MLM vs Affiliate Marketing

Why Affiliate Marketing Beats Any MLM Business Opportunity!

Are you tempted to join a multi-level marketing (MLM) business opportunity, but you’re not sure if it’s worth it?

It seems like a great idea because you see all the lavish lifestyles that other MLM’ers are posting online, so it must be a great way to make money. 



Not so fast. 

I was once in your shoes. I wanted to join an MLM because of the promises of getting to work my own business on my own time and being a boss babe. 

But do you want to know what happened? 

I became a part of the 99% stat. 

I’m talking about this stat: 

“Failure and loss rates for MLMs are not comparable with legitimate small businesses, which have been found to be profitable for 39% over the lifetime of the business; whereas less than 1% of MLM participants profit. MLM makes even gambling look like a safe bet in comparison.” (Source)

Less than 1% of MLM participants profit.

That was me. 

I lost money. 

A lot of it. 

And it was embarrassing when I left my MLM because I had told all my friends and family what a great opportunity it was and that they were missing out if they didn’t join. 


I felt like a sucker.

I had to put my tail between my legs and admit defeat. 

I don’t want you to go through that. 

Being a boss babe is great. But now I do it through blogging and affiliate marketing.

Let me tell you how MLMs really work, and then I’ll tell you about affiliate marketing so you can compare. 

How MLMs Really Work

You get drawn into an MLM because you see people that say you can make hundreds of dollars an hour with “easy” work that you can do in your spare time. 

Make $200 an hour with this MLM


The reality is, they want you to join because you provide them a source of income. And the more money you spend, the bigger their income is. 

MLMs have a closed market system. 

This means that almost all of the sales that are happening, are happening within the MLM. 

“The program becomes a closed market system, in which products are sold primarily through a downline of participants (and sympathetic family members) and seldom to legitimate customers at retail prices. This alone should qualify it as an illegal pyramid scheme.” (source)

The only real way to earn an income with an MLM is to recruit. You’re never going to be able to sell enough makeup or jewelry retail to earn a significant income.

You’ll have to recruit a large team. 

And then you’ll have to keep them motivated so that they try to recruit others and also so that they spend more money. 

Because that’s how you make money. 

MLMs have lots of flash sales and promotions.

Monat Flash Sale

That’s because your upline is trying to get you to spend more money. 

Remember, that’s how they make money. YOU are their customer. 

That’s why so many people get into trouble and lose money. They are busy buying more and more products instead of selling them. 

This is partially because your upline gets you in a frenzy and you feel like you can’t miss out on the amazing deal. (Been there, done that.)

And it’s also partially because you need a certain amount of sales each month in order to qualify for all of your income and bonuses. And many people have trouble selling that amount so they buy it themselves. 

Some MLMs have rules against this.

But it happens anyway. 

Let’s Break It Down

Let me just break down what we just talked about. Here’s how the process works:

1. Some stranger slides into your DMs or messages, “Hey hun! I love your profile. You would be perfect at what I do. Want to join my team?” Sometimes they tell you there are limited spots. That’s not true, it’s just a marketing tactic.

MLM Huns slide into your DMs


2. You pay for a starter kit, which can range from about $50 to thousands of dollars. Sometimes you also pay a fee, and sometimes that’s a yearly fee. Think about that. You have to PAY for the privilege of working for an MLM. It’s genius really. For the MLM, that is. You pay THEM to sell their stuff. 

3. You start messaging all your friends and family, excited about your new business opportunity, and you discover that they’re not interested. None of them are interested. (“Why don’t they support your small business? What kinds of friends are they anyway?” That’s what your upline might tell you.) 

4. You join all the groups on social media for “training”, but they make you so excited about the products and the promotions coming up that you can’t wait to get your hands on all the stuff! Why isn’t anyone else as excited about these amazing products?

5. You try cold messaging people, but you realize they all think your business is a pyramid scheme. 

MLMs are pyramid schemes


6. Finally! You got someone on your team! But then you realize, they are now your competition, and you’ve just made things harder for yourself. 

