This will hopefully be the only controversial post I write on this blog--and it's controversial because I know so many people involved in MLM businesses that it's unreal. I recognize that MLMs have been around forever, but it seems social media has exploded their popularity. I cannot go a single day without seeing one of my FB friends shilling some sort of MLM, be it Plexus, Younique, Herbalife, ect. (Plexus and Younique are the most popular on my feed.) In the past, I've tried product samples from MLMs without realizing they were MLMs, like Nerium and even some supplement from Amway that was supposed to give me energy. I've bought from an MLM before as well--and didn't know it--like Perfectly Posh, whose products I now realize are overpriced and don't last that long. In fact, I'm better off buying at Sephora, where the products may be more expensive but they last a million times longer--think six months versus a few weeks. I didn't even know Mary Kay was an MLM, and it has been around since I was in high school and perhaps longer than that! Then there is Avon, but I don't recall Avon representatives ever trying to get me to sell it, too.
You may be wondering how this fits in with my blog. Well, it does because I first started researching MLMs when I noticed a former friend of mine splashing Plexus all over FB. Naturally as a fitness professional I must keep abreast of the latest, most popular supplements, so I started looking up Plexus, only to be not surprised that the product itself is a scam. What's even more outrageous is that the majority of people selling Plexus have little knowledge of nutritional science. Of course, I realize there are personal trainers out there who sell Plexus. But I also recognize that there are doctors out there who apparently support this company, as evidenced by this hormone specialist. No profession is safe from this quackery.
However, I am not here to talk about the efficacy of any of these products. I am here to talk about the exploitative nature of MLMs themselves and why I refuse to be guilted into supporting any of my friends' businesses. For one, these are pyramid schemes because people's bottom lines involve recruiting others to sell these products. The products themselves don't even matter. They're just smokescreens. Not only do I know this from research, but I know this through my friends themselves who post statuses about messaging them for business opportunities. Anyone who typically praises the business also happens to sell the product themselves.The article I linked to provides enough of an explanation over how MLM businesses works, so I won't even bother explaining myself.
For one, MLM businesses are incredibly obnoxious. Whatever happened to genuine interactions on FB that didn't involve some ulterior motive to try and get your friends to sell? I have had people on my FB try to recruit me, wanting to exploit my platform as a fitness professional in order to make bank. That is an egregious abuse of my position and expertise. I will NEVER sell supplements to my clients. I will never sell makeup to them. Or skincare products. Or anything else for that matter. I will only sell MY services that get them long-term results that a supplement will never get them. Plus, not only is there an implication that I'm expected to sell to them, but then I'd also have to recruit them. On what world is this even ethical? It's not, and I don't appreciate anyone thinking this is okay.
Another thing about MLMs that bother me is these parties. I have friends inviting others to come to parties, when in reality that person is going to try to get you to not only buy the product but sign up to sell it. How abusive is this? Perhaps if you outright stated what the party was really about, then maybe I wouldn't roll my eyes every time your response to someone's question is to message you. Yes, I understand I can unfriend these people, but my hope is that they'll eventually see the light and join others, like me, in speaking out against MLMs. They'll use their experiences in these MLMs to get others to see how exploitative these practices are.
These businesses typically prey on single moms or women seeking to work at home so they can have a better work-life balance. So I do understand that these ladies are just trying to make money in a way that allows them an income without neglecting their home lives. This is an understandable desire, but there are plenty of occupations out there that allow this, like personal training, occupational therapy, and even a basic 9-5 job that doesn't require you to take work home or give up your free time. Granted, I understand the woes of stay-at-home moms wanting to contribute income, but it's your responsibility to figure out how to make it work before you even have a kid, and this doesn't include diving headfirst into a scam! I plan to return to school next year to study to become an occupational therapy assistant, and OTAs, from what I've read, have excellent work-life balances. I also plan to remain a personal trainer for a long time to come. So I have no complaints about my life and my jobs. I love them, and I can't wait to go back to school to further make a difference in people's lives.
