Network Marketing Or Pyramid Scheme?

Often considered a road to riches, direct selling can lead to financial disaster without the proper research. Consider these tips before you sign up.

Convinced that Market America could not only bring in a good income but also allow him more time with his family, Murphy signed up with the company six months later, shelling out $1,500 for cases of products and materials. Having just been laid off from his factory job, he worked part time as a distributor while enrolled in school, earning $6,600 a month selling Websites from his Ewing, New Jersey, home.

Finding success with the Websites, Murphy focused on marketing more of the company’s products and began building his business team, made up of about three dozen members, who all get a bonus when the team meets its goal. After three years of hard work, Murphy now spends about 10 hours each week operating his business.

Even though Murphy has achieved success, he says it was a result of a lot of hard work recruiting distributors and selling products. Leroy Taylor, a fellow distributor at Market America, suggests choosing a product or service that you would use yourself. “If you’re in any type of direct sales, and you don’t really believe in the product, it’s really hard to distribute it,” says the 36-year-old, who joined Murphy’s downline after experiencing great success with the company’s vitamin line. “I would suggest that anybody looking into any type of direct sales should look for a product that they can relate to and that they would or could personally use themselves.”

Rhonda Adams also swears by network marketing. In 2001, after leaving her job as a technical sales analyst for a telecommunications software company, the 32-year-old Chicago resident was introduced to Warm Spirit, an Exeter, New Hampshire-based beauty and wellness company that sells nature-based skincare products and other beauty aids for women and men. Adams paid $500 for the initial starter kit, products, and office supplies and began working the business.

Her idea was to make extra money to pay some bills until she could find a full-time job. However, not many bills could be paid after her first monthly check–a paltry $222. So Adams redoubled her marketing efforts to increase brand recognition. “When I started, I did a lot of shows, what we call ‘gatherings,’ to introduce the products,” says Adams, who today spends 15 to 20 hours a week operating her business. Now a director for Warm Spirit, Adams has trained eight managers, maintains nearly 700 customers, and takes home about $6,000 a month.

Beware of the Hype
Still, many people like Brickey walk away with little or nothing after spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars working as network marketing distributors. Some let the overinflated earnings claims cloud their judgment. They invest what little cash they have, hoping to net a huge return–but hardly ever do. Others are simply fooled by illegal scams disguised to look like legitimate business opportunities and end up losing everything.

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