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.


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.

When hustling hurts

When I quit my old job last week to take my new position at the university, a lot of people asked me why I didn’t just go back down to part-time. It’s a fun job with ok pay for what it is, so why not grab the extra cash? I thought about it. Increasing my income even more was tempting — just think of what I could do with a full-time salaried income and a part-time job: max out my TFSA, pay off my student loans in record time, travel… I was dreaming pretty happily until I remembered one thing:


My new job has pushed me up and over into a higher tax bracket, which means nearly 1/3 of my income will be going to taxes. The nice thing is that there’s still a lot left over even after they take a huge chunk off the top, but the real downside is it’s really discouraging to earn more if they’re going to take 1/3 of that too.

My pay was my number one source of unhappiness at my old job, so imagine the idea of working part-time and only earning 2/3 of it.

Um… no = all I have to say about that.

This is why I’m not going to hustle.. at least not over the table, I’m still totally open to any tutoring or babysitting gigs ;)

Now I realize I may be worrying prematurely. I have heaps of unused tuition credits (I paid for my school, not my parents so I get all the breaks) that will probably mean I don’t pay taxes for the next 2 years, in addition to my RRSP contributions, TFSA earnings, tax-deductible student loan interest, etc. that will all help me dodge the tax man. But still. I don’t even want to see the amount deducted off my paycheque, even if I will get it back every spring.

Furthermore, I’m tired of working 2 jobs. I’m pretty sure I’ve worked 60hr work weeks whenever life permitted, and I’ve found it can get in the way of some things, even if financially it can be pretty sweet. These are the reasons I don’t think it’s wise to take on a part-time job when I have my full-time position:

my full-time job requires travel, and it can sometimes be on fairly short notice. I don’t want to be that person that bails on their scheduled shifts at their part-time employer because “something came up”, nor do I want the stress of trying to work it out and get shifts covered.

I want time. My new position means I finish work at 4:30pm every weekday, and have every weekend free (except when I’m traveling, during which time I’ll just get evenings & weekends free in a different city!!). I like this. A lot. I’m going to try to commit to yoga twice per week, regular wing night  or dinners with the girls, or maybe sometimes I’ll just stay home READ (I miss it!). Working part-time on top of a full-time job would mean giving up this freedom.

I don’t need to work 60hr work weeks to afford everything anymore. My income will pay my bills, let me contribute regularly to my RRSP, TFSA and financial goals, and help me pay off my debt fairly rapidly, while letting me finally indulge in splurges without feeling too guilty. I know 2 years from now my income will probably feel modest and small and I’ll be jonesing to move up again, but for right now it’s like WOOHOOO!

I even thought about working part-time for the next few months, then quitting, but since I don’t know all the demands of my new job yet I feel like it’s unwise to think I can do both. It’s much better to just focus on my full-time job right now until I get the hang of it, and then maybe I’ll consider other options in the future.

What are your thoughts? Is it right of me to turn down a second income opportunity when I have debt? Or is it fair to finally give myself a break?

Cultivating multiple sources of income

I have a lot of jobs. Or rather, I have a lot of jobs to fall back on should I ever need to generate some extra cash. However, “need” is still rarely a motivating factor when it comes to making money, and it’s not uncommon to find me working 7 days a week if I can fit it in my schedule. I may be a bit of a workaholic, but I feel like earning money is one of the most productive ways to spend my time.

In the realm of PF blogs, having another job outside your career is referred to as “hustling”, and it’s more common than you think. J Money at Budgets Are Sexy regularly blogs guest posts as part of his Side Hustle Series of individuals hustling for side income, and it’s everyone from teachers to corporate executives seeking cash on the side by waitressing or walking dogs, or even chicken farming.

So what are my other sources of income?

Teaching undergrad labs in the summer
Inventory work
Interest/dividends on investments
Selling things on eBay/Kijiji
Referring people to ING (ha!)

I also wouldn’t hesitate to deliver newspapers or clean houses, though I have yet to try for either of those jobs. Perhaps someday in the future i can even generate some money from this blog. Graduate school is a big accomplishment, but I don’t feel it puts me above any entry level positions, and I’m generally willing to work in any legal, non-depraved form of employment for reasonable reimbursement.

Having multiple sources of income is the biggest emergency fund you can have. Because it’s unlikely you’ll lose all your jobs at once, you will always be able to replace some or all of your income from another source if something does happen with your career. Now, I think it’s near impossible for me to be fired from graduate studies and lose my stipend, but if I have the opportunity to make $100 babysitting on the weekend, I’m going to take it, if only to have some extra cash to go shopping with.

Many students complain about the lack of time to devote to a part-time job during the academic year, but given the variety of options available, that’s a weak excuse. Tutoring was the most flexible job I ever had: at $25/hr I made my own schedule and during the weeks that I had exams, I simply told my students I wasn’t available. The inventory cataloging job I found on Kijiji gives me no regular schedule, they just email me when an opportunity arises and I get to choose if I can devote 4 or 8hrs over one to three days, or I can say no entirely. The fact of the matter is there are lots of options, and failing to take advantage of these says a lot more about sheer laziness than lack of opportunity. Of course working cuts into your free time, but when you think of how much each of us spends watching tv in a week, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to unlock the earning potential in some of those hours. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be a big commitment. Two hours per week of tutoring at $25/hr will give you an extra $200 per month — that’s $2400 extra per year, why would you say no to that?

Someday I hope my investments & savings will be a huge source of secondary income, to the point that working any job will be an option rather than a necessity. If only! Financial freedom by forty? I think I can make it happen. In the meantime, I’ll be juggling a half-dozen sources of income and growing (slowly) richer by the minute.