I don't get a lot of time for reading lately, but when I'm sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office or waiting to run other errands, I picked up a book called Grit by Angela Duckworth. While it hasn't been very helpful in a practical sense, it's been good for my morale. It's helped me stay with my goal, despite all these setbacks. She gave gave a six-minute TED talk about grit a while back. She opens the book talking about how the military has struggled for a long time to understand why some people drop out of the West Point academy after being carefully selected as supremely physically fit and academically at the top of their class already. It doesn't have to do with their physical prowess, their intelligence, their social skills (good news for me!)... it has to do with their grit: their ability to say "this sucks, let's keep going!" The people who stay in West Point are the guys who would have stayed at NASA through all those rocket explosions, slowly refining until they eventually get to the moon and now to Mars.
It's comforting to me to know this, because even before this year, I've had plenty of my share of knocks. I started Woohooligan in 2006 and I added Google Analytics to track my progress two years later in early 2008. It wasn't until two years later in September 2009 that I had over 1,000 people on the site in a month... and then it vanished... and I languished in obscurity for another two years.
I finally started advertising on Project Wonderful in early 2012 and I discovered that the advertising didn't just work, it worked fantastically well! Traffic on Woohooligan rocketed up throughout the year until the end of 2012 when it peaked at 5,540 sessions in February 2013. That's when it started falling... and despite all my efforts to tweak my advertising, it continued to fall like a fucking stone, the same way it had rocketed up before. That went on until late August when I ran our first KickStarter campaign, went into the hospital with my diabetes and moved across country from Texas to Ohio!
That's when we discovered just how many repairs had to be made around the house and I had to take on a ton of extra software work and couldn't publish any comics for most of 2013 while working hard to pay for a new air-conditioner, five major plumbing leaks in the first couple weeks, new gutters, new doorknobs, etc, etc...
I started publishing comics again in September 2014 and had another giant spike in traffic that... vanished. Again! I started the latest story about Amity in April and what regular readership I had for the previous few months vanished again! (Although this time I knew why, because for three months I couldn't afford to advertise!) In September I started advertising again and I started seeing growth on the site again... it wasn't anywhere near as fast as it was in 2012, but it was working and over the past six months I've seen slow but consistent growth, despite a huge slump in March and April when I had to stop advertising again and take time off to move my mother across country. And the past month or so I've also discovered why it was that my advertising stopped working several years ago in 2013, because of the growth of ad-blocking online.
June continued the trend of unexpected setbacks making my career change harder... I know everybody says "we all have challenges", but seriously, everbody doesn't have these kind of challenges. How many people do you know personally who have autism (1.2%), diabetes (9.3%), cancer (41%), and THEN had to move their mother across country to stay with them and their wife and two kids (and an already near-bedridden 80yr old mother-in law)? No, this isn't a normal amount of life challenge. If this were a normal amount of life challenge, I can tell you, we'd all be a lot nicer to each other! If this were normal, we'd have died out before we learned to harness fire!
I made this graphic to show you guys what I'm talking about... this is a timeline of my efforts to grow Woohooligan and to become a full-time comedian and cartoonist... Just looking at this damn graph is EXHAUSTING!
That's when, on the way home from a follow-up with my oncologist on the 7th (that went well, thank you), the transmission in our Dodge Caravan failed suddenly and without warning. The good news is, we got a new car. The bad news is the new car is older, more expensive, and locks us into another $260/mo car payment for the next five years. I'm hoping our credit will improve in a few months and we can refinance the car at a lower rate.
(EDIT: I wanted this paragraph to be a footnote, but Patreon's editor is kind of stupid.
The dealership gave us an estimate of $4,600 to replace the transmission, which was far beyond our ability. With my mother-in-law, Carol, suffering bone destruction from hyperparathyroidism and having to see an endocrinologist in Hamilton, an hour's drive away, just relying on the bus isn't an option. We can't hop a taxi or an Uber an hour's drive out once a month. After being turned down for a loan for the repairs twice, once by the dealership and once by our bank, the dealership found a lender willing to give us credit on an older, more expensive Buick. Frankly I was shocked! I didn't think anyone would give us credit for $18k, no matter what it was for. So now we've got an extra $260/mo car paymentfor the next five years and while I'm certainly grateful to have a car, I can't say it's helping me reach my career goals in any way (especially given the $1,000 downpayment we had to come up with that required we call several utilities to postpone payments for electric and internet). The Buick is a 2009, so it's four years older and by the time we have it paid off, it will be about 15 years old and will probably be half-way into the grave and we'll have to start another car loan right away.)
After all that, it's challenging to stay positive about my goal to be a full-time comedian and cartoonist by January. I'm six months into the goal and five months behind thanks to all the unexpected setbacks. That doesn't mean I'm giving up. How ridiculous would that be? I started by saying "screw cancer", I'm not going from that to "this is hard, I quit." We went to the moon, damnit! Our rockets exploded on the platform or after launch or on re-entry and we didn't just say "this is hard, we'll stop now." We kept going!
