Sorry huns, I’m not coming to your network marketing party

(I am not a hun. I am not a 5th century Central Asian nomad. The sooner everyone stops using that word, the better. But if we’re talking MLM, it needed using.)

Can’t wait to take control of my destiny! #buildingmybusiness

Proud to be a #bossbabe

Risking is better than regretting.*

*The two definitely aren’t mutually exclusive. Source: my life.

When these posts start showing up on your social media feed, you know what’s coming. An old school friend or school gate mum has just signed up to an MLM scheme, and she won’t rest until she’s #livingherbestlife. A recent BBC documentary investigating network marketing made me dig this draft out of the archives, after angrily shaking my fists at iPlayer…

What is multi-level marketing?

Multi-level marketing or network marketing is a strategy by which non-salaried individuals (also called presenters, agents, insiders, vendors…) sell the company’s products and services as part of a pyramid-shaped commission team. It’s not a pyramid scheme, but it does look a bit like one. Those on the top make a commission off sales from the lower tiers. The higher you are, the more money you’re likely to make.

Why I don’t like network marketing

I do want to support anyone trying to make a better life for themselves and their family. Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s bloody effective at getting rid of things that make you miserable.

I’m not very good at saying no. I do want to be a good friend. I’ll come to your party for a catch up, snacks, pink wine and to spend money I don’t have on something I don’t need. The only problem is that I now need to make an extra £25 to cover that pizza stone that’ll sit in my cupboard for three years until I give it to the school raffle (BNIB). I don’t think I’m alone in this, as most of us form friendships in the same salary bracket. If you need to have a side hustle to make ends meet, chances are that your friends and family aren’t that flush either and can’t afford to regularly buy stuff they don’t need.

In my tiny village, which doesn’t even have a cash point, there are three people peddling a certain brand of scented candles, six Avon sellers in a three-mile radius of my house, a dozen people selling ‘premium’ makeup… it’s safe to say that this is a saturated market. Your core market will have to be your friends and family, who buy from you because they love you and want you to succeed. With the exception of Avon and their amazing giant bottles of bubble bath for like a quid, I’m yet to find a network marketing agent selling anything that we need to buy on a regular basis. So once their goodwill evaporates (and they’ve muted your motivational posts on Facebook), you’re off into a crowded market to try to secure your next round of sales. 

I also take issue with the fact that these businesses predominantly target women. 84% of network marketing agents in Europe are women, particularly time-poor primary caregivers who struggle to fit traditional employment into their hectic schedules. Feminist Kelly thinks that these people deserve a much better deal, or at least a bit of honesty.

It sours further when their cut and paste diatribes start attacking the very women that they’re supposed to be building up. Hashtag ‘not paying someone else to raise my kids’ can hit pretty hard when you’ve just come in from the shift from hell, your house looks like the ‘before’ segment of an episode of Hoarders and your children appear to be summoning demons among the detritus. How is that empowering?

The reality is, most people don’t earn much from multi-level marketing. There’s the odd true story about a millionaire Avon lady, most MLM agents aren’t even achieving minimum wage for the time they put in. They’re flooding their social media with provided inspirational imagery, half-truths (I’m looking at you Juice Plus) and more emojis than my tweens Whatsapp chat groups and not seeing much of a return on it.

So what’s the alternative?

Obviously, I’d love to say that there are flexible, varied, well-paid working opportunities as far as the eye can see. But that’s just not the case.

I’m planning to cover all the extra ways I earn a little extra bank, but in the meantime, I’m going to redirect you to the genius Emma Drew, where I learned a lot of my extra hustle!