I've created original works for a while now ranging from comics to games to tabletop game accessories. Some have been met with mild success while others have slipped under the radar of all consciousness and, frankly, that's okay.
But as I get older and fill out insurance forms and throw money into a 401k and do commute 3+ hours a day, a part of my creative soul dies a little bit each day. I still dream for the day that I will be able to have my own personal work support my family and me. But simply "just trying" is not enough. After being in the tech and startup industries for 10+ years, it's probably best to approach it from a pragmatic and metric focused way.
I Can't Engineer A Success
There is no special formula one can follow to garner success with their creative project. It's not like if I take some of column A, add some Column B, and a dash of Column C I will have a viable product(s) to support my lifestyle. So what is the pragmatic and metric focused way?
I say this line at work, as a technical program manager, all the time and "how does this line up to the business goals we have set for ourselves?" I think it's appropriate to line up all of the work I do to a goal of some sort or a business line's output.
Before I get into that, what is the metric that I care most about?
I want eyeballs on my work. I want eyeballs and brains consuming all the media and content possible. Optimizing for monetization should not be the focus right now. Taking a rough hypothesis that if I can somehow engage 10,000 uniques a month and monetize the worst way possible on them, ads, I can assume a minimum of $0.01 per unique. Given that I'm $100 richer a month than I was before. That's terrible napkin math and a terrible business plan, but I'm in the fortunate position that I work full-time and don't need to worry about that part yet.
I'd rather take the Plague Inc video game approach from Level 1. Spread the virus across the entire globe first, making it highly contagious, before it mutates and starts to do damage. In this case, engage as many users as possible before even thinking about monetizing them.
Prongs For Engagement
Back in the day I was hoping that a single path for victory would be all I needed because the saliency of the path was good enough. For example: a really good webcomic just needs to be good and then it can survive.
Nowadays, or maybe even back then, that's risky and foolhardy and not setup for success. What I need to do is determine my many paths for the chance at success. I might as well set it up in the creative ways that I know how.
- Novelty / Physical Goods (i.e. accessories, pins, stickers, postcards)
- Monthly Subscription (a collection of the above in a premium/deluxe version)
Everything I create from now on must line up to one of those business lines.
What are the distribution channels for the above? I'll have to start leveraging the same tools everywhere to try to grow organically: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. There are medium specific paths like Tapas for comics for DeviantArt for illustrations. I'm not sure where creative writing can go, so at least a personal website counts. Games can go to Itch.IO as well. Monthly subscriptions can hit Patreon.
Why type this out?
Why not? I think it's fair to set this path up for myself. It gives a framework to work within and to try to achieve something.
I will have to come up with some goals to hit in each of those business lines. Maybe it can start out as "likes" per business line for the month? Or maybe shares? Whatever those goals are that's the next step: figuring them out.
I just need to make sure to keep up the actual creation of work as well. Even if it's not obvious where that lines up, it will prove to build up the foundation for the universe I'm building and trying to share with people.