710
9 min 46 sec

Movie Editor Turns 19th Century Art Into Full-Time Job

He started creating webcomics back in 2003. Little did he know this labor of love would eventually turn into a $10,000 per event side hustle.
Arts & Crafts Creativity Product Writing

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What It's About

Witty and socially relevant "old-timey" comics!

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Writing & Creativity
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

To choose his merchandise, David relies a lot on gut instincts. If people like his comics, he figures, they shared common ground with him and may find similar products and ideas interesting. But he is still always sure to test new items before printing them in large quantities.

Fun Fact

David was really careful to slowly phase out his day-job, opting for a freelance position for nine months one year, six months the next, and three months the year after!

Notes from Chris

Episode 710

For movie trailer editor David Malki !—who's name is legally spelled with an unpronounced exclamation point at the end—creating comics was a fun way to keep himself entertained between projects. David loved pulling 19th-century illustrations from books in the public library, or his own rare collection, and re-contextualizing them with modern-day references. He’d scan the images into his computer, upload them to Adobe Photoshop, and add funny passages.

David mostly saw this as a labor of love. He’d upload the comic to his website, Wondermark, and share them with whoever cared to read. He did this mostly by taking part in discussions in webcomic forums and on message boards. This was back in 2003, so it was way before Facebook groups and Twitter threads.

Over time, David and his comics began to build a following. People would comment on his work and share it with their friends. The more he created, the better he got, and the more people reacted to what he was making. As David’s audience grew, so did his desire to turn Wondermark into a business. He’d seen a few other creators making a comfortable living from their comic creations, and felt he’d like to be able to do the same.

To see if Wondermark had the chops to survive on its own, David devised a test. He created a handful of print books to sell to his colleagues at his advertising agency. He printed 60 copies for $8 each, and then sold them for $15 each.

If he could pitch them on it, well, he just might have a legit business on his hands. And, much to his delight, 48 of the 49 other employees did! The only outlier being one grumpy producer who didn’t “get it.”

This small initial success gave David the confidence to look at selling products on a wider scale. But, as is David’s ethos, he continued with more tests.

Over the next few years, he carried on in a similar fashion. He created comics during his evenings and weekends and attended events and conventions whenever he was able to. They were few and far between, so luckily, it didn’t interfere with his day job. Every new convention meant he’d try a new product; creating small runs of stickers and t-shirts, seeing if they’d sell, and ordering more of the products which worked well. Working part-time, in just a few years David was earning enough to quit his job and focus on Wondermark full-time.

The landscape of the webcomics industry has changed over the last few years, and David is now able to make money online between events, thanks to e-commerce and Patreon, where he currently receives $869 a month from 212 supporters or patrons. He also runs three e-commerce stores which are connected to Wondermark. The backbone of these stores is print-on-demand, where t-shirts and mugs and other products are printed and fulfilled by third-party companies like T-Shirt Diplomacy, with David’s designs on them.

Looking to the future, David isn’t quite sure what he’s going to do. He’s always testing and trying new ideas to see what will work out for him, but he’s also open to the possibility of using the skills he’s learned to go back to the working world and help other companies out. Either way, he wants to keep being creative and connecting with people.

 
  MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Wondermark: Learn more about David's work over on his website!
  • WordPress: David used WordPress to setup Wondermark, and here you can learn how to install your own WordPress site in 5 minutes
  • T-Shirt Diplomacy: The first-ever intergalactic casual-apparel website that David used to produce his t-shirts
  • Patreon | David Malki !: Check out David's Patreon page—this is the membership platform that helps David get paid for putting together the content for his comics

SEE ALSO:

  • How to Become a Comic Book Artist: The comic book, graphic novel, manga, and anime industries are some of the fastest growing areas in all of literature, and the demand for great artists continues to grow with each passing year. If you can draw and spend much of your day reading Peanuts and The Hulk, or Tank Girl and Scott Pilgrim, a career as a comic book artist is for you!
  • Comic Creator Illustrates His Way to $30,000: A long love affair with the Sci-fi genre helps this side hustler build an empire—both imaginary and real—through his successful comic books and audio drama podcasts
  • Comic Book Curator Creates Custom Crate Subscription: A Sacramento-based comic and collectibles owner sparks an interest in reading with a monthly comic book subscription box service

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

cg-sig-newsletter


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Quote of the Day
"Owning the whole operation means I get to take the credit when things go right, but in a certain sense I have to take the blame when things go wrong, too."
—David Malki ! #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau