BEST PRACTICES FOR STARTING UP A WEBCOMIC
1. Work ahead. Even being one comic strip ahead in your schedule will take 99% of the pressure out of the creative process, as long as you can maintain a buffer. I usually try to stay 2-3 strips ahead, but most of the time I only end up being 1 ahead. It's still a huge help though because I can take as long as I like on each comic. Tight deadlines can spur creativity, but if you fuck up you don't have a comic for that day, and that is pretty much the worst mistake you can make.
2. Find a reasonable update schedule and stick with it. Updating on time, every time is the single most important part of getting people to read your comic. Start out on a schedule that you know for 100% certain you can maintain with no problems. If it feels too "easy", try doing a few extra comics each update cycle for a couple weeks/months. I started out at 2x per week, then moved to 3x, and now that it's my full time job I have time to do 5 strips a week.
3. Always try to improve yourself. Writing and artwork can ALWAYS be improved, and the more talented you get the more people will enjoy your work. I try to do at least a little bit of drawing every single day- after 2 years of this you'll be amazed at how far you've come.
4. Promote yourself in a courteous manner. Emailing authors you admire and telling them about your comic is a good idea! Don't ask for links or anything, just ask them to check it out and tell you what they think. We like finding new comics to read! I don't recommend whoring out your comic in message boards, but if you're already part of any online communities, you'd be amazed how much difference a link to your strip in your forum signature will make. You can take out ads on other sites if you feel like it, but it's not mandatory. I've never paid for an ad in my life (although I'll never turn down free advertising) and I now get more traffic than probably 99% of all other webcomics out there.
5. Enjoy yourself! If you don't love what you do, you won't do the best you possibly can. This is a medium with tremendous potential for personal enjoyment provided you have the right mindset. It'll feel like work sometimes, but it should always feel like *fun* work.
6. Design a good website. Remember, content is king when it comes to webcomic site design. Ideally the comic should be the first thing people see when they go to your site. If they have to click more than once or spend more than 3 seconds figuring out WHAT to click to get to the comic, your site isn't well designed. A good archive system is essential- if you're not good with PHP or other archiving code, make friends with someone who is, or use one of the pre-coded packages out there (check out ComixPedia for more info on those). I always recommend getting your own domain name- it's easier for people to remember, it looks more professional, and it just *feels* better.
7. Don't go into it expecting popularity. Expecting recognition or fame or money or whatever will only lead to disappointment, no matter how successful or unsuccessful you end up being. Priority number one when you are doing a webcomic should always be to do the best comic you possibly can with your current abilities. Everything else is secondary to that, whether you have 10 readers or 10 million readers. I'm a firm believer that most of the time, good work will get the recognition it deserves sooner or later. This isn't a popular sentiment among the lesser-known comics out there, but the way I look at it is popular comics are popular because they appeal to a large audience (this appeal can be related to the comic's subject matter, its cultural niche, or just how many cute girls are in the comic). We're not like music or movies, where huge corporations spend millions of dollars to shove products down middle America's throat. We stand or fall on the appeal of our own work.
8. Don't be a jerk. You'd think this would be self-evident, but the webcomics community has its share of cranky, frustrated folks who take out their dissatisfaction on other authors or their fans. The nicer you are to people, the more friends you'll make, and the more friends you make, the more fun you'll have! Don't pick fights, don't talk shit, and always be thankful for the wonderful opportunity the magic of the robo-webs has presented you.
Doing webcomics is fucking awesome. I'd say probably 90% of them are utter garbage, but that remaining 10% contains some of the most amusing humor, breathtaking artwork, and edifying storytelling you'll find anywhere today. The only way to find out whether you're part of the 90 or part of the 10 is to give it a try and do the best you can! If you think your comic sucks, make it better. If you think your comic is the best thing to happen to the Internet since boobies, you're wrong (boobies are awesome). Just get out there and kick some ass!