The most common high-pressure tactic is the lure of getting in on the ground floor. But in direct sales, a good opportunity is a good opportunity no matter when you get in. In fact, you're safer to go with a company that has been around for more than five years (the longer the better) than a start up. Any effort a representative makes to prevent you from studying the company, talking to others, and "sleeping on it" isn't someone you want to work with. 

The Federal Trade Commission warns "Not all multilevel marketing plans are legitimate. Some are pyramid schemes. It's best not to get involved in plans where the money you make is based primarily on the number of distributors you recruit and your sales to them, rather than on your sales to people outside the plan who intend to use the products."[21]
Now this is the kind of business opportunity seeker you like to work with – these are the bizopps buyers!!  These folks went all the way through the sales funnel, and many of them paid for a Business Opportunity e-book to learn how to start a home-based or internet business.  They aren’t tire kickers. Bizopp buyers pull out the plastic when it comes to funding their money making goals and dreams.
I’ve heard all the arguments. “How can it be a pyramid scheme if it’s legal?” Through some crafty loopholes. The fact that there is an actual product to sell allows them to operate and give the appearance of legitimacy. “You just haven’t found a good MLM yet.” Wrong. A good MLM is an oxymoron. “But how is this any different from any other major corporation where the CEO makes the most money?” Because the people below the CEO at legit companies get paid salaries and have actual benefits. They don’t depend on endless chains of recruiting new members.
Not all MLM companies are created equal. Many see an initial burst of success followed by a gradual tapering off of profits, causing them to collapse and go out of business. MLM companies that succeed have sound business models, both for those who run the company and for those who sell product and recruit new sales agents. There are many sites devoted to MLM rankings, creating lists of companies likely to provide a return on investment to sales agents interested in the industry.
In April 2006, the FTC proposed a Business Opportunity Rule intended to require all sellers of business opportunities—including MLMs—to provide enough information to enable prospective buyers/participants to make an informed decision about acquiring/joining a business venture with information disclosed about the average likelihood of monetary profitability (and the extent of monetary profitability, if any) of acquiring/joining the business venture. In March 2008, however, the FTC removed "Network Marketing" (i.e. MLM) companies from the proposed Business Opportunity Rule, thus leaving MLM participants without the ability to make an informed choice of entering or not entering MLMs based on the disclosed likelihood of success and profitability:
That not only fosters a positive attitude and atmosphere, but also a lot of structure and activity.  Many network marketing companies offer weekly calls, local meetings, and an annual conference.  All of which get members out of the house, building knowledge and developing new skills, while offering them the opportunity to meet new people and deepen existing connections.
Other than that, great info, but I’d have to respectfully disagree with the logic behind not being a part of an MLM. It’s one business model. And whether you want to make it your full time job or just dabble, so long as you find a product and company you love, it can be a great way to diversify your income streams. $5000 a year (or $5) is more than most people make on their 401K, savings or any other conventional ways of investing. It’s an investment, and for those that chose to continue through the plateau, it results in residual income. Don’t like sales? Some of the companies are moving away from the door to door type sales models and putting a lot more emphasis on team building and adding value. And many companies are also discouraging distributors from spamming on social media- again- it comes down to the individual and their own business acumen. We can spend our lives blaming they systems or we can just own ourselves and be grateful for whatever we’ve learned from, and created out of each opportunity presented to us. It’s the choice of the individual at the end of the day but one thing I can say with certainty is that someone who blames MLM for their lack of success is lacking responsibility for themselves in other areas of their life too.
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(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).

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I believe the ones that don’t make it in the industry (if they chose a good one) don’t give it enough time (like you said they quit before a year is up) and commitment to doing what it takes to grow. I don’t spam FB and only 2 family members order product but I have at least 100+ home school moms making >$2000/mth. Some team members make more, some less. It’s what they put into it (business wise not monetary)
I don’t care where doTERRA in ranked. The oils are good, but the company SUCKS. It is all built on big bloggers. Don’t have a big blog – you’re going to make pennies while others demand you make a minimum $100 a month order. The company itself has great customer service, but try to reach compliance or tell them that your uplines are making fake accounts or ordering off multiple people in the downline just to ensure they make bonuses and NO ONE listens. It’s supposedly geared to help the underdog succeed – this is a gimmick.

