An insider’s view on what network marketing is really like

When I first got a message from my mate telling me about her new business venture I thought, “Ok, I’ll buy a moisturiser from her and do my bit. Maybe even host a party (if I have to) then hopefully she’ll go away!” It’s funny to think about it now!

My friend had shown no weird salesy behaviour whatsoever, but I had my own perceptions about what she needed from me. We’ve all received texts, emails or messages from friends that make us feel obligated to do buy something, support something, go to an event, watch something, meet someone etc. It triggers a range of emotions from discomfort (‘oh god she’ll want to sell me something’) to surprise (‘she doesn’t need to do that to earn money’). Before I even understood what she was up to, I was prepping my fall back responses in case I needed to save us both from any embarrassment!

Eventually I looked at network marketing because I’m curious by nature and frankly, with two two-year-olds, I was chomping at the bit to bust out of the monotony. I’d always thought these types of businesses were for people who couldn’t get a job or who had nothing better to do. I looked down on them thanks to my outdated views.

The reality is the world of network marketing has changed, largely thanks to the internet, which has shifted things away from party plan towards more efficient activity online. And it’s safe to say, the modern consumer is different animal too with a lot more awareness and power than ever, making it a perfect alignment.

So what’s it really like?

Many years in, I can tell you this:

1. It’s full of well-intentioned, motivated and intelligent people from the full spectrum of career backgrounds. Doctors, lawyers, teachers you name it, they’re doing it! I never get tired of this fun fact.

2. The fundamentals of the business are sound. I could bang on about this all day but I’ll stick to product quality and the online side of things. Most direct brands hang their hat (and therefore a big chunk of their investment) on high product quality which is vital for sustainability through word of mouth and customer loyalty. Tick. An excellent consumer-friendly online platform for ease of business and scalability is obviously critical in the digital age. The way we communicate, share info and transact has changed big time in the last five years. Creating awareness on social media might be free but when it gets to the transaction a seamless online experience doesn’t come cheap. Another tick.

3. Yes, the execution can sometimes be a little ‘off’ along the way. Like any industry, awkward or pushy salesy behaviour does go on by a small minority. Not by everyone I must stress, but it does exist. We don’t always get it right. There are reasons for this. Sometimes it’s because someone is new to the industry and learning the skills. They’re way out of their comfort zone and full of nerves and fear of failure. There’s also no barriers to entry, meaning anyone can join, and it isn’t right for everyone. But ultimately, like anywhere, most people in social marketing are respectful, operate with integrity and genuinely want to do the right thing. It’s a people business.

4. It’s a great way to earn an extra income on your terms. When you want to work is up to you. How much effort you put in – and therefore how much you get paid – is up to you. It offers you possibilities. Whether you want to pay the bills, take the pressure off the mortgage, go overseas, or afford a few luxuries, the opportunity is yours for the taking.

5. You need to give it time and be consistent in your effort. And be patient with yourself while you learn how to be successful at something new. It’s common sense. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a legitimate, ethical and sustainable business model that takes effort over time to generate returns. That said, you’re able to start earning from day one.

So take the time to understand whether it could be a good fit for you. Grill the person who asked you to take a look and don’t worry about wasting their time. They’ll be happy to share what they know. Looking back, I’m grateful I put my outdated perceptions aside to properly understand the opportunity. It might be the case for you too.

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