I first wanted to be a cartoonist nearly two decades ago. Back then I had no idea how to get published and, as there was no Google to ask, my seminal strip ‘Temp Bitch’ never saw the light of day. Instead, I got a ‘proper job’ and spent the next 20 years practising my drawing in every meeting I went to (there were many).
When I finally came back to the ambition a couple of years ago the world had entirely changed. While there seemed to be fewer publications taking in cartoons, in return I realised that in today’s world, anyone can develop their own audience and talk to them directly.
I’ve spent the last year or so doing just that. I began by re-establishing and honing my style, building up a portfolio of content and testing my material on friends, family and my social media connections. I started appealing to businesses, showing them how they could use cartoons to help get their message across in a way hits you between the eyes, and that’s truly memorable. (It didn’t hurt that I’d spent many years in marketing roles).
The cartoon below was created to help promote a time management programme:
I also got the chance to illustrate a couple of books for people in the personal development field. By this time I’d spent a lot of time (and money) coaching myself out of being a life coach, and into being a cartoonist.
Out of all this I’ve now developed my own three-pronged strategy to keep me focused on steadily building my business. It goes like this:
ONE: Create. And keep on creating. Just keep drawing strips, gags and illustrations. Set goals. Keep to them. Keep on moving forward.
TWO: Build an audience. Use social media. Reach out and touch... well, people’s hearts, hopefully.
THREE: Get my name out there. Online and in the real world. Both are important.
Point one is the most important as good quality work will always find its audience (as long as you put the effort in). When you love what you do, the chances are other people will too. You just have to keep on creating and improving on your output. One part of my brain is now on a permanent alert for ideas (making me annoying company).
BUILDING AN AUDIENCE
I have learnt that social media does indeed rock. I’ve created cartoons across many different interest groups, from NLP and personal development to sexy businesses such as financial investing.
Social media gives me the chance to reach out to all those different communities. Within a week of following and sending my cartoons to NLP trainers, I got a book-illustration offer.
GETTING MY NAME OUT THERE
No amount of social media makes up for real-life relationship building. Much to my own surprise, I attend a weekly business-breakfast group. It really works for me and means I now have 15 other people helping me get the word out, and a safe place to test out ideas. It also means I have to stand up on a weekly basis and affirm that I am a cartoonist. I know from my NLP work that regular reinforcement can have a big impact.
For all the work involved, I love what I do now. I feel driven to keep improving and I get a ridiculous pleasure from someone in a country far away laughing at something I’ve drawn – or giving it a humble ‘like’.
So I say hooray to the modern world. It’s allowed me to take an old love and make new friends to share it with. The world, as they have yet to say, is my kitten.
Caroline Chapple is the creator of Chapple Cartoons, which creates cartoons and cartoon illustrations for businesses, authors, publishers and anyone who wants to put their message across in a humorous, memorable way. You can also find her blog at the same site.