You might have heard of these brands before: Amway, Usana, Shaklee, Cosway, Mary Kay, Atomy… Chances are, you have some of their products at home, and maybe even one or two of your family members were/are distributors of these brands. As multi-level marketing companies, these names are certainly well known, with recruits all over the world. Sometimes multi-level marketing (MLM) is attached to stigmas, but there are always two sides to a story, and today we’ll be focusing on why MLM could be a great source of income (especially as we’re still trying to find our footing during the pandemic), plus a short interview with three MLM-ers from three different companies. Let’s get right into it!
What Is Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)?
Before we define multi-level marketing, let’s also bring in the term “direct selling”, or “direct sales”. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably with multi-level marketing, but they are not the same thing, exactly. According to thebalancesmb.com, “direct sales describes the business model where independent contractors (or representatives or distributors) sell a company’s products and/or services directly to consumers.” The same thing could be said of MLM, except that on top of selling products/services, distributors also earn from recruiting others into the company. Basically, by working in a MLM company, you make money not just from product/service sales, but from the sales of your recruits (downlines) as well, which gives way to the term “multi-level”.
6 Benefits Of MLM
1) Multiple Income Sources
As mentioned above, the nature of MLM businesses is such that you earn not just from your own sales, but also from the sales of your recruits. The larger your network, the more you’ll earn, so your income isn’t restricted to how much you can sell, but also dependent on your network.
2) Uncommon Freedom
Having a MLM business gives you a type of freedom not usually associated with typical jobs. Basically, you have total freedom over how you want to run your business. MLM businesses can be run right at home, utilising the power of the Internet now more than ever. There’s no need to face your boss’ dark moods, punch a card, or carefully manage your leave, because you don’t have an employer.
3) Passive Income
According to corporatefinanceinstitute.com, passive income is “any money earned in a manner that does not require too much effort.” Sometimes, it is also a source of income where you don’t have to actively participate in it. Some examples of passive income include property rental, book royalties, investments, and digital ad spaces. MLM is also a source of passive income because you earn from the sales of your recruits as well, even if you’re not actively selling the products/services yourself.
4) Ranking System Could Be Helpful For Advancement
Many MLM companies have a ranking system in place, and each tier/rank entitles distributors/business owners to different rewards and/or benefits. This ranking system could be helpful as a source of motivation, since it is a black-and-white, tangible marketing plan that one can follow. It’s easy to follow in the sense that you see exactly what you get once you attain a certain level.
5) Could Be A Recession-Proof Business
You need no qualifications or experience to join a MLM company. All you need is a willingness to learn and work diligently. As such, you can join up anytime, and since most MLM companies are in the business of health and/or daily essentials, it’s a form of business that can withstand tough times, because well, it’s essential. In fact, the number of recruits and sales for some of our interviewees have skyrocketed, but more on that later.
6) Help Other People Out
Most MLM company philosophies run along the lines of helping people improve their quality of life. For our interviewees, they all signed up mostly due to a combination of two factors. One, the appeal of passive income, yes, definitely. And two, the ability to help people out, whether through recruitment and providing them with an extra source of income, or through their products which have significantly improved the health or life of their customers.
And Here’s What MLM-ers Have To Say About It
For this interview, we have managed to secure three individuals from three different companies, namely Amway, Usana, and Shaklee. Each of them have also been in the industry for varying time periods, making this interview more comprehensive. The questions focus mostly on their experience while building their business in a MLM company. The interviewees are:
- Amelia (Amway), in the business for 3 years
- Veronica (Usana), in the business for 8 – 9 months
- Samantha (Shaklee), in the business for 20 years
Note: Names have been changed as interviewees prefer to remain anonymous.
Q: What is the nature of your business/business model?
Amelia: Amway is a direct selling company, helping people live better lives through business opportunity or products that are of better quality, affordable, safer, and at a reasonable price. With the MLM system we also get a mentor to guide us to become who we want to be, and now I get the chance to help newcomers as well.
Veronica: Usana focuses on people’s health and health needs, providing them with the necessary supplements based on body checkup results and personal health conditions, using medical-grade supplements instead of food-grade supplements. Based on my understanding, our MLM structure is a “split structure”, where you only focus on two recruits instead of a “sun structure”, focusing on many recruits.
Samantha: Shaklee provides pure, safe and proven health products that gives our body what it needs to thrive while providing an income opportunity that can help us to live life on our own terms. I prefer to call our business model “network marketing”, as our channel of distribution is through word of mouth through a network of people. And through leadership, we increase productivity in this network.
Q: Is this your full-time job? If yes, why did you choose this as your full-time job?
Amelia: I actually don’t really differentiate between full-time and part-time jobs anymore. Besides this, I also run a dessert business online, and both the dessert business and Amway business are just things I do, since I have time flexibility.
Veronica: No. I’m also teaching ballet classes and attending university.
Samantha: Yes. It gives me an uncommon freedom, and also provided me with passive income when I was unable to work for a time.
