As An MLM Saleswoman, This Is What I Need You To Know

by Paige Wolf
Originally Published: 
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The shrinking of the middle class. Rising health insurance prices. The cost of childcare. No paid maternity leave.

It’s the few and far between who can thrive in a single (or even dual) income household with a white picket fence and braces for the kids. The American Dream has changed – and no matter what political party you belong to, it does not look like we are in for a seismic shift back to the ‘70s anytime soon.

You will be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t need to hustle. Whether it’s driving Uber, couponing, or selling blood plasma – almost all of us are building our portfolios of financial streams.

So about those Multi-Level Marketing Businesses…

When I was initially approached by friends selling things on Facebook, I was repelled. I was the first to remove myself from the Jamberry groups and unfollow anyone pushing weight-loss shakes.

But I was hustling in my own way. I have had my own public relations and writing business for 15 years, I wrote a book, increased my service offerings, and tried to cover the occasional grocery shop with the affiliate links on my blog. It wasn’t enough. It will never be enough.

For anyone who is a traditional small business owner, we have all ridden the roller coaster of ups and downs. And most of us have experienced the feeling of falling – what happens when the ground is falling out from under us? What happens when the roof starts leaking? When there are unexpected medical bills? When the kids want to join the traveling sports team? When it might be nice to take a trip anywhere?

Have you ever tried launching your own line of products? Opening your own restaurant? Writing a book and not making enough money from it to cover a cup of coffee (raises hand)?

Opening a traditional “side business” is simply not feasible for the average person. There’s no one to bear the brunt of rising ingredient prices or property taxes when you put everything you have into major business investment. But with most MLMs (and I’m not talking about the $5,000 start-up cost ones), you don’t have to worry about getting royally screwed.

Five years ago, a trusted friend approached me shortly after the launch of a new mission-driven MLM company. I was intrigued, but I was terrified of what people would think. Would it hurt my reputation as a traditional business owner? Make me look like a sell out or failure? Devalue me as an author and writer?

I passed.

But years later, I finally I opened my eyes to the idea of a multi-level-marketing business that was selling a product I was truly passionate about. It mirrored the mission of my overarching “brand,” the product development and marketing wouldn’t rest on my shoulders, and the buy-in was less than the cost of dinner for two at my favorite restaurant (with no drinks).

I signed up and I sent you that Facebook message even though we haven’t spoken since day camp. Maybe you ignored me or told me to fuck off. But maybe you switched to safer, better products and thanked me for telling you about them. It’s the latter that keeps me going, and the former that I learned to brush off.

Some of my best friends are my worst critics. I have been told in no uncertain terms that they are sticking to Sephora and want no part of my side hustle. They are still my best friends and support me in a million other ways.

I do the same for my friends involved in MLMs – or anything else – who sell things I don’t like or don’t want or don’t believe in. I might try to find something for myself in their catalog or I might say no thank you and offer them other methods of support.

Look, you’ve heard this argument before, but it bears repeating. If you are going to spend money on a spatula, handbag, or face cream, would you rather try something new from a friend or from Walmart?

There is a widely spread myth that sellers don’t make much on their own purchases, but that is not necessarily true. I make up to 35% on my sales and the company doesn’t force me to purchase anything. If I decide I no longer choose to participate in this business, I can take my handful of lipsticks and leave. There will be no penalty and no garage full of leggings.

If an MLM business is not for you, don’t do it. It’s not for everyone. You have to be outgoing, passionate about the product, and willing to take social risks. Some people will not like what you are doing. But for me, the good has far outweighed the bad. I struggle less to pay the bills, I have convinced friends to switch to cleaner products, I’ve donated portions of profits to organizations I couldn’t ordinarily afford to support, and I’ve met hundreds of new people.

Some of those people have blown off a shopping trip to the Saks makeup counter to do a one-on-one consult with me while our kids played. Some of those people have become fans of my writing and even bought my book. Some of those people have sold me a really, really good spatula.

I’ll never be an MLM millionaire, but this business makes me happy. And my clients are happy. And considering I have road rage and immune-deficient blood plasma, this is the side hustle for me.

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