The #1 ECommerce Platform for Nontechnical Sellers

Analysis paralysis is a very real sickness, and you and I are both constantly at risk.

We as “doers,” independents, marchers to the beat of our own drums. Entrepreneurs who deal in and with technology– in charge of operations from very big to very small– all have plenty of decisions to make. And any one single decision can completely shut us down if we let it.

Your Brain on Shopping Carts

It’s obvious that an e-commerce business can’t exist without a functional website. But those who have taken the leap from, “Online business is cool! I want to do that!” to “I need a website. What kind should I have?” know how loaded that task is. And how a weekend spent unpacking it can easily turn into a week, a month, or even years!

Granted, I’m the one building very comprehensive comparisons of e-commerce platforms. But if you’re the type to get stuck in a rut, I’d suggest you put that sort of thing aside. Rather, I’d like to encourage you to do the simple, easy thing.

You Gotta Start Somewhere

Look, if you’ve already been in business a while and your scale is large, then you probably want to give some good, hard thought to your next choice of shopping cart. But if you’ve never sold anything online despite talking about it forever, you just gotta start already!

Taking action today will spark an amazing sense of accomplishment and serious momentum for your sprouting business.

Why Shopify Is the Best Platform for Nontechnical Sellers

If I’m forced to give you only one option, I’m going for quick and easy. And on that note, I’m suggesting you use Shopify.

Now here’s why I say Shopify and not one of the other paid hosted platforms, like Bigcommerce, Volusion, or Magento Go: I know that plenty of people who do the Shopify trial find that it just plain makes them feel good. The admin space is clean and easy. The free, default themes are good enough to start with. It’s all quite slick.

Granted, all of the big hosted e-commerce platforms are updating like mad lately, and competitors like Bigcommerce (which I like very much) have gotten the “slickness” note. In the near future, the playing field is likely to become even more level in this specific area.

But if you need just one suggestion, I can tell you Shopify is the most consistently praised platform that I know of in terms of ease of use. And that’s what we’re focused on here. Ease. And the present.

Go Time!

So there you go. If you’ve been talking about selling online for weeks, months, or even years (!) and have yet to, I hope you’ll take my advice today and get moving! Know that it’s worth it. Know that you’re going to feel awesome for it. And even if it was possible to choose the wrong shopping cart your first time out of the gate, know that nothing’s getting set in stone here.

Just go for it, and you’ll see.

Photo credit: Tim Simpson / Flickr




Secrets of the Etsy Elite; What Separates the Professionals From the Amateurs?

Marketplace websites are awesome, right?

I’m talking about sites like Etsy, Artfire, Bonanza, Zazzle, Meylah, Society 6, BRIKA… where there’s a huge gathering of buyers and sellers, in one place. It seems like new ones are popping up all the time.

From the sellers’ perspective, sites like Etsy can be a great place to start– and test– a business with minimal commitment. See if your business concept is one that attracts people. Try out different pricing. Gather information about what does or doesn’t sell.

Further, sites like Etsy can be incredible marketing channels. Driving traffic is a major hardship for most new businesses, but Etsy already gets tons of it.

That’s not to say you get the benefit of Etsy’s traffic without any work at all. You need to be selling something that stands out in the crowd, you need to know how to use keywords, and be able to jump on seasonal trends– since catering to the time of year or pop culture trends will help snag e-mail and front page features.

At least all of the conventional advice says that if you manage to do the above you’ll see success through the site.

secrets of the etsy superstars

Anyway, not all too long ago, I did some research of my own on the featured sellers from the Etsy blog’s “Quit Your Day Job” posts. I was just curious to see for myself exactly how well these individuals were doing and if there were any unusual or seldom talked-about patterns leading to their success.

One by one, I started checking them out, asking lots of questions like: How much $$$ is their average sale? How many sales did they make in the last year? How much money does that add up to? (And what kind of profit might be left after basic costs?) What is this seller doing that most others are not?

