The Federal Trade Commission warns "Not all multilevel marketing plans are legitimate. Some are pyramid schemes. It's best not to get involved in plans where the money you make is based primarily on the number of distributors you recruit and your sales to them, rather than on your sales to people outside the plan who intend to use the products."[21]

Wild claims is seen most in health and wellness companies in which reps boast that their products cure ailments or work miracles. Outlandish hype is a red flag in any industry, including direct sales. A successful business is founded on quality products. If the company you're considering joining has bizarre products or products that seem too good to be true, use caution. The last thing you want your name tied to is a faulty product or a product which is the focus of litigation.
The main sales pitch of MLM companies to their participants and prospective participants is not the MLM company's products or services. The products/services are largely peripheral to the MLM model. Rather, the true sales pitch and emphasis is on a confidence given to participants of potential financial independence through participation in the MLM, luring with phrases like "the lifestyle you deserve" or "independent distributor."[16] Erik German's memoir My Father's Dream documents the real life failures of German's father as he is lured into "get-rich-quick" schemes such as Amway.[17] The memoir illustrates the multi-level marketing sales principle known as "selling the dream".[18]
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I see Melaleuca on here. I see that as both good and bad. They are an awesome company with a great compensation plan. However, they are not an MLM. They are not even listed with the federal agency that oversees those companies. They are a Consumer Direct Marketing company. How does that differ? While I am required to purchase a certain amount each month, that’s all I need to purchase. It’s all products I use in my own home for myself. I don’t have a monthly quota to meet. I don’t have to buy product and sell it to people. The idea is that the product goes to the consumer only. In fact, it’s against company policy to buy product and sell it to others. The only comparison I see are the “levels” of customerS in my group. Can you shed any light on why you think they are an MLM? Thanks, so much!
Amway stresses that the main difference between a legitimate MLM business model and a pyramid scheme is that a legitimate MLM is focused on selling products, not recruiting more salespeople. In a legitimate MLM, it should be possible to make money by simply selling products directly to customers. With that main criterion in mind, here are some other ways to identify product-based pyramid schemes:

Agree with most of your comments. Born and raised in the corporate community, we never even considered a MLM until came across one after retirement. Looking back we would have looked seriously at the industry much earlier. In any event, we had one good run until management made a few very bad decisions…killing 40 % of our business. But now we’ve found a new home with WGN. Among the many differences is they’re a technolgy company operating as a MLM…go figure. 

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I appreciate this comment. I’m a doTERRA gal. When I signed up I said I’d never sell. I just wanted to buy and use the oils. Then because of my love for them, people started coming to me for education and asking where they could get oils. So now I sell them. I’m not a sales person. I can’t bug my friends about stuff. But I’m growing this business because I truly believe in the products and use them every single day. I may not ever become rich from this and that’s OK with me. I won’t consider it a failure. Every person I help is a success in my book!
Hi Jeremy great article. Here’s my take for what it is worth,after working 50 years for the bank making not so much money,having to accommodate there time schedule ,negotiated vacations and seeing very few people advance to 6 figure incomes,I’m somewhat intrigued by the idea of using my retirement years looking at mlm as a part time endeavour . Obviously I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into my previous job,so I’m not expecting to make my millions in a couple years in mlm, but I like the (do it in your own time) idea. If I find a product I like and would use anyway why not? I also like the idea that the potential is there biased on your own efforts. Am I wrong What do you think?

Although each MLM company dictates its own specific financial compensation plan for the payout of any earnings to their respective participants, the common feature that is found across all MLMs is that the compensation plans theoretically pay out to participants only from two potential revenue streams. The first is paid out from commissions of sales made by the participants directly to their own retail customers. The second is paid out from commissions based upon the sales made by other distributors below the participant who have recruited those other participants into the MLM; in the organizational hierarchy of MLMs, these participants are referred to as one's down line distributors.[5]

Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.[46]

Thank you for sharing your perspective on the Direct Sales/MLM companies. As a business owner and entrepreneur, there is often a lot of noise from many sources about what is the best way to grow and be of importance. One of the things I have learned and continue to learn is that we must really love what we do, believe in our offering, whether is it a product or service, and listen closely to our gut instincts. A business coach of mine once said being a prism is beautiful, but it is scattered light, focus on what you love. Another important thing to know for yourself , is that there are different learning styles. If you choose to join any company, MLM or otherwise, be clear with yourself how you best learn and thrive. Getting swept up in the cheering may feel good, and it may keep you motivated on some level, however, be clear on how do you retain knowledge and use it. If a company has a one size fits all approach, be very careful that you do not get swept away. Thank you again for sharing this information. It has helped me have another look at my goals and how to continue focusing on what I love to do.


Breaking into the world of travel bloggers, hotel hoppers, and digital nomads with #wanderlust was one of the best ideas MLM ever had. Everyone out there wants to work remotely nowadays, and a huge portion of those people want to do it so that they can travel. So, a remote income opportunity with a travel MLM just makes sense. WorldVentures is hitting this niche hard, having been named one of the Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies twice in a row.


But please do a little research before you blanket insult an entire industry or business model. I am a single mother with a 6 figure income because of MLM, nearly twice that when I’m actively working my business with both of the companies I represent, and while not everyone has the skill set to succeed in this business, the potential is certainly there, for those that do.
Instead of focusing on just the product, the MLM distributor wants you to buy the product and become a distributor.  You will usually be invited to come to a conference at a local hotel where the higher level distributors (sometimes called diamonds) come in to pitch the product and get everyone emotionally excited about where this magnificent new business can take them.
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Breaking into the world of travel bloggers, hotel hoppers, and digital nomads with #wanderlust was one of the best ideas MLM ever had. Everyone out there wants to work remotely nowadays, and a huge portion of those people want to do it so that they can travel. So, a remote income opportunity with a travel MLM just makes sense. WorldVentures is hitting this niche hard, having been named one of the Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies twice in a row.
A 2018 poll of 1,049 MLM sellers across various companies found that most sellers make less than the equivalent of 70 cents an hour. Nearly 20 percent of those polled never made a sale, and nearly 60 percent earned less than $500 in sales over the past five years.[42][43] Nearly 32 percent of those polled acquired credit card debt to finance their MLM involvement.[44]
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