So yes, I've found a way to make life work for me in a way that makes me happy without feeling the need to fall for a scam. This took a lot of work and self-discovery and maturity, but I am genuinely happy with my choices and don't feel the need to shove my life down others' throats the way MLMs make their shillers do.
I see my MLM friends bragging about how amazing their jobs are and how you should do their jobs too if you just hate yours. In fact, I've known some to quit well-paying jobs to sell full-time. And I know it's all lies. I've been in sales before; it's rough, it's not easy to make money, and it takes constant hustle. But I didn't have to spend any money upfront to make commission off home improvement projects or gym memberships. I didn't have to dupe paying customers into also signing up to sell stuff--just buy stuff that hopefully turns them into satisfied customers; however, these business are part of the BBB, which MLMs are not. My managers were genuinely interested in helping me improve my skills so I could make more money. And if I wasn't making more money, then they would work with me to figure out how to fix this. Of course, I left sales because I hate it and I also believe sales is a naturally exploitative profession, but I didn't destroy relationships as a result of these jobs the way MLMs do.
What also annoys me, and this is perhaps me being elitist, is that many MLM shillers consider themselves business owners. You're not. You're not even an entrepreneur. You didn't come up with the ideas for the products you're selling. You didn't invent these products or create them. You didn't invent the marketing materials for them. You don't need a license for your business. You didn't have to get certified in anything. You don't need a degree in anything. ANYBODY can be an MLM shiller as long as they have a little bit of upfront cash.
On the other hand, actual entrepreneurs have had to work much, much harder to even launch a business. I actually have to be certified to work as a trainer, to be seen as a professional, to be seen as legitimate. I have to receive continuing education credits to remain certified. I also had to get my own insurance to protect myself from potential lawsuits. I'll eventually need a business license. I didn't invent personal training, but what I did invent is my own ideas for what I'd like to promote compared to what other fitness professionals promote. Blogging also goes hand-in-hand with this business, and while I didn't invent blogging either, all of these posts arise from my own ideas and experiences. And my publisher, Gnome on Pig Productions, has had to work unbelievably hard and have all the required paperwork to run and get an accountant and everything.
Believe me, I know MLM people have to hustle, but you're selling someone else's dream. You're not selling your own despite how passionate you believe you are about the products you're selling. The fact of the matter is that you're still making money for someone else, whereas with my own entrepreneurial endeavor, I keep 100% of the profits and get to decide how to utilize those profits. You don't. You don't get a say in the percentage of commission you earn. You don't get a say in how much the products should cost. You don't get to invent new products to sell. You don't get a say in anything other than how you yourself sell the product. Stop duping yourself into believing you're living some entrepreneurial dream, when real entrepreneurs don't go around bragging about lavish lifestyles but rather talk about the immense work it takes to run a business. And it does take a lot of work. I'm still trying to find that balance that allows me to continually grow my own business while working at the YMCA and being a PT Aide and continually expanding my fitness and nutrition knowledge through continuing education courses along with trying to be a young adult author.
I'm sorry, but I will not support you. I will continue buying my make-up and skincare products at Sephora or Ulta or elsewhere. I will never support unnecessary supplements like those provided through Plexus and Amway. I will buy my wax melts at places like Target. I will buy jewelry in places like Dillards. Now I will support you if you actually do launch your own business through your own original ideas that don't exploit others, like friends who sell their art on Etsy, or friends who write and publish books, or friends who create cute crafts. These are the real entrepreneurs, the real innovators, the real change makers. And stop insulting the term entrepreneur with the cutesy momtrepreneur that makes it seem like entrepreneurship is as easy as spending several hundred bucks to buy into someone else's dream.
Am I bitter? No. I guarantee you that even with the little bit of money I am making off my own business, it's still likely more than what most MLM people make, especially since they have to spend money on their own products in order to be able to sell said products.
Are there people who have been successful with MLM? I have no doubt there are, but the percentage is incredibly, incredibly small. The vast majority are struggling. Most new businesses, regardless of the route you choose to go, fail anyway. MLMs are no different. What is different is massive amounts of people buying into the idea that MLMs will somehow make them easy money.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
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The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
All images are either my own, from Canva, or Creative Commons