(May 2017 update: did this go under?) The sign up cost will make you do a triple take (almost four figures), but you get to set your own retail price on every product you sell. If you’ve got the skills to make people cough up the cash for their products (which, btw, are pretty legit), you could definitely make that money back. They’ve also been winning plenty of awards (even a growth award from the Direct Selling Association themselves).
For full disclosure, I want to point out that I am not affiliated with any multi-level marketing or direct sales companies, and that I don’t receive any compensation from the industry for my opinion on it.  I’m sharing this with you because after I wrote what is considered the most widely read, copied, and quoted MLM article in the history of the industry, I was accused of writing it to promote my own MLM business or the industry in general, which is not the case.
What you want to watch out for are "fast track" programs or pressure to have inventory that requires additional investment. Due to this practice, the law now requires MLM companies to buy back inventory, but that doesn't mean you want to be saddled with debt before you start and truly understand the business. Having a few popular products on hand can be nice, but don't fill your garage with products unless you know for sure, based on your experience in the business, that you can sell them.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a decision, In re Amway Corp., in 1979 in which it indicated that multi-level marketing was not illegal per se in the United States. However, Amway was found guilty of price fixing (by effectively requiring "independent" distributors to sell at the same fixed price) and making exaggerated income claims.[47][48] The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as "pyramiding".[49]
Second, many reps and companies know people are leery of and have many misconceived notions about MLM, so they use deception to get prospects to hear their spiel. The important thing for you to remember is to follow your gut feeling. Good reps from legitimate companies that are prevented from using a company name in promotions are usually able to provide some idea about the business (including the name) when talking to you in person (or phone), and are clear that it is a business. Anything else should be suspect.
As with all MLMs, the real money to be made isn’t in selling their products but in recruiting more people to join your team (basically, doing the work for you). So the real winners are the person who started the business and the very first people she recruited. This top of the pyramid is also where all of the success stories tend to come from. Among the most vulnerable to these pyramid schemes are people in smaller towns and rural areas. Market saturation prevents growth in a small town, because once everyone you know starts selling it, no one can make any money and you’ve essentially created your own competition.

Thank you for this article! I’m with Doterra, like a lot of other people I didn’t start out selling. I just wanted to use the product. But, when you see such great results you can’t help but tell people. I love working for this company!! I have worked for Tupperware, Amway, Jafra, It Works, I never made money like I am with doTerra. Hands down its the best!! I’m working hard to build my business and it is paying off and I’m reaping the benefits for my health. God’s Design for our Natural health care is top notch! I give God all the glory and I couldn’t do this without him.
Using link referral sites is another great way to generate free MLM leads. Link referral sites are basically a database of websites and blogs grouped in categories. After creating an account the network marketer will be asked to review up to 15 other websites and write a review of each on a daily basis. This is a great way to make new friends and expand the network of referrals.
If you want to learn about the wonderful (and massive) world of internet marketing from the pros, Digital Altitude is where it’s at. Their products might cost up to $10k+, but you’re getting access to a toolbox of pure gold. Then there’s their commission rate…up to 60%. Just take a second to think about what a 60% commission rate on a $10k+ product looks like. Not bad, huh?
However, as aforementioned, you may know people that sell products from Mary Kay, Avon, Advocare, Tupperware and the like (see more companies in our Featured Home Businesses section). You know people who sell these types of products because they believe in the products and the companies that stand behind them. These companies empower those who sell their products to actually establish their own businesses, selling the products. This is very attractive to many entrepreneurial-minded people who do not want to have a boss watching over them but also want some pre-established structure and support. Most MLM organizations provide a very robust infrastructure and great training as well as impeccable rewards (hello free cars and trips!).
The overwhelming majority of MLM participants (most sources estimated to be over 99.25% of all MLM distributors) participate at either an insignificant or nil net profit.[12] Indeed, the largest proportion of participants must operate at a net loss (after expenses are deducted) so that the few individuals in the uppermost level of the MLM pyramid can derive their significant earnings. Said earnings are then emphasized by the MLM company to all other participants to encourage their continued participation at a continuing financial loss.[13]
As with all MLMs, the real money to be made isn’t in selling their products but in recruiting more people to join your team (basically, doing the work for you). So the real winners are the person who started the business and the very first people she recruited. This top of the pyramid is also where all of the success stories tend to come from. Among the most vulnerable to these pyramid schemes are people in smaller towns and rural areas. Market saturation prevents growth in a small town, because once everyone you know starts selling it, no one can make any money and you’ve essentially created your own competition.
I see Melaleuca on here. I see that as both good and bad. They are an awesome company with a great compensation plan. However, they are not an MLM. They are not even listed with the federal agency that oversees those companies. They are a Consumer Direct Marketing company. How does that differ? While I am required to purchase a certain amount each month, that’s all I need to purchase. It’s all products I use in my own home for myself. I don’t have a monthly quota to meet. I don’t have to buy product and sell it to people. The idea is that the product goes to the consumer only. In fact, it’s against company policy to buy product and sell it to others. The only comparison I see are the “levels” of customerS in my group. Can you shed any light on why you think they are an MLM? Thanks, so much!
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