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.
MLM has stretched its sticky fingers out into just about every product market out there, so it’s kinda hard to do something new nowadays. But Jamberry Nails did it. Their adhesive, custom nail designs BLEW UP when they hit the direct sales floor. They built up an army of over 100,000 consultants in the time it takes most people to get a mediocre pay raise at their 9-5.
Here is how they mostly work: You sign up and pay the buy-in fee to receive your startup kit, and then you start clogging everyone’s social media feeds about your new venture and beg your friends and family to join you on your “journey to financial success”. You host a bunch of fake parties and wine tastings or worse, you meet up one-on-one to catch up and the whole thing turns out to be nothing more than a demo and sales pitch where you guilt your friends into buying stuff they don’t want or need. After you subject them to that, you then try to recruit them to join your team of consultants, or whatever term your particular MLM uses.
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The Filipino community, much like many immigrant communities, is ripe for the recruitment of participants in MLMs. Filipino immigrants can be particularly easy targets to exploit, as this Filipino-American writer can attest. They are easygoing and friendly. The ones with a college education understand and speak English very well. The community is crawling with network marketers hawking everything from cosmetics to travel packages to insurance products, courtesy of companies that promise the dream of passive income as well as incentives such as car bonuses and vacations.

Specifically, they struggle to jump start their health goals, to connect with new people, to learn new things, and yearn to be a part of a community.  What I am telling you is that the average retiree is at least 25 pounds overweight, feels tired for some part of the day, may be moderately depressed about something, has low self-esteem in one or two areas of life, acknowledges they only kind of have a best friend, and overall lead pretty plain lives.
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!

Considering their products are botanically based with an ingredient policy that prohibits many of the chemicals and fillers Mary Kay and Avon still use in their own products, I’d say they’ve established a business for men and woman who are truly serious about the health of their skin, not just the evenness of their complexion. A little research goes a long way.
Because of the encouraging of recruits to further recruit their competitors, some people have even gone so far as to say at best modern MLMs are nothing more than legalized pyramid schemes[4][19][20] with one stating "Multi-level marketing companies have become an accepted and legally sanctioned form of pyramid scheme in the United States"[19] while another states "Multi-Level Marketing, a form of Pyramid Scheme, is not necessarily fraudulent."[20] In October 2010 it was reported that multilevel marketing companies were being investigated by a number of state attorneys general amid allegations that salespeople were primarily paid for recruiting and that more recent recruits cannot earn anything near what early entrants do.[60] Industry critic Robert L. FitzPatrick has called multi-level marketing "the Main Street bubble" that will eventually burst.[61]
Fast forward to 2017. LuLaRoe is the biggest MLM for women. “More than 80,000 women have paid around $5,000 for several boxes of low-cost clothing and worked as much as 80-hour weeks to outfit hundreds of thousands of suburban women in multicolored polyester. But according to a report that studied the business models of 350 MLMs, published on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, 99% of people who join multilevel-marketing companies lose money. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a brilliant business model or a predatory practice — or a little bit of both.” (FTC)
They were hot. These guys caught some shade for over-inflating their health products, but what health MLM doesn’t inflate their prices “a tiny bit” so they can dish out those juicy commissions? Well, their fiber product was 900% more than “leading alternatives” and their Trioten protein blend was 600% more expensive than Herbalife and Shaklee proteins. Ouch.

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I totally agree, Mary. You can lose soooo much more just by opening up a small storefront business. I was in the Spa Industry and then the economy tanked in late 2008. I did not renew my lease in 2009. Lost my several hundred thousand dollar build-out. Lost so much more than taking an MLM business seriously. Even if I would have front loaded on a ton of product, I still would have been better off. People spend $750 and get some business cards then do nothing and blame MLM.
This article was really informative and honest! I’m not presently involved in an MLM and I don’t ever plan to be especially after reading this article and the comments below. Why? Well because of EXACTLY the kind of “networking” and “recruiting” that these companies and many of the people commenting on here are advocating. I have been bombarded on my facebook, and other social media from people I haven’t spoken to or seen in years. Its becoming constant, and I am not on social media to make money. Roden and Fields, shakeology, some girl I went to high school with is now trying to get me to buy leggins from her. I have a cousin that I actively avoid now because he is constantly steering every single conversation to Herbellife and why I NEED it to be healthy. Jesus. Its just enough already. I’m all for empowering people, and I love the idea of earning an additional income to take care of your family or yourself. But I could not imagine alienating or even just annoying friends and family in order to make an extra dollar. What I dislike most is that many of those that are recruiting make it seem as if they recruiting you simply because they want to “help” you or provide you with an opportunity. They make it seem as if they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, when really the actual motivation is line their own pockets with more money, because the more people you recruit for your team, the more money you make. That feels dishonest and slimy to me. Unless I’m asking for “help” or an “opportunity” I wish people would assume that I don’t need and am not interested in one!
I’d like to point out a few things: statistically something like 96% of businesses fail within the first 5-10 years, which is a much more impactful loss, both financially and time wise, than the few hundred dollars one puts into whatever product they’re using in MLM. So realistically the success rate as a “self employed business owner” with MLM is probably a bit better than it is with launching a traditional business, or at least consistent with it. It takes discipline and tenacity that many people don’t have- that’s why they chose to remain employees in the first place.
Hi JP. Good stuff all the way around, my man. Hey, I’ve been approached by Ariix, & didn’t know if have heard of them, and if so, a simple 👍 or 👎 will suffice, unless you’d like to elaborate, of course. One obvious concern I have is that (& can disclose this, since it’s of public record/knowledge per the list above), the current leadership in place at Ariix all came from USANA, and given the FBI/SEC became involved with USANA in ‘07, & Ariix opened in ‘11, well….I think you know from where I’m coming as it relates to anything you may be able to convey. Thx again, JP, for all of your efforts, & if you’d feel more comfortable in emailing me, obviously that would be perfectly fine! And apologies on this extremely verbose message!😳
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!).

