Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested.
Network Marketing is a business model that relies on a distribution network to build the business. Network Marketing business structures are Multilevel Marketing in nature, as the payouts occur on many different levels. You might hear the terms Person-To-Person Marketing or One-on-One marketing, which are just other ways of describing Network Marketing. Basically, network marketing involves the direct selling of merchandise or services. Some popular Network Marketing businesses you most likely have heard of include; Avon, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Amway and Herbalife Ltd.
During the Obama administration, the Federal Trade Commission made its biggest-ever effort to curb this industry when last summer it slapped nutritional supplement–seller Herbalife with a $200 million fine and, as part of a settlement with Herbalife, demanded it restructure its business so that it would “start operating legitimately,” as FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez put it. The FTC alleged Herbalife had engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices,” and put it under a federal monitor for seven years, demanding onerous changes to its compensation plan and requiring extensive documentation of customer sales. Ramirez then set down an ambitious posture for the FTC: In the future, she said at an MLM industry conference in October, these companies should adopt the new Herbalife rules when structuring their businesses, as the FTC would be watching.
Français: devenir pro du marketing en réseau, Español: tener éxito en las redes de mercadeo, Deutsch: Im Network Marketing erfolgreich werden, Português: Alcançar o Sucesso com Marketing Multinível, Italiano: Avere Successo nel Network Marketing, 中文: 成功进行网络营销, Русский: преуспеть в сетевом маркетинге, Nederlands: Succesvol zijn in netwerkmarketing, Bahasa Indonesia: Sukses Di Pemasaran Jaringan, العربية: النجاح في مجال التسويق الشبكي, Tiếng Việt: Thành công trong việc kinh doanh theo mạng, ไทย: ประสบความสำเร็จในการตลาดแบบเครือข่าย

Considering their products are botanically based with an ingredient policy that prohibits many of the chemicals and fillers Mary Kay and Avon still use in their own products, I’d say they’ve established a business for men and woman who are truly serious about the health of their skin, not just the evenness of their complexion. A little research goes a long way.

*  Go Pro Recruiting Mastery – the world’s #1 generic training event for the Network Marketing Profession.  Join us December 4-6, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.  You will hear from top international thought leaders including Magic Johnson, John Maxwell, and dozens of Million-Dollar Earners. It’s an extraordinary event that you and your team can’t afford to miss.  To learn more, go to GoProRecruiting.com.
This company was living life in the lime light, and they were trending for a good while there. They deflated out a bit, however they are still pretty big.  There are over 50 countries currently promoting their immunity-boosting nutritional products, and the rave reviews from the former and current associates makes things seem pretty superb.  Although it’s mentioned that the commissions aren’t great, but maybe that’s okay as long as their reps have continued happiness?
Meet Zen Cryar DeBrücke Inspirational teacher, speaker, coach, and author of the international best-selling book Your Inner GPS, Zen Cryar DeBrücke helps people transform the stress in their lives into powerful guidance that leads them to living in greater states of happiness. Her groundbreaking work in using ones Internal Guidance System creat ...…

The legal distinction between MLMs and traditional pyramid schemes has been characterized by many authorities as a legal fiction. Jurisdictions that retain a legal distinction between MLM pyramid businesses versus illegal pyramid schemes retain said distinction on two key distinguishing features: 1) that MLMs always encompass the sale of actual products/services, while traditional illegal pyramid schemes ordinarily do not (though sometimes they do), and 2) that climbing an MLM pyramid is overwhelmingly statistically improbable (especially to its highest participant levels) but not theoretically impossible, whereas climbing a traditional illegal pyramid scheme is both statistically and theoretically impossible.[citation needed]
Looking compliant is easy. Building a CULTURE around compliance is hard. Building a culture requires doing more than paying lip service to compliance. It requires full buy-in at the corporate level to teach and enforce the important policies. It requires field leaders committed to responsible growth, and corporate leaders that avoid saying things like “the lawyers make us do this.” And finally, it requires constant investment. 

