Today I am going to debunk the notion that Multi Level Marketing (Direct Sales) is like affiliate marketing!
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. Check out my policies here.
Why I am writing this post!
I have been listening to LOTS of anti-mlm shows lately, and even though some of my friends sell MLM products, I wish they would put all that time and energy into growing their own businesses!
While I have only dabbled in MLM (I have bought stuff from friends and was an Avon lady for a hot minute in the 90's), I have a pretty irrational fear that I will be sucked into a cult! Irrational because I am super precious with my time, I have been self employed for years and I don't like people for the most part (all things MLM cults need you to have an interest in!)
Lately I have heard some of the MLM peeps say that their business model is like affiliate marketing and that is just not true! While I am only an MLM lurker, I have done affiliate marketing for well over 12 years and so I know that end well!
Here are 5 ways MLM is different from affiliate marketing!
1. You don't HAVE to “sell” anything
As an affiliate marketer, you get paid when someone buys something through a link you have on the internet. Your commissions accrue no matter how much you earn that month.
As a MLMer, you get paid a commission when someone buys something, BUT it is based on a monthly reset. If you do not hit a mandatory sales goal, you may not be able to receive a commission from your company that month.
This is why MLMers will sometimes buy their own products to hit sales goals.
2. You get to pick which products to represent
As an affiliate marketer, you get to pick the products that will match your audience. For example I promote Caregiver and Art resources for my Artsy Fartsy Life blog and Youtube channel AND marketing resources for this site.
I KNOW, some MLMs have a range of products, but as an MLM rep you are are still constrained by the MLMs products offering, not your own selections.
3. You can make money without a “downline”
In affiliate marketing you can have multiple “tiers” of commissions. For example, I can promote the affiliate marketing company Share A Sale, and then receive small commissions on sales people I referred make.
That said, MOST of my affiliate income comes from my promotions and I am not dependent on anyone else being successful for me to make money.
In MLM, much of the reps' income is derived from their “downline” or people they have recruited to join the company. There are generally team goals that have to be met to make different levels of income. This also can lead to reps buying products to meet sales goals.
Oh, and if someone from your team drops out or stops selling, it can greatly impact an MLM rep's income negatively.
4. Affiliate Marketing Doesn't “Reset” Every Month
As an affiliate marketer I STILL get checks from blog posts I wrote in 2015 from a company that I promoted a lot back then. Any efforts I do writing blog posts or videos have the potential to pay me for years!
Note: Some companies do shut down or stop having affiliate programs. When that happens I just slot in a new company's links and am able to keep getting paid.
MLM generally acts on a month-to-month basis. Each month the reps have to recruit new people and hit monthly sales goals to make money.
That monthly “reset” makes me grumpy for my MLM friends, but this last one makes my blood boil!
5. THE BIG ONE! You Can Do Marketing Any Way You Want
As an affiliate marketer I can choose any companies or products in the world (who have affiliate programs) to get paid from. Oh and I often promote things I DON'T get paid for because it is best for my peeps!
I can use my blog and YouTube channel to talk about any darn thing I want!
I think this is last one is why I finally had to sit down to write this post! A gal I follow for craft videos explained the horrific policies that a well known stamp and stationery company had regarding who she could represent or even how she could market her business!
Basically, what the stamp company said said was that she couldn't promote any other products that competed with their products…. not great, but maybe table stakes for being a rep.
BUT THEN they said she couldn't make money from any other place than her company… wait what?!?!
She would have lost control of what she could make from her Youtube videos or even making money from ads on her blog!
That was just a step too far for me! You know I LOVE making money from ads on my blog posts!
Here is Inky Fingers explaining why she had to quit (I KNOW, not all MLM companies are this restrictive, BUT they could change their policies any time and you would lose all the work that you had put in!)
Anti MLM Resources I Follow
In my efforts not to join a cult, I spend a lot of time watching and listening to anti-MLMers! Here are some that are super interesting if you want to learn more…
Roberta Blevins (the Gal From Lula Rich)
This gal is whip smart and doing a lot to help promote anti-MLM. If you haven't seen the Lula Rich documentary yet, make sure to check her out! I listen to her podcast, Life After MLM and she just started a Youtube channel too!
Not The Good Girl (Josie)
Josie is really cool and seems to be becoming a documentarian on her Youtube channel!
Okay, Chelsea is a little spicy, so watch out! But she does some interesting videos on her Youtube channel!
I LOVE this gal… she has different colored hair every time and breastfeeds while she is filming! Check out her Youtube channel.
This gal is a Mom, veteran and has done MLMs. I love how she is super specific about the questions she asks! Check out her Youtube channel.
Why Affiliate Marketing Is NOT Like MLM Wrapup
Okay, that is enough for today! I just had to get that off my chest so I could let it go… ohhhh it made me wicked mad when that company tried to stop Inky Fingers from having a YouTube channel!
Now, just let me say that I personally know 3 gals who are successful in MLM (I may be getting one of them out!) I am not so much anti-MLM, more so I am anti-bad business.
As a solopreneur for over 20 years, I KNOW how hard it can be to make money. I have had ups and downs over the years and sometimes it would have been wonderful to have some other company do some of the work.
But at the end of the day, if you are going to be an entrepreneur, make sure you control all aspects of your business, which just isn't possible in MLM.