By Jon M. Taylor, MBA, Ph.D., Consumer Awareness Institute
Some people who get into MLM want to make more money, to secure a more “passive” or “residual” income, or to have more independence or freedom to use their talents than a typical job offers. Many people just need the extra income to support a family, pay for an education, etc. MLM/network marketing is appealing for many reasons. But is MLM the only game in town? Are there better alternatives than MLM/network marketing to meet these varied needs?
For many individuals, nothing in their experience promises so much for so little investment as MLM (multi-level marketing). For a variety of reasons, people needing income seek alternatives to the standard job market. I believe that many people are drawn into MLM simply because they have been approached by someone – and are unaware of the vast array of other income opportunities that are available to them outside the standard job market.
Experienced entrepreneurs know that the best opportunities don’t come seeking you – you must search them out. In doing so, consider not only your interests and passions, but also what you have to offer in skills, natural talents, certification, and how these factors fit with real needs in the marketplace.
Books on small business opportunities are full of write-ups of the latest “hot” businesses of the 90’s. And small business “opportunity” web sites abound. But you will have to research them for yourself. A detailed discussion of the thousands of income options would require a massive research team many years to process – and it would never be finished because entrepreneurs are dreaming up new businesses daily.
Below are some categorical alternatives to the standard job market, which are fairly easy to get into, even from home. Some require a modest investment, and some require specialized training or licenses.
Computer services. Anyone who is technically proficient and willing to do some market research can usually find a niche that can be filled in this growing and futuristic field. Hundreds of opportunities present themselves to programmers, systems engineers, networking experts, repair and upgrade specialists – you name it. And of course, anyone can do data entry or word processing from home.
Internet sales and services. The Internet opened up the world to entrepreneurs and home workers like nothing before. Online clearing houses of information, specialized product outlets, auctions, and you-name-it are exploding on the Web. It really pays to gain expertise in web technology and resources –coupled with whatever specialized field interests you.
Home manufacturing. If you have developed a product that can be manufactured from home, such as clothing or gift items, calls to prospective retail outlets or attendance at a gift or craft show may get you started in business.
Agriculture-related. Resourceful growers specialize in niche markets overlooked by major farmers and ranchers, such as mushrooms, exotic fruits, organically grown vegetables, or unusual plants and flowers. Some start in back yards and grow to sizable businesses.
Repair and maintenance. While we are moving towards an increasingly high-tech society, persons who are skilled in keeping our computers and other gadgets in working order will always be in demand. Also, more routine maintenance of homes, yards, vehicles, and equipment will always be needed.
Teaching and consulting. Anyone who can teach skills or useful information on virtually any subject can sell that information in a variety of formats. Also, experts in a variety of fields offer consulting services on a fee basis. Many teachers and consultants leverage their time by teaching classes or consulting in groups.
Insurance. This field is particularly good for persons who want the independence of working their own hours—often from their homes. Successful insurance agents or brokers build up enough commissions from renewals year after year to provide a base of income much more secure than a salaried job can offer.
Real estate. While you can work from home, agents are always on call, since buyers tend to look when they are in the mood. The income of agents fluctuates widely, since they are essentially “unemployed” between sales. So two or three major commissions in one month may be followed by no commissions for a couple of months. But hard work and persistence can fill the pipeline of prospects and even out the income stream considerably.
Other agency/broker/finder arrangements. Arrangements vary all over the map, but usually involve representing a company or a client for a fee or commission. Examples would include management search firms, travel agencies, domestic help agencies, collection agencies, contractor referrals, investigative services, and temporary help agencies.
Manufacturers representative. This is a person who can represent manufacturers to prospective retailers and can draw commissions for repeat business from the same customers year after year. Print sales reps also work this way.
Miscellaneous independent sales arrangements. Anyone who can learn to sell will always have work opportunities, regardless of economic class, race, education, age, or sex. The classified ads sections of newspapers are full of ads for people to sell a variety of goods and services. True, many are not very solid and most are for commissions only, but if you talk to enough of them, you might find something that appeals to you. Many sales people work successfully from their homes.
Telemarketing. This field has been dealt a major setback with recent FTC restrictions, but there are still pockets of opportunity within the new rules. But be careful – telemarketing scams abound. So programs sponsored by others, including fund-raising promoters, should be checked out very carefully.
Writing and other creative freelancing. Good writers, artists, and others with creative skills often work at home on a free-lance basis. Not only must you work on your writing skills, but you must develop marketing savvy and nourish contacts that will be vital to your success.