Sure, this wasn’t anything close to an exact science. But after putting some time into it, I felt confident enough to draw a few conclusions about these Etsy superstars and their respective shops:

  • 1. Though the amount of money was usually significant, many of these Etsy sellers (who are described as having quit their day job) were not making anything close to a living wage from their Etsy sales alone.
  • 2. Every featured seller had some form of social media presence helping to drive sales.
  • 3. Every successful seller profiled owned their own website in addition to their Etsy storefront.

So… in a nutshell, the biggest secret of Etsy’s elite seemed to be that they went beyond the Etsy “walls.” They knew they’d have the best chance at success pursuing multiple avenues for income and exposure, even if Etsy was their main focus.

the non-negotiable, controlled-by-you website

To be specific, I think the most important takeaway from this is that every serious Etsy seller should have their own website.

Turns out, whether it’s made of up of just a few static pages, a blog, or a full-featured e-commerce store of its own, having your own website in addition to your Etsy shop is key to escaping amateur-ville and becoming a real player.

There are many huge reasons for this beyond the now-obvious “All the cool kids are doing it!” And most of them have to do with simply taking your business seriously enough to think about its future:

  • 1. Fact is, many entirely well-intentioned sellers have had their Etsy shops shut down, without warning or explanation. Having your own website is insurance that your best customers will be able to find you again, even in the chance that your Etsy shop goes MIA.
  • 2. Having your own website allows you to build up your SEO (search engine optimization) cred now, so that it will pay off later if/when you decide to move your store away from Etsy or expand into your own e-commerce store. Printing your “your-company-name.com” web address onto all of your marketing materials and generally training potential customers to find you there first is key to this.
  • 3. Journalists and their publications take businesses more seriously when they have their own site. Therefore, you’re open to more opportunities for exposure. Not to mention, with your own website at your command, you can carefully craft a “Media” or “Press” page full of all the juicy deets about you, your product, as well as some gorgeous high-res images, to make your business all the more press-ready.
  • 4. See a shop with a fiercely loyal following, and I’ll show you an e-mail list. Unfortunately, Etsy doesn’t accommodate the sort of opt-in box you need to collect e-mail addresses from customers in a straight-forward, legal way, so you can’t easily continue contact with them in the future and win their repeat business. Having your own website means you can use opt-in forms wherever and whenever you like.
  • 5. Finally, by having your own site, you’re showing contacts you meet in-person and on social media that you are your own brand– not just a minuscule drop in the bucket of Etsy. And from a psychological perspective, that means they’re more likely to remember you and view your goods as high-value.

So, if you’re serious about the future of your Etsy business, I hope you’ll follow the pros’ lead and get yourself hooked up with your own “your-company-name.com” website. Even if it’s just something simple for the time being.

And if you’ve got any further thoughts or advice on the matter, I hope you’ll share! Maybe you’re surprised that all of these featured sellers had a website of their own? Not surprised? Are you considering setting up a website, or have you run into obstacles that have stopped you in your tracks? Your experience is so valuable to others. Leave it for us below!

 

P.S. I recently set out to create a plugin that would quickly turn an Etsy seller’s WordPress.org blog into something they are tremendously proud of.

Welp– that plugin is now LIVE! Which means there’s no longer any excuse for an Etsy seller not to have an amazing site of their own.

To learn more, read user testimonials, and see a live demo, click the graphic below!

Learn about the Etsy Pro plugin for WordPress

Photo credit: Helga Weber / Flickr




5 Real ‘Work From Home’ Alternatives to Scammy MLMS like Mary Kay, Stella and Dot, and Scentsy

I wrote an article a few months ago called, The Truth About Mary Kay, Stella & Dot, Scentsy, and Other Female-Oriented ‘Home Business’ Schemes.

And as it were, I got such a strong response to that piece (and continue to!) that I believe it deserved a proper follow-up.

Just as many of you have expressed to me, I was very surprised when I first began to research this topic! Growing up in American suburbia, it seems like everybody gets involved in MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) companies like these at one point or another.

But as it turns out, 99% of all MLM sales representatives lose money, making “even gambling look like a safe bet in comparison.”

And that’s coming straight from the Federal Trade Commission: not a random website, not someone’s opinion, but an actual government agency with access to a ton of honest-to-goodness data.

(Crazy, right?)

