don’t work very fast. My goal is one full color 3-4 panel strip a week, but if I don’t hit that I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I’m building up a substantial buffer so I can release regularly, at least at first.

    With that decision, I have also launched a more improvisational non-narrative gag panel that is quite different than my narrative strip. I find the combination of the two very different projects, neither of which HAS to come out on any schedule, is very satisfying creatively as each fulfills different creative processes.

    Enen though I’ve ultimately decided to treat my comics as a hobby it is also true that I wouldn’t mind either project getting noticed, going viral etc. If we didn’t want at least SOME attention, we’d do our comics and leave them in a file folder on our computer, or sitting in a sketchbook somewhere. We want to share them, we want people to read them, and we hope people enjoy them.

    • Its always a good thing to share with others – how would you improve without some form of outside criticism. In the end, we do it for some recognition, but on OUR terms.

      It isn’t the be all and end all if we don’t MAKE it as a pro. That was never our intent from the beginning. We hobbyists prefer to entertain, but until there’s enough of a demand to keep you busy and compensated, the readers will just have to wait.

    • Thanks – I try not to pull any punches, and I really enjoy bringing a different side to all of the typical business of webcomics we’re so used to seeing. We need more love for the folks who do it for the experience and the pure joy of creating.

      It doesn’t always have to be about $$$

  4. Great post. Guess I’m stuck somehwere in between a hobbyist and an aspiring creator – I like the ‘free yourself’ mentality described in your article, and I realize that the chances of Hollywood knocking down my door are slim. That said, I have lots of stories I want to tell and too little time to devote to them.

    As I’ve realised with the handful of unfinished projects sitting on my PC, there’s a fine line between taking a relaxed approach and never getting anything done. I’ve been sitting at Step 10 for a little bit now, spinning my wheels on the decision of going for a large-scale long-format comic (~24 issues)or going with a second idea that’s a bit more feasible, but still no cakewalk (~6 issues). The first story is the one I’ve always wanted to tell; the second is a sidestory within that world that I like enough to finish.

    Which would you choose, given these options? Unless I quit my day job, I’ll have a ‘hobbyist’ amount of time to devote to either in the forseeable future.

    • I would do the short one first. Doing sprawling epics can kill your creativity because you get too caught up in minutia. Get the story done and finished, and you’ll have a nice little side story that works in tandem with your main story. If you’ve already established how the two of them fit together in your canon, then there should be no continuity errors.

  5. My family thinks it’s a hobby and I have yet to find a way to convince them otherwise as, after spinning my yarns since the late 80’s, I have not yet monetized it effectively. I’m beginning to think it is just nothing more than a glorified hobby that I have a great work ethic with.

    • Monetizing and going pro – It’s that big step – you’re at the edge of the cliff and don’t know whether to step away or take a flying leap.

      If that’s too much work and could care less about the money, then you’re probably a hobbyist.

      If you want to be a pro but couldn’t bother to put the work into it, then you need motivation and you’re lazy. Get to it!

      • I put plenty of work into it. I’ve pounded the pavement and gone to local shops (comicbook and bookstores) peddle my wares (book of comics 2008-2009), gone to local conventions (as a spectator not at my own or shared table), pressed the flesh, handed out my card, chatted up the ones at the table. I work on my comic, writing scripts in advance of 4 months, load my buffer up to 3 weeks at a time, practice, practice, practice to improve my technique, streamline it, if you will, for efficiency….All of these things, yet the family (most of them, my kids see how much dedication and effort I put into honing my craft) sees it only as me doing a hobby. I will be a closer, that much I am sure of, I’ll get to drink the coffee and get the El Dorado, not the steak knives, or the door…I’ll sell myself until the people I am selling to get so tired of hearing me sell myself to them, they’ll look for something to jam into their ears to make the noise go away…just can’t do that to family, although I’ve fantasized about seizing them by the throat and looking into their bulging eyes while I scream “IT’S NOT A FRICKIN’ HOBBY! YOU’RE EITHER ONBOARD WITH ME WHILE I SELL THIS S**T OR THERE’S THE DOOR!” but I can’t cause her job pays the bills…mostly…somewhat.

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