Should you get an MLM job?

Direct marketing companies promise competitive commissions and great discounts.
Parenting Times finds out whether this statement holds water

Judith Cane

Judith Cane

At first blush, it might seem like a great opportunity for moms. Work from home, on your own schedule. Get paid to attend parties. Meet new people. Get steep discounts on goods you love and would buy anyway. But can you really make money with a direct sales job?

Whatever you’d like to call it – MLM (multi-level marketing), referral marketing or network marketing – you’ve likely heard of at least a few companies that sell their wares through this method, but the Mary Kay, Avon and Regal of yesteryear has blossomed into an industry that sells everything from clothing to kitchenware to cleaning products.

Working in an MLM business is attractive to a wide spectrum of people, says Judith Cane, Canada’s Money Coach, “everyone from stay-at-home moms who are looking to boost their incomes (and in some cases hang out with other adults) to low-income earners who use this as a way to increase their income.” But Cane says she also knows a very senior executive in the government who started working a part-time MLM job who plans to transition to full-time when she retires. “She’s building her retirement job while still working. It’s a great idea.”

Cane says that like any sales job that is essentially commission-based, there are people who can make a great career out of it, but the majority of people don’t last or they stay for the discount.

It is possible to make money, both from sales of the products and from getting other people into the business, says Cane. That said, the only way to be successful is to have a huge downline (people selling under you), she adds. “You just cannot make enough money selling products.”

She’s seen more failures than successes. Some MLM companies require their consultants to buy products to show potential customers. “As every season brings out new products, if you aren’t selling enough then you could sink way too much money into the business,” Cane says. “I’ve had many clients involved in MLM businesses and honestly maybe 10 percent were actually making money. The rest didn’t realize it was actually costing them money to stay in the business.”

Cane says it is possible to achieve success on your own terms, but the true success stories are rare.

“I think what you see on these websites is the four or five or 60 or 70 people who have achieved the goal of working full-time,” she says. “But when you consider the hundreds of thousands of people who go into the business every year, the odds might be better to win the lottery,” she says. For the people who are really determined to give it a shot, Cane’s advice is to save up the money to buy in, plus six months of what you think it will cost to be in business. 

“This becomes a loan from your ‘family income’ to your business,” she says. As you make money, you pay back the money you borrowed from your ‘family income.’ Also, you can’t buy any more product unless you have money in the bank from your business. “If you can’t do that with your MLM business, then you have a hobby, not a business.”

There are people who make it work on their own terms. Parenting Times talked to three moms who signed on with MLMs.

Karen McIntyre

Karen McIntyre

Who she is: Karen McIntyre of Karen’s Kisses (SeneGence)

Her story: A working mother of one, McIntyre joined SeneGence, a company known for its skin care and cosmetics – the most popular item being LipSense – after falling in love with the products last summer.

Why she did it: “I decided to sign up for discount. When my friends found out I was able to sell the products, it took off from there. I have surpassed my goals for sure. I also have 10 amazing, strong ladies working under me as part of my team, something I never anticipated.”

Her advice: “Take it at your own pace. You are the boss, set your goals and try to reach them.  Don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t get to your goals by a certain date.”

What she learned about herself: “I have found that for someone who thought they never had any extra time in their day, I have more time than I ever thought. I have found that being honest is actually the best policy. People love that side of me and I am so proud of that.”

Connect with Karen McIntyre:

Paisley Romozzi

Paisley Romozzi

Who she is: Amanda Romozzi, Usborne Books

Her story: Romozzi was introduced to Usborne Books after her mom bought a children’s book through a friend. “Our daughter Paisley loves books and my husband and I grew tired of reading the same titles over and over – we are always on the hunt for a great new read. Growing up, I hated reading because I wasn’t very good at it, I could never find a book that would keep my attention long enough and I just really struggled. I didn’t want this for our two daughters. I knew right away I wanted more of these books in my daughters’ lives and to share them with other families who would benefit from the joys of reading to a child.”

Goals: To create an opportunity for both her daughters to grow up around lots of books. “We have a bookshelf filled with great books and I have had the joys of watching Paisley’s knowledge and imagination soar,” Romozzi says. “Seeing her eyes light up with each book is what it’s mainly about.”

Connect with Amanda Romozzi:

Ann Timm

Ann Timm

Who she is: Ann Timm, District Manager, Arbonne International

Her story: “When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I became more aware of the toxins in products and wanted to keep my future child as healthy and protected as possible. The reason I decided to give Arbonne a try was because it provides pure, safe, beneficial and high-quality products.” 

Challenges: “The main challenge I faced when getting started was breaking out of the multi-level marketing stigma. The main challenge I am facing right now is getting new potential customers, who are content with the generic drugstore brands to try and be open to trying our products.”

Her advice: “Push through the negativity and ignore those who bring negative energy, if you believe in what you are selling, that is all the motivation you need to be successful.” 

What she’s learned: “My kindness and honesty are my biggest assets. I find it is a breath of fresh air, as there are a lot of people who will do or say anything to make the sale.”

Connect with Ann Timm: