Gavin Aung Than started his blog Zen Pancils in February 2012 as part of a career change. But it’s been so successful he’s now working on it full-time and boasts a wide and diverse community of followers.
1. When did you start your blog?
I launched my site in February 2012. I had just had a quarter-life crisis, was miserable in my corporate graphic design job and wanted to pursue my passion for illustration and cartooning. So I quit my job in December 2011, sold my house and put all my eggs in one basket by starting Zen Pencils. I gave myself one year to use the blog as a launching pad for a new freelance illustration career.
2. What is the main purpose of your blog?
I originally intended to use the blog as a promotional tool that would land me freelance illustration jobs. However, the blog has become more popular than I could have imagined and it really inspires people. I enjoyed producing the comics and building a strong community of like-minded people so much that I’ve decided to dedicate myself completely to the site and to try and turn the blog into my sole source of income.
3. Please describe the main readers of your blog?
I don’t have a niche demographic as such. I get a lot of aspiring artists, comic fans, office-workers looking for inspiration and even science buffs (I have quite a few science-related comics).
4. Do you earn an income from your blog? Can you describe whether this is a full-time income, part-time income, pocket money?
Yes, I would say it’s a part-time income at the moment (mainly from selling prints of my comics), but I have no doubt I can turn this into a full-time income and plan to implement ways of making money through advertising, merchandise, ebooks, and workshops.
5. What makes your blog successful and what do you use to measure that success?
It would have to be the people who follow me. I get emails on a daily basis from readers and fans who have been genuinely inspired by the site and tell me that my comics have cheered them up during a difficult period. Everyone from young people just finishing high-school who say my comics helped them decide to chase their dreams and live a better life to people who are taking art classes or have begun drawing again after seeing how much joy I get from my work. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this site and I think it shows and people have responded to it – which is the biggest success for me. I’ve created something that is changing people’s lives and making a real difference. I’ve found my vocation. As for measuring that success, I’m getting around 400,000 unique visitors a month, and have nearly 15,000 Facebook fans, which is not bad for a blog that is only 6 months old. I am also getting a lot of interest via stumbleupon and Pinterest. On top of that, my comics have been featured on Buzzfeed and appeared on the front page of Digg, Redditt and 9GAG and I’ve also been interviewed by the Washington Post.
6. What do you think of a service like SocialCallout.com? Do you think it’s useful to have a service that connects brands with bloggers?
I think it’s a good idea – social media will overtake traditional advertising in the future and savvy brands will be flocking to services like SocialCallout. Bloggers with a large following have built up trust with their community so their endorsement of a brand can hold a lot of sway. It also provides another possible income stream for bloggers, which is great, as long as they don’t abuse the trust they’ve built.
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