The #1 Reason I Will Never Join An MLM is Because I Am Good At Math

I’m a big advocate of developing multiple sources of income. I’ve never worked only one job or relied on one source to generate money for me to spend. Whether working multiple hourly jobs or investing in dividend-paying stocks, my focus is always getting more money into my bank account each month.

Naturally my entrepreneurial nature has made me an attractive target for multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes.

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source: Is Network Marketing a business opportunity or a scam?

But on the other hand, the strategy of MLMs is “ask everybody” so I’m actually not that special.

I’ve written before about how Amway is the ultimate cult when it comes to pyramid schemes (the post still gets new comments on a regular basis, much to my amusement). Most others I come across have been less threatening. For example, I get invited to Passion Parties to celebrate stagettes or birthday parties at least once per year (I even hosted one for my own 27th birthday party). It’s hilarious that sex toy sales are the least naughty of all the MLMs — passion parties are fun, low-pressure environments where everyone is drinking and thus more likely to spend, and the products are high priced. I don’t know what the payout is, but there are worse ways to spend 2hrs of your time than pushing dildos over cocktails. (/sentences I never thought I’d write)

In the past week I’ve been approached by Mary Kay (twice!) and Arbonne representatives. In the past I’ve also been invited to Scentsy parties, though I haven’t attended (more because of scheduling conflicts, because I’m certainly open to going and receptive to buying!). It was only because I was pushed again to review the “potential” as an Arbonne consultant after previously declining that I took a look at the numbers. This is what I found:

You get a 35% profit on all the sales you make.

If your first thought was “wow over 1/3 profit for every sale! That’s not bad!” (I was told this is one of the “highest for MLMs”) you better check your math:

You’d need to sell $100,000 of makeup to scratch out $35,000.

I’ll tell you what kids, I know about 35,000 easier ways to net $35,000 than hawking mascara and blush. Don’t get me wrong, I have purchased and used Mary Kay and Arbonne products in the past and they are lovely. It is legitimately very nice cosmetics and body products. You are NOT being scammed by being sold or selling a cheap or bad product, but that doesn’t make this a good idea. However, there are some major downsides here:

When you join MLMs, you often need to pay out of pocket for things like…

  • Your annual consultant registration fees
  • Attending business conferences
  • Transportation costs to get you to and from parties or sales
  • Your unsold product

Maybe the goal isn’t $35,000 but less like $5,000 or $10,000 which would only require you to sell $15,000 to $30,000 of make up. Still, I feel like asking me to sell over $1,000/mo of makeup is asking a lot. Where am I going to find people willing to buy over $200 of products from me every week? As someone who’s pared her daily makeup down to mascara-only, this number strikes me as absurd.

But this is because joining an MLM is NOT about selling a product,

it’s about getting more people on your “team”.

The more friends and acquaintances you convince to take part in your “business opportunity”, the higher your monthly income goes. You profit by their membership fees and from their sales. The only real way to succeed in an MLM is to immediately recruit a powerhouse team of ambitious sales rockstars that can both push product and get others on board. If you only manage to recruit a handful or less of lukewarm friends, you’re never going to make money.

 You should devote your entrepreneurial efforts to basically anything else. 

Because pretty much anything else will be infinitely more profitable.

Unsure of how to bring in extra income with less work than being part of an MLM? Look for endeavours that utilize unique skills and have low startup costs such as:

  • Tutoring an academic subject
  • Teaching a language or instrument
  • Making a product and selling it on Etsy
  • Monetizing a hobby, like photography or blogging
  • Purchasing and reselling collectors items
  • Completing odd jobs

In short, there’s no real easy way to make tons of extra money, but there are easier ways than MLMs.

The $5 Task To Boost Your Professional Network

Sorry I don’t have a $0 weekend post for you (I’ve had one in drafts for 3 weeks now, just having a hard time finishing it up.. maybe next week!) but I recently thought of an idea that might be a benefit for those of you in school and looking for ways to build a professional network.

I’ve talked about how to maximize your LinkedIn profile before, but recently a new site has been on my radar called Ten Thousand Coffees. The mission of Ten Thousand Coffees is to “unlock opportunity” by providing the starting point to begin a conversation. While I love LinkedIn for connecting with professionals I already know offline, there’s no way to really get to know someone outside your network without stretching yourself through an awkward introduction.

What if you could know which professionals were open to meeting with you, even if you weren’t connected to them on LinkedIn?

Ten Thousand Coffees provides exactly that platform.