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Mary Kay, Avon, Stella and Dot, Premier Designs Jewelry, Lia Sophia, Scentsy, Thirty-One, It Works!, Body by Vi, Herbalife, Undercover Wear, Petra, Fine Choice Food Club, Partylite, Arbonne, Amway, or any of the similar companies out there, the odds of success with an MLM company are not good.

Not even the slightest bit.

The Dream

One thing is absolutely certain in all of this, though. It’s clear why so many women get swept up in MLMs like Mary Kay and Stella and Dot.

The painted picture of an independent work-life– being your own boss, working when you want to, and especially working from home– is incredibly appealing. Especially if you have children.

But as I’ve listened to more and more women involved with MLMs, I’ve learned that even an extra $50 – $100 per month is considered worthwhile to many.

And that is so, so doable with an online business (with SO much less overhead and risk) that it breaks my heart to see women killing themselves to make a buck through an MLM company like Mary Kay or Stella & Dot!

Sure, work and time are absolutely essential to build up any kind of business. And most people who set out to start an online business never replace their full-time income. But I can tell you that making money this way is possible, and that unlike work with MLMs, you really do get what you put into it. Because the effort you put in is contributing to something uniquely yours.

Something that can grow (and scale) over time, if you feed it. Unlike an MLM business, that quickly hits a wall of competition, and that withers and dies the moment you stop throwing in-house “parties.”

With that– today I want to present you with 5 online business ideas to inspire you. Let’s get rolling.

1. If you were considering selling Mary Kay…

Mary Kay Scam Alternative Beauty Vlog

Photo credit.

Why not start a beauty blog instead?

Choose a unique angle– like beauty for fair skin, or eco-conscious beauty, or beauty tricks for “lazy people.” Then create makeup tutorials and product reviews targeted specifically for this group.

Get a blog by signing up with Bluehost (the no-bells-and-whistles plan), then taking advantage of their 1-click WordPress install.

Use your phone or your computer’s built-in web cam to record videos of yourself applying products on yourself or a friend.

For each video you create, just upload the file to YouTube, use their free tools to edit it to your liking, and copy-and-paste the embed code into a new post inside your WordPress admin (yourdomain.com/wp-admin).

In regards to income, you can make money through things like:

  • Affiliate relationships with beauty brands
  • One-on-one consulting over Skype for women who have makeup conundrums, want looks tailored just for them, need advice for an upcoming event, etc.
  • Info products like e-books and video courses on beauty topics
  • On-website and in-video advertising

2. If you were considering selling Stella & Dot…

Stella and Dot Scam Alternative Online Jewelry Business

Photo credit.

Why not open your own online jewelry shop instead?

Perfect if you love making your own jewelry or simply shopping for it.

If you’re in the latter category, finding jewelry suppliers is more straight-forward than you might think. You can start with a simple Google search. (Though I suggest watching this video first so you can identify any scams.)

You might then want to check out some trade shows in-person as well. That way, you can meet suppliers face-to-face and actually hold the product before you decide to stock it. (And get to network with others who’ve been in the jewelry and accessories biz longer than you have.)

No matter which route you choose, once you have a few suppliers, you’ll of course need an e-commerce website to sell from. For those who have never built a website before, I suggest using Shopify because it’s really easy to use and to get it up-and-running fast.

This is just a quick rundown, of course, but for more step-by-step info on finding suppliers, building, and marketing an online store for total beginners, I suggest Steve Chou’s extremely comprehensive online course Create a Profitable Online Store.

3. If you were considering selling Scentsy…

Scentsy Scam Alternative Etsy Homemade Candle Business

Photo credit.

Why not make your own handmade candles to sell instead?

This industry is one that’s easy to get into, given there’s a ton of step-by-step instruction videos online and the materials you need to get started are relatively cheap.

To start, just go to YouTube and search for tutorials on candle-making. Experiment. Mix your own whimsical scents. Try pouring them into different, cool containers, like vintage teacups.

Once you have some really fun and unique creations, create some great photos and descriptions, and pop them onto Etsy. There, if you make an effort to use the right keywords and mingle in the community, you should be able to get a feel for what’s popular in your candle line and/or how you can improve.

