The Internet is not just a place for rambling blogs and company Web sites.

Many people with an interest in and talent for something outside their full-time job have found that featuring their work on a personal Web site can be a useful tool in rallying support and obtaining enough money to develop their passion further. It may lead to a better product, a strong fan base and even published work, which in a sense turns the hobby into a small business.

Tom Brazelton, a Web designer for Allied Insurance, spends Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings sketching out his next comic adventure, which focuses on an upcoming movie. He’ll scan the strip into his computer, add color and post it to his Web site,, where around 7,000 visitors will see it the next day – up from around 50 when he started the site in August 2002.

“It married my interests in design, illustration, writing, learning Web design and movies,” said Brazelton.

Bob Singer, director of grants and contracts for Des Moines Area Community College, keeps an eye out for political news. When the former WHO-TV political news reporter and congressional campaign press secretary has a visual of a comic skit, he’ll write it out, buy all the props, memorize the lines, and within a couple of hours have two volunteer cameramen shoot it in his own kitchen. He then edits and posts the short clip on his Web site,, twice a month, allowing people from around the world to view it.

“I have a passion for news and politics,” said Singer, “And I thought about what would be a fun and effective way to inform people about politics so that they would be excited about it. I thought, who wants to see another talking head at a desk? Food just works. Food is a political metaphor.”

Before the Internet took off, these artists would have been begging publishers and other media companies to take interest in their work, just to have a chance to share it with even a small group of people. Now they have fan bases in the thousands and the support to take their work to the next level.

“You can publish your own work without the consent of any other authority,” said Brazelton. “I always compare it to independent music in the ‘80s. Kids were starting their own shows and labels. For cartoonists, the Web allowed that. It’s a great example of people communicating and sharing ideas and rallying around similar interests.

“Other people I know are doing this when they’re in college and they’ve made careers out of it.”

Singer first tried to sell his show to television networks. Fox News Channel and CNN considered buying his work but decided that it was “not a fit at the time.” However, Singer said, “they loved the political kitchen concept and told me to keep working at it.”

“My goal with this is to have an audience for each episode that rivals the cable audiences for political shows,” he said. “I haven’t been up three months yet and I’ve already got over 259,000 hits.”

With such large international support, Singer hopes that he will be able to convince television networks to air his segments during the next Iowa presidential caucuses.

“I think there possibly could come a time when television takes off and runs with successful Web video program,” he said. “Of course, I would like to be the first.”

One way Singer and Brazelton finance their online ventures is by selling advertising space.

Brazelton started out on a different route by asking Web site visitors for a dollar donation, which produced very little income, then selling posters and T-shirts, which was more successful, but didn’t generate enough money to cover all his costs. Now he works with a couple of advertising networks that provide advertisers based on traffic and interest in his movie-related topics, but he admits that it doesn’t fit in with the look of his Web site and “nobody likes to see flashing googly things.”

These ads, however, have started to generate more money, $500 last month. This helps Brazelton buy supplies and pay for the Web site, which increases in price as his traffic increases.

Singer has a deal with Freese-Notis Global Internet under which it hosts his Web site for free if he advertises that company on his site, which makes his Web site a self-sustaining program. However, he still must pay for all the props and equipment to make his videos out of his own pocket.

“I’m racking up credit cards,” said Singer. “But that’s not unusual for any start-up. I’d say the initial reception was much larger than I expected. It’s time now to move up to the next level technology wise.”

After recently attending a bloggers conference in San Francisco to learn how to better design Web sites, Singer has been working on redesigning his site to better handle traffic. By landing an updated site around the end of August, he hopes to attract more viewers, increase blogging, and then try to attract more advertising, which he expects will help cover some if not all of his extra expenses. The extra income will also help him improve graphics with better technology, ultimately improving the quality of his product.

The effects of a Web site are worldwide. Not only does it attract advertisers, but it also attracts an audience that is interested and supportive of the work.

While on a trip to New York City, Singer ran into a woman who was wearing a T-shirt with his picture on it, and Brazelton recently sold a shirt to a fan in Israel. A few political columnists and political blogging sites also have mentioned or linked to Singer’s site, while Brazelton joined Boxcar Comics, a loose federation of comic artists that promote each other’s work.

Brazelton finds that one of his biggest aids is to form a relationship with his readers, and he responds to e-mails and comments on blogs frequently. Forming this kind of support allowed him to get 100 people to pre-order his book, which helped pay for its publication costs. The book, titled “Theater Hopper Year One,” will come out this summer.

“There’s a certain level of success when you get into print,” said Brazelton. “It’s not just disposable entertainment. There’s enough people behind me that support this interest. It’s a landmark for me.”

Singer is also working on a book, tentatively called “Political Kitchen: Politics, Romance and Recipes,” which he hopes to have done by Thanksgiving.

These tactics are only some of what Brazelton and Singer could be doing. Brazelton says that it’s not uncommon to see better-known comic artists asking for things on their Web site. For example, some will post a message, asking video game companies to send samples of their products.

Overall, the business side of things is not what Brazelton and Singer are focused on – it’s their craft. Brazelton is learning how to better develop his comics.

“If I was able to combine work ethic with an intelligent business approach,” said Brazelton, “I could probably take it a lot farther.”

Singer is looking for better ways to produce his work, noting that it takes time to handle unforeseen disasters, such as breaking the wrong window in his Backdoor Brownies shoot.

“I am passionate about my work, passionate about news and politics and passionate about being successful,” said Singer. “I want to accomplish something.”

So far Brazelton and Singer have been able to work full time and work on their projects, but Brazelton worries that eventually his site will demand too much attention. He compares it to his first experience creating a music review Web site for Des Moines. His audience’s demands became so great that he had to shut down the site.

“I never intended to get into it for a career or even as a monetary supplement. It was a hobby and learning experience,” said Brazelton. “It’s a coincidence that I get money and keep the site self-supporting.”