7. It’s hard to keep up with the monthly quotas because everyone realizes that your products are overpriced compared to non-MLM products, so you’re not able to sell anything. That’s OK. You love the products and will use them yourself!

You spend a lot of money in MLMs

8. You’re spending a lot of money, but you’re not making anything back. You give up in defeat and your upline says “you just didn’t work hard enough.” You thought this was supposed to be something easy to do in your spare time?

You Didn’t Work Hard Enough

I just wanted to talk about this for a second. 

First of all, MLM distributors will try to reel you in by telling you that you can work this business in your spare time. They try to convince you that it’s easy. 

It’s not. 

Being in an MLM is a full-time sales, recruiting, and training job. 

This comment is from someone on my Color Street post: 

Work your business 24/7

He said she’s literally working 24/7. And I believe it.

I’ve seen it for myself when I was in Young Living. One of the Royal Crown Diamonds (fancy, right?), would sometimes post about staying up all night. 

So the only way to get to the very top is to work 24/7 for several years and all along the way you’re spending money on products, samples, brochures, business cards, conventions, gas, parties, software, graphic images, and who-knows-what-else. 

Even if you make it to the top, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be rich:

“In 1994-5, I put Nu Skin, a leading MLM program, to the test for a year, devoting all my time to climb to the top 1% of participants (counting ALL participants, including dropouts). During that year I kept careful records of my spending and wound up with expenses of over $1,500 per month including products and services from the company, plus all operating expenses, such as travel, telephone, computer supplies, advertising, meeting rooms, etc. My commissions totaled only about $250 a month, netting an annual loss of approximately $15,000” (source)

Let’s say you are able to make some money. 

The only way for that to work is if people below you LOSE money. 

It’s not a win-win situation. 

But let’s say you feel OK about that and you’re actually making money and making a profit somehow. 

There’s also the risk of your MLM folding…

What Happens If the MLM Goes Bust?

You may not think it will happen, but it can. An MLM can go bust at any time. They often go bankrupt, decide to close down, or in the case of AdvoCare, get shut down by the FTC for being a pyramid scheme. 

What if you managed to build up a solid income and then the FTC says you’re no longer allowed to sell that way? 

I saw a story of a woman who was at the top of AdvoCare and just had a million dollar home built. She had to sell it at a loss because her “business” just folded. 

(Another reason why an MLM isn’t actually your own business.) 

Also recently, Mary Kay decided to close down in Australia and New Zealand. What happens to those distributors? 

They’re shit out of luck. 

Now, let’s talk about affiliate marketing and I’ll show you why it’s a much better way of earning an income and why it’s so different from MLMs. 

How Affiliate Marketing Works

To put it simply, affiliate marketing is selling other people’s stuff for a commission. 

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “But Christina. That’s what network marketing is.”

That’s about the only thing network marketing (MLMs) and affiliate marketing have in common.

Here’s the quick 4-step process to affiliate marketing: 

  1. You decide on a niche (audience) 
  2. You find products with affiliate programs that fit that niche
  3. You get a domain name and start a website / blog / YouTube channel
  4. You promote your affiliate products on your site / channel

 When someone clicks on a product from your site and purchases, you earn a commission. 

What’s great is that you don’t have to go searching for these people.

Through keywords, you can attract them to you. 

I’ll show you some examples. 

Affiliate Marketing Example #1

First, I’ll show you a couple of examples from this site of mine, plus another one that I have. 

Then I’ll show you san example from someone else. 

If you go to Google and you type in “is Chalk Couture a MLM?”, this is what you’ll see at the top of Google. (At the time of this writing. This changes frequently.)

Affiliate Marketing example 1

This is a top spot on Google’s search page. When people look up that term, they see my site first. 

I knew people were looking for that keyword phrase (“is Chalk Couture a pyramid scheme”) because of specific research. 

Now, if someone clicks on that article and comes to my site, I can maybe lead them to an alternative path of affiliate marketing. 

(Even if they just decided NOT to join an MLM, I’m happy with that.) 

Maybe you’re wondering, “but how do you make money doing this?” 

