Multilevel marketing is on the rise as people have lost jobs or seen their hours cut due to the current public health crisis. Even if your career has not been impacted any more than any other artist, and your salaried work is secure, it is often tempting to talk yourself into joining one of these companies for a little spending money to give yourself a few little treats during this stressful time. Some people even join as “personal use” consultants. This seems safe. You sign up as a consultant just to get the discount on the products. At best, you predict you may get a few pity sales from close friends and family, making your products free to you. At worst, you get to pay a lot less for products you wanted to treat yourself to anyway. But even signing up as a personal use consultant will only waste your time and energy, and possibly even cost you more than you save. Before signing up “just to get that discount” or “to earn some free products,” consider the following about multilevel marketing companies and their goods and services.
Even if you’re a “personal use” consultant, you still have to sell enough of the company’s products to earn the discount.
Many MLMs are a good deal at the very start, as they offer their consultant discount on the first order, regardless of size. This means if the startup kit costs $50, and the total cost of what you were going to buy anyway is $150 with a 50% discount, you just got a nice $25 discount on your products, plus whatever you care to pick out of the starter kit. But that “discount just for being signed up under us” is never a permanent offer. After the first, or at least the first few orders, you will be required to sell the company’s products in order to get that discount. If you can’t sell the products, then you will have to purchase them yourself, and buying things you never wanted just to get a discount on things you did adds up to spending more than full price for the stuff you wanted.
The majority of the products offered by MLMs are of much lower quality than others of their price range. You would save more money by buying products of comparable quality someplace else.
Often, the price of a product has little to do with its quality. In some cases, you get what you pay for, and cheaper products are indeed lower in quality. And in others, the price is so marked up, the cheaper item is of the same or better quality. The products offered by MLMs typically fall into the third category, as it is necessary for the company to mark up the price in order to pay all the “levels” in the multilevel marketing scheme while still making a profit for the corporation. A $50.00 frying pan from an MLM that sells kitchenware is likely to be similar to a $15.00 pan from the store. While an $18.00 lipstick from a non MLM makeup company is a high end product, an $18.00 MLM lipstick is going to be of the same quality as an $8.00…or even a $2.00 drugstore lipstick. Even if you go by your initial, promotional discount, it is going to be cheaper to just go buy a similar product from a traditional retailer.
Your upline is not likely to take your “personal use” decision as graciously and respectfully as they appear to in the beginning.
When you are first lured into an MLM, the person you sign up under is going to tell you it’s the perfect situation for you, no matter who you are or what your situation or goals might be. If I tell them I love my job and just want free products, they will tell me of all the people they know who only sell enough to make their products free to them, and assure me it’s no pressure. If the next person who speaks to them claims to want sales training for a career change, that same opportunity will suddenly become an alternative to a degree in marketing. Everybody gets told what they want to hear. Once you’re signed up, prepare for an onslaught of phone calls, emails, texts, and comments on your social media, all pressuring you to get out there and sell for the company. This will continue, no matter how many times you tell them you’re only a “personal use” consultant.
Even if all you ever do is make a few social media posts announcing that you’re selling the products and then spend ten minutes per day checking your email or sales page online, you still could have earned more in the same amount of time with a minimum wage job.
After a year and four months of doing nothing more than making a few social media posts about selling Avon and spending approximately ten minutes checking my page each day for 300 days, I worked for a total of 50 hours. For my 50 hours of work, I earned $200 worth of Avon products and just under $35 in cash. I could have taken a minimum wage side job, worked just seven part-time shifts for a total of 28 hours, and come away with about $250 after taxes.
The people above you in the multilevel marketing “team” will not likely respect your decision should you insist you are personal use only, or even if you decide to stop selling altogether, and may do things you do not agree to in your name.
One common ploy in MLMs is for someone with several consultants under them to fake sales for those who choose to quit selling. They do this by having another consultant purchase products from the lapsed consultant’s page. Most MLMs will continue with this practice, even after they have been told the former representative no longer wishes to be involved with the company.
The “just under $35” I made with Avon was earned in this way. I wrote to Avon asking them to remove me as a consultant. They responded with a form letter intended for representatives who had not sold in a while, talking about looking forward to welcoming me back when I started selling again. I wrote another letter. I received another form letter response, but I also began receiving messages threatening to shut my page down if I didn’t place an order soon. Of course I ignored those too, since shutting the page down was what I had requested. Right before my page was scheduled to close down, someone outside of my hometown area, but within my upline’s territory, just happened to place an order, returning me to active status again. The order was for just under $50, earning me around $10. I responded this time by completing ignoring all correspondence from Avon until the sales page was shut down. Several weeks later, I received another $14 and change in comission, as the same person had placed a similar order, re-activating the closed sales page I had repeatedly told them I no longer wanted to maintain. This may not seem like anything detrimental on the surface, and in fact may seem like a nice way to get a free ten to fifteen bucks every few months. But it still involves someone doing something in your name when you told them they did not have permission to do so.
