I hate MLMs. I have for years. Multi-level marketing companies, or MLMs*, are modern day pyramid schemes that exploit people (mainly women) who need an income source. These companies promise huge earning potential through direct sales of goods like skincare or leggings, yet according to a report by the Consumer Awareness Institute and subsequently posted by the Federal Trade Commission, 99% of MLM participants lose money. What makes these companies even more insidious is that they incentivize participants to recruit friends and family to their money-losing scheme.
Why do these companies continue to thrive if their participants lose money? For starters, there’s usually some level of income give-and-take, so someone might spend $500 on inventory, but only make back $300 in sales. Over time, it gets hard to keep track of how much you’ve spent versus earned.
More likely though, these companies succeed because they play on the hopes and needs of average people looking to make a few extra bucks without needing to get another job outside the house. So if you could use some extra income and need the flexibility of a job from home, here are some companies and careers to look into:
- rev.com: Full disclosure: I love Rev. Rev provides transcription services for audio and video files. As a writer, I frequently use Rev to transcribe interviews to save time. Transcribers can earn $0.5-0.75 per video minute and are paid weekly via PayPal. It’s an honest way to make a few bucks whenever you have the time without a degree requirement.
- VIPKID: Teach English online from home. The website boasts earnings of $14-22 an hour. I haven’t worked with them personally, but a friend recently signed up. Looking at Reddit, it appears there is an active teacher community online. From what I’ve gathered, most teachers don’t earn enough as a sole-income source, but it is nice added revenue on your own schedule from home.
- Upwork: This site connects freelancers with contract jobs. Companies will post an opportunity that freelancers can bid on. Jobs can be in all sorts of categories like web development, design, writing and much more. As a freelancer, you can create a profile and submit proposals on projects you’re interested in. The nice thing about this platform is that they have guarantees in place to make sure freelancers get paid on time, which any freelancer can say is a blessing. The downside is that they take a cut of your earnings as a fee for being the middleman.
- Virtual Assistant: In the digital age, many companies are hiring assistant positions that would normally be staffed in-house with remote employees. There is full-time and part-time work available depending on your skills and needs. You can search regular job sites and target positions that fit your experience.
- Blogger: Ok, so this may be self-serving. I started this blog both to scratch my own creative itch, and to hopefully make a few dollars in the process. The jury’s still out on how much (if any) I’ll make. Blogs can generate revenue though. One of the most common ways to monetize a blog is through Google AdSense. This pays you per the number of ad clicks from an ad posted to your site. Most blogs don’t make a ton of money this way, but it’s something.
Pro Tip: If you’re unsure if a business is legitimate or a pyramid scheme, there are a few telltale signs. If a company requires an upfront investment, it’s likely a pyramid scheme. Companies should pay you for services rendered. Another sign is if your earning potential is based on recruiting others to work under you so that you get a cut of their sales profits instead of earnings being based solely on your own sales. Many companies call this a “ladder” or “downline” but it looks suspiciously more like a pyramid if you draw it out. And unless you’re at the top of the pyramid, chances are you’ll be part of the 99% of people who lose money.
*For more information about MLMs, check out The Dream podcast. This isn’t sponsored (Ha!) I just think it’s a great show.