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]
(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).
Now that companies can easily sell directly to their customers online, people look to social media to get their recommendations for products, and the popularity of subscription beauty boxes, not to mention the fact that there are so many retail stores even in the most far out suburbs, I don’t see how the network marketing model is necessary anymore. The only people who defend them are the people who were trained to. This is because MLMs love to brainwash you into defending them against naysayers and demand you go on the offensive to anyone who might disagree. They may still have wide-eyed hope. It’s sad and terrible. The sooner these pyramid schemes are declared illegal and go out of the business, the better off the world will be.
This group effect also plays into the vital role that a person’s social network can have on their retirement. Studies show that being around negative, pessimistic or sarcastic people can actually be detrimental to your health.  And many people can get stuck in a rut when it comes to who they hang around and associate with. Which means successful aging includes hanging around upbeat, positive people.
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).

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. 

Thank you for sharing your perspective on the Direct Sales/MLM companies. As a business owner and entrepreneur, there is often a lot of noise from many sources about what is the best way to grow and be of importance. One of the things I have learned and continue to learn is that we must really love what we do, believe in our offering, whether is it a product or service, and listen closely to our gut instincts. A business coach of mine once said being a prism is beautiful, but it is scattered light, focus on what you love. Another important thing to know for yourself , is that there are different learning styles. If you choose to join any company, MLM or otherwise, be clear with yourself how you best learn and thrive. Getting swept up in the cheering may feel good, and it may keep you motivated on some level, however, be clear on how do you retain knowledge and use it. If a company has a one size fits all approach, be very careful that you do not get swept away. Thank you again for sharing this information. It has helped me have another look at my goals and how to continue focusing on what I love to do.
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.

I have a friend who is proposing I join Arbonne? She would be good to work with although I am not educated on all the MLM companies and don’t want to make the wrong choice. I also have a blog which I want to leverage and it seems like most of the health and wellness MLMs utilize hosted parties. Are there any that are more internet based that have had a long time track record! Thanks and sorry for all the questions!
“MLMs very rarely emphasize the extreme likelihood of failure, or the extreme likelihood of financial loss, from participation in MLM. MLMs are also seldom forthcoming about the fact that any significant success of the few individuals at the top of the MLM participant pyramid is in fact dependent on the continued financial loss and failure of all other participants below them in the MLM pyramid.” (Wikipedia)

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.

While some of these 10 items are flags of a scam, some, such as unsettled feeling, aren't necessarily a scam, but are definitely an indication that the home business opportunity isn't for you. You can avoid a lot of mistakes and build a successful MLM business by investigating the company, choosing a product or service you can get behind, and having a belief, not only in the product, but in the company and system as well. 


Multi-level market (MLM) or network marketing is an American institution. Companies like Amway, Tupperware, Herbalife, Avon, Mary Kay and The Pampered Chef support huge networks of distributors and recruits who sell every type of product from dietary supplements to kitchenware to beauty products. Salespeople are called independent business owners (IBO) and generally work from their homes.
Your comment and it’s militant nature are the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I believe the doTERRA culture is founded upon. I hope anyone reading this thread choose to look past your article and it’s attack on YoungLiving when basing their decision as to which company they choose to go with. I want them to know that the manner in which you needlessly attacked them is in no way a representation of all the other reps nor the company itself.
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MLMs are also criticized for being unable to fulfill their promises for the majority of participants due to basic conflicts with Western cultural norms.[57] There are even claims that the success rate for breaking even or even making money are far worse than other types of businesses:[58] "The vast majority of MLMs are recruiting MLMs, in which participants must recruit aggressively to profit. Based on available data from the companies themselves, the loss rate for recruiting MLMs is approximately 99.9%; i.e., 99.9% of participants lose money after subtracting all expenses, including purchases from the company."[58] In part, this is because encouraging recruits to further "recruit people to compete with [them]"[4] leads to "market saturation."[22] It has also been claimed "(b)y its very nature, MLM is completely devoid of any scientific foundations."[59]
Walter J. Carl stated in a 2004 Western Journal of Communication article that "MLM organizations have been described by some as cults (Butterfield, 1985),[51] pyramid schemes (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997),[52] or organizations rife with misleading, deceptive, and unethical behavior (Carter, 1999),[53] such as the questionable use of evangelical discourse to promote the business (Höpfl & Maddrell, 1996),[54] and the exploitation of personal relationships for financial gain (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997)".[52][55] In China, volunteers working to rescue people from the schemes have been physically attacked.[56]
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Although you can generate business leads yourself by advertising or organizing promotional events, buying your leads is actually going to be the most cost-effective method. In fact, we put a lot of effort into keeping our costs as low as possible so we can pass these savings on to you. Essentially, we go above and beyond what we need to do so you, our customer, is happy. If you have any questions about our high-quality leads, be sure to contact us now so we can help you. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start making more money for your business! And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Prequalified prospects, sales referrals, or genealogy lists, whatever name is used, MLM leads are the lifeblood of any MLM (multi-level marketing) business, and without a continuous supply, the network marketing distributor will go broke and have to close down their MLM business. The question most networkers ask is “where do I get the best possible MLM leads for little or no money?” Are they generated on the internet, bought from an MLM lead-generation company, worked in the local market or found among friends and family? The answer is easier than it may seem; all of the above.
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!

If you recruit a distributor who advances to the final step and breaks away from your group, what happens to your commissions? Yes, your total group volume will take a hit, because you’ve lost one of your best recruits. However, most companies will provide you with a bonus commission, referred to as an override commission, for creating breakaway legs (or recruits that end up breaking away, forming their own group).


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 

Most people who try network marketing fail – not because the products they are marketing are poor, but because they do not realise how much effort network marketing is, and how much time they need to put into it. All too often, would-be marketers give up when they get to the six month point, but they are not quite turning a good profit. What they don’t realise is that if they had waited it out just a few months more, and kept on marketing and expanding their business, then they could have been profitable.
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