Once you’ve got the feedback, you can continue to build up a following on Etsy or expand into a website (and full-fledged brand) of your own.

4. If you were considering selling It Works! or Body by Vi…

It Works and Body by Vi Scam Alternative Fitness Blog

Photo credit.

Go ahead and buy some goods! Just not as a representative/seller. Rather, why not try out the products, and write about them on a blog?

If there’s anything people like better than a good success story, it’s a good success story in-the-making. And it’s easier than ever to tell yours.

Afraid you’ll fail? No worries. The truth is, weight loss is hard. And the more authentic you are about that, the more likely your blog will garner an audience, because the experience you (a totally normal person) has with different products or weight loss philosophies is going to provide valuable information for other people like you who are trying to lose weight.

To create a blog, just sign up with Bluehost (the no-bells-and-whistles plan), then take advantage of their 1-click WordPress install.

I believe you’ll find the WordPress blogging software easy to understand and use, but if not, you can always Google your questions along the way.

To learn about driving traffic to a blog, Corbett Barr’s online course Start a Blog That Matters is a great step-by-step guide.

Finally, in regards to monetizing, you can build up an income through things like:

  • Affiliate relationships with weight loss products you recommend (such that you get a cut from the sales you send their way)
  • Info products like e-books, diet plans, etc.
  • A members-only forum or online mastermind
  • Advertising

5. Get inspired!

Be Inspired

Photo credit.

There are sooo many more possibilities than I could ever cram into this post, so here is one open space to get you thinking.

Allow yourself the gift of an open mind and look for what inspires you.

In Conclusion

Building a real business is not for the faint of heart. It takes decision-making and planning.

But for those possessing the passion and grit, it’s well-worth the effort it takes to figure it out– whether you’re looking to replace an income or especially if you’re just looking to make a few bucks on the side.

If you were previously considering joining an MLM company like Mary Kay or Stella and Dot, I hope these alternatives have inspired you to seek opportunities that truly honor the work you put into them.

Cheers to you for pursuing a business you can actually call your own.

Photo credit: Maegan Tintari / Flickr




How Not To Talk to Customers Online: Putting An End to ‘Follow Us! Like Us! Share Us!’


Photo credit.

Imagine you’re strolling down Main Street of your hometown, bumping into friends, taking in the sights and sounds, making friendly chit-chat with the owners inside the most interesting-looking shops, when you pass one yelling from behind her window. “Red sweater, great gift, $48!”… “Blue beaded necklace, very stylish, ON SALE!”… “Pearl earrings!! A great vintage find! GET IT BEFORE IT’S GONE!”

Tell me, would you feel an urge to get closer?

Or perhaps an urge to get farther away?

Alternatively, imagine you’re standing just outside of a local jewelry boutique, enjoying the gorgeous display in the window. You notice the shop owner to your left, adjusting a sign on the door, so you decide to compliment her on the beautiful selection. She then responds, “Thanks for liking our jewelry! Now follow us on Twitter and Flikr and Pinterest!! And, and, tell ALL your friends!”

What would that feel like?

What expression do you think might appear on your face, involuntarily?

And– most importantly– would you do it? Then, later, ever?

You know these interactions are weird, because you’ve likely shopped local boutiques before.

You know the owners are more likely to greet you, ask you how you’re doing, and if you need assistance– even ask where you got the sweater you’re wearing or recommend a restaurant for your dinner date. Because this is the natural way that friendly people talk to each other– even in a business setting.

Now, what I’m trying to get at is this: We’ve got to reconnect with what it feels like to do business in-person in order to use social media channels like Facebook and Twitter effectively for online business.

It’s not just that simple, though, I realize. And I definitely don’t mean to embarrass anyone. To tell you the truth, there are concrete reasons why speaking on social media in the goofy way I described above seems like the right thing to do, and as long as those reasons aren’t addressed, improvement can’t happen. So let me break those down…

1. confusing social media updates with old-school mass advertising

Once upon a time, the majority of people used printed directories to find businesses. Because these printed listings and ads were written for a faceless entity called “everyone,” they were extremely generic and sell-y.

