The end result of the MLM business model is, therefore, one of a company (the MLM company) selling its products and services through a non-salaried workforce ("partners") working for the MLM company on a commission-only basis while the partners simultaneously constitute the overwhelming majority of the very consumers of the MLM company's products and services that they, as participants of the MLM, are selling to each other in the hope of one day themselves being at the top of the pyramid. This creates great profit for the MLM company's actual owners and shareholders.
How MLM companies are NOT considered Pyramid organizations is beyond me! They are all scams by the very nature of their organization structure. Those who start or get in early benefit directly from the efforts of those beneath them, forever. Not to mention the fact that most product sold through any of these MLM organization’s is to the dealer network itself. The top dogs are making money regardless as long as there is new blood coming in. And the best way to keep new blood coming in is to incentivize those at the lower middle and below to continue recruiting to build “a network of their own”. And those on the verge of “breaking through” who have already invested a small fortune in products along the way that are sitting on their pantry shelves NEED to keep recruiting. The very thing that differentiates a Pyramid scheme from an MLM is that an MLM sells an actual product. That is it. It doesn’t determine who that product is sold to as it should since we know that most product is sold to the worker bees and not to the general public for long.
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For more information, John Oliver did a fantastic segment about the horrors of MLMs. The 2016 documentary, Betting on Zero, investigates the allegations that MLMs are nothing but legal pyramid schemes. This article also does a wonderful job of breaking down the reasons why MLMs are doomed to failure. I encourage anyone who is thinking about signing up for an MLM to watch these.
Specifically, they struggle to jump start their health goals, to connect with new people, to learn new things, and yearn to be a part of a community.  What I am telling you is that the average retiree is at least 25 pounds overweight, feels tired for some part of the day, may be moderately depressed about something, has low self-esteem in one or two areas of life, acknowledges they only kind of have a best friend, and overall lead pretty plain lives.
I am a Network Marketer myself and I think I have seen more than enough in this industry. I have struggled and experienced all the pain in getting the right people to join my business or buy my products. I've spent a lot of money on getting leads, buying solo ads, buying this and buying that just to grow my business. But I came to realize it, all doesn't work... the tendency is, you can buy leads but how many people have the same list of leads as yours? Now, have you experienced calling bought leads? - I DID! Nobody ever answered me. It was very difficult I must say.
The first wave of MLMs were the likes of Avon, which was founded in 1886, and used the door-to-door model for selling perfume. From then and up until the middle of the last century, many women did not have the means to sample products and shop at a department store — or, in the case of African American women, they were simply not allowed to enter the store at all. And they certainly didn’t have the means to start their own business and earn a real income.

For more information, John Oliver did a fantastic segment about the horrors of MLMs. The 2016 documentary, Betting on Zero, investigates the allegations that MLMs are nothing but legal pyramid schemes. This article also does a wonderful job of breaking down the reasons why MLMs are doomed to failure. I encourage anyone who is thinking about signing up for an MLM to watch these.
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I agree with you that much of the industry is flawed, but what about an MLM that has a service rather than a product such as electricity. It’s not like that could go out of style or that once you buy it you don’t need it again or that your monthly supply is too much and you’re going to stop the monthly subscriptions. I can honestly say that I cannot stand most MLM companies because regardless what you believe or how much you like the product, if you have to try to convince someone else to use it then inevitably the system is flawed and eventually your residuals will dry up. Electricity though, that’s different in my opinion, no one has to convince me to use it, it just comes by default. Find me an MLM that is not selling so much as showing someone an alternative to what they already have to pay and I’d be interested.