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To find quality high converting mlm leads you need to compare different mlm companies and find one that has proven results from those in the field. You are looking for a company where no matter what mlm or network marketing business you are involved in will be able t give you quality leads. For finding leads on your own you need to advertise, create websites, write articles and some how get more and more people to come to you for information. Creating your own leads is a far more wise decision then spending your hard earned money on people who haven't even asked for what you are offering. You can't even compare that to a person who specifically fills out a form and requests more information about your business. Stop wasting your time targeting the wrong MLM leads for your business (opportunity seekers – people who have only proven that they know how to fill out a form) and target the right leads to your business "proven business opportunity buyers" (other networkers - people who have already proven that they can and will spend money on a business opportunity.
This article was really informative and honest! I’m not presently involved in an MLM and I don’t ever plan to be especially after reading this article and the comments below. Why? Well because of EXACTLY the kind of “networking” and “recruiting” that these companies and many of the people commenting on here are advocating. I have been bombarded on my facebook, and other social media from people I haven’t spoken to or seen in years. Its becoming constant, and I am not on social media to make money. Roden and Fields, shakeology, some girl I went to high school with is now trying to get me to buy leggins from her. I have a cousin that I actively avoid now because he is constantly steering every single conversation to Herbellife and why I NEED it to be healthy. Jesus. Its just enough already. I’m all for empowering people, and I love the idea of earning an additional income to take care of your family or yourself. But I could not imagine alienating or even just annoying friends and family in order to make an extra dollar. What I dislike most is that many of those that are recruiting make it seem as if they recruiting you simply because they want to “help” you or provide you with an opportunity. They make it seem as if they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, when really the actual motivation is line their own pockets with more money, because the more people you recruit for your team, the more money you make. That feels dishonest and slimy to me. Unless I’m asking for “help” or an “opportunity” I wish people would assume that I don’t need and am not interested in one!
Market America is just as known for their massive discounted products portal as they are for their crazy rich CEOs. I’m talking Forbes list, mansion in Biscayne Bay and penthouse in Manhattan, celeb bffs, and giant yachts rich…all thanks to MLM. They’ve hit their fair share of SEC-shaped road blocks, but Market America is still going strong at #29 on the DSN Global 100.

MLM itself is a legitimate business strategy. However the subject of ethics can be rather vulnerable. The pyramid scheme, unlike MLM, is clearly a scam. In a pyramid structure, a member pays a fee to join. A portion of the money will then be remitted back to them when they bring a new member into the scheme. No products are involved in this scheme, simply get more people to dump in money for your chance to make more money.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your mlm breakdowns and the comments, thank you Jeremy. Had a successful mlm business but had to make a decision to give it up or have a breakdown due to ongoing upline bullying so at a big crossroads at the minute. being an ‘older’ lady here in the north of England doesn’t bode well for conventional job hunting in the current economic climate so some serious thinking needed on my part and QUICKLY lol. Thanks again Jeremy x
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Well MLM companies have been a frequent subject of criticism as well as the target of lawsuits. Criticism has focused on their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes (hence the “scheme” reference), price-fixing of products, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, encouraging if not requiring salespeople to purchase and use the company's products, potential exploitation of personal relationships which are used as new sales and recruiting targets, complex and sometimes exaggerated compensation schemes, and cult-like techniques which some groups use to enhance their members' enthusiasm and devotion. Eesh!
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But please do a little research before you blanket insult an entire industry or business model. I am a single mother with a 6 figure income because of MLM, nearly twice that when I’m actively working my business with both of the companies I represent, and while not everyone has the skill set to succeed in this business, the potential is certainly there, for those that do.
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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.
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