Okay so I want to talk about something: multi-level marketing companies. They are also called direct sales, network marketing, and pyramid schemes, among other clever and legitimate-sounding titles. These are companies that rely on individuals to sell out of their homes rather than building traditional brick and mortar stores – think classics like Avon and Pampered Chef, and newer companies including Jamberry, Lipsense, and ItWorks.
The first thing I want to say is: I’m not here to bash these companies at all. I worked for Jamberry for about two years and I loved it. I’m going to be honest in this post and share some tips, the pros, and cons of working as a direct sales consultant and some warning flags to watch for if you’re considering joining a direct sales company.
When I browse the #workfromhome hashtag on any platform an overwhelming number of the posts come from direct sales consultants encouraging anyone who wants to work from home to join their team. Of course, direct sales is generally a work from home gig, although I kind of resent their saturation of the hashtag and more seriously, how spammy and awful some of the methods they use are.
Don’t get me wrong: There are a lot of very hard-working people busting their asses and making a great living with these companies. My sponsor with Jamberry is one of them. (sponsor = the person whose team I joined, so she gets credit for my joining, and looked after mentoring me throughout my time with the company. I loved her!)
Generalized Problems with the Industry
As much as I had a great experience there are a lot of problems with the industry. There are a lot of people that do and say ethically questionable things with their business. They falsely advertise earnings to lure team members and promise those team members success without being honest about what that kind of success will require.
These companies by and large are rightfully accused of preying on societies less affluent women, encouraging them to go into greater financial duress by promising that this job is the way to pay down all debts and look after their families. This is an aspect of direct sales that angers me. Consultants or representatives gain team members, at times, by knowingly preying on women who are in financial need and not equipped to critically analyze the terms of the contract they’d be signing with these companies.
Most companies require you to “join” by buying a “start up kit” of some sort. The start up kits themselves are usually great. You get a healthy sampling of products, flyers, maybe postcards, etc. You get what you need to begin operating in the business – but you don’t get it for free. Some companies have different sizes or types of kits at different price points. This means that you may see some opportunities as cheap or at least as being a good deal in comparison to other opportunities or kits. Realistically though, when you’re broke is not the time to start a business. You shouldn’t be spending your last dollars on a kit like this.
And I do specifically note that as a large and generalized industry direct sales companies specifically tend to prey on women. We are targeted as both their consultants and their customers (the two, naturally, go hand in hand.) This isn’t new. Think back – those companies our moms and grandmas know like Avon and Pampered Chef are the pillars of the industry and although it has evolved and diversified, the products and market are still dominated by women.
Not all companies are like this. More importantly, not all consultants are willing to behave unethically to promote their business. When I first met my sponsor for Jamberry it was because she hosted a sales party with a friend of mine. She made me aware that if I loved the product I could join the company and get paid to do what she did. However when I told her I wanted to get to know the product before considering a career with the company she was supportive and understanding. Her style of interacting with me as a customer is a big part of what attracted me to the company, and her team.
I could see myself wanting to be like her. That was important.
Generalized Pros with the Industry
Realistically the most important part of accessing and enjoying the pros of working in direct sales is finding the right company.
Companies will generally offer some level of training or at least a set of guidelines on how consultants should represent them. This sets up what the company requires, and where the room exists for consultants to make the business personal and unique to them.
Find a company where their requirements fit you and what you’re comfortable with.
A few things to define a good direct sales company for you:
- It’s a product you’ll genuinely use and are happy to recommend to others
- Its requirements are compatible with your commitments and goals
- You feel confident you can consistently sell the product.
- You see room for yourself in their market – if 25 people you know are already selling this product, wo will you sell to?
- The methods their consultants are using to promote the product are compatible with your ethics and what you’re willing to associate yourself with and be a part of.
The claims that many consultants make are generally true when you’re working for it. You do work from home, you do make money with every sale, you can make money by sharing the opportunity. It’s a good gig.
However, let’s not forget that if you want to make money in any industry you have to work hard. So sometimes consultants have a habit of making it sound like direct sales is easy money. It’s not, it can be good money but it isn’t easy money.
Major Red Flags
Remember that you’re joining this company to make money. If the company requires you to spend an obnoxious amount to join and maintain status as a consultant, it’s not a good idea. Life is not consistent – some months you’ll sell a lot and some months will be weaker. If you have ridiculous monthly requirements you will struggle to create consistency and build success.
- Do not sign up for auto-ship. Some companies require you accept and pay for automatic shipments of product that you will have and sell as personal inventory. Do not do this to yourself. They’ll tell you that you can easily sell the product but they won’t help you when you have a garage full of thousands of dollars of product you can’t move.
- On a related note: Do not sign a time based contract that requires you to be active in the company for a minimum amount of time. Much like accumulating a garage full of auto-shipped products, you lose the flexibility that is usually a main attraction for direct sales.
- Do not pay more than you can actually afford for startup. Most kits run between $50-300 depending on the company and what they include in their start-up kit. They are making money off these kit sales, for sure, but they also are genuinely providing you with tools to begin your business. Just don’t get tricked into thinking that to start this business you need to spend thousands.
- Spammy consultants. If consultants for this company are generally posting bad graphics with obnoxious pleas disguised as pitches and invitations to buy or join… beware! Spammy posts are a good indication that these consultants are desperate to move product and make goals. Don’t fall for it and become one of them.
Good luck in your potential direct sales journey. I loved working for Jamberry and am entirely willing to work for another company if I am in love with their product.
What companies are you loving and buying from your friends right now?