Social media is not at all like this old format. Unlike a piece of paper holding a one-way message, social media networks are built for two-way communication. They are platforms for individual people to announce to and converse with other individual people.

So it should feel a lot more like regular conversation– like the shop owner making casual chit-chat with her customers. Instead of, “Pink rhinestone earrings! $28!,” one might say, “Just finished making these pink rhinestone earrings. Considering keeping a pair for myself! What do you think?”

Plus you might consider talking about things other than your own products, sharing interesting links, and just building relationships via banter with other users. Not because there’s anything wrong with talking about your business, announcing sales, etc., but just to establish yourself as a cool, relatable person. This will make your business all the more attractive to potential customers.

2. being desperate for numbers

Social media numbers are a form of “social proof.” When you see a Facebook page with 10K Likes, you wonder why so many people are into it and whether you should join them. Conversely, if you see a Facebook page with 5 Likes, you might wonder why no one else is on-board. You may even consider jumping ship yourself.

But here’s the rub. Small business owners don’t have time to cultivate a following on Facebook, Twitter, Flikr, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. etc. So they end up feeling desperate– hence the, “Oh, you just followed me on Twitter? Okay, NOW LIKE US ON FACEBOOK!” messages many of us send and receive.

If you are finding yourself in this camp, and you can’t afford or don’t care to hire help, know it’s okay to scale back. Put your efforts toward just your strongest one (or two) networks. This will free you up to be gracious to your new fans, rather than coming off semi-predatory.

3. not thinking like the customer

Finally, if you want to effectively woo potential customers, you’ve got to put yourself in their shoes.

I tricked you into doing this earlier when I described the hypothetical scenarios and asked how you’d react. But now’s the real test! From now on, for every message you send, ask yourself, “How would this make me feel?”

Warm, happy? Thankful, delighted? Insulted, irritated?

That’s all I’ve got, but maybe you have a few more ideas– about why social media is so often misused or how to correct it? Maybe you used to behave this way and have since reformed, or this post just illuminated current mistakes you’re making? Shared experiences are incredibly valuable; I’m always dying to know yours!




Truths About Gift-ability No One’s Talking About (That Could Cost You Sales)

Photo credit.

“Gift-ability” becomes a prevalent topic for business owners as the holiday season approaches, but the truth is that understanding what makes a good gift can benefit your business all year round. After all, there’s birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day… If you’re like most, you’re on the prowl for some kind of gift nearly every month.

Most blogs and magazines for business owners will tell you to offer gift wrapping or to create categories of gifts for different people (man, woman, girl, boy). But today I’d really like to go further.

See, I believe there are some truths about gift-ability that go completely unacknowledged, and it’s about time somebody brings them into the conversation!

1. size really does matter

This is the reason why no gift guide– not online or in any magazine– has ever felt truly helpful to me. The fact is, a medium-to-large gift box feels more fun than a small one– even to full-grown adults.

And regardless of how much you spent, it’s easy to feel a bit cheap giving a smaller-sized item, that just doesn’t look like much. Nonsensical? Yes. But we’re human, so that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Because of this, I’m always put off when I see an “under $20” or “under $50” gift guide with suggestions like a trendy cocktail ring or a mini zippered pouch. In order to give something small like this, one is often compelled to buy something a little bit bulkier to pair it with– like an inexpensive scarf, a book, or candle.

Want to make your smaller products the most gift-able on the virtual block? Pair these items up from the get-go! Create ring + scarf duos or combine a few small lotions with a glove scrubber or candle. If everything you have to offer is small, then you’ll just need to get a tad creative! Why not add a box of chocolates? Or arrange a few things in a gift basket?

2. no one wants a project

Some gifts are just a hassle to receive. They require you to go out and buy a missing component or do some kind of work. Thoughtful gift-givers will often do the legwork themselves in order to spare the receiver, but someone ends up with a project either way.

If it’s possible, do remedy this! Leave the individual product listings for whoever prefers them, but in case of gift-givers, offer your art prints in frames, your lamp bases with lamp shades, your pillow covers on pillows.

Any effort to make your products look like easy gifts is worthwhile. Definitely a good reason to choose your store over another.