Almost any product or service could be sold through multilevel marketing, including health, beauty, and fitness products that aren't available on store shelves. Apply a healthy dose of skepticism before buying or selling products advertised as having "miracle" ingredients or guaranteed results. Many of these "quick cures" are unproven, fraudulently marketed, and useless. In fact, they could be dangerous. You may want to check with a health professional before using them — or selling them.
If you insist on trying one of these MLM offers, the least you can do is look for proper business registration with BBB, toll free number, and proper address (no Post Office box). Also, you will need lots of family and friends to make it work. As a final step, check the MLM materials for one or more of these "red flags" that are associated with the worst of the offerings:
Determine if the company is handling advertising and publicity on its own to help create demand for the product. Find out what restrictions are there on where and how you can promote it, such as advertising and websites. There's not a right or wrong answer to that question. A wide-open policy is more flexible for you, and for everyone else, too. If you're prepared to be highly competitive, that's fine, but if not, you may prefer to work with a company whose policy is more restrictive.
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Looking compliant is easy. Building a CULTURE around compliance is hard. Building a culture requires doing more than paying lip service to compliance. It requires full buy-in at the corporate level to teach and enforce the important policies. It requires field leaders committed to responsible growth, and corporate leaders that avoid saying things like “the lawyers make us do this.” And finally, it requires constant investment.
I’m truly sympathetic to this desire. A lot of folks are struggling financially out there; Dad’s salary alone isn’t enough to support the family (or he’s out of work altogether), and Mom getting a job may not be a big help once the cost of childcare is factored in. Plus, a lot of moms simply don’t want to send their kids to childcare and want to be able to stay home with their children.
The great thing about Network Marketing is that it usually involves a small initial investment and can return high dividends on that investment. Usually, the original investment is only a few hundred dollars. This initial investment will allow you to purchase a product sample kit, and begin to sell the products to friends, family, and others. The Multi-Level component of Network Marketing comes into play, in that most Network Marketing opportunities also ask their representatives to recruit other sales representatives. The new recruits are considered the representative’s downline, and they will usually generate income directly from their sales as well as from those whom they have recruited.

Hi, i recently joined rain int’l …i was a bit skeptical at first but when my brother who’s insulin dependent for years and damaged kidney benefited from its product rain soul, i know i have one of the best companies at last. My brother tried maybe three kinds of product all claiming to help his condition, all coming from good companies but only rain soul helped him. He can now do what he enjoys doing, cooking, exercising, without fatigue and swollen feet…also , the products of rain int’l are Brunswick Labs certified…
Meet Jack Canfield Global thought leader, motivational speaker, corporate trainer, and entrepreneur, Jack Canfield is the originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soulseries and is the co-author of The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Affectionately known as “America’s #1 Success Coach,” Jack has studied ...…
When you buy a franchise for, say, Jamba Juice, you’re buying the right to be the only franchisee in a certain geographic area. They don’t sell twenty franchises to twenty different business owners in the same city. That would result in Jamba Juices on every street corner owned by twenty different people all competing to sell the same product, which would cannibalize the profits of all the franchisees. No one in their right mind would buy a franchise in a company that ignored basic economic principle of supply and demand.
An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.

A new project hitting the list, because it will have a huge following no matter what.  We know that crowds of affiliates from other MLMs will tail over to this company. Why? Well this is a BK Boreyko’s business, the same person who had just dealt with the FTC with Vemma.  And there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s planning to make another public attempt.


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.
Owner Two develops a business that also sells $100 USD worth of goods each month. Like Owner One, Owner Two receives a bonus for his sales volume on top of any retail profit he has made. By sponsoring Owner Two, Owner One who has generated $100 USD of sales, is also credited for the $100 USD produced by Owner Two. Therefore Owner One’s total business sales volume is considered to be $200 USD.
If you are in any type of networking marketing this book is the ultimate guide to success. So well written, relateable and a ton of info in a small amount of reading. I purchased this as part of a network marketing class that I was taking with weekly meetings. This was are reading "requirement" I'm so glad I purchased.. My only regret is that I bought the kindle version. I WISH I would have bought myself a hard copy!! I may still do that!!! LOVE!
Well done Melaleuca, they hit over a billion dollars in yearly sales…there’s a reason they are a part of the select few considered to be at the top. Adding to this is their longevity, because they’ve been in the MLM industry for over 20 years, and now they’ve reached the status of the “largest online wellness shopping club” (which can sound fancier than it is, because are they aren’t selling anything more than a fantasy diet pill).
Legendary Los Angeles Lakers player, coach, and current president of basketball operations, Earvin "Magic" Johnson is the proud owner of 10 NBA championship rings, is a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a member of the 1992 United States Men's Olympic gold medal basketball "Dream Team," and in 1996 was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
When you hit over a billy in annual sales, that’s reason enough to be on the shortlist. On top of that, they’ve been in the MLM game for over two decades, and they’re now the “largest online wellness shopping club” (basically just sounds like a fancy way of saying they sell a lot of miracle diet pills…for our rankings of the best women diet pills are here). 

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]
Internet and Social Media changes the landscape a lot, because what originally had to be a door-to-door process is turning into more of a net-based thing. However, Network Marketing is always about direct social interactions, belonging to something, helping others etc. It seems that Network Marketing and Direct Selling was the precursor of internet based customised door-to-door deliver that happens just now everywhere.
Multilevel marketing (MLM) is an attractive business proposition to many people. It offers the opportunity to become involved in a system for distributing products to consumers. Unlike the person starting a business from scratch, the MLM participant has the support of a direct selling company that supplies the products and sometimes offers training as well.
First, Elliot, thank you for this article. Your sense of truly wanting to help comes through and it’s refreshing. Like MommyFinance, I too have suffered PTSD from previous runs at MLM but I have been looking for legitimate ways of making extra income and seems I’m being directed toward trying MLM again. Your article gave me hope that there are some good ones out there. What you said about finding the one that fits me and leaving a legacy for family really turned on a light for me and I greatly appreciate that. A wine business is not quite up my alley but I will certainly direct those who might be interested your way.
This eco-friendly MLM is seriously committed: their headquarters are operated with wind power. They’re pretty future-facing in general, having implemented an innovative social marketing strategy amongst their reps. No one likes to be harassed on Facebook, but Modere’s social media plan is still 10 times more effective than holding home parties (kill me).
Determine if the company is handling advertising and publicity on its own to help create demand for the product. Find out what restrictions are there on where and how you can promote it, such as advertising and websites. There's not a right or wrong answer to that question. A wide-open policy is more flexible for you, and for everyone else, too. If you're prepared to be highly competitive, that's fine, but if not, you may prefer to work with a company whose policy is more restrictive.
Hi JP, Your assessment of Melaleuca stating… “When you hit over a billy in annual sales, that’s reason enough to be on the shortlist. On top of that, they’ve been in the MLM game for over two decades, and they’re now the “largest online wellness shopping club” (basically just sounds like a fancy way of saying they sell a lot of miracle diet pills).” is VERY misleading and inaccurate. They offer “far more” products and services than weight control supplements. I have been a “customer” only of Melaleuca for over 20 years and can attest to the superb quality of their products. Please get your facts correct before posting inaccurate information. 🙂
“Fast forward 10 years or so from the home equity line of credit losing, after we had paid off our home mortgage, we were in the process selling our home and purchasing another home,” he wrote. “We had to close the unused line of credit. We had to get a satisfaction letter to move forward with the new home purchase. We were fortunate that we never had a need to tap into the line of credit for any purpose, including educating our children. While a home equity line of credit may be beneficial and perhaps needed by some we simply decided to live within budget and never had to use [it] for any purpose.”
I’m very surprised at the rankings. In full disclosure I am partnered with Isagenix International and we happen to be ranked #22 globally by DSN in only our 15th year. We do $1B/year in sales and are breaking records every day with an annual growth rate of 30%+ annually. Some of the “top 10” are nowhere near these stats. We have also won 45 Stevie Awards, 10 years straight on the Inc. 5000 list, and more. I think all of these companies are great and doing great things but I question the criteria for what makes them tops!
You may remember Rodan + Fields in their former iteration when they sold acne medicine via infomercial. Or when Estee Lauder bought the brand and sold the products in stores. Now they tempt stay-at-home moms with promises of lucrative, flexible careers, free vacations, and six-figure incomes. All they need to do is sell some upscale skin care products via direct sales.

A few noteworthy points on this list… The only companies considered for this list are U.S.A. based; and if you click on each and every company linked above, what you will not find should be as interesting to you (and as revealing) as what you will find. There are no travel companies, only two technology companies (ACN and 5LINX), just one service company (Legal Shield), and 22 health and wellness companies. Even Amway, whose core product line still includes soap, really got started by way of the wellness revolution! Read this book by Paul Zane Pilzer and you’ll understand why nutrition, weight management, and skincare products continue to drive the trends in the network marketing industry to this day.
A brand's reputation relies as much on the quality of a product as communication with the consumer. No marketing strategy can overcome poor products or service. Thus, consultants/distributors must be effectively trained, not only so they’re excited about the company and its products, but so they’re knowledgeable and can demonstrate those products confidently. Much of this will be accomplished through consultants’ direct uplines (as filtered through their upline’s uplines); however, the creation of attractive and easy-to-understand catalogs, brochures, direct-mail pieces and other marketing items will enable the consultant to quikly develop a professional image. (See also Catalog Marketing)
Amway’s outsize political influence goes back to 1979, when the FTC lost its pyramid case against Amway. After four years of litigation, an administrative law judge found that Amway did not run an “illegal” pyramid scheme because it had safeguards to protect against the reliance on recruitment. These included requiring its distributors to sell 70 percent of their inventory each month and to sell to at least 10 different customers per month.
Usually MLMs in the financial services niche don’t make it in business for very long (most people are not in the habit of spending money to try and save money).  But these guys figured it out.  They have been in business for over 30 years and in 2013 they had profits of $1.27 billion, so they I think they know a thing or two about what they’re doing to rake in the profits for their company.

“Fast forward 10 years or so from the home equity line of credit losing, after we had paid off our home mortgage, we were in the process selling our home and purchasing another home,” he wrote. “We had to close the unused line of credit. We had to get a satisfaction letter to move forward with the new home purchase. We were fortunate that we never had a need to tap into the line of credit for any purpose, including educating our children. While a home equity line of credit may be beneficial and perhaps needed by some we simply decided to live within budget and never had to use [it] for any purpose.”
You can contact me too. I am with a solid company with good honest testimonies about the products. I am in a group with one of my team members who had rheumatoid arthritis. I know her personally. She has had great results. I can let you talk to her if you like. Our products seem to do well with arthritis and other health issues. I would love to talk to you if you are interested.
But here’s the thing. By recruiting close family members or friends into your downline, you contaminate those relationships with commercialization. You take all that good will you’ve developed with someone over months and years and cash it all in on getting them to be a commission for you. From that moment on, the person won’t be able to tell if your gestures towards intimacy are genuine, or an attempt to get you to buy or distribute product. Perhaps even more sadly, you may lose the ability to tell the difference yourself.
For full disclosure, I want to point out that I am not affiliated with any multi-level marketing or direct sales companies, and that I don’t receive any compensation from the industry for my opinion on it.  I’m sharing this with you because after I wrote what is considered the most widely read, copied, and quoted MLM article in the history of the industry, I was accused of writing it to promote my own MLM business or the industry in general, which is not the case.
Well done Melaleuca, they hit over a billion dollars in yearly sales…there’s a reason they are a part of the select few considered to be at the top. Adding to this is their longevity, because they’ve been in the MLM industry for over 20 years, and now they’ve reached the status of the “largest online wellness shopping club” (which can sound fancier than it is, because are they aren’t selling anything more than a fantasy diet pill).
Even if you, or your wife, aren’t bothered by the pyramidal structure of multi-level marketing companies, even if you could make a ton of money by working for one, you still shouldn’t do it for this one reason alone: you shouldn’t ever want to commodify the sacrality of your relationships; you shouldn’t trade the genuine bonds of love for the cold economics of exchange.
But the FTC’s newfound toughness may come to naught in the Trump era. There’s little hope, according to both critics and cheerleaders of the MLM industry, that the Trump administration will assume such a strict posture toward Herbalife’s peers. “The more likely scenario is that they just won’t bring a pyramid scheme case,” said Bonnie Patten, executive director of Truth in Advertising, a consumer advocacy group that helped the FTC in its prosecution of Vemma, a nutritional-product MLM that the FTC alleged was a pyramid scheme in August 2015. The case was settled in December on terms similar to the Herbalife one. (Neither Vemma nor Herbalife admitted guilt in their settlements.)

