My Honest and Brutal Opinion of Network Marketing


Ya’ll, this is one of the scariest posts I’ve ever had to write, which is because it’s really near and dear to my heart.

Standing next to me is my new co-worker, Christie, who flew all the way out from Denver, CO to see me this last weekend. Why? Because, 2.5 months after asking me to take a leap of faith, quit my online teaching job and join her in her Young Living Business, I’ve hit the rank of SILVER. For most of you, that title means nothing, and it shouldn’t. After all, it’s just a title, when all is said and done.

But what it means for our family is what matters. It means that in just 2.5 months of hard work, I am now making close to what Jesse did as a Fulltime teacher back in CA. It means that monthly, I will be able to pay for our after school activities, groceries, and even write a check with three zeroes on the end of it towards our student loan debt. It means that we will never need to put our kids in childcare in order for me to work. It means that someday quite soon, we will have all of our student loan debt gone. It means that for the first time, I am no longer terrified about maternity leave and what that will mean for our finances (for both of my other babies, I was back at work within 10 days of giving birth since we could not afford for me to miss a paycheck. Yikes.).

Let me be clear about something– this is not a post intended to sell you anything tangible. Ideas, maybe. Compassion, perhaps. Self-reflection, definitely. But it is not a mass spam letter to get you to “join my team”. That’s not how I work– anyone on our team can tell you that. 😉 Those who are meant to work with us will be led of their own volition, that, I am sure of.

In fact, this is the first time EVER that I have posted about my business on my personal page. This was intentional, because I know the stigma that surrounds MLMs. But I could not be silent about this, the way my God, OUR God, is blessing our family and the 90 (did I just type that?? NINETY!) other families who have joined me since July. (Update: in just the four months since writing this post, I have reached the rank of Gold and now have 500+ members and my paycheck has tripled!)

If I’m not asking you to “join” or buy something, what am I asking for?

Let me start with my fellow MLM peeps:

Please hear this with all the loving graciousness and affection in the world. I am one of you, but I am also not one of you. I am asking that you evaluate your marketing techniques and be honest about whether they are working. Spend some time in prayer and reflection, and ask your friends for honest feedback about whether they have ever felt bombarded, or if they’ve experienced the tragedy of feeling like just another sale. Perhaps you’ll find that they’ve even un-friended or un-followed you on Facebook. I’ve had three people this week alone say to my face that the only reason they were giving me and my product the time of day was because I’d never abused their friendship in this way. If you still want to post on your blog or your personal FB page (business pages are a different matter), please, for the love of all that is good, follow the 90/10 rule. Your friends care about your life first, and, if you’re blessed, your business second. They would rather unfollow you and boycott your product than get so bitter that they can no longer love you.

Study and hone your craft, because that’s what this business is! I’d love to give you our team’s reading list that would be applicable to many different companies. Train yourself. It will take unpaid hours and hours, yes. But it’s an investment in yourself and your business. And if it really feels like a lot of money and time, I can guarantee it’s a lot less than the four year degree or certification required to get most other jobs. We shouldn’t expect to succeed or have anyone take us seriously if we do not take our own business seriously enough to invest some serious time and effort into it. Don’t copy and paste your company’s graphics and promo ads– make your own with a $3 app. Buy your own web page for less than $10/month. Discover Instagram, take a class on effective Instagram marketing, and discover hashtags (aka, a WARM market, where people are actively searching for what you have to sell!). Don’t look for one or two rich people to be your “magic lottery ticket” to success– be prepared to work hard. Anyone who tells you that it’s easy is lying and you should RUN the other way. Don’t just find a product that you like– find a team that has been there, done that, and can get you to where you want to go. You should be able to have direct access (meaning– a phone call away) from someone who already has the title and rank you want. If they are “just a story” that you know through a friend of a friend of a friend, but you still really love the company or product, at least find another team because otherwise, it’s the blind leading the blind. Really. You will thank me. I can’t tell you how many girls have reached out to me who have been abandoned by their well meaning friend or sister that they signed up with out of obligation who no longer does the business, but now they’re stuck. It’s not fun.