Q: There seems to be a stigma surrounding MLM-ers, i.e. “when your old friend hits you up out of nowhere, chances are they want to sell you something/recruit you”. Did you face this kind of situation, and how did you overcome it? Would you also say that this is a misconception about what you do?
Amelia: Yes, I’ve been in similar situations. I remain neutral, because each member in Amway is a “business owner”, so naturally they have their own thinking, method, and approach, and I respect that. Based on my experience, I found out that “hard-selling” was a major turnoff, and some who have had unpleasant experiences before might not be as open to listen to me. But I do try to point out the above, and invite them to allow me to explain what Amway is really all about: “Helping People Live Better Lives”, rather than blindly pushing products onto them.
Veronica: I think the key lies in your approach. In my opinion, it’s not really about the whole MLM system, it’s how the distributors approach potential clients. For me, I’ve found that introducing works, but never force or come on too hard. Most might still think that MLM-ers are only out to sell you something. How you view it also plays a big part in your approach, and for me it starts from wanting to help people. I see the effects of how I helped people, and that helped me overcome my fear of approaching others.
Samantha: Consult, not sell. I faced this kind of situation in the beginning of my career as I was always focusing on gaining profit, but later I found out that this is not the right way to build the business. I started to focus on polishing myself to become a professional and learning how to consult and not sell. That way, we focus on others, their needs, and their concerns. Naturally, this attracts more long lasting friends.
Q: What’s the best and worst thing about what you do?
Amelia: My family members actually opposed my decision, and it was an emotional struggle for me. I was in a dilemma whether to continue or not, but I realised that my life was up to me and up to me only, and therefore I trusted my own decision to make it. For two years I was on bad terms with my mum, and I was financially cut off. But due to my persistence, my family members saw the change in me, as I became a better person from inside out, because Amway’s training and the team (business environment) had made me grow a lot. The slurs I received from my family were hard to swallow, but thanks to my business environment and mentor(s), they guided me to let go and to focus on myself. This is both the best and worst thing, and the highlight here is the inner growth I got throughout the process.
Veronica: The best thing is definitely that I feel like I can help people with my career. I have always wanted to be in the medical field since I was young–to help people and to be focused on health. It is a passion, and I consider this an achievement. I wouldn’t say that this is the worst thing, but it’s definitely a challenge: my mum doesn’t support me because she actually has a deep-seated stereotype about “people like me” (those in the MLM business). On top of that, time management, because I have to juggle lots of things at the same time, so commitment issues in regards to time is also a challenge.
Samantha: The best and most satisfying thing is to see my customers’ health and well-being improving. Also when I see my team putting food on their table after receiving their Shaklee bonus. Their sense of gratitude makes me want to do more. I once led my organisation wrongly. Due to my weak leadership qualities and ignorance in the business back then, I depended on others for leadership and their system which resulted in a disaster.
Q: Is MLM a good source of income, especially since the pandemic hit and we’re now facing uncertain times? Could you share a little bit about how the pandemic has affected you or your business; did sales surge?
Amelia: Yes, for sure! I mean, the pandemic made me worry in general, but business wasn’t badly affected for me, personally, because I think it all comes down to how quickly one can adapt and upkeep connections. We also received lots of online support from Amway, and Amway products are daily essentials so people bought them. In fact, my sales surged, and we also managed to recruit more members since people are facing uncertain times now, and they want to find a side income.
Veronica: I started mid-pandemic, so this was my way of finding a side income. For those who have been in the line for a certain time, I don’t think they will be very worried about their financial status. As long as you put in effort (in building network), this can be a source of reliable side income!
Samantha: New recruits increased by 200%. No doubt, sales volume increased much more. With the new ‘online purchase’ website, we can generate business easier, therefore our income improved. The only concern we have is the shortage of products due to overwhelming response worldwide, production problems and delayed shipping.
Q: Have you ever thought about quitting, and why?
Amelia: No, because I don’t think I can find a better environment for me to grow, for my self-development. It also has something to do with Amway’s philosophy: Helping People Live Better Lives.
Veronica: Actually, yes, at end of last year, because network building was very slow, and I was worried about whether I would actually make it. But I decided to plough on, because if I quit then, it would feel like I didn’t put my best foot forward. My main priority remains studying in uni, so this is a side income. For now I’m focused on building up a good network with no rush necessarily. If you want fast money, this is probably not the way to do it though.
Samantha: Yes, I came into the business without knowing anything about the business. Therefore I made many mistakes. During those times, I have thought of quitting. But luckily I didn’t because all those mistakes toughened me up as a person. In any business or profession, the fight is actually within oneself.
As you can see, more and more people are turning to alternative sources of income, especially during times like these. Even without the pandemic, it’s not a bad thing to seek another source of income. The MLM model could be a largely misunderstood model, but we hope that this clears it up for you. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but as a possible recession-proof business, why not try your hand at it? There are many MLM companies out there, waiting for you to take your pick as long as you’re ready.