* Why 10 years? Because that amount of time really seems to matter. For example, according to research, since 1956 thousands of different MLM, Multi Level, or Network Marketing companies have opened their doors; and to date only +/- 50 MLM companies have found a way to celebrate their 10th anniversary and still remain in business today. Now, to be completely fair, we should also point out that each and every company on our list was at one time a start-up company too.
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)
* Why 10 years? Because that amount of time really seems to matter. For example, according to research, since 1956 thousands of different MLM, Multi Level, or Network Marketing companies have opened their doors; and to date only +/- 50 MLM companies have found a way to celebrate their 10th anniversary and still remain in business today. Now, to be completely fair, we should also point out that each and every company on our list was at one time a start-up company too.
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.
I was at “Sweetness Bakery and Cafe” the other day to order a hot chocolate with a friend. The barista asked me if I wanted half & half, whole milk, soy, rice, or hemp milk. I had never tasted hemp milk before. And I remembered the transition soy went through when manufacturers started sweetening soy up. So, I decided to try hemp since I figured it was sweet enough or the cafe wouldn’t suggest it. And Oh My God! It was the best cup of hot chocolate EVER! And I was amazed at what can be done with hemp.

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]

I just started selling for one of the top 15 and I went in knowing that this was just supplemental cash and nothing that would support my family. I spend 15 minutes (mostly from my phone) a day on my business and am happy with what I’ve done thus far. If it covers groceries and some extras like clothes or shoes, I’m good. If I start to become even more successful, great. It’s my competitive nature to want to out rank others, so I find it to be more of a personal challenge than thinking I’m going to get rich and stay rich. I appreciate the article and the no BS attitude.
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Multi-level marketing, abbreviated as MLM, also called pyramid selling, network marketing and referral marketing, is a controversial marketing strategy for the sale of products and/or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce (also called participants, and variously known as “salespeople”, “distributors”, “consultants”, “promoters”, “independent business owners”, etc) selling the company’s products/services, while the earnings of the participants is derived from a pyramid-shaped commission system.
MLMs are designed to make profit for the owners/shareholders of the company, and a few individual participants at the top levels of the MLM pyramid of participants. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some MLM companies already constitute illegal pyramid schemes even by the narrower existing legislation, exploiting members of the organization.[21] There have been calls in various countries to broaden existing anti-pyramid scheme legislation to include MLMs, or to enact specific anti-MLM legislation to make all MLMs illegal in parallel to pyramid schemes, as has already been done in some jurisdictions.[citation needed]
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.
“What causes the average, otherwise shy person to suddenly think they can be a wealth-generating salesman? Because someone showed them “the math.” I’m sure you’ve heard it. All you have to do is find 5 people to join, and those 5 will find five, and those five will get five, and 6 months later you will have 20,000 people working for you, and you’ll be earning $10,000 per month. Really?
Develop a referral program. Just like in other businesses, people who are referred by others are easier to convert to a sale than people who weren't, because they're usually coming to you with some interest in buying. Many people you talk to won't be interested in buying right away, but they might know people who are. Happy customers may want to share your product or business. You can develop a referral program to give people incentive to refer others to you. For example, you can give them a 10 percent discount on their next purchase for every new customer they refer. 

Choosing a company that offer quality training and support may help your business a great deal.  You must be taught the rudimentary of marketing, referrals and how to close sales.  The best company should help you to upgrade your skills to help grow your business. It must share with you secretes of driving your website and how to effectively utilize the leads. It must help you brand your business and reach to as many clients as possible.
Create a website. Be sure to check the policies of the company you're working with to see what they allow regarding websites. Many MLM companies offer you your own website or a page on their website, and others allow you to make your own. If you can, you should create your own website, because you should try to differentiate yourself from your competitors. If you're not allowed to make a website directly about your business, then make one covering a topic related to your business. For example, if you sell health and wellness products, then start a health and wellness website or blog. You can hire someone to design and build a site for you, or you can use a platform like Squarespace, Wix, Wordpress, or HubSpot to build your own.

