A Word on Monetization (Gifts, continued)
This was originally the second part of my post "When Gifts Don't Give Back". I realized it's easier for people to read shorter articles, so I have made it into a separate post about my brush with affiliate links and monetizing my website.
There's a Transylvanian tradition that makes me very sad (and a little angry, and a little embarrassed). When receiving gifts at a wedding, baptism, graduation, etc, it is expected that you will keep a record of what each person has given you, and, be it years or decades in the future, you are obligated to give back the same amount to them or their children for their next big life event. And apparently we hold grudges against those who break the code.
The shock to me was sharper given the fact that I only learned of this obligation after I had already sent out thank you notes for my wedding (which were actually not expected of me) and threw out the gift list, thus forever bringing shame upon my newly formed half-Hungarian-half-Romanian-half-American-three-halves-weird family. It made me sad to think that some dear friends may have skipped my wedding because they couldn't afford the obligation. It made me sadder to think that every time I had given someone a gift out of love that I was also heaping responsibility on them for keeping tabs. It makes me sad that certain people tend to hold onto this habit in America, that instead of just appreciating thoughtfulness and basking in fellowship, they're trapped in a mental checklist of to whom they owe favors.
I'm always protesting this mentality. A gift is a gift! It is love extended! Love doesn't keep tabs! Love has no conditions or expectations! What the world needs now is love sweet unobliged love!
In this spirit, I have a strong desire to share the gifts that God has given me... as gifts. No obligations. No fee. As an artist, it's what keeps me starving. Marking up my work, I get the same feeling I do walking into a Christian bookstore - God for sale. A den of thieves.
Obviously, we all need to eat. I'm going to be adding my own work for sale eventually to this website. But selling these very thoughts, these truths and lessons that I've been freely and generously given, just feels wrong. When I was in the early stages of Lyme, confused and terrified, I went looking for any resources I could find to get me through this quickly and cheaply. I found a lot of encouraging anecdotes, but they all wanted to sell me something. Diet is essential - buy this cookbook. Herbs are gentle and healing - buy this tincture. I have firsthand experience and a passion to help - pay for a consultation. I was terribly saddened that all the answers, on this free and open internet, were only to be gotten for a price. Even the free advice was heralded with pop-ups and special offers, affiliate disclosures, and an overall sense of pressure.
I swore I would never do that. I wanted to be the trusted, ordinary friend that I never had looking out for me.
But alas, aggressive Lyme. is. insanely. expensive. The longer it stretches, the higher the bills, the less you can work, the deeper the guilt for not pulling your weight. It costs money to run this website. I have plenty of products I love, I'm going to be recommending them anyway, why not set up an affiliate account and at least get back a tiny fraction of the costs I've spent on this journey? I am fully justified for trying to stop some of the hemorrhaging, almost obligated to take back any bit of burden I've put on our finances.
So I signed up yesterday, got my approval, and slapped up all my disclaimers. Made a cute little pearl button to sweeten up the marketing. I was all set to start earning my keep again.
But I didn't like it. It felt so gimmicky, just like the websites I hated having to go to for advice. Here I am, waxing poetic about my rare pearls of great price, only to cast them before the swine of commerce. It is exactly what I swore I wouldn't do. But I ignored my eye for design in favor of dollar signs.
Then I couldn't sleep. It had nothing to do with my website (on the surface), I'm just having one of those stupid Lyme nights where my brain won't shut up (please stop talking!) and my heart won't stop palpitating.
I turned to this incredible album that's become my midnight lullaby. I was afraid I'd get tired of it, after needing it for so many sleepless nights, but the words never get old. It is truly a gift of comfort. I found it on YouTube, and said, "I gotta have this." And, you know me, I don't pay for anything I can get for free on YouTube! But I needed this.
As I was being soothed yet again by Katy's melodious gift, I couldn't wait to share it with you. It truly excites me to pass on these treasures that have helped me so greatly in my struggle.
That's when my website came back to bother me. I felt like I had cheapened my opinion. And what's worse, I had found someone else's gift, and was exploiting that too (it is available on Amazon). Are affiliates wrong? No. But I was not fully convinced in my own mind that this was the way I was meant to use my gifts.
I took down all my affiliate disclosures and disconnected my monetizing account. My website is back to being MY website, and like me, it is here for YOU, free of charge. I'm sleeping a lot better now.
So if you click on that photo, you can check out Katy's website. Or just look her up on YouTube, or Amazon, or ask me about my playlist. I get no kickbacks, but I will get priceless joy if you can obtain a fraction of the comfort that I've gotten, here and for all my upcoming recommendations.
I can afford it. I've got everything invested in a guaranteed crown.