The Real Truth About Multi-Level Marketing

As a mom who is in several Facebook groups for moms, I read the same online question at least twice a month.

“I need suggestions for a job. Needs to be part-time, flexible, make enough money to make childcare worthwhile. Ideally, I could work from home while the baby is sleeping/kid is at preschool/my mother-in-law comes over to watch the children. Please no multi-level marketing scams.”

I gotta say, that last part always feels like nails on a chalkboard to me. You see, I have had a home-based business for more than sixteen years. It has been the flexible, profitable, fun, and meaningful work that allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. It was the bridge that kept us from drowning when my husband was laid off, and we had three children under five years old. It has been a source of friends, self-confidence, personal growth, and yes, income.

There are a few things I would like that mom on Facebook—and everyone—to know about my job.

Multi-level marketing is not a scam.

Yes, not all companies care as much about their consultants’ success as others. (Smart and successful companies know these go hand in hand, so if a company has been around a while, you can guess that company keeps its consultants’ best interests in mind.) Yes, there have been some poorly thought out, not terribly wise business plans. Yes, there are ways to lose money in home-based businesses (as in all businesses).

All that being said, multi-level marketing is not a scam. It is not illegal. It is not a pyramid scheme (those are illegal). It is a perfectly legitimate, time-tested, and effective way to earn an income when done properly. Many companies and their consultants have enjoyed success over several decades by providing quality products and good customer service.

Selling is an honorable profession.

It may not be for everyone. Neither is being a veterinarian or a fire fighter. But that doesn’t make it a bad job. People need stuff. People want stuff. Selling and buying make our economy work. There is nothing disgraceful about being a salesperson. In fact, a good sales person helps customers figure out their needs and narrow down their product choices. A good sales person saves others time, money, and hassle.

When I worked in a department store, I did not get to decide what kind of sales person I wanted to be. The manager and our company sales goals determined that. When you run your own business, you decide what kind of sales person you want to be—the kind that makes a sale regardless of a customer’s needs or the kind that makes sure her customers are getting exactly what they need.

It is still work.

Some people have a home-based business as a hobby or simply to get a discount on their favorite products. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but please don’t assume that is the case for everyone.

A lot of women (and men) support their families with their business, yet their work doesn’t always look like we expect work to look. One of the biggest benefits of a home-based business is the flexibility it offers. Yep, I might be at the movie theater with my kids on a Tuesday afternoon or taking a long workday lunch with my friends.

That doesn’t mean I can just throw a few catalogs at people and expect success. It isn’t always obvious, but I might also be working in the evening, skipping TV to do paperwork after the kids are in bed, or holding appointments on a Saturday.

My family and friends are not my best customers.

When someone starts a business like mine, we start with friends and family. Maybe your sister or friend asked you to host a party. If you did, thanks for supporting her.

However, I will promise you this—if your sister or friend is going to be successful in her business, she will quickly build a customer base far beyond her friends and family. Therefore, whether you buy from her or not will not make or break her business. You do not need to be nervous that she is going to ask you to buy something every time she sees you. Perhaps she will, and perhaps she won’t. Either way, you can take the pressure off yourself that her success rests with you. It does not.

My Request

I am in no way trying to convince you to start your own business. I have no idea if being in business is a better career choice for you than being a teacher or accountant or plumber. In fact, if you are a teacher, accountant, or plumber, I have a great respect for the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired for your career and for all the hard work and time I know you dedicate to it.

I just ask you to consider that mom you know who runs her own business. Please remember the knowledge and skills she has acquired, the untold hours she has dedicated, and the hard work she undoubtedly devotes to be successful at her job, just like everyone else.

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One Response to The Real Truth About Multi-Level Marketing

  1. Matthew Cole January 2, 2018 at 7:24 pm #

    Great post Tara!

    I know first hand how a good MLM company has supported pre-school for our youngest and been a rewarding way to contribute to our budget!

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