'To my MLM friends: Please don't sell me your way of life. Especially when it's a lie.'

We all want to support our friends, in their personal lives and in business.

I will be your number one cheerleader. I will follow your business pages, I will recommend your new ventures to friends and I will sure as hell purchase your products at full price. Because that’s what friends do.

But multi-level marketing is a whole different beast.

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We’ve all seen them splashed across our Facebook feeds, promoting a diet shake or miracle cream. And MLMs are increasingly being seen as an attractive revenue stream for parents.

The traditional 9-5 model (which, let’s face it, is more like 8-6) is not particularly conducive to raising small humans, which is why there has been a noticeable spike in MLM activity around this stage of life.

People are looking for alternatives. All power to them.

But there’s just something that doesn’t sit right with me.

When my friend starts a business selling cookies, I know that she makes a profit on the sale. I also know that there’s a substantial investment required for her to set up her business (whether that’s staff, permits, a website, insurance, ingredients… just to name a few).

Also, her cookies are delicious.

The same is true for services. Degrees were attained, sacrifices were made, dreams were achieved. I get what you’re offering. It’s clear. I am happy to support you and help contribute to your success.

But with MLMs, I don’t actually know exactly what’s on offer. Often, the product is a mere distraction from the real profit-making mechanism. Sure, the person spruiking life-changing water purifiers to their friends and relatives makes a commission. No worries.


But what they’re really selling is their way of life, to recruit others to join their distribution chain (what’s known as their downline).

As long as these multi-level marketing schemes make money from selling a product, rather than signing up new people, it’s technically not a pyramid scheme (which is illegal). But this is where things get murky.

People start selling the ‘opportunity to get in at the ground floor’. They are critical of the ‘grind’ but always preface things by saying that ‘this isn’t for everyone’, only those suited to going all in. There’s a thinly veiled threat in there somewhere.

The promises are huge: freedom and wealth. A laptop lifestyle. But the path to get there isn’t entirely clear.

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And by the time they’ve posted all their amazing videos from ‘life-changing’ seminars overseas and long diatribes filled with emojis, I’ve totally forgotten what they’re selling. Lip-balm, maybe?

There seems to be a fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality that’s exclusive to this industry. There is a difference between saying: “Hi guys, I’m selling this vegan face mask. It’s awesome. Support me and my business.” (In which case, I’m a hard yes).

And: “Hi guys, I’m living the life of my dreams! I am lucky enough to be involved in selling the only face mask globally that is made from the tears of (vegan) monks and the hopes and dreams of an entire nation. This is about being the best version of you, inside and out. I have never felt so fully aligned with a brand before and making a six-figure profit in my first month is just a bonus.”

Unless you’re counting $0.000001 as six figures, I call BS.

If you sell an amazing product I will get on board. I am a marketer’s dream. If you sell an essential oil that promises I will get to sleep I will 100 per cent add it to my cabinet (of essential oils for clarity and purpose). Bring it on.

But please don’t sell me your way of life. Especially when it’s a lie.

Feature Image: Getty.

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Natasha is a freelance writer and mother of four boys. By day she writes e-commerce content, by night she writes about whatever is annoying her (while eating ice cream in bed).