On Tuesday I asked my Facebook followers what work-from-home topics they’d like to see around here. There were some great ideas! There were also a few topics that have already been covered—and instead of rewriting more or less the same posts, I thought it’d be good to republish some. Like this post from last spring, when I shared what fuels me to keep writing this blog. (And if you’ve heard me speak at a conference this past fall or spring, you’ll recognize some of this!)

A number of your questions about blogging and writing as a business has to do with intention. Did I start Simple Mom with the intention of monetizing it? Was my plan from the beginning to get a book published? At what point did I decide to turn it from a hobby to a career? And just how do I do that, too?

I’ve written already how and why Simple Mom was started (at least in general terms; there’s only so much I can say in one post). But today, I’ll go in to a little more detail about the fuel that has kept me going after I started.

Questions related to intention are interesting, because I think it points to something called “the element.” Ken Robinson (one of my favorite modern-day thinkers) wrote an excellent book a few years ago called The Elementdescribing that place where your passions and your skills collide. This, he says, is essential for each of us to find, “not simply because it will make us more fulfilled but because, as the world evolves, the very future of our communities and institutions will depend on it.”

Quite unbeknownst to me, blogging is my current element. I knew I loved to write, but until I started, I didn’t know how much I loved the intersection of writing, encouraging others, graphic design, social media, and entrepreneurialism. These are the things I love to do. And apparently, these are the things I’m also somewhat decent at (all credit to God and his DNA construction there).

This is one of the reasons I think Simple Mom has done fairly well. It also speaks into a few other “truths” about why and how you can blog as a business.

Why “the element” matters

If you’re not in your element, you probably won’t make money doing it. Or you may make some money, but you won’t enjoy the hours and hours of work it takes, and you’ll do it begrudgingly. And honestly, that means it won’t last very long. Who wants to devote the hours it takes to do something you don’t intrinsically love?

“Mind mapping” my summer writing ideas.

1. Blogging is long, hard work…

Blogging is not passive income. I don’t hit “publish,” then sit back and watch the readers flock while I eat popcorn and watch a movie. I have a never-ending to-do list that grows faster than I can check things off. The blog network is always in the back of my mind, percolating.

There are times when I want to throw in the towel because it’s so much work. But at the end of the day, I love it. I’m in my element when I blog. It’s being in my element that keeps me going, because the hard work is not worth the payoff if my goal is only to make money. I do it because I love it.

If you love to blog—or sew baby clothes, or make soap, or knit hats, or whatever—and are also good at it, then perhaps you can make money at it, too. But do it firstly because you love it, not because you’ve heard you can make money at it. You’ll burn out before you see a reasonable profit.

2. …but I’d blog for free if I had to.

A number of you have asked just exactly how much money I bring in. I’m not comfortable sharing hard numbers, but I will tell you that we don’t have gold toilet paper. We also just have one car, buy our clothes at thrift stores, and don’t have cable TV. We live by our monthly budget, and we watch our dollars carefully. But we make enough to live in a way we enjoy.

Blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme. But I love it so much, I’d blog for free, and it just so happens that I also earn money doing it. I think part of the reason we can now claim the blog as a sizable portion of our income is because of the work I was willing to do when it made zero money.

In the beginning, I made nothing. Simple Mom started in early 2008, and I sold my first sidebar ad that July for something like $40. And it wasn’t until later that year that we noticed it generated income every month, increasing a bit with each turn of the calendar. A year later, we admitted that the blog was a part-time, income-generating blog. But by then, a lot of the foundation was established.

My intention

So this is why the element answers the question about my intention. No, I really didn’t start Simple Mom with the plan of earning a decent income. I started it because I wanted to write, and the platform naturally spoke to my interests.

Sure, I thought it would be nice to earn a few dollars as I did it. I honestly thought that if I could recoup my hosting fees, that would be fine by me. When my numbers went past that, I thought it might be nice if it could fund a “go out for coffee with girlfriends” line item with the budget. When it sailed past that, that’s when Kyle and I started taking it more seriously.

Remember, this was 2008. A few people were earning a living from blogging, but the concept was still rather 2.0. It never occurred to me that little old me—a stay-at-home mom living a simple life abroad—could actually successfully launch a blog network. It was most definitely a happy accident.

But that happy accident wasn’t completely random. It worked well because it completely fueled my element. And it continues to this day. When the hard work never slows, and the to-do list never ends, I go to sleep satisfied, because blogging is my element.

If you want to work from home, find your element. Perhaps it’s blogging or writing, perhaps it’s crafting, or perhaps it’s something no one’s ever heard of and is waiting for you to take it by storm.

A few helpful places for finding your element:

Head here to read more posts about how I write, how I juggle my weekly schedule with kids, how I make decisions and delegate, and whether I have help (here’s a clue: yes). But in order to understand why our family makes decisions for allocating our time, it’s important to understand that at the foundation, this blog is a family affair, and it’s in my element.

Where do you find yourself in your element? Where’s that intersection of your skills and passion?