It was not until the person did it a third time, and I launched another complaint with the company that the sales page was closed down. I’m waiting to see if this individual breaks into my closed page and does this again.
“Personal use” consulting for an MLM will bring on more trouble than it is worth. There are many other ways to cut costs and earn money, without all the trouble these predatory companies bring.
Like most artists, I have a “day job.” I don’t talk about it often to avoid any confusion over whether I’m speaking as a staff member of the company I work for or as myself as an independent artist. But it is a steady, paycheck issuing job that allows me to teach writing skills to adult learners online. The job is part-time, so I am often looking for temporary jobs and other work to made additional money.
Searching for those jobs often ends in me watching some YouTube video about someone doing the latest harmless challenge, like ordering the same thing as the person in front of you in a fast food drive through just to see what you get, or making yourself look like you did in high school, and griping something along the lines of “Why can’t I just do silly internet challenges and make money…?”
Today, Artist Cafe Utica combines the two with a….”What really happens when you apply to 100 jobs?” challenge.
The rules are:
1. I cannot apply for jobs I know I have no chance of being offered. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and a Master of Arts in Literature and Creative Writing. I have five years experience teaching writing to adults, twelve years experience as a general assignment news reporter for radio, print, and web, and eleven years of experience doing receptionist/basic secretarial work. I have written four novels, served as a volunteer staff writer for an education and support group for romance scam victims for a little over a year, and of course…run this website. I am not going to get any response if I apply for jobs in the medical field, construction, or plumbing.
Be sure to keep reading. Updates will be posted here, and on our Facebook page.
Conventional YouTube vlog and written blog financial wisdom dictates that rich people think differently about money than poor people, and that if poor people would just think about money the way rich people do, we wouldn’t be poor. In most cases, this is absolutely ridiculous. Our financial resources are impacted by everything from where our parents were born to tax laws that were put in place before we were even old enough to vote, to the national, state, and local economies we live in. There are many factors that are under our control, but “how much money we have” is the result of all of these things, not one simple belief, attitude, or habit.
Much of the advice is also impractical for someone of limited financial means. When your rent is $800 per month and your income is $1500 per month, you cannot save half your income, no matter how many rich people go on YouTube to brag they do it. Other advice is insulting and punitive, in addition to being overly simplistic. You are not poor simply because you stop for coffee a lot instead of making it at home, or order avocado toast at a coffeehouse when you could choose butter or peanut butter and eat it in your own kitchen.
But in all that mess, there is one piece of advice that stuck out as useful, no matter what your financial situation. It is said that when poor people see something that is out of their reach financially, they immediately think, “I can’t afford this,” while rich people think, “How can I afford this?” Or “How can I finance this?”
Granted, a wealthy person and a person of limited financial resources is going to be talking about very different things, and will have wildly varying resources at their disposal. The rich person is likely referring to acquiring another business, and has loans, tax cuts, and investors available to make his or her dream come true. Or they want to upgrade their mansion, and only need to have a talk with their accountant to make arrangements. This is not the same thing as not being able to afford a new phone when the one you depend on is about to shut down for good, or being the only person at work who can’t afford to meet the dress code, or needing work on your only car that you cannot pay for without giving up your medication. It is only the approach a poor person can adopt, not the resources.
But what really happens if you approach the next thing you want but cannot afford with the question, “How can I finance this?”
My main want is endless novels, nonfiction books I can use as research for novels, and music. That one is both too far reaching and too easy at the same time. If I truly tried to raise funds to buy myself my very own library to rival the public branches, I would never do anything else in my life except for fund raise for books and music. At the same time, I could easily afford to read and listen to music all I want simply by going to the library more often, signing up for more free music streaming services, and finding more stations on the radio.
Beyond that, I would like a few more items to round out my wardrobe. My 60 piece year-round capsule wardrobe does not quite have 60 pieces in it. I think I have around 49. I don’t have to have the full 60, but I have noticed I lack a lot of options for more casual days. Adding a couple of pairs of colored jeans to dress down some of my blouses might be useful. And I don’t have many purple blouses, or a sweater in deep purple, bright blue, or deep green. I could also stand to get my hair cut more often, and my makeup is starting to get used up/too old. There are also Italian classes I would like to take, but cannot pay for right now.
What will happen when I approach those things as projects I need to finance, rather than things I do not get to have because I cannot afford them?
Find out in the coming weeks.