Mail order. Many people are more comfortable buying through the mail than going down to a busy shopping center. Mail order is a lot like fishing – you send out flyers or catalogs and wait to see who will bite. If your returns are good, you use the same bait. Otherwise, you try something else until you find what works. A big advantage of mail order is that it can be operated from home, and the whole family can be involved.
Importing and exporting. Anyone who likes to travel (and preferably speaks a foreign language) can find opportunities to bring products to and from the United States or other countries. This field promises to grow in the coming years as we move towards a world economy.
Job, career, and entrepreneurial services. Frequent layoffs, corporate downsizing, and the move toward temporary hiring and contract work have created new opportunities for some. These include career consultants, outplacement centers, self-marketing coaches, temporary help agencies, resume services, re-training centers, executive and technical search firms and clearinghouses, and services for entrepreneurs.
Child or adult day care. With the growth in number of mothers in the workforce, the demand remains high for day care services. And with the increase in the aging population, adult day care services and home health care is on the rise.
Construction. Persons skilled in a variety of building trades can usually find work on a subcontract basis. Some go on to become general contractors and coordinate the work of many subcontractors to complete both major and minor projects.
Franchisee or franchiser. Any of a large variety of products and services are offered on a
franchise basis. Franchises offer an increased likelihood of success because the franchise package has been proven elsewhere, often in hundreds of places. If you are resourceful enough to develop a successful business that could be duplicated elsewhere, such as a novel restaurant, you can package it and franchise it to others.
Buying an existing business. This option removes a great deal of uncertainty for inexperienced persons seeking to get into a business of their own. Sometimes the seller will stay with the buyer long enough to train the buyer thoroughly in all aspects of the business, substantially reducing the risk of failure.
Other. Our list of income alternatives could go on and on – wholesaling and retailing, vending machines and services, pet care and grooming, health care and other professional services, advertising and public relations, catering, decorating, etc.
As you can see, we are really only limited by our creativity, skills, and resourcefulness. At the very least it’s safe to say that MLM is not the only game in town.
Information about specific income options are described in books available from your local library or bookstore – or through online sources, such as Amazon.com. We have also provided some lists on this web site.
Read advice for starting a business from a serial entrepreneur who started 47 businesses.
Choose and read ideas and information from hundreds of books and web sites to help you start a business or to become self-employed.
Why we can safely say that so many income opportunities beat the odds of profiting in MLM/network marketing
If you have read the research that has been done recently on the profitability of chain selling programs (MLM, network marketing, 2-ups, etc.), you know that at least four separate independent investigations demonstrate that chain selling is a losing proposition for nearly all participants. To review this research in more detail, go to – www.mlm-thetruth.com
If you eliminate those at the beginning of the chain or near the top of a hierarchy of tens of thousands of participants (the TOPPS, for “top of the pyramid promoters” – who may make millions!) – approximately 99.9% of the “downline” of participants lose money. This abysmal loss rate is computed after all expenses are subtracted, including minimum purchases required to qualify for commissions or to advance in the scheme. (For more history on how these conclusions were derived by myself as the principle researcher and author, see Appendix A.)
Since nearly all MLM participants lose money, it is not difficult to come up with a list of income opportunities that are likely to be a lot more profitable that MLM. Here are some examples:
Gambling in Las Vegas
Selling pencils on a street corner
Walking the neighbor’s dog
Using a metal detector to find coins in vacant lots
Searching garbage for aluminum cans that can be sold for recycling
But let’s get serious.
Before the Internet became popular, I drafted a proposal for a book on how to find or create an income opportunity that is tailored to the needs of the person seeking the income source. A publisher was enthused about the project, but I got busy with other things and set it aside. Now – especially with the number of online business opportunities that are literally exploding – it is time to take another look.
I did a Google search to see what might turn up and was astounded at the options. (Of course, many are duplicate pages on the same sites – and a huge percentage are MLM’s):
“Home Business Opportunities” yielded 1,150,000 listings. That’s1.15 million!
When I entered “Income Opportunities” the search yielded 1,470,000 listings. That’s1.4 million!
“Business Opportunities” yielded 86,800,000 listings. That’s over 86 million!
“Entrepreneurship” yielded 112,000,000 listings. That’s112 million!
“Work from Home” yielded 4,230,000,000 listings. That’s 4.2 trillion!
Somehow I don’t feel inclined to do a thorough analysis of all of these. But on the coming pages, let’s take a look at some listings of what might be considered legitimate income opportunities. Of course, most would require considerable research before proceeding. A lot of this information – and much, much more – can easily be obtained from a search of the Internet and/or from books available through Amazon.com and other sources.