Becoming a professional cartoonist requires the ability to persevere through rejection while also learning from it, as your cartoon submissions could be rejected multiple times before you find the right fit. You'll also want to build a fan base online, since having a pre-existing audience will make your cartoons more appealing to publications and companies.
Learn Sales Skills
The key to becoming a professional cartoonist nowadays is more sales skills than drawing skills, according to Terry LaBan, a professional cartoonist. LaBan notes that he's seen cartoonists with mediocre skills make it big because they knew how to run a business and sell their work, while cartoonists with great artistic skills and little business sense floundered. You can develop your sales and business skills by taking business classes at a local college. For a less expensive route, consider reading some of the top sales books, such as Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and Zig Ziglar's "Secrets of Closing the Sale." Books such as these will teach you how to build business relationships and complete sales -- skills that are essential to selling cartoons and establishing your cartoonist career.
Don't let rejections stop you. Randy Glasbergen, a professional cartoonist, recommends starting out by writing down funny ideas and turning those ideas into cartoons. Mail or e-mail these ideas to magazines, newspapers, greeting card companies, comic strip syndicates, websites or any other client that uses cartoons. Use the cartoon as a sample of the kind of work that you can produce for your clients. If they reject your first strip, come up with a new idea that uses entirely new characters, and send that one. But don't forget that you should also take time to learn from the rejection. Take constructive criticism to heart and use any feedback you get to improve your next cartoon. Rather than viewing multiple rejections as failure, tell yourself that it's just a necessary step in your journey to becoming a professional cartoonist.
Don't Quit Your Day Job
Success doesn't happen overnight when you're trying to become a professional cartoonist. You'll need to maintain a separate source of income you can live off while you work on starting your career as a cartoonist on the side. To help with time management, set aside a block of time, such as an hour every night or an afternoon every weekend, that is dedicated solely to your cartoonist career. While you're starting this side business, take time to learn about copyright law, business negotiations and pricing points so you're prepared when the work starts coming in. Although taking college classes on these topics will certainly help, you can also learn the basics of copyright law and the business side of being a cartoonist by reading books or online articles. For example, Glasbergen has a page on his website where he lists online articles about copyright law that cartoonists will find helpful. Attorney Katie Lane's blog, Work Made For Hire, is worth a look as she has posted two podcasts featuring cartoonists discussing business tips.
Build an Internet Fan Base
Building a fan base can nab the attention of editors and can even help you sell cartoon books or graphic novels yourself. You can also build a residual income from Internet ads and cartoon ebooks. The first step is start a webpage to host your work and create accounts on popular social networking sites. Contact your friends, co-workers and family to start building a list of followers. Then start drawing cartoons and sending them to your audience. You may not be officially syndicated, but over time you'll grow your fan base and find that your cartoons are shared with people all over the country and maybe even the world. Your cartoons will be easier to sell if your work is shared and viewed around the internet.