3. we want it to look expensive

Finally, there are instances when gift-giving can become downright nerve-wracking and make us feel insecure.

On one hand, you don’t want to over-spend, but you don’t want to under-spend, either. So you end purchasing a gift that falls somewhere in the middle. And then insecurity returns, questioning your decision all over again.

If we’re being honest, when we’re buying for people we want to impress, it’s important to us that our gifts look expensive.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s talk again about that cocktail ring, shall we? Depending on whether you’re purchasing a piece of costume jewelry from Forever 21, Nordstrom, or an up-scale boutique, the cost of that ring will be very different. So when presented very plainly, the person on the receiving end has little way of knowing how much you forked over in order to get it for them. $5? $20? $100?

So, want to do us all a huge favor? Make your gift-able products look expensive! For one, ensure they come in pristine, professional packaging– that means paying attention to the little details. And if your products are legitimately on the precious side, be sure to point it out on the package or label. For instance, if the ring is 24 karat gold, make sure it says so! Or if it was by made by hand. Or if it was imported from someplace interesting. (For whatever reason, most Americans find items from Europe especially fancy.)

I hope these tips have been helpful. If you’ve got one to share yourself– either something that you’ve found to work for your business or something you personally look for when you shop for gifts– I hope you’ll share it with us!




The Truth About Mary Kay, Stella & Dot, Scentsy, and Other Female-Oriented ‘Home Business’ Schemes

My personal Facebook feed is like a magnifying glass for certain phenomena. Given a population of adults that are predominantly in their mid-twenties to early-thirties, some of the most important life transitions– graduations to weddings to babies– are right there to observe. And transitions like these go deep; they impact personalities and behavior.

Anyway, as I’ve been playing anthropologist in my head these last few years, one unexpected trend has spiked for women in my age group: a preoccupation with MLM companies. These include: Mary Kay, Avon, Stella & Dot, Premier Designs Jewelry, Lia Sophia, Scentsy, Thirty-One, It Works!, and Body by Vi, to name just a few.

What is an “MLM” exactly?

“MLM” stands for “Multi-Level Marketing.” This is a type of company that recruits average joes and janes as salespeople for their products while simultaneously deeming them recruiters of more salespeople like themselves. The neverending loop of recruiters-recruiting-recruiters is incentivized by the fact that salespeople earn commissions on any sales made by people “beneath” them (people they helped sign up with the company).

In case that explanation wasn’t completely clear, here’s a great visual to drive it home:


Image credit.

While these products are sold at in-home “parties” and “classes,” most of these sales representatives are given e-commerce websites as well (a subdomain of the company’s larger website), which include their name and contact information.

Now, before I go on, I just want to make one thing clear…

in order to protect the innocent

Being recruited by an MLM company at some point is practically a rite of passage for females here in the States! There’s nothing unusual about having at least one friend at a time who is a sales representative (also referred to as a “consultant”) for Mary Kay, Avon, Stella & Dot, or some other cosmetics/accessories company, and there’s nothing unusual about the women themselves.

I think I can safely theorize the recent spike in female MLM sellers on my Facebook friends list has a lot to do with the fact they’re settling down, becoming mothers, and wanting a way to make a living while staying at home with their families. There’s nothing unusual about this, either.

But this mindset is one MLM companies deeply and powerfully exploit. Some will even go as far as to bring religion into their pitches, suggesting their opportunity may be God’s will for women’s lives. Almost all inject a large dose of “girlfriend speak” into their materials, giving their sales team the warm glow of family– a sisterhood.

Who wouldn’t want that?

real-life outcomes

Unfortunately, beneath the deception that manages to rally so many decent women are some sad facts.

99% of MLM sales representatives lose money, making “even gambling look like a safe bet in comparison.”

This figure comes from a highly detailed report submitted to the Federal Trade Commission, based on income tax reports.

And if this number isn’t enough, look no further than the Pink Truth website for many real-life chronicles of women who “went all in”– specifically from the Mary Kay camp. Here is a small sampling of what you will find there:

“One of the main reasons I chose to become a [Mary Kay] consultant was so that when I decided to have children, I would have the flexibility to work this business around my family. I shortly found out that this was not true in this business… I realized that I would have been better off working part time for eight hours on the weekend and have my family watch my son. Then I could be home every night with him and not off at skin care classes.

