With the aim of not going crazy, I’m combining about six Ask Havi questions into one post. They’re all pretty much on the same topic anyway.

The theme — in the most general sense of the word — is the age-old question:

“Is it like, completely gross to make money for something I didn’t do?”

More specifically, though, it’s about what are known online as affiliate programs.

Occasionally the questions I get are about how to actually use them to make money, but much more often the questions have to do with “feeling gross” about certain aspects of them … okay, about the whole damn thing.

In fact …

Actually, my guess is that even the people whose questions are — on the surface — just about the making money thing, also have some residual worries that “maybe this is gross”.

Because otherwise, you wouldn’t be asking me — someone who writes about changing your patterns and habits so you can biggify the cool thing you do.

You wouldn’t want advice from someone (me again) who cares more about you having a conscious, loving relationship with yourself (and maybe making piles of money through that process) than about the usual “how to make blah blah blah in X days” kind of thing.

You’d probably be fine finding someone with a screaming highlighter-filled online sales page to teach them about this stuff. Because lord knows it’s not like there’s a shortage of those.

And you definitely wouldn’t be asking someone whose co-teacher is a duck.

So let’s talk about “gross” for a minute and what that’s all about..

The questions vary, of course, and so do the words.

It’s not always “gross”. Sometimes it’s disgusting, dirty, slimy, sleazy or icky. Or some combination thereof.

Actually, whoring and slutty are pretty popular too.

But let’s just use “gross” for now and I’ll give you a sense of the type of thing that people want to know.

Stuff like:

Is it gross to join a program like this?
Is it gross to have a program like this in your own business?
What do I do when I want to promote stuff that I like … but I feel gross about it?
What if other people think it’s gross of me that I’m involved in something like this?
Is it gross that I don’t feel gross about this?

And so on.

It’s make-believe hour!

Let’s pretend that I’m having a conversation with one person who has most or all of these questions.

Except that — since we’re pretending — let me pretend that they’re asking the questions I wish they’d ask. Actually, let me have this conversation with Selma.

No, an interview. Selma should interview me. If it’s a conversation, I’ll have to take time to empathize and acknowledge the person’s feelings and stuff. And that’ll take forever.

Selma: ?!?!

Havi: Okay, this is not going to work. Let’s have a made-up person interview me, a composite of people-who-ask-me-things kind of person. Let’s say … someone who has a website and wants to start biggifying but is having some issues with it.

And so the fake interview begins …

“So Havi, when did you stop feeling gross about this stuff?”

Well, the question of whether or not I’d set up a program like this started coming up when I first started getting all biggified.

And I had all kinds of issues around it. Serious resistance. Serious stuckification.

It just felt …. yeah, okay, kind of gross. And stressful.

But then there were all these people who were recommending my stuff anyway. And it got to this ridiculous point where someone like Pamela Slim or Jennifer Louden would just randomly drop my name and all of a sudden I’d make a pile of money in an afternoon.

And here I am, writing a thank you note. And it’s like, that’s not enough.

Not because Pam and Jen wanted something more from me. But because hey, here are these amazing people recommending my work because they’ve tried it and they know it works … and I want to share my jumping-up-and-down happiness with them.

All of a sudden it felt like it would be really joyful and honest to be able to thank people for being awesome. To thank them for helping me be useful to the people who need my stuff the most.

By doing more than just, you know, sending them my eternal gratitude when they send people my way.

By literally sharing with them what I’ve received through their believing in my mission in the world.

And I realized that, in order to do that, I needed a system.

“So … what, you just stopped feeling gross about it?”

Hahahahahaha. No. Not at all.

I had a lot of stuck to sort through. Mainly with the words. It’s a cliche, but there it is: the words we use have incredible power to affect how we perceive what they describe.

Changing your outlook without changing the vocabulary that goes along with it is really, really hard. Not impossible. But hard.

For me, the word affiliate is just kind of inflexible — cold and a bit inhuman. It conjures up images of robots. And people who work “in sales”.

My stuff, I know. But I just don’t like the word. I don’t want to have that kind of “affiliates”. And I definitely don’t want to be one either.

“Okay, I need to know more about this vocabulary-changing stuff. What do you mean?”

Well, I made two linguistic shifts that helped me tremendously.

1. I decided I was going to start a partner program.

For people I liked and trusted and could feel good about partnering with.

Not only are partners not “gross”, but I can feel warm and fuzzy about them and think of them fondly. Whereas if I had a bunch of affiliates I couldn’t really feel anything about them because they would be robots.

I mean, they wouldn’t really, but in my mind they would be. And since that’s where I hang out most, it’s an important distinction.

2. I invented a goofy name for the bigger picture.
Instead of thinking about things like “affiliate marketing strategy” which totally sets off my ew ew ew buttons, I started talking about “appreciation monies”.

Appreciation monies means “what I give to the people I love when they make me a bunch of money out of the goodness of their hearts”.

And it also refers to money I get from Powell’s or from recommending stuff that I truly believe makes a difference in the world — and I’m up-front about it when I promote something in an affiliate-y way.

“Interesting. But how do you not feel gross about taking money for recommending things?”

Ah. Good question. That is about trust.

This is a pretty big theme for most of us. I’d say that learning how to really and truly trust yourself is something we all should be working on all the time.

You need to be able to sit down and ask your heart: am I really a total sleazebag or could it be that my judgment and self-criticism patterns are running the show again?

For me, it’s very clear that I would never, ever recommend something just in order to make money. I’ve learned to make friends with the fact that I have crazy integrity.

So I trust that this is only about things that I recommend anyway. And about allowing myself to be vulnerable. Allowing other people to feel that joy of giving back to those of us who believe in them.

“So you don’t think affiliate marketing is gross?”

Well, I’d say that it totally depends.

It depends on what you’re promoting and how you’re promoting it — and also on your own perception of what it means to partner with someone.

Obviously there are different points on the sleaze-non-sleaze kosher marketing continuum, so you’ll always think that someone else is “doing it wrong” — and that’s okay too.

It comes down to your relationship with yourself. Can you find a way of working with partners that fits your understanding of what it means to have integrity?

And — at the same time — can you find a way to work on your own emotional patterns of feeling undeserving? Because it could be that by trying to protect yourself from “becoming sleazy”, you forget that you don’t actually have a sleazy bone in your body.

Sometimes it turns out that your fear is cutting you off from success and growth.

So it goes back to the whole conscious, intentional process of working on your stuff that we’re always talking about around here.

“We’re out of time, aren’t we?”

Yes, this is a long one, and — since I didn’t really answer most of your questions — I’ll probably have to come up with some more answers later, but we’re probably good for now. It’s food for thought, right?

Thank you, imaginary composite person for not making me write six different Ask Havi posts. I appreciate that.

And thanks to all the rest of you. I love that my blog attracts the kind of people who need to process their worry about the possibility of eventually becoming soulless sleazebags. As opposed to, you know, the sort of people who never worry about that kind of thing, but kind of are…

Anyway, you guys are the best. I’ll end this there before I start getting all sentimental.

The Fluent Self