But is it actually possible to earn a living with these direct-sales companies?
Well, one thing’s certain: The direct-sales industry is booming. It brings in over $36 billion in U.S. sales annually, and many companies claim their salespeople earn full-time incomes.
Attracted by the flexibility and earning potential, many people (especially stay-at-home parents) are flocking to sign up. In fact, more than 20.2 million people were involved in direct-selling in 2015.
“You’re always encouraged to be bettering yourself,” Mayer explains. “You’re rewarded financially and socially. Your income potential is in your hands, and your life is yours for designing. I’ve never held a ‘job’ like that.”
Though it sounds great, some industry experts and former direct-sales reps warn that certain companies are not the opportunities they claim to be — going so far as calling them pyramid schemes and scams.
Is working for a direct-sales company a good way to earn extra money? And if so, which one should you choose?
Here’s what you need to know:
How to Earn Money with a Direct-Sales Company
First, you’ll sign up to become a representative with the company of your choice. After paying a registration fee, you’ll receive sample products and marketing materials.
It’s then your job to sell the products. Most representatives do this by hosting “parties” at friends’ and acquaintances’ homes, where they demonstrate the company’s products and encourage people to order.
You’ll earn a commission for any products you sell. Some companies also offer bonuses to top sellers — such as free vacations, or in the case of Mary Kay, iconic pink Cadillacs.
But, as with all multi-level marketing companies, the real money starts coming in when you recruit other people to sign up as sales reps.
Then you’ll earn money whenever they sell an item — and when, in turn, their recruits sell something — and so on. That’s why some of these companies claim your earning potential is almost unlimited.
Dr. Tanda Cook sells botanical-based health and beauty line Arbonne in her spare time. She’s been delighted with her experience.
“Network marketing is the most brilliant business plan out there… hands down,” she says.
As for what you can earn?
“It really depends: I know people who are making everything from $500 per month to $30,000 per month,” Cook explains. “And both are working part time, it just depends if you’re treating it like a hobby or a business.”
Are Direct-Sales Companies a Scam?
It sounds like an easy way to earn money, but Market Watch points out that direct-sales companies may sometimes be too good to be true.
Market Watch lists many issues you could face, including going into debt purchasing products, working hard for little income and alienating friends by trying to sell to them.
For many companies, you have to sell quite a bit to stay “active,” and you also have to pay for trainings, brochures and products.
In the end, you might not make much money at all — or, worse, you could go into debt. The median annual income for salespeople is $2,400, Market Watch reports, a figure it says could even be inflated.
On the other hand, plenty of representatives seem happy with their lives and incomes.
“On average, a Beachbody coach can earn anything between $100 and $1,000 a week working part time,” Mayer says. “Income depends entirely on consistency, and the trend is typically that it takes about a year to build up a steady income… [We’re creating] the next generation of millionaires.”
Jamberry Nail Wraps consultant Talia Starkweather-Jones adds, “What they don’t tell you in the literature is what an avenue for personal growth it can be… I have been able to see something really shine in each of [my consultants] as they press outside their respective comfort zones.”
As for the money aspect, she agrees with Mayer and Cook: “Financially, there is a direct correlation between what you put into it and what you get out of it.”
The bottom line? Take direct-sales companies’ claims with a grain of salt, and be sure to research a company before signing up to work for it.
You’ll find many personal stories (both good and bad) online — there’s even an entire website devoted to telling the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.
11 Popular Home, Health, and Beauty Direct-Sales Companies
If you’re intrigued by the idea of working for a direct-sales company, the first step is to find a product you love and would enjoy promoting. Hundreds of companies are out there, so take the time to choose the right one for you.
To get you started, here are some of the most popular options:
Avon: World-famous beauty products; $10-20 to sign up; 40% commission.
31 Gifts: Personalized tote bags and accessories; $99 enrollment kit; 25% commission.
Arbonne: Botanical-based skin-care, cosmetics, and nutrition supplements; $79 starter kit; 35% commission.
Beachbody: Weight-loss and fitness products; $39.95 to sign up, and $15.95 per month thereafter; 25% commission.
dōTERRA: Essential oils and wellness products; $35 sign-up fee, and $25 per year thereafter; 25% commission.
Jamberry: “Nail wraps” (nail polish alternative); $99 starter kit; 30% commission.
Mary Kay: World-famous beauty products; $100 starter kit; 50% commission.
Scentsy: Scented household and beauty products; $99 sign-up fee; 20% commission.
The Pampered Chef: Gourmet cookware and kitchen supplies; new consultant kit costs $159 and includes $600 worth of products; 20% commission.
Tupperware: Iconic kitchenware; $99 start-up kit; 25% commission.
Stella & Dot: Jewelry and accessories; $199 for a starter kit that includes $350 worth of sample jewelry; 25% commission.
Is This the Right Opportunity for You?
Are you passionate about a particular product? Do you enjoy interacting with people? Do you have a wide social network?
If so, you might be able to earn extra money with direct-sales companies. Just remember to proceed with caution, and not expect too much.
For example, Mayer recommends Beachbody coaching “to anyone who is passionate about fitness but who has realistic expectations of network marketing.”
She says “it’s NOT for anyone who is looking for a get-rich-quick solution… [Success] only seems to happen for those who are truly passionate about the products, who are proof they work, and who have a genuine intention to help others.”
Make sure to only sell a product you truly love, and do lots of online research before signing up. Many of the direct-sales company pages are glossy and full of photos — but sparse on details.
Take the time to read about other people’s experiences. Even if you’re not successful at sales, but are promoting a product you use and love, you’ll still be able to purchase the product at a wholesale rate for your personal use.
When asked if she had any warnings for people interested in working with Arbonne, Cook said: “Yes, get ready to have your life transformed by an amazing company with extraordinary people.”
If you’re careful to choose a good company and quality product, this could turn into your perfect flexible side gig (or full-time career).
Your Turn: Have you ever worked for a direct-sales company before? Do you think it’s a good way to earn money, or a scam?
Disclosure: Here’s a toast to the affiliate links in this post. May we all be just a little richer today.
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.