Another reason I became a consultant was the income opportunity. I have been in Mary Kay two years and three months and I have yet to make a dime. I took a $3,000 loss on my taxes this past year. Despite my sales, my expenses far outweighed my earnings. By the time I paid for PCP, office supplies, and seminars, all of my hard work was for free. I also was told to get to “profit level” inventory which was $4,000+ wholesale. Once I reached that I found out that the company was going to be making product changes to the complete color line so my products would eventually become obsolete. I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with the changes and the limited edition items. I also became tired of warm chattering. I did not want to live my life thinking of everyone as a prospect….

I have learned a few things from this experience. First of all, Research, research, and research some more. I should have done my research before diving in to a new business venture. Also, never listen to advice from someone who is making money off of you. Most importantly, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is….”

Note that this woman was a team leader of Mary Kay consultants and was allowed to drive one of the iconic pink cars as reward for the huge time investment that entailed. Proof that things aren’t always what they seem!

inherent flaw: supply and demand

By now you may be wondering are all MLMs really so bad? I like ____’s products! Could the reason these are unsuccessful money-makers be on the representatives themselves– who lack talent, or ambition, or a large network of friends?

Mm, yes, it’s possible that these are hindrances for some individuals.

However, there is an inherent flaw in the business model that sets women up to fail: they’re being coaxed into selling a product with far too much supply and not nearly enough demand to keep up.

Remember the recruiters-recruiting-recruiters “pyramid scheme” aspect I mentioned earlier? Consider for a moment the fact that all of these women being recruited are in direct competition with each other! Heck, they’re even in competition with the company’s main website!

There is no tangible way of differentiation available. Sure, you may be the nicest representative in your geographical area, but when it comes down to it? Your customers can always just order online– from the company’s main site and not your subdomain. Same thing either way. Same presentation, even. Total sameness.

You don’t have a brand. You’re simply a minion of someone else’s.

desperation and the “ick” factor

As a result of not having a brand and selling product that doesn’t have nearly enough demand to go around, you can bet some women’s metaphorical claws are going to come out. Most women, when driven to such a peak of frustration, will quit the program. But others… well, here’s a true story:

I once attended a “surprise” Mary Kay party disguised as a women’s networking group meeting.

As it were, a representative had volunteered to host the group that week and, without warning, substituted her presentation time with a full-on Mary Kay party in which we all were asked to remove our makeup and try on the samples she had brought with her.

As the meeting went on, the Mary Kay lady talked up her cosmetics in an aggressive tone, and at one point openly bashed the skin care line another attendee was there to promote.

Then just a half hour or so later, in a bizarre twist of events, she segued into a recruitment presentation. In this presentation, she asked us how we would like to have so much money that we would never need to worry about it again! …Ugh…

Truth is, I suspect it was this woman’s sunk investment and desperate need of cash that was speaking to us that night. In a setting in which women were regularly supporting each other as cheerleaders and allies, it was as if we all suddenly had targets on our backs.

I hate to think that this same sort of behavior occurs between desperate sales representatives and their long-time friends and family, but it does.

on a positive note

So. Is there ever a reason to join up with an MLM company? Actually, I think there is! If you and/or your friends are fanatical supporters of a company or product, by all means, save yourselves some money on the bulk purchases you’d have made anyway!

Finally, I can’t wrap this article without giving you a reminder that profitable alternatives for home businesses are out there! For instance, you can use the web to sell handmade goods, or open an online boutique with dropshipped or wholesale goods of your choosing…

These sorts of routes require more decision-making and footwork than signing up with an MLM does, for sure. You’ll have to devise a strategy, choose a name, set up a website, etc. But if you plan it right, it will all pay off in good time.

Now I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on all this! Have you ever been involved with an MLM? Let us know in the comments!

P.S. This post now has a follow-up called, 5 Real ‘Work From Home’ Alternatives to Scammy MLMs like Mary Kay, Stella and Dot, and Scentsy.

Real Work From Home Alternatives to Scammy MLMs

Photo credit