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Tegan Phillips is a cartoonist. Cool! But what exactly does a career in cartooning look like? Well, put simply, it involves writing things, then drawing pictures to accompany the writing using an app on her iPad. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg… Tegan chats to GH writer Ondela Mlandu about the process.

How do you get into the cartooning industry?

There’s no conventional path to get into cartooning, but there are cartooning schools. “Something that was especially useful for me when I started out was doing plenty of research on other professional cartoonists to see how they made money (merch, books, syndications etc) and how they worked. I tried out different things to find what felt right/natural for me. Patience is essential,” says Tegan.

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So, what kind of certificates do you need to get under your belt? With cartooning, says Tegan, it’s more about finishing high school, then posting your work everywhere. “[Think:] all the platforms, attending events, hustling, networking and attending workshops. Just put your stuff out there – never be inauthentic, but be ruthlessly experimental and proactive,” she says.

Entrepreneurial skills will really help you. Here’s why…

Companies like Buzzfeed have in-house cartoonists, but most cartoonists are self-employed. “Most illustrators have regular contracts with different publications, or just run their own brands. That’s why entrepreneurial skills are essential – you’ll likely have to make your own business model rather than slotting into somebody else’s,” says Tegan. So start honing those business skills…

Does the fact that you’re a woman make a difference?

Cartooning is primarily about writing (drawing is actually secondary). And when it comes to humour-writing, says Tegan, people automatically assume men are funnier. “I’ve had people share my comics and refer to me as ‘he’ and ‘him’. So maybe that creates an initial psychological barrier for creators and readers. But, like many industries, there is a female market that is best catered for by females,” she says.

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Recently, there’s been a spike in the popularity of female webcomic artists, she adds, because they can write about relatable female experiences. “About 80% of my readership is female, so I think in any industry being a woman can give you unique leverage if you have the right mindset,” she adds.

Tegan learnt this critical lesson along the way

There is nothing more important than being truly, deeply honest with yourself. “Being honest about your motivations, questioning those motivations, followed by actions coming from pure motivations will always feel better than seemingly ‘good’ actions coming from a place of insecurity, fear, anger,” she says.

Her advice for the next generation of female leaders and entrepreneurs

“Smart, capable, compassionate young women seem to be the ones holding the world together at the moment. And we need more of them,” says Tegan. She believes women shouldn’t just be exploring, learning and doing traditional things, but actually standing up and taking over.

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“If you’re a young woman with a desire to leave a mark of goodness on the world, you absolutely do not have the liberty of messing around, holding that back and putting it off,” she adds. “Whether that means as encouraging supporters or vocal activists or whatever feels right. There should be no hiding away or conforming just because those other things seem scary,” she says.

The book every woman should read

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. “The book talks about the importance of not getting caught up in our personal dramas and stories – no matter how real or valid or justified we think they might seem. [It’s about] allowing, feeling, but not perpetuating or indulging. And the great usefulness of developing mental discipline,” says Tegan.

How Tegan practices self-care


Connect with Tegan

My handles are @unclippedadventure on Instagram and Facebook.

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