I'm lucky that I'm currently still on disability because if not for that, I wouldn't have been able to manage any of the work I've done over the past four months. That's about fourteen or fifteen pages of comics (including the four-page Black History Month comic) and four-to-six patron-only bonus pieces and three more patron raffle commissions... having said that, we just submitted the review for my disability and if that doesn't go just right, there's a good chance I'll be out $2,000/mo (about 80-90% of our income) in a couple months. And since I'm already out another $260/mo in new car payments, I need your help now more than ever! My advertising has been working, paying out at least $100/mo in any month when I could advertise, notably growing readership on the site. But I couldn't advertise in March or April and that was a noticeable slump! And another $260/mo car payment isn't helping me pay for that advertising at all.
I'm also still spending a great deal of time on social networking, despite the fact that I've pulled back a bit on posting to Facebook in recent weeks. I still have no real answer to last month's question: should I seek reviews or focus solely on growing our audience on social media? I'm currently at 460 likes on Facebook and 4471 followers on Twitter... This is a real problem. My growth so far is about 20% per month, and that's given that I spend hours and hours and HOURS working on managing my social media... I literally will sit down and start checking my messages on Facebook and Twitter and I won't move from my desk for the next five hours because I'm working on growing my audience. Tiffany will ask me for something and two hours later I'll go up to the bedroom and ask her what it was she needed again, because I was busy working on my social media. Needless to say, that eats into time I could be making comics for you guys. I've read that the average growth rate is around 6-8% per week and also that you can expect to start seeing notable numbers of retweets/reshares on either site only once you've achieved TENS of thousands of followers in either place. So if we assume that I'll hit that first tipping point around 10k followers on either site, that means that if I continue to beat myself into the ground like a FoxCon employee, working without stop, 60-80 hours per week like I have been, and I continue a steady 20% growth, I'll reach that tipping point in about 5 months on Twitter or about 17 months on Facebook. But that's not really getting me notably closer to my goal of earning a living making comics. That tipping point, that's ostensibly 5-17 months away if I work like Conan pushing the wheel, is just the point at which I've read that my social media will have some SLIGHT impact because I'll get reasonable numbers of shares and retweets. So that point, 5-17 months into the future is just the very first step on the thousand-mile journey from a handful of shares to the hundreds or thousands of shares I need to be getting before they translate into any notable increase in pledges on the Patreon or ebooks sold.
Long story short... I don't know what I'm doing with social media.
The articles I've read say my progress is good, but the number of hours I have to put in to make that happen is killing me. I'm looking into getting someone to help me manage my social media... I don't know how effective that's going to be. It's inherently "social", which is my achillies heel in the first place (autism), so for the growth to be meaningful (and not just a bunch of unhelpful fake accounts following me), I still have to take some time on a regular basis to interact with people and to share funny shit (not mine, I can't work that fast), on those other sites like Twitter and Facebook. And I really don't feel like I can farm that out to some automated content delivery system. I think my sense of humor has a style to it and I think people would notice. Not to mention that I try and add my own jokes to memes I share on Facebook. So even if I get someone to manage the social media for me, I still have to put in an hour or two at least every week to interact with people. So I have to do something to improve my marketing, I'm just not at all sure how to go about it.
So having said all that, again, I need your help now more than ever! And the really cool thing is, it doesn't have to cost you a dime! :D All you have to do is share the comic with your friends and make sure they know where to read it and that we have a Patreon.
So what have I accomplished with my 40 hours/week in June, despite the setbacks?
Comic Pages: 3
Still ahead of schedule. What I've promised in my goals on the Patreon is to publish at least two per month when I get to $157/mo, at which point working 40 hours/week like I've promised will be earning me about $1/hr and was my target for the first of May, which we're now two months past.
Bonus Content: 1
Last month I got an alternate ending in addition to the NSFW bonus, but in June I only managed to get an NSFW bonus done. I'm really planning to have more than the NSFW content done every month, I was just really pressed in June and didn't manage it.
Despite switching to sending direct emails to raffle winners, I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of the people who won the raffle for previous months. I did however get descriptions from Brian McCann and Amanda Nebel. I was rushing to finish Amanda's at the last minute and I ended up inking it on the 1st, but I'm still going to count it for June. :P
I'm still reading the IDW Social Media Marketing for Dummies All-In-One and started and finished Grit which I mentioned earlier.
Ad Campaigns: 1-ish
I had already put a hundred dollars into my Project Wonderful account a week or so before the transmission failed in the car, which in the long run is probably a good thing because I probably wouldn't have if the transmission had failed first. I've also spent a great deal of time tweaking my advertising, carefully comparing my Project Wonderful accont to my Google Analytics to see which sites produce the stickiest traffic -- people who not only come to Woohooligan, but who also stay and read (and I presume enjoy) the comics. :)
Other Promotion: 6
This entails non-paid contacting of bloggers and podcasters about reviews and/or interviews. I haven't been contacting anyone this month because of how busy I've been with other things (helping mom get settled among them), and Tiffany agreed to start helping me contact people about reviews. So this month she contacted: Prism Comics, ComicsBeat, PopOptiq, InfiniteFreetime.com (Luther Siler), This Freakin Show podcast, and All-Comic.com.
So that's it for now! Like I said, things are really hard, but I'm not giving up! I hope you'll stick with me and help me reach that crazy dream of mine! :D
Stay tuned and stay awesome, Hooligans!