In April 2006, the FTC proposed a Business Opportunity Rule intended to require all sellers of business opportunities—including MLMs—to provide enough information to enable prospective buyers/participants to make an informed decision about acquiring/joining a business venture with information disclosed about the average likelihood of monetary profitability (and the extent of monetary profitability, if any) of acquiring/joining the business venture. In March 2008, however, the FTC removed "Network Marketing" (i.e. MLM) companies from the proposed Business Opportunity Rule, thus leaving MLM participants without the ability to make an informed choice of entering or not entering MLMs based on the disclosed likelihood of success and profitability:


Right now, MLMs are preying on lower-income, often undocumented immigrant communities and taking advantage of their lack of knowledge and finances. Their reps lure them in by telling that they are giving them the tools to start their own businesses and that they can create jobs for their friends and family members. In the 2016 documentary, Betting On Zero, director Ted Braun talks to several Latino families who have lost their entire life savings to Herbalife. They were told by MLM reps that it’s easy work and that it’s not dangerous, and so they sold their construction businesses to invest in Herbalife.
Skills – There are certain technical skills you need for whatever industry you are a part of, so it’s important to develop those skills.  Although, they are a small fraction of what your success will be predicated on.  You must eventually learn to outsource the things that make the most sense to outsource, so that you can work on the business versus in the business.
Thank you for your article. I am also with doterra and I never in my life thought I would do something like this. The reason I started was because of health issues that led me to the oils. I have been an RN for 23 years and I feel more free and excited to share about health than ever. If you are going into something to get rich quick, I think that is the wrong attitude. I think most of my fellow doterra wellness advocates, have come to the same realization as me. I believe most of us started out trying to help ourselves and our families. I left my nursing job of 17 years in Feb, not because I am making enough money to replace my past income, but because I truly love helping others and I love the company and what it stands for. I can’t argue about MLM’s because I truly don’t care about that side of it. Maybe I am wrong to think that way. I hope that this ride doesn’t end anytime soon because the difference that doterra is making in my life, and the lives of those around me, is amazing. Thank you again for your information and your viewpoint.
The structure of MLMs is very similar to a pyramid scheme. This doesn’t mean that all MLMs are pyramid schemes, but some certainly are. Those interested in pursuing a career in multi-level marketing should do research before joining a particular MLM. Generally speaking, if the bulk of the money you stand to earn comes from recruitment rather than direct sales, it’s wise to be very cautious.

You must believe in the benefits of the product or service you intend to sell if you want to have a successful MLM operation. This may require that you constantly purchase the product for your own use. Build your sales team with people who share your passion and enthusiasm. Hold regular sales meetings to monitor the productivity of salespeople to ensure that they meet the company's sales objectives. You may also have to participate in motivational seminars and travel frequently. So factor these into your schedule and budget. If you are not the best at public speaking, find a person within the organization who is a good motivator and public speaker to address the sales team. Create incentives such as performance bonuses and a higher payout for top sales people to keep your sale team motivated.