I spent about 3 years selling Amway back in the 70’s. There was a lot of hype but I made enough money to achieve several of my more modest financial goals. I went on to use some of what I learned to make extra money in various ventures and eventually started a small business out of my home. The business grew until mainstream retailers began offering the same product I was selling at comparable prices. The MLM as a learning tool has some value as long as the product is decent. This MLM ranking is a good way to attract attention and I am curious about Your service. I am selective about what I spend my time and effort on.


A few people do make big money from MLMs. And these people are often trotted out in promotional videos, celebrated at annual events, and very publicly ‘rewarded’ with prizes like prestigious cars (although these ‘prizes’ aren’t as generous as they first appear – you simply get a discount on the lease which you must take out in your own name, and if your sales fall, the discount ends…). You also need to promote the company on the car they ‘give’ you.
Also called pyramid selling or network marketing, multi-level marketing companies grow revenue by hiring and recruiting non-salaried employees referred to as distributors, influencers, consultants, salespeople, or promoters (among other names). In other words, employees generally receive compensation from performance through a pyramid-shaped compensation system.
I disagree with that jeremy i would recommend MLM over working a Corporate 9 t0 5 $300 weekly paycheck job anyday. I quit my job for mlm i mean why not recommend MLM when you can make 10X the more money than you can at any stupid corporate america job..Working for people are for losers and i will defend mlm for the rest of my life bro you need to get your facts straight and look on youtube to see people buying new mercedez benzs and rolls royce working with mlm 

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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.
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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An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.
Many MLM companies do generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit. However, the profits of the MLM company are accrued at the detriment to the majority of the company's constituent workforce (the MLM participants). Only some of said profit is then significantly shared with individual participants at the top of the MLM distributorship pyramid. The earnings of those top few participants is emphasized and championed at company seminars and conferences, thus creating an illusion of how one can potentially become financially successful if they become a participants in the MLM. This is then advertised by the MLM company to recruit more distributors to participate in the MLM with a false anticipation of earning margins which are in reality merely theoretical and statistically improbable.[14]
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The reason I started Apache Leads way back in 2003 was that I was a Diamond level distributor for a San Diego based MLM company and had quite a large business. None of my associates had any access to leads, so that's how we got started. The demand for leads grew so fast that I had to focus on getting quality, affordable leads in ever increasing numbers.

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.
The real selling point for MLMs is that distributors can make money in two different ways. The first is money made from commissions from direct selling to consumers. And the second way to make money with an MLM is from the commissions made from sales of distributors below you in the pyramid (these are sometimes referred to as recruits or downline distributors).

I found your article interesting. My wife and I have been involved with AdvoCare since November 2011. Even if I never make another dime in AdvoCare, I will continue to use the products because they have worked and continue to work for us. What I find interesting is the statistic that the majority – 99.7% in MLM actually “lose” money. What is the context of that statistic? That would mean A: the majority of MLM companies don’t have a buyback or return policy B: people that get started with MLM’s have to take on much more inventory that they are able to sell or C: this statistic is not accurate. I believe that C is the right answer. I do agree there are flaws in the MLM industry just as there are flaws in every industry. However, I believe that the MLM industry has made huge improvements in recent years and we do have a better way. People are the variable. When you have a great product, a passion and purpose that drives you everyday, are teachable and coachable, and love others as much as you love yourself, you can be successful in this business. Through the process of investing in your own personal development and learning to serve others, you are able to lead others to do the same. Thanks again. I look forward to reading more from you in the near future.

