If there’s one thing that people in multi-level marketing schemes tend to lack, it’s originality.
From beauty MLMs such as Monat, Avon and Arbonne to ‘travel business owners,’ dubious Forex traders, fitness ‘coaches’ and vapid Kangen water distributors, the lingo they use is all the same.
As cringe as it can be seeing so many copy/paste paragraphs about the same old rubbish, it’s actually not a bad thing as it makes it really bloody easy to spot MLM companies and shady business models – you just have to know what to look for.
So, let’s get right into it – here are all the multi-level marketing buzzwords that MLMers will try and hit you with to get you to join their team.
Psst – if you’re new here and don’t know much about multi-level marketing/network marketing, please check out my other articles for more information on why these business models suck!
Click here to read 6 Reasons Why MLM Companies Are the Absolute Worst
Click here to read The Truth About Network Marketing – 11 Network Marketing Lies
p.s. stick around to the end because i’ve got a freebie to share with you!
12 MLM Phrases – Spot an MLM Scam From a Mile Away
1. ‘Be Your Own Boss!’
Ever seen somebody on social media advertising an opportunity that will allow you to ‘be your own boss?’
Chances are, it’s an MLM. Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were true. However. Signing up to an MLM does not mean that you will be your own boss or own your own company.
While you will be self-employed and obliged to file your own taxes, you will find yourself answering to whoever recruited you (you ‘upline’).
This person will give you ‘training,’ and expect you to attend endless Zoom calls, workshops, ‘power hours’ and more. If you are not making sales or recruiting enough people to your team, they will put pressure on you and tell you that you are not working hard enough. Moreover, a percentage of every penny you make goes to them.
You also have no say over the products that you sell, the ingredients that go into the products, product packaging, branding and design, company name, logo, or aesthetic. You do not control how much commission you receive per sale, how much you charge for the products, or anything else related to the compensation plan. You get no say over who hosts ‘your’ website, which shipping company you use, and what the returns and refunds policy is.
In addition to your upline, you also have the corporate part of the company telling you what you can and can’t say when promoting products, dictating which rank you are in the company (yes, IN the company) and – wait for it – they are able to fire you at any time.
Kinda sounds like you have a boss, right?
2. ‘Financial Freedom’
If you see somebody on your friends list or a slick sponsored post advertising ‘financial freedom,’ RUN.
This phrase is a huge one among MLMers, and it just isn’t representative of the reality of being in an MLM.
99.6% of people in MLM companies lose money.
Now, I’m no economist but a 0.4% chance of not losing money doesn’t exactly sound like a sure-fire road to financial freedom for me.
And also, it’s just a cringey phrase that we need to stop using.
3. ‘Working My Biz’
Is it just me, or does nobody who legitimately owns a small business EVER say this?!
If you see an IG story of a girl claiming to be ‘working her biz,’ she’s is 100% NOT a small business owner, and is actually involved with an MLM.
We’ve already proven that people in MLMs are not their own bosses and do not own their own businesses so I won’t repeat myself, but just be aware that this multi-level marketing buzzword is one of the big ones!
4. ‘Work From Your Phone’
Almost every online MLM sales pitch that I’ve seen advertises the opportunity to ‘work from your phone’ as though this is the absolute opportunity of a lifetime and I don’t get it.
So I can work from my phone…and?
Being involved in an MLM company means posting a lot to social media and direct messaging hundreds of people, and yes, you can do that from your phone. But so what?
I get that this is one of the ways that MLMers make out that ‘anyone can do it’ and you don’t need an office or a super expensive computer to be able to work, but it’s always seemed like a strange selling point to me.
C’mon, is this the best you’ve got?
5. ‘Get Paid to Post on Facebook!’
This is another one of those common multi-level marketing buzzwords that is an outright lie.
You do not get paid to post on Facebook, or use Instagram, or recommend products you love to your family and friends.
You get paid if you make sales.
With any commission-only sales role (because this is what this is), getting paid for your work is never a guarantee. You can spend 8 hours a day posting about Monat shampoo to your Facebook story, but if nobody wants to buy, you aren’t making a dime.
What’s more, you have to buy the products that you’re advertising, meaning that you are literally paying the company to work. In traditional influencer marketing, the influencer either gets paid directly for the post, or they are sent the products for free. They are not buying the products and then creating promotional content out of the goodness of their hearts. That isn’t how marketing works.
6. ‘Girl Boss, Boss Babe, Mom Boss,’ etc.
These monikers are SO patronising! As an actual female business owner and thus ‘girl boss,’ I will never understand why women want to infantalise themselves like this, and make business all pink and fluffy.
No real business person will EVER take you seriously if you use terms like this, because no real business person would refer to themselves in this way!
If you’ve seen a cute notebook with the slogan ‘Girl Boss’ on the front, and you’re into that kind of thing then you do you I guess, but PLEASE never use these terms and expect to be taken seriously as a business woman.
7. ‘Watch Me or Join Me!’
This is one of those MLM buzzwords that relies on the FOMO psychological manipulation tactic. The aim is to make people feel as though they are missing out on a limited opportunity and that if they don’t sign up now, they will have to sit and watch the person who tried to recruit them grow richer and richer while they stay broke and miserable.
This is not only really manipulative, but it’s also extremely egotistical and reeks of self-importance!
Sorry Jessica but I’ve got better things to do than religiously tune in to your IGTV vids where you brag about all of the overpriced MLM products you just bought.
