You’re not going to get rich quickly from your hobby.

While it’s possible to earn a little income from a hobby or a side-business in a short time, to truly make it profitable takes hard work over the course of many months, if not years. I’ve been blogging for six years, but it’s only just recently that I’ve begun to make money at it.

The same is true for many people who earn side-income from their hobbies. The main obstacle is time. Most of our time is, by necessity, devoted to real jobs, to family, and to friends. There’s little left over to devote to our dreams. But if you persevere, if you work hard, finding chunks of time whenever you can, it is possible to turn a hobby into a money-making venture, or even a career.

Jason Kottke recently pointed to a piece from Jenna Fischer that describes what it took for her to break into show business. (Fischer plays Pam on The Office. I have a huge crush on her.)

Here is how I got “discovered.” I had been living in L.A. for about two years when a friend wrote a TV script and wanted to do a live stage version as a way of attracting TV producers. He asked me to play a small role. It meant lots of rehearsal for very little stage time and no pay. Along the way I questioned why I had agreed to do it, but it was very funny and he was a friend, so I agreed. After our third performance, his manager approached me and asked if I had representation. I said no. She offered to represent me, saying she thought I had a real future in television comedy. Naomi is still my manager today.

A month later, I was doing a very strange play — a musical adaptation of the movie Nosferatu — at a small theater in Los Angeles. I was doing it because I loved the commedia dell’arte style of the show, and because I loved the people involved. I worked all day as a temp doing mind-numbing data entry for a medical company, and then went to rehearsals for five hours a night, often getting home past midnight. One night an agent came to see the play and left his card at the box office asking to meet me. He became my first agent.

Now that sounds easy, right? Well, that was after two years of working as a temp, doing every acting gig I could find for free, borrowing money to buy a new engine for my car, and wearing a pair of shoes with a hole in them because I couldn’t afford anything else. Did I mention my living-room curtain was made from a torn bedsheet? It was another three years before I got my first speaking part on a TV show. That show was Spin City. (I played a waitress in a scene where the girl playing Charlie Sheen’s crazy date threw bread at me.)

Every year I did a little more than the year before. For my first five years, I probably earned between $100 and $2,000 a year from acting. Year 6 brought me some of my biggest success — and I only made $8,000 from acting. But I put a lot more money into my career than that. Headshots are expensive — the photo session and getting prints can run anywhere from $500 to $800. Classes range from $150 to $500 a month. It costs $1,200 to join SAG once you are eligible. And apartments are crazy expensive — $700 to $1,000 for a crappy apartment that you share with at least one roommate. It’s no wonder my living-room curtain was a bedsheet.

The entire article is worth reading. Though it’s ostensibly about breaking into show business, there is a lot there that’s applicable to the pursuit of any dream, from acting to photography to blogging.

The key is to love what you’re doing. If you enjoy your work, or your hobby, and it’s something you would do anyhow, something you would do even if you weren’t being paid, then it’s easy to stay at it for years a time, it’s easy to be patient until the time comes when you can make money at it.

[TV Guide: Of Office Emmy cheers and acting careers — Fischer also has a MySpace page that she actually updates while on the set of the show!]

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