Today, I’m going to talk about an important aspect of the business of comics. What is it? It’s the business plan. I plan to discuss why a business plan for cartoonists is important. (On another note, it’s important for any creative individual – be you an illustrator, a graphic designer, a musician, a writer, and so forth.)
So what exactly is a business plan, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s a blueprint for your enterprise – the what, why, where, when, and how. As I’ve been learning from others in the field, the creative spirit of the fine and/or commercial artist doesn’t seem to blend well with that of the entrepeneur. Some of you know firsthand that creating a comic, painting on canvas, writing a novel, etc. may also entail things like keeping track of taxes, buying supplies, and making runs to the post office. Some of you may not even want to bother with a business plan. Why is a business plan for cartoonists necessary?
There are three reasons and all are tied into the business of comics. The first is that many small businesses are said to fail in the first year or two of opening up. An exact figure can’t be provided here as some have debated the numbers. The Small Business Administration claims that 60 percent of small businesses fail in their first year of operation. Even if that’s not the case, you need to reduce your chances of failure. That’s the point of a business plan. You need one whether you plan to market your work to a comic book publisher or if you plan to go it alone. It’s important to have a plan to define your mission, what your product is, what the market is like, what is your goal, who is your audience, how much money you need, and so on.
Speaking of money, the second reason a business plan for cartoonists is necessary should be to aid in securing funding. Some of you may seek a lender to loan you funds or an investor to invest money in your comics making enterprise. It’s a standard however in the business world that anyone seeking outside capital must have a business plan. Most, if not all, investors and lenders will NOT even speak to you unless you show them a business plan first. Granted, a business plan is not an absolute guarantee, but you’re better off with one than without.
The third reason for a business plan for cartoonists? Three letters: I-R-S! The IRS (and maybe your state tax department) sometimes may question if someone involved in a creative enterprise (comics, fine art, music, etc.) is really in business. In the event you get audited, a business plan can be a boon in proving to the tax authorities that you are in business.
So how do you go about creating a business plan? I’m working on one myself at the time of this writing and I’m still learning the nuts and bolts of it. For starters, why not check out the SBA’s website about business plans? They have much to read up on.
If you want a detailed explanation about the business plan, here are two texts for further reading:
Business Plan in a Day by Rhonda Abrams (Planning Shop, 2009)
How to Write a Business Plan by Mike McKeever (Nolo, 2010)
If you hope to succeed in the business of comics, you have to think like you’re in business. I still have so much to learn, but I’m getting there.