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While I was browsing experts a cool idea came to mind…

Starbucks is currently running a “tweet a coffee” promotion, where you can tweet a $5 Starbucks gift card at a person. If you’re one of the first 5,000 to do so (it’s already been on for a week or two), you will get a $5 gift card for yourself — essentially providing coffee for you & a friend for $5.

Why not tweet a coffee to the professional you’re interested in meeting with for an informational interview?

Using Ten Thousand Coffees you could find out who is willing to meet up with you, and then tweeting them a coffee with a link to your Ten Thousand Coffees profile would be a cool way to invite them to chat (and treat them at the same time!).

At worst they’d decline and get a free coffee, and you’d only be out $5 (or possibly nothing, as your Starbucks account would be credited $5 if you’re one of the first 5,000 to tweet a coffee) — but it’s such a creative hilarious way to invite them to talk, I’m doubtful anyone would say no. I know I wouldn’t!

Even if you’re not bold enough to tweet a perfect stranger a Starbucks card, Ten Thousand Coffees might be a worthy site to utilize to start building your professional network.

Your ability to be frugal is limited, your earning potential is not

When you’re in the thick of organizing your finances or vanquishing debt, one of your main focuses will be cutting costs. The more you eliminate from your spending, the more money you will have leftover to achieve your financial goals. Many personal finance blogs (mine included!) offer useful tips on negotiating for lower interest rates on debts, eliminating unnecessary spending, and generally living a more frugal life. But there is a limit to how frugal you can become.

With the exception of taking on a major lifestyle change and choosing to live off-the-grid, chances are you have some basic expenses you can’t get rid of: food, shelter, cellphone, etc. While you may have succeeded in getting these costs as low as possible, it’s unlikely you’ve managed to eliminate them entirely you. Whether you like it or not, it simply costs money to live. Period.

I like reading articles about families that have made a salary of $30,000 stretch to raise their six-children without resorting to dumpster diving, but I do so only to marvel the way I would at an oddity or magic trick — I never think or wish to do that for myself. Why?

Being frugal 24/7 sucks. 

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You the day before you implement your new no-fun budget

It’s good to know what your bottom line is, but not so that you can live there. The bad thing about your bottom line is once you’re living at it, you can’t go any further down. If you’ve trimmed all the fat from your budget, there’s nothing left to cut if you suddenly find you need an extra $100 or $1,000. Sure, you have an emergency fund, but that’s not the same as having flexibility in your disposable income. Once you’ve cut what you can from your budget, your immediate focus should be on how to get more money. A little bit more money, a lot more money, whatever. Just get more.

Your ability to cut costs is limited, but your earning potential is unlimited.

There’s nothing stopping you from bringing in extra money, except maybe an idea of how to do so, but that’s a small barrier to overcome. Whether it’s earning an extra $100 or $10,000 per month, increasing your income is worth far more in the long run than cutting your budget is.

How do you get more money?

Like your earning potential, the possibilities are limitless. If you’re stuck, start small with some easy you can implement immediately such as:

  • selling items on Kijiji or eBay
  • finding odd jobs on Kijiji or Craigslist (everything from helping people clean out their garage to working gates at music festivals, there is someone out there just looking for general labor)
  • providing tutoring in music, language, or academic subject you’re proficient in
  • cleaning homes
  • babysitting children or pets
  • selling creative work such as paintings or handmade jewelry

If you have more resources or have identified a unique market, you might be able to set up a small business. You don’t need to invent a cool gadget or build a multi-million dollar business to be an entrepreneur, even a small operation that brings in a few extra thousand per year still counts. From hauling junk to freelance writing, there are opportunities everywhere.

The important thing is that you don’t wait to start making more money. Start right now. 

Finally, one of the easiest ways to earn more money is to target where you’re currently getting most of your current income: your day job. If you’re an hourly employee (like I am as an intern!), inquire about working more hours. Even 1 extra hour per week can add over $100 to your monthly income — that’s $1,200 per year! Staying a bit late on Wednesdays doesn’t look so bad now does it? If you’re not hourly, now might be a good time to negotiate for a higher salary. Nothing pays off more than a conversation that nets you a higher gross income.

Often when people are looking for ways to pay down debt or save for a major goal, like a down-payment on a home, they seem to be way too focused on cutting costs and living on as small as budget as possible. While initially effective, once you’ve cut all the costs you can you’re left with nothing more to do other than entertain whatever level of deprivation you’ve accepted until your goal is met. Instead, you should focus on cutting costs AND increasing your income as much as possible.

What creative ways have you found to increase your income? What inspired you to find another source of money?