The key factor that has made network marketing so attractive is that independent business owners not only have the ability to sell products and services to retail customers they are also able to expand their business by setting up others in their own businesses as well. This is commonly known as “sponsoring” in the MLM industry. Sponsoring others allow a business owner to not only profit from what he directly sells, but also allows him to profit from the sales production of those he has sponsored.
“We decided to take a cash-out refi to pay off unsecured debt,” wrote Kimberly Rotter from San Diego, a personal finance writer and frequent commenter. “The debt was incurred for emergency maintenance on our property, including several months of lost income for my husband while he did the work. Our home was 100 percent paid off so this was a very hard decision for us. However, our alternative was to do the zero percent shuffle on multiple credit cards to handle $85,000 in debt, which I know from past experience is difficult (although possible) at that level. We got a loan against the house for 5 percent and have a very strong and committed 36-month payoff plan. The pain of this choice will hopefully keep us on track. I am optimistic that we will meet our payoff goal.”
Within that, some companies thought that their products would be better off when people with own experience did the referral and possibly trough existing personal relationships by using their social network. That would be Network Marketing. Whether they sell and make money is irrelevant. You do network marketing when you talk about a good movie to friends, only you do not get rewarded, except the random girl who goes to watch the movie with you again based on your enthusiasm :D.
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 as fellow salespeople so that these can become their 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 in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China.[10][11]
MLMs have been made illegal in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China.[10][11] In jurisdictions where MLMs have not been made illegal, many illegal pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as MLM businesses.[7] Given that the overwhelming majority of MLM participants cannot realistically make a net profit, let alone a significant net profit, but instead overwhelmingly operate at net losses, some sources have defined all MLMs as a type of pyramid scheme, even if they have not been made illegal like traditional pyramid schemes through legislative statutes.[4][19][20]
It's true that not everyone succeeds in network marketing. The 2-10% of network marketers earning big money are the same 2-10% who work consistently in their businesses. But getting rich shouldn't be how network marketing is judged. If getting rich is the measure of success, then many other homes and small business owners, and the majority of employees in traditional jobs are big failures.  Instead, network marketing should be measured by the number of people who reach their goals. Many people in network marketing find success when they earn enough to stay home with the kids or pay off debt.
FLP may not be the wealthiest MLM on this list, but they deserve a spot because of their long-term dedication to the aloe vera plant and products made from it. Few MLMs display such product dedication and integrity as FLP. And few MLM’s have such a concentrated niche. That screams longevity over the other hundreds of other “full service wellness” companies. 

I agree with Jeannie. You can build a solid foundation from your warm market & then it snowballs. It is hard work & not a get rich industry. I to am with dōTERRA which is such a product driven company that 80% of wholesale customers are just customers because the products work. I love how everyone I have interacted with in my Upline are so driven by a purpose much bigger than amassing wealth! After almost 20 years of business experience (corporate sales & real estate), I can proudly say that I’ve never worked in such an edifying & encouraging environment. I can’t remember even 1 of my former bosses sitting down with me to chart a plan to bring me up to their level or even to take their current spot on the corp ladder – too much insecurity in that world & after all only 1 person makes it to the top of that pyramid. I love that in Network marketing you can easily surpass the rank & income of the person above you if you work with great purpose. The mentoring available & the personal development which happens in this environment is incredible!


But perhaps the most appealing factor in venturing into network marketing is that in return for a low risk investment, distributors get a chance to take home a most-coveted residual flow of income. At the same time, they take pleasure in time freedom and an improved quality of life. They can work whenever they prefer and decide on how much effort they are going to put into the business to make the income that they desire.
During the Obama administration, the Federal Trade Commission made its biggest-ever effort to curb this industry when last summer it slapped nutritional supplement–seller Herbalife with a $200 million fine and, as part of a settlement with Herbalife, demanded it restructure its business so that it would “start operating legitimately,” as FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez put it. The FTC alleged Herbalife had engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices,” and put it under a federal monitor for seven years, demanding onerous changes to its compensation plan and requiring extensive documentation of customer sales. Ramirez then set down an ambitious posture for the FTC: In the future, she said at an MLM industry conference in October, these companies should adopt the new Herbalife rules when structuring their businesses, as the FTC would be watching.
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