Is MLM empowering or exploiting women?

MLM exploiting women

Today the world is celebrating International Women’s Day! I have joined together with an amazing group of inspiring UK money bloggers to write about some of the important personal finance issues faced by women.

There will be a huge range of topics covered, from celebrating inspirational women to closing the gender pay gap.

I feel like this post should come with a disclaimer as this isn’t criticising women who are working hard to achieve financial freedom, it’s looking at the business model of MLM and wondering… can we do better?

What is MLM?

MLM stands for ‘multi-level marketing’ and is also known as network marketing, direct sales, or more controversially as pyramid selling.

It is a marketing strategy that involves you earning a percentage of direct sales, recruiting people as product sales representatives, and earning an additional commission on sales from your ‘down-line’.

You’ve probably been witness to this via your social media feed. It often begins with an old friend from school, who after fifteen years of silence suddenly pops up offering you a huge discount on products if you become a representative. The representative is often selling makeup, beauty products, jewellery, nail art, or weight loss supplements.

You may be promised uncapped earnings, and encouraged to recruit friends and family to sell products which will also earn you a percentage from their sales.

All you will need to get started is a small upfront investment for your ‘starter pack’, an internet connection, and a strong desire to be self-employed (#bossbabe).

Why do most MLM companies target women?

MLM brands will usually portray an ethos of empowerment.

They will often aim their products at women, and hard sell the benefits of an MLM business that will appeal to women, many of whom are stay at home mothers, and vulnerable low income families. Offering new mothers a chance to supplement their income, or build an empire whilst remaining at home with their children.

Brand representatives will hold lots of inspirational talks, dazzling you with motivational quotes and ideas, encouraging you to pass on this great opportunity to your own peers with the chance to purchase these great products, or join your team.

They will often engage in social media chats which are easy to get drawn in to, particularly if you are a new stay at home mum. I know from personal experience it can make you feel extremely isolated being a stay at home parent.

I am sure many of these develop into long lasting and genuine friendships, good customers, or business relationships, but it is important to go into this investment, as with any, with your eyes open.

Often the products are sub-standard but the hype surrounding them, and the desire for financial independence is enough to draw even the more financially savvy of us into the MLM dream.

I believe this is part of the exploitation of women in this industry, you are sold a dream but in order for it to materialise you must convince others to buy into it too.

Creating financial independence for yourself is something I am really passionate about, but there are only so many friends you can support by purchasing badly colour matched foundation, and this market is so saturated the requests are never ending. The pressure to spend on these products is a real concern. I also question the legitimacy of a product which is only sold via social media with no marketing control. This often results in low quality memes and questionable instagram posts.

Lastly, I’m not sure how much practical advice you will receive on this topic when joining an MLM company but if you are considering MLM and you’re receiving benefits in the UK any changes in your income will need to be reported to the relevant benefits office.

The worry for me with this would be during the first few months many of your close friends and family will want to support you with your new business venture, once that tails off you could be left in a position where your income suddenly changes and you are needing to re-apply and possibly wait several weeks for benefits to be reinstated.

So although the initial investment is low I would advise having some savings as a back up.

If you have a different experience of MLM I’d love to hear your story? If you’re killing it with your MLM business I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re looking for other ways to make money from home I have lot’s of information on this site so have a look around!

I hope you all have a wonderful #InternationalWomensDay and celebrate all of the incredible achievements that we have made as women.

I’m going to post some links to other UK money blogger posts that I have been reading today and hope you will enjoy reading them and feel as inspired as I have.

Faith Archer from ‘Much More With Less’ asks Are You Ready to Invest?

Araminta Robertson from ‘Financially Mint’ asks us Why Get a Finance Degree?

Cat Plummer from ‘Penny Wise, Life Rich’ talks about Women and Money

Jennifer Kempson from Mamafurfur writes What I Would Teach My Daughter From a Mother Raising Boys

Eileen Adamson from ‘Your Money Sorted’ explains Why Women Need to Talk About Money

Emma Bradley from ‘Mums Savvy Savings’ asks are you Raising Sporty Girls?

Joleisa Creed from ‘Joleisa- Penny Pinchers’ Paradise’ discusses How to Show Your Financial Worth as a SAHM

Jamie Collier from ‘Thrifty Mumma Thrifty Bubba’ talks about Money Mantras

Emma Maslin from ‘The Money Whisperer’ shares a beautiful Open Letter to Her Daughters

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