How To Negotiate Your Salary

This post has been a lot time coming, so I apologize for the delay. I was waiting until I completed my internship hunt before posting, because I didn’t want potential employers to know my tactics! Of course I ended up with a decent offer that didn’t require a lot of negotiation, except an ask for more vacation days which I’m not even using because I have no trips planned this summer =p Sigh. However, for the rest of you here’s the long-awaited post…

How To Negotiate Your Salary

Step 1: Know the business, industry, and what others are getting paid.

We all know there are higher paying professions and industries than others. Knowing what’s the norm and where you stand (either entry level or with a few years work experience) is crucial to making sure you ask for the right amount. Generally salary negotiation doesn’t work well, but is not impossible, in unions, not-for-profits, or internships. In these cases wages are usually fixed by pre-determined agreements or limited by lack of resources. Generally, all else is fair game. Researching your role and industry is the first step to making a reasonable ask of your current or future employer. If the average salary in your profession is $50,000, you probably can’t ask for $70,000 but if the average is $100,000 you don’t want to lowball with $70,000. Knowledge is power, kids, especially when it comes to the amount you should be paid.

Step 2: Be able to show your worth.

The single best thing I’ve ever done at each of my jobs is record everything I do in a small black daytimer. Why? Because when a project was executed successfully, I had a detailed record of it. Keep track of everything you do at work, particularly if you’re going above and beyond your regular job description. Whenever you accomplish something major, collect the results (ie. data from number of attendees at an event, financial results exceeding set goals, glowing reviews from key customers) and either put them in your record keeping book or store them in a folder to refer to later. You can’t just ask for a raise or higher salary because you want one, you have to be able to provide tangible evidence that you’ve earned a higher wage.

Step 3: Know when to ask.

There are no real bad times to negotiate your salary (except maybe if your company is doing major layoffs) but there are times that are better than others. The best times to negotiate your salary are:

  • Your first job offer of your first career role.
  • When you are changing roles within the same company.
  • Your semi-annual or annual review.
  • 2-4 weeks after you have successfully completed a major project.

If you’ve missed the above and haven’t had a conversation about your pay for a long time, gather the material from Steps 1 & 2 and set a meeting with your boss to talk about the opportunity to increase your pay now.

Step 4. “He who speaks first loses”.

I don’t know if this rule is necessarily true, but I adhere to it anyway. What it means is don’t be the first to throw out a number — let your employer suggest a salary before you do. Because you completed Step 1, you have a vague idea of what’s coming, but you should let them talk first to get an idea of where they are. Your employer’s goal is to pay you the least amount possible to get the most work possible, so their number is likely lower than what they’re really willing to pay. You need to hear it first so you can prepare an appropriate counter-suggestion. If they ask you for a number first, you run the risk selling yourself short by naming something to low, or discouraging them from hiring you by demanding something too high.

How to respond to the question, “What are your salary expectations?”:

“Based on my level of experience and educational background, I know your company will provide a competitive offer. I would prefer to discuss salary and total compensation when a formal offer is put forward.”

If they dodge the question and ask you again, this is the nitty-gritty of real negotiation and it’s usually uncomfortable. Don’t panic — or at least don’t let your panic show on your face. Stick to your guns and repeat your position. If they ask again, they’ll just make it awkward for both parties, at which point you can say, “I’m not comfortable discussing real numbers until I receive a formal offer”. But realistically they should give a figure, or will present you with the formal offer in a few days.

Step 5. Listen to their offer and provide immediate, un-detailed feedback.

When you receive your salary offer, express gratitude for it immediately. If it is good, say it’s good. If it’s bad, say it’s fair. If you are interested in the company even after they give you a bad offer, it’s best not to exclaim anything like, “is this a joke?” because chances are they thought what they were giving you was fair. Express which parts you’re concerned about immediately. ie. “I was expecting the base salary to be a little higher” or “I am a little concerned about the amount of work travel expected of me.” This is important because it gives them a clue to what you’ll be approaching them about in your counter-offer, and gives them some time to prepare something more generous.

Step 6. Don’t respond to their offer immediately. Take 24-48 hours to think about it.

This is the hardest part. People hate doing this if they’ve just been offered a job because you always have the sinking feeling that they’re going to ask someone else, but I promises you, if they’d made an offer, you’re the only candidate they want and you should not worry that they will rescind the offer they just made over the next 48 hours. What this usually does is actually gets the employer a little panicky that you might say no, which will make them more receptive to your demands.