8. ‘Business Opportunity’
If you’re looking for one of the biggest tell tale signs that a company is an MLM, it’s this. From your friend’s Instagram story about her It Works! wrap to The Body Shop’s website, multi-level marketing companies are constantly being marketed as ‘business opportunities.’
Much like some of the other points on this article, no legit business or investment will ever pitch itself as a business opportunity. It just isn’t a term that regular businesses use.
The only thing that you should be picturing when you hear the words ‘business opportunity’ is a snake oil salesman who uses too much Brylcreem and wears an ill-fitting suit.
9. ‘Ditch the 9-5’
If you listened to MLMers, you’d think that traditional 9-5 jobs are literally the devil.
People in MLM schemes wax lyrical about how you should quit ‘corporate America,’ and how ‘your job is the real pyramid scheme’ and people ‘slaving away’ at their 9-5 jobs are fools who just don’t know any better.
But what’s so bad about 9-5s? I have never personally worked a 9-5, and I don’t believe that the 9-5 life is for me, but millions of people find happiness and contentment in their 9-5 jobs! Most of my friends and my boyfriend have 9-5 jobs, and they love the financial security, job perks, office environment and workplace banter that come with having a regular job, not to mention that human beings love routine and stability.
Telling somebody to ditch their stable 9-5 job in favour of joining a company where over 99% of people lose money is ludicrous, and even if you think that 9-5 jobs are shitty, that doesn’t mean that they are objectively bad.
10. ‘Join My Tribe!’
Okay, without going into how culturally insensitive and downright weird it is to refer to your downline or ‘team’ as your ‘tribe,’ this is another one of those misleading MLM statements that implies you are all joined together equally, working towards shared goals.
What joining somebody’s MLM ‘tribe’ actually involves is being a part of their ‘downline’ and giving a percentage of your income to them, and to every single person above them.
A more accurate call to action would be ‘join my other recruits’ or ‘join my workforce,’ but workforce doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?
11. ‘It’s Not a Pyramid Scheme – Pyramid Schemes are Illegal!!’
MLMers will parrot the line that ‘it can’t be a pyramid scheme because pyramid schemes are illegal!’ as though that actually makes any difference.
The truth is that just because a company has not been found to be functioning as a pyramid scheme YET, does not mean that it is not a pyramid scheme.
SO many MLM companies have been forced to close down or significantly change their business models (Herbalife, I’m looking at you) because they have been proven to be pyramid schemes, and it is my firm belief that it is only a matter of time before other major MLMs follow suit.
The problem is that the laws are so difficult to navigate and MLMs are masters of finding and exploiting loopholes in order to get around them, but trust me when I say that if you see somebody using this argument, they are absolutely trapped in a
pyramid scheme multi-level marketing company.
12. ‘Independent Business Owner’
If you see this listed in the bio of a girl you follow on Instagram, RUN.
The fact that Amway’s recruitment page is the third Google result for ‘Independent Business Owner’ says it all – the term is just a fancy way of saying that you are part of an MLM whilst hiding the fact that you are in an MLM (and also kidding yourself that you own a business).
Multi-Level Marketing Buzzwords | Final Thoughts
This brings me to the end of my multi-level marketing buzzwords round-up. In highlighting these major tell tale signs of MLM scams, I hope that I’ve managed to arm you with the facts necessary to identify and avoid these shady ‘business opportunities’ that keep popping up on your timeline or in your inbox.
Just being aware of these marketing buzzwords used by MLMers will make you so much less vulnerable to their recruitment tactics, and therefore less easy to manipulate and suck in.
Did I miss out any major ones? Feel free to let me know in the comments section below!!
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Love your anti MLM content. It feels like they’ve been extra predatory while people have been stuck at home and dealing with job loss and uncertainty, and you write about this stuff in a thoughtful and clear way. Glad you included a comment about the use of “tribe”, too – ugh!
Travelling Jezebel says
They really have, it’s disgusting! Thank you so much 🙂
This is fantastic content. I too have been approached to join many of these companies from homemade breads to scented candles and waxes. I never joined any of them because something in the back of my mind always told me- SCAM. The golden rule with anything like this is, if it’s to good to be true then IT PROBABLY IS. lol
So happy I read this today. I think I’ll tell my “tribe” to stay away! Lol
Travelling Jezebel says
Yep, even before I knew anything about how they work, they always seemed scammy to me! Something just always felt a bit off about them. Haha, you tell em 😉 thanks for reading!
Amber N Tobias-Harris says
This article is interesting… You seem to bash being in an MLM the way you hate the way MLM bashes being in a 9-5.
Now, I want you to know, I fully agree with you and how MLM business models are created – they are shit if you’re not at the top. However, that just means those at the bottom should get really smart. And a few have!
I’ve seen people use their platforms and become affiliate marketers. Or take what they couldn’t sell and use as bundle prizes to gain more clients. I’ve seen people take the training they’ve learned and become coaches. I think you miss the point of what an MLM can do for you if let’s say you wanted to be a blogger. It has its ups and downs, but where you can see all the positives from other ventures you only seem to see the negative from MLMs.
I guess I just find that really interesting…
Travelling Jezebel says
You raise an interesting point. I do see many MLM reps making their own websites and getting really good at SEO etc. in order to make it work for them. The problem though, is that it is statistically impossible for most people to make money in MLM. MLMs are pyramid schemes, and it is simply not possible for the majority of people to earn money. The few people at the top are always earning from the (many) people at the bottom, which is why the earning % are the same across the board, no matter which MLM you look at, and this is no accident. The business model is designed in this way.