The overwhelming majority of MLM participants (most sources estimated to be over 99.25% of all MLM distributors) participate at either an insignificant or nil net profit.[12] Indeed, the largest proportion of participants must operate at a net loss (after expenses are deducted) so that the few individuals in the uppermost level of the MLM pyramid can derive their significant earnings. Said earnings are then emphasized by the MLM company to all other participants to encourage their continued participation at a continuing financial loss.[13]
Now that companies can easily sell directly to their customers online, people look to social media to get their recommendations for products, and the popularity of subscription beauty boxes, not to mention the fact that there are so many retail stores even in the most far out suburbs, I don’t see how the network marketing model is necessary anymore. The only people who defend them are the people who were trained to. This is because MLMs love to brainwash you into defending them against naysayers and demand you go on the offensive to anyone who might disagree. They may still have wide-eyed hope. It’s sad and terrible. The sooner these pyramid schemes are declared illegal and go out of the business, the better off the world will be.
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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!
They have the stay-at-home-mother meets women entrepreneur mixture working for them. What does that even mean? Means they have the practicality side of the company that is off the product and they have the sales, entrepreneur people them promoting it, too. Anyone who follows MLM knows its usually too “product practical” (see: Tupperware, Cutco) or too “opportunity-centric” (see: Herbalife).
MLM salespeople are, therefore, expected to sell products directly to end-user retail consumers by means of relationship referrals and word of mouth marketing, but most importantly they are incentivized to recruit others to join the company's distribution chain as fellow salespeople so that these can become down line distributors.[3][6][7] According to a report that studied the business models of 350 MLMs, published on the Federal Trade Commission's website, at least 99% of people who join MLM companies lose money.[8][9] Nonetheless, MLMs function because downline participants are encouraged to hold onto the belief that they can achieve large returns, while the statistical improbability of this is de-emphasised. MLMs have been made illegal or otherwise strictly regulated in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China.[10][11]
Great article and thanks for taking the time to write this.. however I can see why your business didn’t fly as you had hoped. Mlm is a people’s business and that means that it IS the interaction with each other that strengthens working together. Yes you need to be self motivated but you also need to be a supporter too. Networking also eliminates the need to do constant appraisals. You don’t work you don’t get paid. That’s music to a corporate managers ears. Networking is not for everyone… but where else can you invest for such a small amount and have all the other aspects of business done for you and all you have to do is go get customers and recruit more customer finders and have no ceiling on being paid for that. As for the product you promote.. you choose something you like. My original passion as a woman was make up so I joined that type of business. Got so passionate I qualified as a beautician and onto other certificates then I discovered essential oils.. I needed supplies but minimum trade orders were over £3000 each time. Mlm on the other hand was order as my demands and finances could afford. So my interest in mlm grew. Now I would not go back to traditional office work. When I know when I apply myself I can exceed what ANY employer thinks I’m worth
I was at “Sweetness Bakery and Cafe” the other day to order a hot chocolate with a friend. The barista asked me if I wanted half & half, whole milk, soy, rice, or hemp milk. I had never tasted hemp milk before. And I remembered the transition soy went through when manufacturers started sweetening soy up. So, I decided to try hemp since I figured it was sweet enough or the cafe wouldn’t suggest it. And Oh My God! It was the best cup of hot chocolate EVER! And I was amazed at what can be done with hemp.

This group effect also plays into the vital role that a person’s social network can have on their retirement. Studies show that being around negative, pessimistic or sarcastic people can actually be detrimental to your health.  And many people can get stuck in a rut when it comes to who they hang around and associate with. Which means successful aging includes hanging around upbeat, positive people.
look if you go and search top MLM businesses, no matter what link you click on, the number one company is amway. Why everyone goes with different companies i don’t get it, check it out compare to mary kay. Here’s the thing though, I contract with amway, but my organization is worldwide. Mentorship organization. I feel which ever MLM business you choose, join a mentorship organization that is in that business. The reason why amway is number one is because of worldwide. it’s only 10% of everyone that is in amway, yet 90% of the 6 and 7 figure earners are part of worldwide…why? because they broken down the company and know exactly how to succeed and retire quicker than someone who tries amway on their own or joins another mentorship company. what’s the success rate? to those who do what others have done 100%. So at the end of the day, consider all of this. With amway and worldwide, it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you come from, ANYONE can do it. Mary Kay is a female company, good luck getting a bunch of single dudes to make it with that.

They have the stay-at-home-mother meets women entrepreneur mixture working for them. What does that even mean? Means they have the practicality side of the company that is off the product and they have the sales, entrepreneur people them promoting it, too. Anyone who follows MLM knows its usually too “product practical” (see: Tupperware, Cutco) or too “opportunity-centric” (see: Herbalife).


Multi-level marketing businesses sell a variety of products from vitamins to vacuum cleaners. Starting a MLM business makes you responsible for not only selling but also recruiting a sales team. Keeping your employees motivated is a challenge. You also have to create a payment structure that rewards salespeople sufficiently to keep them happy and at the same time grow earnings for the company.


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The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a lobbying group for the MLM industry, reported that in 1990 only 25% of DSA members used the MLM business model. By 1999, this had grown to 77.3%.[26] By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales.[27] Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware,[28] and Kirby were all originally single-level marketing companies, using that traditional and uncontroversial direct selling business model (distinct from MLM) to sell their goods. However, they later introduced multi-level compensation plans, becoming MLMs.[23] The DSA has approximately 200 members[29] while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.[30]
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