Unless you have been off of social media for the last year, you will have seen that direct sales or multi-level-marketing (MLM) businesses (selling a product or wares via person-to-person sales) are more prevalent in our feeds than ever. Many new moms or women with school-age children are choosing to earn income from home because they are drawn to the work-at-home business model. Non-traditional retail channels have seemingly exploded over the past several years to support the lifestyles that we have or wish we had—flexibility in our work, saving time and personal service. It has been cited that 1 in 7 households in the USA is running some type of direct sales business. While 5 years ago, you may have had one or two friends hocking jewelry or skincare, now you may have only one or two who aren’t selling something.
The opportunities are endless: skincare, fitness products, health and wellness supplements, clothing, accessories, wine (not yet in Canada!)—almost anything you need to buy, you can get from your neighbour or friend. And there are countless daily threads in our Facebook and Instagram feeds reminding us of their sales, or free shipping offerings. There are plenty of memes and gifs and funny blog posts around the internet making fun of Direct Sellers, but the truth is, this is not going away anytime soon.
I was one of the OG’s in social selling via Direct Sales, selling a jewellery product for 6 years. I achieved a high-level status in my company, recruiting a large team of sellers from which I earned a commission from their sales. I started in 2009 when direct sales were on the wave of resurgence. Prior to that, the industry was smaller, with a few companies selling old-fashioned products which didn’t appeal to younger generations. Coming off of the recession in the late 2000s, people were jazzed to host in-home parties with new companies, and invite friends over for shopping and social time. Then once Facebook became a daily occurrence, I started using it for social-selling or promotion because it was new and an easy way to reach friends. I’m sort of embarrassed now of many of my blatant ‘Buy-My-Product’ posts and links that I used. But it worked—for a while.
Ultimately, too much of a good thing never lasts, and what I coined ‘spraying and praying’ worked in my business—until people got bored of it. At the time, I’m sure many of my online friends got annoyed with me—however, it did help me build a solid part-time business. In 2017, Direct Sales looks a bit different; more people are selling (or seemingly so) and using social media as their prime source of marketing. Recently there has been a backlash of women (and a few good men) who have dove into a DSA or MLM business and lost money, friends and subsequently become disillusioned by the business-model.
I can only speak my truth from my personal experiences and researching and writing on the subject over the past several years. But my opinion is this: achieving success in a Direct Sales business, at the core, requires a lot of hard work. To be successful, you have to grind it out, just like you would in any entrepreneurial venture. The opportunists appearing on the reality shows like Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den are not that different from successful Direct Sellers—the main contrast being that they are creating the products, as well as marketing and delivering the products themselves. A DS business may seem easier when looking in from the outside, but you still have to take measured, deliberate steps in order to achieve sales and earn income. With everyone and their sister selling something on social media, it’s easy for someone with no sales, business or entrepreneurial background to get the bug and jump into a business that they don’t have the skills to do. After all, a flexible work schedule and a potential reward trip can seem pretty enticing.
Inevitably, just like any start-up, there will be lots of lean months with inventory that goes unsold, mistakes made and money down the drain. And while the most savvy-business people may earn income in month 1, 2 or 3, when weighed against their expenses, many may not. Factor in kids at home, and even another job, and it can be hard to properly build a Direct Sales or MLM business.
Anyone joining a Direct Sales business needs to go into it with a healthy amount of realism, enthusiasm and business savvy. Extroverts that love people and are positive in nature tend to rise to the top. ‘Be the girl you want to get to know’ is something I have heard many times. If you are joining a Direct Sales business, be honest with yourself, your time and your limitations. It can be an excellent way to design the life you want to lead.
And don’t forget, always work smart.