The first wave of MLMs were the likes of Avon, which was founded in 1886, and used the door-to-door model for selling perfume. From then and up until the middle of the last century, many women did not have the means to sample products and shop at a department store — or, in the case of African American women, they were simply not allowed to enter the store at all. And they certainly didn’t have the means to start their own business and earn a real income.
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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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!
Hi JP, Your assessment of Melaleuca stating… “When you hit over a billy in annual sales, that’s reason enough to be on the shortlist. On top of that, they’ve been in the MLM game for over two decades, and they’re now the “largest online wellness shopping club” (basically just sounds like a fancy way of saying they sell a lot of miracle diet pills).” is VERY misleading and inaccurate. They offer “far more” products and services than weight control supplements. I have been a “customer” only of Melaleuca for over 20 years and can attest to the superb quality of their products. Please get your facts correct before posting inaccurate information. 🙂
First of all, Avon “has” been. Second, Avon really needs to work on their appeal to a younger generation. Third, Avon makes it difficult for representatives to make any money unless you are purchasing a ton of catalogs and knocking on doors. The company really needs to allow representatives to advertise online, and I don’t mean spamming friends on a Facebook or Twitter feed.
The main website a lot of people use when they are online is social media. These websites are where you can sit there and talk to anyone around the world that you know, and chances are that most people you know have an account on these kinds of things. You’ll want to make sure you do some looking into making a business account, because marketing through your personal profile may not do so well for you. Social media sites are free to use, but they also have ways you can pay for ads that go out to people.
comes down to leadership and the individual. I even changed teams to find the right mentor and coaching when I knew I was struggling. I found a team that trains people to be some network marketing professionals, and really the math is simple and anyone can make residual income if they do it correctly. The problem is people sign everyone up they can and then most drop out. You only want to work with those that are committed to do the work and be able to work closely with them until they are a developed leader. In all actuality ssigning everyone up as an associate is against the rules and a big no no. Having customers benefits everyone and in most business models like the one I’m with I make more commission off customers than associates that aren’t working.

The term “MLM company” isn’t exactly accurate because the company is not necessarily defined by the fact that it uses a multi-level marketing structure. Instead, a good MLM will be a product-centric company, meaning that it will be, for example, a cosmetics company that uses an MLM structure. Test the product of the company you are interested in; the product must be something that you would willingly advertise even if you weren't working for the company.

I’m surprised Rodan and Fields didn’t make the list, considering they are the fourth largest premium skin care company with the top three being 50+year old companies, Estée Lauder, Lancôme & Clinique. We are North America’s 4th largest and fastest growing premium skincare company, but we’re not in stores, the top 3 — Clinique, Lancôme and Estée Lauder.
Let’s face it, whether you call it multi-level marketing, direct sales, or network marketing, the entire industry gets a bad rap.  It’s often labeled as a pyramid scheme or get rich quick scam, and frankly, there is ample evidence to approach it with caution.  However, as I have studied trends in this business model, I have come to a very different conclusion. One that actually suggests that network marketing can play a crucial role in how well baby boomers and others transition into retirement.
Thank you for your article. I am also with doterra and I never in my life thought I would do something like this. The reason I started was because of health issues that led me to the oils. I have been an RN for 23 years and I feel more free and excited to share about health than ever. If you are going into something to get rich quick, I think that is the wrong attitude. I think most of my fellow doterra wellness advocates, have come to the same realization as me. I believe most of us started out trying to help ourselves and our families. I left my nursing job of 17 years in Feb, not because I am making enough money to replace my past income, but because I truly love helping others and I love the company and what it stands for. I can’t argue about MLM’s because I truly don’t care about that side of it. Maybe I am wrong to think that way. I hope that this ride doesn’t end anytime soon because the difference that doterra is making in my life, and the lives of those around me, is amazing. Thank you again for your information and your viewpoint.

Melaleuca, Inc. is listed as a Direct Marketing Company. The company contracts with independent marketing executives who refer customers to Melaleuca that purchase its various lines of nutritional, pharmaceutical, personal care, household cleaning, and pet care products. They also offer travel, phone and credit card services. Customers receive discounts if they order a minimum monthly product supply, but are not required to maintain an inventory of products. The company states that it offers a “Satisfaction or Money Back Guarantee”.


Kay, you don’t need a lot of money to buy essential oils, NOT AT ALL! Specifically now that distillers will sell directly to small businesses with very minimum amount, your $100 will buy you a lot actually. Averagely, your cost with MLM in a single bottle will be around 25x-30x more. So it is not the cost; but the business set-up (packaging, presentation, etc.).
Great listing and especially the honest look at what being in an MLM means. Direct sales is a hard business, especially if you’re not passionately using the product daily. You see too many people who join thinking it will be a get rich quick scheme and don’t actually care about the product or their customers. Genuine lasts and is successful, companies like Avon and Mary Kay have been around for generations because people love their products.
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