Anti-MLM: not today, hun

by Chloe Hendrie 2 months ago in business

Ever heard of network marketing? Ever had a stranger, an acquaintance, or someone you haven’t seen in years trying to sell you something you’ve never heard of and recruit you to do the same?

Anti-MLM: not today, hun


This is a topic I’m incredibly passionate about. It’s something myself and almost everyone else on social media will have had their run-ins with, but may not always have realised what exactly it is. I’ve been trying to write about it for months – I even tried making a video on it (before realising I’m not as cut out for the YouTuber life as I hoped I was). It’s a matter I have rather a lot to say on, so I’ve figured the way to get my points out there and educate (without boring people to death) is to set it out as a series of bite-sized, non-threatening articles.

The subject matter in question is MLM. Whenever I mention this particular phrase – be it in a post, in person or over message – I often get the reply ‘what’s that?’. MLM stands for multi-level marketing, and even if you aren’t familiar with this term, chances are you’ve still had an encounter with it.


This article is not aimed at anyone. I have no malice towards anyone who chooses to partake in multi-level marketing. This is simply me sharing my opinions on this particular business model (backed up by facts) with the aim of educating people on how MLMs operate.

Some of the most well-known multi-level marketing companies.

So what exactly is it?

Ever heard of network marketing? Ever had a stranger, an acquaintance, or someone you haven’t seen in years trying to sell you something you’ve never heard of and recruit you to do the same?

Multi-level marketing focuses more on the recruitment aspect rather than selling, hence why it’s often referred to as a pyramid scheme. You buy a starter pack of products from the company, you sell them to people you know (your ‘network’), and recruit others beneath you to do the same. Most of the money comes from recruiting your ‘downline’ – not from actual product sales.

So are network marketers really the entrepreneurs they claim to be?

Essentially, if you partake in multi-level marketing, you are an independent sales consultant, or sales rep. You sell ready-made products from an established company. This actually began back in 1886, when the founder of Avon, David McConnell, realised he could make more sales from hiring women as door-to-door sales reps. By the 1950s and 60s, this had evolved into Tupperware parties, which were often seen as a chance for stay-at-home housewives to socialise (this video by Genetically Modified Skeptic explains it all pretty well). Network marketers are therefore not entrepreneurs, or small business owners, because they don’t design any products or branding themselves. They simply distribute.

The rise of social media has meant that, over the years, multi-level marketing has once again evolved – as have the narratives used by those who partake in it. The process has become shrouded in the ‘bossbabe’ and ‘hustler’ personas which have become so prevalent on the internet. Sales consultants refer to themselves as business owners, placing emphasis on the fact they can build a global empire through working round the clock making money from their phone (the way they make this sound so simple is often how people get roped into it). Recruiting is done by scouring Instagram and Facebook.

So, how can you tell the multi-level marketing sales pitches apart from genuine business proposals? Here’s a small guide.

  1. MLM messages are very generic, often scripted, copied and pasted. They may even seem robotic. There’s a certain script to follow when attempting to recruit someone to your downline. If a message you’ve received is just a little too cookie cutter (especially if you actually know the person), chances are it could be an MLM proposal.
  2. “Hey hun, how are you doing? I was having a look at your profile and…” hun. Hey hun. What sort of professional exchange begins with ‘hey hun’? Also, they don’t really look at your profile as much as they claim to, because if they had a thorough look at mine, for example, they would know I’m anti-MLM. Or, as is often the case, they will argue that their company isn’t multi-level marketing (it is).
  3. They don’t name their company. They’ll tell you about a ‘business opportunity’. Goodness, you won’t hear the end of ‘my business’ this, ‘my business’ that. But they’ll only mention the nature of the company, they won’t actually name it – all the Arbonne gang who have messaged me refer to Arbonne as a ‘health and wellness’ business, for example.
  4. "Looking for some #bossbabes to join my team..." take a look at the person’s profile. Is it full of graphics and quotes about being a ‘boss babe’? ‘Girl boss’? ‘Your 9-5 is destroying your dreams’ etc? Another dead giveaway. Real business owners don’t talk like that.

Further reading/viewing

Taking up network marketing can mean different things for different people. Maybe distributing products is your side hustle. Maybe you’ve retired after a successful career, you’ve got a like-minded network who are interested in buying the products from you, and you’re taking it as an opportunity to earn a small bit of income in retirement. In theory, both of these could work.

However, it’s a dangerous game to venture into MLM with the notion that you’re an entrepreneur who is going to build an empire and bring in enough money to quit your full-time employment, because the flawed business model means that only a few people at the top are realistically able to do this. Fact: 99% of those in multi-level marketing lose money (source: the FTC, taken from this article).

Keep an eye out for my next piece, which will focus on who MLMs target and how they target them - however, in the meantime, here are some links to articles/videos/social media accounts and threads w hich discuss various aspects of multi-level marketing. Get clued up and stay smart!

YouTuber tiffanyferg has done two videos focusing on MLM as part of her Internet Analysis series.

YouTuber Monica Siembieda previously took part in multi-level marketing, and now dedicates part of her YouTube channel to anti-MLM education.

'Sounds like MLM but ok' is a Facebook group with the aim of discussing, educating, and venting.

r/antiMLM is the Reddit community dedicated to anti-MLM education.

Below are some links to my favourite anti-MLM Instagram accounts:





Chloe Hendrie
Chloe Hendrie
Read next: Why Denny's Is the Perfect Starter Job for a Cook
Chloe Hendrie

22yr old freelance writer in Glasgow, Scotland.

See all posts by Chloe Hendrie