Shameful confession: I have an unhealthy obsession with MLMs. Not the mundane “my friend keeps asking me to buy Scentsy” stuff – the “this lady made 1.4 million dollars in one year selling Younique to her friends.” Get super rich, super fast, by making social media posts and taking selfies with super bright lipstick.
I can’t get enough of the get rich quick stories, or the get upper middle class quick stories, or the “I made enough money to take my kids to Disney World” quick stories. They are so much more interesting than the get-out-of-debt slow stories.
So I watch. I watch women rise through the ranks, and I watch their uplines and their uplines. I cannot help myself. And, I’ve figured out the magic equation (and it isn’t “you just have to be willing to put your all into it” because that’s enough bullshit to cover my entire garden for the spring and yeah, it’s January 17 and I already can’t stop thinking about the spring planting season, wanna make something of it?).
Truth: I am insanely jealous of the people who make hundreds of thousands of moneys in a year “just by recommending my favorite products!” But another truth: it’s not accessible to everybody, and…it’s a little bit (a lot bit) gross.
So. Here’s how you do it.
1) Be aspirational. I don’t mean definition a (aspire to be rich), I mean definition b (be something that people aspire to). It helps to aspire to be rich (I mean, who doesn’t), but it helps more, most, to be the brand itself. You are Lularoe, and Lularoe is fancy and has its shit together, and if your friends want to be fancy and have their shit together, they better get on board.
How this works: If you are selling weight loss bullshit, be thin (doesn’t matter if it’s a before and after or just genetic). If you are selling skin cream, have great skin. Essential oils? I hope all your family members are predisposed to not being sick (or you are predisposed to not broadcasting it when they are).
But it goes beyond that: there is a certain type of woman (almost always a woman) that finds success: she is beautiful, but not too beautiful. She is young, but old enough to be kind of wise. She has a supportive and sweet husband and probably two but maybe three incredibly adorable children. She is “real” like she has ugly toes and she struggles with anxiety but not too real, not addicted to opioids or going through a foreclosure or being investigated by CPS.
Because to succeed, you aren’t selling the products; you are selling YOU. The people sign on not because they want candles, and maybe they do, but the main reason is because they want to BE YOU. They want your house and your kitchen cabinets, your impeccable taste and your photogenic kids. It’s not even really a secret. “I’m nothing special, you can do this too!” You can be me, or like me, and you just have to pay a $299 membership fee (and buy a bunch of crap that will end up taking space in your basement because it’s not sellable).
So the first step isn’t to be good at sales or to believe in the product. It’s to be the kind of person that everybody else wants to be. You aren’t selling a product. You’re selling people the ridiculous hope that if they give you a hundred bucks, they will become you. They’ll lose 40 pounds, their husband will stop staying late at work all the time, their house will be clean and people will stop reporting you to CPS. They’ll probably even start doing yoga.
2) Be willing to…maybe not lie. Is lie the right word? Maybe lie is the right word. I think at the very very top people aren’t lying, but on the way, they are lying their faces off. I think the polite phrase is “fake it till you make it” but the truth is, you are supposed to make social media posts about the amazing $20,000 bonus you got but keep mum about the ridiculous strings attached (such as “keep your rank for six months,” which is nearly impossible). Show the family pictures to Disney World and the beautiful new house, but don’t mention the crushing tax bill that you have no idea how to pay. Enthusiastically tell everyone you know that you have spots for two, just two, new people on your team – as if you wouldn’t jump at the chance to sign every person you know up tonight, because that’s how you get rich.
Why lie? Because the name of the game is getting suckers, er, friends, to want to be you. To want to be as rich as you. To want to go to Disney and get the new house. To “do this” from your phone and never miss a moment of your kids’ lives. To invest $99 and make it back a thousandfold.
Lie by omission and tell them that you made a higher rank so they will rush to Google to see what that means, how much money comes with being a diamond?, but leave out the part about having to buy $600 worth of vitamins at the last minute to push you over the top. To go into debt to make more money, because somehow, that has to work, right?
Lie about what Plexus can do for your multiple sclerosis, what DoTerra did for your pneumonia, what the Melaleuca vitamin pack has done for your blood pressure. If you like the products, great! Nonetheless, stretch it and say that they have literally changed your life. If you don’t like them, that’s okay! Lie and say you do. Imagine what needs to be said to make people want your life (because you are selling you), and then say that.
You have to lie to people and tell them that they, too, can make money just as easily as you have, when you know, you know, that the vast majority of them won’t. As in, 99% of people who sign up for this shit lose money. Lie lie lie lie lie.
3) Commodify your friendships. There’s always a sheen of “I’m trying to make your life better through these super amazing products,” but it’s craaaaap. Everybody in an MLM knows that only 1% of people make money, and even if they haven’t seen the statistics, they know it’s unlikely. They have to know. They have watched people sign up and quit, sign up and quit, sign up and quit.
If you care about your friends, you don’t ask them to pay you $100 so that you can get $50 of it and then watch as they throw good money after bad, lining your pockets as they desperately try to make it work, digging a deeper hole.
You have to know, you have to know, that it’s not reasonable to make $250,000 in a year through referrals if somebody’s not getting screwed in this equation. And that somebody – that somebody is your friend, your family member. The friend from high school that you haven’t spoken to for a decade, that you cold messaged to “see what’s up” and “oh by the way have you heard about Jamberry?” It is one hundred percent transactional. Your “friends” and “family members” would be better off if you just said “Hey, can you give me $50? And then $50 a month for however long until you realize you can’t? Merry Christmas, I’ll stop talking to you once you stop giving me money!”
If you’ve made it to the top, you have seen some of your friends, lots of your friends, spend $99 on Thirty-One instead of using it for their child’s medicine, because they believe the lie that “it’s an investment” and “it’s all about how hard you are willing to work.” You have to have seen the MLM wreak havoc on people who “will try to get the money from my next paycheck for the signup fee,” and you’ve seen them go into debt for Stella and Dot, and you have to have pretended it had nothing to do with you, not at all, it was because your friend Mary from elementary school didn’t want it badly enough. She didn’t give it her all. She did give YOU two hundred bucks that should have gone toward paying for rent because she’s threatened with eviction, but it’s…not like you can control how much she wanted it? Right? It’s not you? Maybe that’s the biggest lie of all.
Is it possible to make a ton of money on an MLM? Sure. I’ve watched people do it, and probably you have, too, because somebody in your news feed is talking it up. But it’s not because they are selling the world’s best kept secret vitamin, and it’s not because they are a super hustling entrepreneur. It’s because they are charming, are adept at maintaining a certain image, and are willing to trade in the almost inevitable financial hardships of their friends and family members for their own financial return.