And please, PLEASE– do your research about the company you joined or are planning on joining. Look up their rating on BBB. Do they have a “three month deadline” before they strip your discount? Ask yourself why. Do they have a sales quota? Ask yourself why. How long has the company been in business? Newer companies will sell themselves as “the next exciting thing” and tell you to jump in on the ground level, but when I was researching, longevity mattered since I wanted stability (I knew from the start that I wanted my income to support my family– I didn’t want a risk with high reward, I wanted a sure bet with a high reward) . Read the fine print about the ratio of sellers to product users. Are people using the product just because they sell it and need their own testimony? Or are they loyal product users, regardless of whether they sell? If you can’t believe in your own company, deep down, no one else will. And you won’t like who you are, at the end of the day.

To everyone else:
I am asking you to be kind to the next direct sales person who comes “knocking” at your door. If you want them to deal politely with you and treat you as a friend would, demonstrate the same. Don’t ignore them, shut them out or unfriend them, even if they deserve it 😉 . Tell them gently but honestly if their marketing strategies are really turning you off, and walk with them as they use that feedback to GROW and succeed. Encourage them whenever possible, because direct sales is a business made of lonely stretches and hard nights of self doubt and self loathing. Most direct sales people never make it past the all too common 3 month honeymoon period for this very reason, which is a shame considering most of the ones brave enough to try it are the ones who could really really use the money and financial freedom.

And, whenever possible, support their business. Americans love anonymity and that sense of control, which is why online shopping is so huge. However, when you buy the same product from Amazon or Target or Costco instead of from a friend, you haven’t avoided paying someone commission– you’ve simply given it to a stranger somewhere at a corporate office, instead of investing in your friend who is working their tail off. When you buy from your friend, you are also paying to support some 5 year old’s soccer team, some 4 year old’s ballet lessons, or some family’s crippling student loan debt. You aren’t being “sold”– you’re telling your friend that you believe in him or her. Yes, it’s the opposite of anonymous online shopping, it’s actually a little thing called community (sometimes called “shopping local”) that as a society, we’ve stopped caring much about. If you feel like boycotting your friend just for trying to make money from home, because you are looking down on it as a “lesser” occupation, or because they didn’t follow the career path that you did, it might be time to examine your own bias, pride and motivations (and, to be consistent, start boycotting every company that ever sends an ad your way! Make a list of everything on your Facebook side bar, for starters!). You will never know the ins and outs of someone’s private circumstances and why they’ve been unable to find work elsewhere, or what convictions led them to decide that a traditional 9 to 5 was not the right move for their family.

Network Marketing, Direct Sales, Multi-level Marketing– whatever you want to call it– is not going away. (Side note: “Pyramid Schemes” are illegal and do not exist for long, believe me, so do not proceed in ignorance and slap this label on your friend’s company).  It used to be the case that getting a college degree guaranteed steady work and benefits SOMEWHERE. But the economy has changed. Job security of the employer variety no longer exists the way it did. Just ask any teacher and they will give you horror story after horror story of being let go at the last minute, or kept on as part time in order to be denied benefits in these tough economic times. Network Marketing is here to stay, so learn how to love, tolerate, and provide feedback to those of us who have chosen a way out of the rat race.

I’m going to come full circle and finish with talking about what a blessing these girls on my team have been to my life these past few months. Christie, this mom of 2 standing next to me, started the business in May and now makes an average NURSE’s salary– consistently over $5,000/month. She and her husband are missionaries in CO, and are now able to minimize the dire need for financial donations and pledges to support their family. I feel so blessed to know that every PENNY I put into my business also goes to support their labor of love in reaching others for the gospel. Can I say that about when I spend money at Target? Walmart? Amazon?

And to the girls on my team, who I talk to day in and out– I am so humbled and grateful and moved to tears by all of you. Your hard work and caring spirits have provided me with a sisterhood, something that is rare in “stay at home mom” land 😉 What other job exists where I get to HAND PICK the people I want to be working with, day in and out? I will never be worthy of you all, and I mean that!

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  • Samantha@Elah Tree

    Kelly! This is so great! I love all the points you hit. You’re up there with the best of them. 🙂

  • Seana Turner

    I’m so happy to hear that all is going so well, Kelly. Many blessings to you all:)

  • sarah marie

    I really like this post! Thanks for hitting on how I am sure many people feel about their friends using friendships to solicit business too much, and for working so hard to find a balance and do things differently with your own work!