The goal for this site is to eventually sign someone up for one of my recommended affiliate programs. 

When someone signs up using my link, I get a commission.

All the red buttons on this page are trying to get you to my free affiliate marketing guide. I have even more information there about affiliate marketing. That will hopefully help you see even more why affiliate marketing is a great choice.

Then hopefully you’ll decide to join up with my favorite affiliate training platform. 

Remember how I said that MLMs are NOT win-win? 

Affiliate marketing is. 

You give people information that they’re looking for. You get a commission when they purchase from your site.

Unlike MLMs, someone who buys through an affiliate marketing link doesn’t pay more.  

Let me show you another example. 

Affiliate Marketing Example #2

If you type in “Forks Over Knives Meal Planner review”, you’ll come to my website if you scroll down a bit. 

Affiliate Marketing Example 2

I’m not at the top of Google for this one. But that’s OK. You can’t always get the top spot. And I don’t work on this site as much. 

I just wanted to show you that with affiliate marketing, you can promote all kinds of different products. 

This is a plant-based website, so it’s completely different from the one you’re on now. 

You can click here to see what it looks like. 

On this site, I promote this Forks Meal Planner, plus a few kitchen tools. If someone goes through my meal planner review and signs up using my link, I’ll get a commission. 

That’s it! That’s affiliate marketing in a nutshell. 

Let’s see one more example. 

Affiliate Marketing Example #3

If you type in “horse saddle reviews” into Google, you’ll see this at the top of Google (this one is not my site): 

Affiliate marketing example 3

If you click on this site, you’ll see this person reviews different saddles:

Horse saddle reviews

If you click on any of these links, you’ll be taken to Amazon where you can then buy a horse saddle. 

If someone purchases through any of these links, this person will get a commission by being a part of Amazon’s affiliate program. You can see this website here to see what it looks like and how it works. 

Why Affiliate Marketing is Better Than MLMs

I hope those examples gave you some idea about the vast opportunities that lie inside of the affiliate marketing world. 

If you have a particular interest around a subject, there’s a great chance that there’s a product with an affiliate program attached to it where you can earn commissions. 

But let’s just go over the differences with MLMs and affiliate marketing so you can see why I prefer affiliate marketing. 

With affiliate marketing:

  • There are no Starter Kits to buy
  • You don’t need to buy any products or inventory
  • You don’t need to recruit anyone into a downline (there’s no downline)
  • There’s no upline
  • You don’t need to train anyone to duplicate your process
  • You don’t start over every month 
  • Prices are the same for the customer when they buy through an affiliate link
  • Almost every major company has an affiliate program
  • You can focus on what you’re passionate about
  • You’re not tied to only one product

There’s another awesome thing about affiliate marketing. The work you put in now can pay you over and over and over again for a long time. 

You can write a blog post today, and it could still show up years from now. And people can still be purchasing through a link on that post. 

And over time, this work builds up, and your sales build up. 

It’s like a snowball effect. 

It’s not automatic. It does take a good amount of time and effort, but it’s pretty fun if you focus on what you enjoy. 

Now, you can go to YouTube and Google and try to figure things out on your own, but I recommend taking a shortcut and just following a proven step-by-step path. 

Follow a Proven Step-by-Step Path

There are some things you need to know in order to succeed with affiliate marketing. The good news is that you can follow a proven step-by-step path, just like these people did:

Wealthy Affiliate has plenty of success stories

Like I mentioned, you can find information scattered all over the internet if you want. But trying to figure out how to put it together all on your own is going to leave you feeling frustrated. (Yup! Been there, done that!) 

Instead, why not follow easy step-by-step instructions and build your website as you go?

I linked to my free affiliate marketing guide all throughout. And I recommend taking a look at that if you want more information. 

But if you’re just ready to get started, I’ll just send you to my favorite training platform. 

You can try it out free, no credit card required. 

I hope I’ve convinced you to ditch the MLMs and be a real boss babe with your own affiliate marketing business. 

That you actually CAN do in your own time without needing to work on it 24/7.

Try it and see. 

MLM vs affiliate marketing infographic