For a long time now I have been obsessed with multi-level marketing/direct sales/network marketing/whatever else it’s being called. I’ve been so fascinated by how it works, how people make money, and more importantly who is making money. There seem to be two major camps those who absolutely loathe it, the anti-mlm community, and those who love it.
So where do I fall? I honestly am not sure, I see both sides. So let me explain…
Anti-MLM: Where do I stand?
I can totally see how the whole scheme is predatory. It is clear that they tend to target women with small children who either want to stay home or already do and would love to bring in an income. Another prime target is military wives lacking a community and really anyone who is looking to make an “easy” or non-traditional income.
Is that everyone who recruits for an MLM, no, not at all. However, there are many, many documented cases of people being taken advantage of by someone who knew they were desperately seeking friends or a community and were target by someone in an MLM.
By targeting this vulnerability, often times the person isn’t in the business mindset. They’re more or less looking for people to talk to, someone to bond with and a business gives them that. It’s not really a fair way to get people involved. They are going to be more likely to spend lots of money to make their up-line happy.
MLMs are designed to set people up for failure. Not everyone can make money, someone has to be spending more for someone else to make more. You can see it in just about any income disclosure that these companies release. These documents also do not take into account how much someone is spending each month on product and business expenses. When I was briefly a Beachbody coach, I about broke even every month, at most made an extra $100 a month. For companies that boast six-figure salaries, many of their independent contractors who aren’t breaking even every month.
Do I think most of these people would be better off in a corporate-based sales position with commission? Yes. Do I understand why this is more appealing? Yes, absolutely. The idea where you are fully in control of your income is so appealing, but with MLMs you aren’t 100% in control.
If you are looking to learn more about the anti-MLM community I would recommend Reddit, or if you’re looking for a less extreme version, The Dream, is a great podcast that conducts first-hand investigations of MLMs.
Pro-MLM: Where do I stand?
Just because I can see the harm and the hurt in these companies, however, there are people who become successful working from home in these companies. Maybe it’s because I grew up going to Pampered Chef parties, and paging through the Mary Kay catalog with my mom there are many good memories tied to MLMs. I genuinely believe that most people join with the best intentions and biggest hopes and expectations.
I think it is amazing that it provides a way for many women to contribute to the household income while also having the capability to stay at home with their kids. There are even people who can fully support their household on their income, one of the big selling points is the ability to retire your husband. While I’m not sure that’s a necessarily smart move with how volatile the market for these businesses can be, but it is nice that families can be afforded the ability to spend so much time together.
The communities are typically like-minded women who want the best for each other. Which for many people, is needed as you age. Your friends may be in different life stages so you start to search for a group of people who are in the same boat as yourself, and there’s an MLM group waiting for you. It is so important to have people there for big life changes and stages who understand exactly what you’re feeling or thinking and often these communities are easy to find online and in many cases these businesses.
If you have the extra income and you aren’t counting on making a ton or any money from these businesses, I don’t see the harm in joining.
While I don’t see the harm in most people joining, I do believe that it’s something that you need to be careful with. Do your research, figure out what you plan on getting from your experience/career with an MLM, and go from there. You shouldn’t expect to make a ton, you should do it if you fully support the product(s) and have somewhat of a disposable income.
If you like the products, go ahead and buy them. I honestly do not see the harm. Personally, I tend to avoid any extra purchases but if I’m invited to a party or whatever I will happily page through the catalog and see if there is anything I’m interested in.
I don’t think we need to be rude or condescending to the people who sell or are involved in MLMs, but I do think we need to be careful when it comes to joining as a seller.
This is a topic I’m super interested in and could talk about non-stop so let me know your thoughts in the comments! Please be nice to people who may disagree- I am super curious to see all sides and opinions in this matter.