Although an MLM company holds out those few top individual participants as evidence of how participation in the MLM could lead to success, the reality is that the MLM business model depends on the failure of the overwhelming majority of all other participants, through the injecting of money from their own pockets, so that it can become the revenue and profit of the MLM company, of which the MLM company shares only a small proportion of it to a few individuals at the very top of the MLM participant pyramid. Participants, other than the few individuals at the top, provide nothing more than their own financial loss for the company's own profit and the profit of the top few individual participants.[15]
Unlike other distribution methods MLM/NM companies don't advertise their products on TV or other mass media but rather depend on their customers to share the experience and recommend the products to their friends and relatives through word of mouth. They in return get 10-12 % profit of the sale value. Word of mouth/ recommending someone is a very powerful marketing tool which is cheaper and could reach more people because the selling of product is based on trust. Would you not buy a product your close friend uses and finds beneficial and asks you to try ?
Multi-level marketing is a strategy some direct-sales companies use to encourage their existing distributors to recruit new distributors by paying the existing distributors a percentage of their recruits' sales. The recruits are the distributor's "downline." All distributors also make money through direct sales of products to customers. Amway is an example of a well-known direct-sales company that uses multi-level marketing.

To prove that we give you more in value, than you could ever give us in money, we provide you with MLM Training and Lead Management Systems at no extra cost. In fact, anyone can get a Free Lead Management System, which also includes a Free Phase 2 Customizable Marketing Site, and any package that has email leads gets a Free Autoresponder with Professionally written emails included. (You can even modify the autoresponder emails at any time.)
It was not until August 23, 2005 that the State Council promulgated rules that dealt specifically with direct sale operation- Administration of Direct Sales (entered into effect on 1 December 2005) and the Regulations for the Prohibition of chuanxiao (entered into effect on 1 November 2005). When direct selling is allowed, it will only be permitted under the most stringent requirements, in order to ensure the operations are not pyramid schemes, MLM, or fly-by-night operations.
I absolutely agree you have to be careful when evaluating an MLM. Unfortunately, there are probably more bad apples than good ones. It’s tricky to know whether or not it’s a legal MLM or a pyramid scheme because they can be very similar. I understand pyramid schemes to simply be an exchange of money. There is no real product that’s being sold, or at least not one that’s reasonably priced. I’ve also learned it’s proven that pyramid’s schemes can’t survive long-term because the model doesn’t sustain itself. I’ve had a few experiences with MLM’s and will wrap up by saying it’s not a model for everyone.
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Kathleen, you are right about the “direct sales” thing. They use it because MLM has the well-deserved bad connotation with pyramid schemes. I try to explain to people that true direct selling would be something like Ebay… there’s no inherent multi-level commissions implied by the term “direct sales.” It almost reminds of calling an illegal dog fight a “recreational gaming event.” It may be true, but is far from an accurate description.

Thanks for this list. Loved seeing Monat as #1! I am a Market Partner for this company and the money is crazy good because the products are awesome. I was disappointed to see Plexus at #28 and I wasn’t impressed by what you had to say about them. Plexus is NOT a weight loss company. Their products promote a healthy gut and they are clinically proven to decrease inflammation and balance blood sugar. Weight loss is a natural side effect of body balance. The products work and there are a lot of people I know personally making good money with Plexus.


