Since becoming a parent, I’ve been noticing just how many of my fellow stay-at-home-mothers are supplementing their income through direct sales jobs. We’ve all had some experience with one of these companies—either going to a makeup or candle or scrapbooking party, having a friend become a consultant, or even going to one of the big recruitment meetings.
On the surface, becoming a direct sales consultant seems like a great opportunity for women who want to stay home with the kids. As each of these companies will attest, direct sales consultants choose their own hours, do a lot of their sales in home party environments, and have (nearly) unlimited income potential.
However, many people forget when entering into a career in direct sales that they are starting a business, with all of the attendant concerns, problems and work. Here are some of the less attractive aspects you won’t want to forget:
In every one of the major direct sales companies, you will have to buy your startup kit. Compared to the startup costs for a traditional business, the price of the kit is relatively modest—no more than $500 generally and often much less than that. In addition, you may need to purchase new products monthly so that you can keep abreast of the product line. Again, when compared to a traditional business, these costs are quite reasonable. The problem lies in the fact that many of the consultants who go into direct sales do not think of themselves as owning a business.
Direct sales and multi-level marketing companies are very clear about the fact that they are NOT pyramid schemes. And it’s important to remember that this is absolutely true. Pyramid schemes offer no product and promise untold riches, despite the fact that they are unsustainable. However, direct sales consultants make more money when the salespeople they have recruited make sales. Until you have a “downline” or organization of salespeople beneath you, your income is entirely dependent on what you can sell, which is a great deal of work. But fostering your downline is a lot of work, too. It could be years of hard work and time investment before you see the kind of income that will really rival a traditional job.
Both the greatest strength of the direct sales model and the greatest weakness for individual salespeople is the social networking aspect of the sales. By keeping sales within party environments, the companies ensure that they have no unnecessary retail costs like maintaining a storefront or paying employees. However, it puts a great deal of pressure on the sales team to constantly network to find new customers. For some people, this is not a problem—those who are naturally good at sales and networking can really thrive in this situation. But for the shy types, this is a major stumbling block.
Direct sales consultants can make a good living while choosing their own hours and feeling like they are socializing. However, it is very important to remember that you are starting a business when you sign up to be a consultant. Choosing your own hours does not necessarily mean that you will have plenty of time for your children or your other job. And it takes a great deal of very hard work to get to where you can feel comfortable with your direct sales income. None of this means that direct sales is a bad thing. It just means that it’s not an easy way to make money while your kids are young or while you’re struggling financially. There is no way to get rich quickly, easily, or without working your tail off.