Step 7. Ask for 10% to 15% more than they offered and other perks

Unless the initial offer was really low and you don’t mind scaring them off with big demands, you should aim to ask for approximately 10-15% more than you’ve been offered. I’ve had friends go for 25% or even 40% and pull it off, but those were unique circumstances, and unless you’re certain that should be your compensation, I would caution against it.

The second suggestion I would make is to look beyond the salary when it comes to negotiating your compensation package. Most people are so focused on the amount actually going into their bank account they forget there’s lots of room to get more money in things like employer matched retirement plans. By all means negotiate your salary, but you should also consider asking for:

  • More vacation days
  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Stocks
  • Increased health benefits or retirement plans
  • Other perks: Ask for an office with a south facing window, ask for an automatic monthly reload on your Starbucks card, ask to work from home on Thursday mornings, whatever. If it’s something you would like, ask for it. It’s hard for your employer to say no right now, whereas it won’t be hard once you’re in the job.
  • The opportunity to review your compensation package in 3 or 6 months.

This way, even if your employer won’t budge on your salary, you’re essentially receiving more pay in other forms for the same (or if you get more vacation days, less) work. The most important point on that list, however, is the opportunity to review because your probationary period at a new job or in a new role is 3-6 months. At this point, you will have hopefully proved yourself and are trained in your role, and therefore more valuable to the company than when you started.

Those are the steps & tips I have for negotiating your salary! Anyone else have any secrets?

 

Monetize Your Fitness and Weightloss

Hi readers! Apologies for my recent absence. As of Wednesday I wrapped up the last of my two summer school courses for my MBA. It was a struggle to complete those classes while working full-time and helping a friend and fellow finance fanatic with a major project. Add in starting the second month of Insanity where workouts were 1 to 1.5 hours long plus moving apartments and I didn’t have a single free minute. I’m not sure I’ve ever worked so hard in my life before but the results have been amazing: extra income, 2 more classes completed towards my MBA, and tremendous fitness results.

Which is what I want to share with you today! I’m on the verge of launching a full fitness blog and the Insanity Workout is really what started it all. After 7 weeks, my cardio is amazing, my strength is killer, and my bod is looking pretty lean — and I still have 2 weeks to go!

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On Fridays, we flex =P me on 06/27/2014

Month 2 has totally wiped me out though and I’ll admit that I’m starting to have my fill of Shaun T and ready to move on to something else. Mostly I can’t wait to get back to yoga and keep working on advanced poses!

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me working on variations in shoulder stand!

imagesI’ve been tracking my food and workouts on My Fitness Pal. I love it for making sure I’m getting enough of each of the macronutrients while still staying within my calorie goal. It’s an app I’ve been loving since before I started Insanity, but I’ve found some others out there that I wish I’d gotten on board with at the start of my journey! One of the things I’ve found particularly cool combines my love of workout with my love of money:

Sites and apps that provide financial incentives to meet your fitness goals.

imgres-1The first one is DietBet, which I found through Blogilates. There are two kinds of diet “bets” you can take: a 4 week challenge to lose 4% of your body weight or a 6 month challenge to lose 10% of your body weight. You buy in with $20 to $30 with other users so that there’s a pot of money — the last Blogilates dietbet had over $100,000! Participants then keep track of their progress, and at the end of the challenge, the pot is divided amongst those that were successful. Since a few people fall off the wagon and don’t make it through, the successful ones end up getting back their contribution and a little extra. This probably won’t make you rich, but I think the risk of losing $25 to sheer laziness might be the motivation you need to reach your fitness goals. I never got on the Blogilates dietbet bandwagon because I don’t own a scale (I briefly considered buying one but it seemed silly to spend $25 on a scale so I could spend another $25 on a fitness challenge), so throughout my whole fitness binge I have NOT been tracking my weightloss!

imgresThe second one I recently found was Pact. Using this app, you make a pledge to track your workouts or food intake for a week to meet your goals. If you’re successful, you get a little bit of money (about $2 per week) but if you miss a day you lose a lot of money ($5 to $10 per missed day!). It doesn’t accept Canadian credit cards to play but I found my PayPal worked! Since Pact syncs to MyFitnessPal, I’m happy I don’t have to do any logging in another app. It also syncs to the FitBit and other workout gadgets if you want to log your workouts. It’s not much but $2/week is an extra $100 per year which can buy some more workout clothes so why not?

Other apps and sites that are useful but sadly don’t pay any cash are the Nike Run app, Fitocracy, Blogilates, and Tone It Up! I finally ordered myself a FitBit yesterday after Cait’s rave review and I can’t wait to use it to start tracking workouts.

Any others fitness apps, sites, or gadgets that I’m missing that are really awesome? Please share!