MLM companies have been trying to find ways around China's prohibitions, or have been developing other methods, such as direct sales, to take their products to China through retail operations. The Direct Sales Regulations limit direct selling to cosmetics, health food, sanitary products, bodybuilding equipment and kitchen utensils. And the Regulations require Chinese or foreign companies ("FIEs") who intend to engage into direct sale business in mainland China to apply for and obtain direct selling license from the Ministry of Commerce ("MOFCOM").[63] In 2016, there are 73 companies, including domestic and foreign companies, that have obtained the direct selling license.[64] Some multi-level marketing sellers have circumvented this ban by establishing addresses and bank accounts in Hong Kong, where the practice is legal, while selling and recruiting on the mainland.[10][65]
Multi-level marketing is a legitimate business strategy, though it is controversial. One problem is pyramid schemes, which use money from new recruits to pay the people at the top, often take advantage of people by pretending to be engaged in legitimate multi-level marketing. You can spot pyramid schemes by their greater focus on recruitment than on product sales.
Remember, however, that a percentage of something is better than one hundred percent of zero sales – so it is a good idea to network with more experienced marketers. Take advantage of the expertise and training that they offer, and use their resources to build your business. One you are ready, you can always bring in new people, and even share leads with them – building your downline so that they will supply you with a good residual income.
Jason – I think you have to be more than careful in evaluating an MLM. I’ve researched around 50 and 60 and each and every one of them have turned out to be bad. Maybe one like Pampered Chef might be good, but I haven’t looked into enough. A more accurate statement would be that MLMs are like prisoners, there are some guilty people and some innocent ones. Also, there are some winning lottery tickets and some losing ones. I think you get the point.
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.
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I think when you made comments about a company you should have kept them neutral or not only commented part of a story. Ambit did have a lawsuit, but it also has several JD Power awards, A+BBB, and many other accolades. I don’t know details of the suit, it may have been 100% justified, but I do know lawsuits are not always justified. Sometimes people are looking to make a buck

In March I joined an MLM company and I’m lost… my first reaction to network marketing was I’m not a sales person, to which I was told it’s not about sales but about building relationships. The other thing that makes me crazy is I see a lot of folks who appear so fake with their bubbly “everything is coming up roses and bubble gum” that I cringe. I’m honest to a fault and happy but not giddy. I feel like I have writers block in that I’m not sure what direction to take to get my business going, the struggle is real right now… Any thoughts or suggestions I can take away.


Great article and thanks for taking the time to write this.. however I can see why your business didn’t fly as you had hoped. Mlm is a people’s business and that means that it IS the interaction with each other that strengthens working together. Yes you need to be self motivated but you also need to be a supporter too. Networking also eliminates the need to do constant appraisals. You don’t work you don’t get paid. That’s music to a corporate managers ears. Networking is not for everyone… but where else can you invest for such a small amount and have all the other aspects of business done for you and all you have to do is go get customers and recruit more customer finders and have no ceiling on being paid for that. As for the product you promote.. you choose something you like. My original passion as a woman was make up so I joined that type of business. Got so passionate I qualified as a beautician and onto other certificates then I discovered essential oils.. I needed supplies but minimum trade orders were over £3000 each time. Mlm on the other hand was order as my demands and finances could afford. So my interest in mlm grew. Now I would not go back to traditional office work. When I know when I apply myself I can exceed what ANY employer thinks I’m worth

Unlike other distribution methods MLM/NM companies don't advertise their products on TV or other mass media but rather depend on their customers to share the experience and recommend the products to their friends and relatives through word of mouth. They in return get 10-12 % profit of the sale value. Word of mouth/ recommending someone is a very powerful marketing tool which is cheaper and could reach more people because the selling of product is based on trust. Would you not buy a product your close friend uses and finds beneficial and asks you to try ?
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We offer state-of-the-art lead generation to save you time and money by providing you with the highest quality leads for your unique business opportunity. If you're looking for quality leads, we make the highest quality available to you! We have all of our bases covered so that you can work on building up your Network Marketing, Home Based Business, or Business opportunity with ease.
And these sales aren’t just to customers. You see, in order to join an MLM you usually need to buy products to sell (often referred to as a starter kit, or similar). And then in order to remain a seller, stylist, supervisor, or whatever term the company uses, you often need to make a minimum number of sales in a given time period (though not always).
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Now this is the kind of business opportunity seeker you like to work with – these are the bizopps buyers!!  These folks went all the way through the sales funnel, and many of them paid for a Business Opportunity e-book to learn how to start a home-based or internet business.  They aren’t tire kickers. Bizopp buyers pull out the plastic when it comes to funding their money making goals and dreams.
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